ROCKFORD, Ill. — The Grand Rapids Griffins closed a three-goal deficit and scored a game-tying goal with 2:11 left in regulation on Friday, pushing their game with the Rockford IceHogs to overtime and notching a point in the eventual 5-4 loss at BMO Harris Bank Center.
The Griffins and IceHogs have a history with overtime periods, as half of the games played this season have been decided in the extra frame. Rockford (27-23-3-6) has taken the last seven of eight games that have gone into overtime between the two teams.
The matchup tightened the Central Division race, allowing the Griffins (31-17-5-4) a single point to put their total at 71. The Chicago Wolves now jump into first place with 72 points after recording an overtime win over the Texas Stars tonight.
Grand Rapids’ battle with the IceHogs was the first of nine road games in the month of March, which will continue on March 9 against the Milwaukee Admirals. Before that, Grand Rapids will head home to Van Andel Arena to host the Texas Stars on March 6 at 7 p.m.
It took 20 minutes for the IceHogs to establish their three-goal lead, with Jordan Schroeder igniting the scoring streak at 9:07. Managing the puck near the right-wing circle, Schroeder ripped off a wrist shot that careened off Harri Sateri’s left post and straight into the net behind him.
That one-goal lead was expanded to two at 13:30, when the IceHogs’ Spencer Watson scored his first goal of the season. Waiting close to Sateri’s net, Watson tipped in a shot from defenseman Lucas Carlsson to allow the IceHogs a 2-0 cushion.
In the final moments of the opening frame, defenseman Dennis Gilbert tacked on the IceHogs’ third-straight goal of the night. Sateri blocked Henri Jokiharju’s initial shot from the blue line, and Luke Johnson’s attempt to sweep the puck into the net was stuffed. But with 1.6 seconds on the clock, Gilbert backhanded the rebound into the net, ending the period with a 3-0 lead.
Just as the IceHogs scored three consecutively, Grand Rapids would do the same with Turner Elson kickstarting the initiative off a draw in the IceHogs’ zone. As Dominic Turgeon swept the puck out of the circle and tied up Rockford’s Nathan Noel, Elson scooped up the puck and sent it into the upper-right hand corner of Collin Delia’s net to put Grand Rapids on the board at 3:12.
Wade Megan was up next for the Griffins, scoring his 15th goal of the season with 5:55 left in the frame. Skating into Rockford’s zone, Martin Frk spun around an IceHogs defender and fed the puck to Megan across the ice. Bringing the puck up to Delia’s net, Megan backhanded it past the goaltender to make it 3-2.
Just one minute into the third period, the Griffins completely evaporated Rockford’s lead with a power play goal. After corralling a pass from Joe Hicketts near the blue line, Matt Puempel sniped the puck over Delia’s right shoulder, allowing the power play unit a 1-for-3 finish on the night and tying the game at 3-3.
Schroeder repaired Rockford’s lead almost 13 minutes later when he snapped a one-timer inside Sateri’s right post. But a Dennis Cholowski shot from the right point at 2:11 was tipped in by Chris Terry, sending the two teams into a familiar overtime period.
Both teams garnered good chances, including a shift that allowed the IceHogs 15 seconds of back-to-back shots followed quickly by a Terry breakaway. But it wasn’t until 35 seconds were left on the clock that either team found twine, when Rockford’s Peter Holland sneaked in the game-winning goal from the slot.
Sateri turned away 34 of 39 shots on net, while Delia made 24 stops for the win.
Notes: Elson’s goal was his second point in the past three games...The Griffins’ penalty kill unit finished 1-for-2 on the night...The team’s leading point-scorers for the series — Megan (4-1—5 in 3 GP), Terry (3-2—5 in 6 GP) and Puempel (2-3—5 in 7 GP) — all notched a point in the game.
Three Stars: 1. RFD Schroeder (two goals, one assist); 2. RFD Johnson (two assists); 3. RFD Jokiharju (two assists)