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Griffins Finish Homestand with Shootout Victory Against Texas


Mark Newman/Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins closed out their season-high seven-game homestand on Friday night with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Texas Stars in front of 10,489 at Van Andel Arena.

After the Griffins built a two-goal edge following the first period, the Stars recovered in the second to force Grand Rapids into its third consecutive game tied past regulation. Derek Hulak notched the deciding goal in the fifth round of the skills competition and Patrik Rybar concluded the evening with 34 saves. Givani Smith, Libor Sulak and Turner Elson all scored in regulation.

The Griffins posted a sparkling 5-1-1-0 record during the homestand, which spanned 17 days, and continue to lead the Central Division with a 31-16-4-4 record. Grand Rapids is the first team in the Western Conference to achieve the 70-point plateau.

The Griffins will hit the road for only the second time this month and first since Feb. 1 when they travel to Chicago to play the pursuant third-place Wolves on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST.

Texas (26-22-2-3) grabbed a 1-0 lead 3:15 into the contest. Gaining control of the puck in the right corner, Michael Mersch’s wraparound attempt by the left post was denied by Rybar. Mersch retrieved his own rebound and then slid a pass through a trafficked crease to Denis Gurianov, who was waiting on the welcome mat to tally his 14th goal of the year.

Smith tied the game 1-1 at 9:20 with his fourth career goal. As the rookie skated in from the left circle, his attempt was poke checked away by Texas goalie Landon Bow. The loose puck in the slot found its way back to Smith in the right circle and he went top shelf over the netminder’s outstretched mitt.

Sulak gave the Griffins a 2-1 lead 4:23 later during 4-on-4 play. From the right half wall, Filip Zadina sent a pass to Sulak at the blueline. As the seas parted, the defenseman found himself skating unmolested to between the circles before snapping the puck inside the right post for his third marker of the season. With the assist, Zadina extended his point streak to a season-high seven games.

The Griffins took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission after a late, dramatic power play goal. As time ticked away in the opening period, Joe Hicketts from the point sent a pass to Carter Camper in the right corner and he tapped it to Elson in the slot. After kicking the puck onto his stick with his right skate, Elson buried the biscuit with 0.1 seconds left on the scoreboard.

Texas tied the game in the second period, thanks to a pair of power play goals. At 3:48, Justin Dowling scored from the left faceoff dot after taking a pass from Ben Gleason and placing a shot over Rybar’s right shoulder. Niklas Hansson delivered the equalizer with 7:13 remaining in the frame, depositing the puck from the top of the left-wing circle.

The Stars held a 9-6 shot advantage in the third period but neither team was able to skate ahead.

Matt Puempel and Dominic Turgeon scored in the opening two rounds of the shootout. Hulak’s attempt in the fifth round appeared to have been initially saved by Bow, only to have the netminder turn around and see the puck trickling between his legs and over the line. Rybar stopped Dowling’s try in the bottom half of the round to secure the win.

The Stars, who entered tonight’s contest third in the AHL in power play efficiency, finished 2-for-5 while the Griffins were 1-for-2. Bow recorded 28 saves.

Notes: Average attendance for the seven-game homestand was 8,710…Grand Rapids has won three straight games against Texas.

Three Stars: 1. GR Smith (goal); 2. GR Rybar (SOW, 34 saves); 3. TEX Hansson (power play goal, assist)

Official Game Report