SAN DIEGO – Matthew Ford netted the game-winner with 1:27 remaining as the Grand Rapids Griffins began their season-high six-game road trip with a come-from-behind 4-3 win against the San Diego Gulls on Wednesday night at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
The Griffins claimed the contest’s final three tallies after San Diego (9-10-1-0) lit the lamp a trio of times over a 4:52 span in the first period to take a two-goal lead. The victory snaps Grand Rapids’ seven-game winless streak overall and four-game drought on foreign ice.
The Griffins (10-13-1-2) continue along in their road swing with a Friday-Saturday set against the Bakersfield Condors. Both games will begin at 10 p.m. EST.
The Griffins and Gulls, facing off for the first time since Nov. 20, 2015 at Van Andel Arena, did not exhibit any sort of get-to-know-you process as they combined for three goals in the opening 4:51.
Givani Smith got the scoring started at 3:23 with his fourth of the campaign. Dominic Turgeon gained the zone along the right boards and shoveled a centering pass to Smith, who pushed the puck past Anthony Stolarz and over the line.
San Diego retaliated 1:15 later. Chris Wideman’s shot from the point deflected off Justin Kloos in front. With the puck free by the right goalpost, Max Jones poked it behind Calvin Pickard before toppling the goaltender.
It only took 13 seconds more for the Gulls to establish a 2-1 advantage. Skating into the right circle, Alex Broadhurst elevated a pass over a diving Alec McCrea to Grand Rapids native Brent Gates Jr., who chipped the disc into the vacated net for his first of the season.
San Diego struck again with 10:30 remaining in the opening period on Chase De Leo’s shorthanded marker. Isac Lundestrom deflected Grand Rapids’ point-to-point pass, which allowed De Leo to pick up the puck, scoot through the neutral zone and wind up on a slapshot from the left circle that deflected off Pickard’s left leg.
Joe Hicketts pulled Grand Rapids to within one with 10:36 remaining in the second stanza. After the Griffins won a battle along the right boards, McCrea, a native San Diegan, flipped the puck to Hicketts at the left point and his drive got through the net-front traffic.
On their way to outshooting San Diego 31-21 for the game, the Griffins held a 22-13 shot edge after two periods.
Grand Rapids’ leader in points (28), goals (12), assists (16) and power play goals (8), Chris Terry delivered the game-tying goal 7:28 into the final frame while on the man-advantage. Turner Elson split the defense at the blue line and skated toward the crease before dropping a feed to a trailing Terry in the left circle. Terry tucked his shot inside the far post. The Griffins converted on 1 of 4 power play opportunities and denied all three of San Diego’s chances.
Ford, the captain and a Los Angeles native, couldn’t have picked a better time to bank his 200th AHL goal than with 97 seconds remaining in a tie game. In a tic-tac-toe play, Evgeny Svechnikov crossed into the offensive zone and found Madison Bowey in the left circle. Making his Griffins debut after being assigned by Detroit on Tuesday, Bowey then backhanded a pass toward the blue paint for Ford, who completed the Griffins’ comeback.
San Diego pulled Stolarz for an extra attacker with 54 ticks left but Pickard and the Grand Rapids defense held steady. Pickard turned aside 18 shots while Stolarz finished with 27 saves.
Notes: Grand Rapids is 2-1 all time against the Gulls...Including playoffs, the Griffins have played 17 games all time in the state of California and hold a 5-9-1-2 record…Ford scored his 200th goal in his 684th AHL game…Thirteen seconds between goals was the fastest by a Griffins opponent since Mike Sgarbossa of Manitoba scored twice in an 11-second span on Oct. 7, 2017 at Van Andel Arena.
Three Stars: 1. GR Smith (goal); 2. GR Ford (game-winning goal); 3. SD Jones (goal)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]