BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The Grand Rapids Griffins trailed the Bakersfield Condors for the entire contest until the final 11 seconds of overtime when Taro Hirose netted his second of the game to give the Griffins a 6-5 victory at Mechanics Bank Arena on Friday night.
The Griffins (11-13-1-2) scored the final two goals of regulation before killing off a penalty in overtime and scoring the game winner in the closing seconds of the contest. The Condors (9-11-3-1) held a two-goal advantage for much of the game but could not finish off their chances late.
Grand Rapids continues its six-game road trip on Saturday against the Condors at 10 p.m. EST.
Bakersfield opened the scoring 3:39 into the game when Joe Gambardella netted his sixth of the season. Keegan Lowe sent a pass from the red line toward Gambardella on the left wing and his wrist shot from the top of the left circle slipped under the glove of Calvin Pickard.
Less than three minutes later, the Condors doubled their lead with 14:18 remaining. Joel Persson gathered the puck from behind his own goal and found Jakob Stukel racing to center ice. Stukel passed the puck off the right boards to himself and his shot from the center of the Griffins’ zone beat the stick of Pickard for his first of the year.
Grand Rapids got things going in the final six minutes of the frame, scoring twice to tie the game heading into the second. Givani Smith centered the puck from the bottom of the left circle to Joe Veleno and his shot in the middle of the zone found the right corner of the net at the 14:09 mark.
With 4:03 remaining in the first, Eric Tangradi sent a diagonal pass from deep down the right wing to Hirose on the left boards. Hirose’s wrister sped past the blocker of Shane Starrett for his second tally of the season.
The Condors regained the lead just 2:13 into the second when Colby Cave smashed home his third of the year. Logan Day ripped a shot from the right boards that was saved by Pickard but the rebound stayed in the crease and Cave was able to jam the puck past the left skate of Pickard.
Momentum continued to swing as Grand Rapids tied the game 3-3 when Hirose and Tangradi connected again. From the red line, Hirose found Tangradi on a breakaway and his shot between the circles sailed over the glove of Starrett at 14:40 to extend his point streak to three games.
Bakersfield answered once more when Tyler Benson netted his first of two in the period with 3:51 remaining. A shot from Dmitri Samorukov from the blue line was rebounded in front of the net and Benson was able to skate in and place the puck in the right corner.
The Condors made it a two-goal game at the 19:23 mark when Benson tallied his second in less than four minutes. Day took a wrist shot from the blue line that was once again rebounded just outside the crease and Benson snuck the puck inside the right goal post.
The fourth goal of the final six minutes of the period was awarded to the Griffins as Dominic Turgeon scored his sixth of the year with 10 seconds remaining. Joe Hicketts sent the puck off the boards behind the net which bounced to Turgeon inside the crease and his shot zipped past the skate of Starrett.
Grand Rapids trailed by a goal entering the final frame but that did not last long as Veleno tied the game 3:22 into the period. From the center of the zone, Matthew Ford found Veleno at the top of the right circle and his wrist shot sped into the right corner for his second of the night.
Both teams traded blows as time diminished but the game ended in a 5-5 tie after regulation as Grand Rapids held a 30-24 shot advantage.
The Condors received a power play 1:17 into overtime when Veleno was called for hooking. The penalty kill for the Griffins was stout all game going 3-for-3, and allowed one shot during the Veleno penalty.
As a shootout loomed closer, Hicketts found Hirose from the blue line with 11 seconds remaining. Hirose made a crafty move from the left circle to the center of the zone and his backhand shot fired into the right corner to give the Griffins a 6-5 victory over Bakersfield.
Notes: Grand Rapids outshot the Condors 33-25 and finished 2-for-4 on the power play…Pickard made 20 saves…Dennis Cholowski made his season debut for the Griffins in the win…Newly acquired Kyle Wood made his career debut for Grand Rapids…The Griffins extended their point streak to four games.
Three Stars: 1. GR Veleno (two goals); 2. GR Tangradi (goal, assist); 3. BAK Benson (two goals)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]