WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Grand Rapids Griffins suited up to face the Manitoba Moose at Bell MTS Place Saturday afternoon, one day after the passing of long-time video coach Bill LeRoy, and fell on the road 5-3 after a back-and-forth contest.
The Griffins (5-3-1-1) and Moose traded goals for much of the game before Manitoba (2-7-0-0) broke out to a 4-2 lead early in the third period. Grand Rapids cut the deficit to one following a Filip Zadina goal at the 7:49 mark before the Moose scored an empty-netter with seconds remaining. The Griffins will conclude their road weekend set against the Moose Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. EST.
It was a hot start for both teams as they exchanged shots but it was the Griffins who struck first at the 4:24 mark. After earning a power play, Givani Smith skated through two defenders down the right boards and centered the puck to Chris Terry, whose one-timer screamed over the right shoulder of Moose goaltender Mikhail Berdin.
Less than two minutes later, the Moose found the net 5:57 into the first period. Jansen Harkins forced a Griffins turnover and found Sami Niku in the center of the zone and his shot sailed over the blocker of Calvin Pickard to tie the game 1-1.
The Griffins regained the lead with 11:12 remaining in the first after Matt Puempel scored his team-high sixth goal of the season. Terry gathered the puck in his own zone and found Puempel streaking down the left wing on a breakaway. Puempel buried the chance as his shot carried over the glove of Berdin.
The Griffins and Moose continued to swap goals during the first frame as Manitoba tied the game once again at 2-2. Another Grand Rapids turnover was collected by Harkins who found Seth Griffith between the circles. Griffith weaved his way through three defenders before taking a shot that went into the top left of the net.
Both clubs settled down in the second period after 26 total shots in the first. The Griffins were held scoreless in the frame, however, their best chance came on a Terry breakaway but Berdin was able to make a glove save with 7:30 left in the second.
The Moose scored the lone goal of the period and took the lead for the first time with 2:34 left. After being awarded a power play, Manitoba’s Cameron Schilling took a wrist shot from the left boards that was rebounded in front of the net. JC Lipon was in the right place to dive for the puck and back hand a shot that beat the right skate of Pickard.
The Griffins trailed by a goal to start the final period and saw their deficit increase to two as the Moose tapped in another goal just 3:38 in. Manitoba stayed perfect on the power play after Skyler McKenzie skated behind the net and placed a puck in front of Pickard. Lipon was open in front of the goal and his one-timer rippled into the top right corner for his second of the afternoon.
The Griffins cut into the lead at the 7:49 mark as they too earned their second power play goal of the game. From the blue line, Moritz Seider found Zadina along the right boards and he took a rocket of a slapshot that sped over the glove of Berdin for his third goal of the season.
The majority of the final seven minutes was played in the Moose zone but the Griffins failed to convert on multiple opportunities. After pulling Pickard for an extra skater with about two minutes remaining, Griffith scored his second of the contest on the empty net with just two seconds left to give the Moose a 5-3 advantage.
Notes: Terry extended his point streak to five games earning a goal and two assists and he continues to lead the team in points (15), assists (10) and multi-point games (5)…Grand Rapids outshot Manitoba 32-26…The Griffins converted on 2 of 3 power plays…A moment of silence was held before the game to honor LeRoy.
Three Stars: 1. MB Harkins (five assists); 2. MB Lipon (two goals); 3. GR Terry (goal, two assists)