GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Brent Gates Jr. grew up rooting for the Grand Rapids Griffins and dreaming of scoring a goal at Van Andel Arena. While his uniform on Saturday was not what he had imagined his experience no doubt was, as Gates tallied the decisive goal with 6:07 remaining to lift the San Diego Gulls to a 3-1 win in his first pro game at the venue.
With the game tied 1-1 and the Gulls rushing into the Griffins’ zone, Gates skated unmarked to the top of the crease and deflected Maxime Comtois’ feed from the right side past Calvin Pickard, scoring what would stand up as the game-winner and marking the rookie’s second goal this season against his hometown team.
Despite owning a commanding 39-19 shot margin for the game, Grand Rapids saw the demise of its eight-game game point streak (6-0-0-2) due largely to the 38-save performance of Anthony Stolarz. The Griffins (20-20-2-4) suffered a regulation loss for the first time since Jan. 5 and concluded their season-high eight-game homestand with a 5-1-0-2 mark.
The Griffins, who played eight home games in the last 16 days, will now enjoy some much-deserved time off thanks to the AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday and Monday and a break in the schedule. Their only game in the next 10 days will be a visit to the Iowa Wild on Friday at 8 p.m. EST.
After earning a hard-fought come-from-behind 4-3 win against San Diego on Friday in a game that had the intensity and feel of a playoff contest, the Griffins carried that momentum into tonight’s affair, outshooting the Gulls by a 14-5 count during a scoreless opening period.
It was San Diego, though, that eventually scored the game’s first goal, at the 4:36 mark of the second period. After the Gulls forced a turnover in the Griffins’ end with a hard forecheck, Isac Lundestrom sent a pass from the top of the left arc to an uncovered Ryan Johnston in the right circle for a backdoor goal into a gaping net.
Matt Puempel tied the score on Grand Rapids’ 27th shot of the game, during a power play in the waning minutes of the period. From the left circle, Taro Hirose threaded a pass through traffic to Puempel, who slipped a shot past Stolarz’s left pad from the bottom of the right circle. The Griffins exited the period with a 29-11 advantage in shots.
A few minutes after Gates tallied the go-ahead marker for San Diego, the Griffins received a power play and soon after pulled Pickard for an extra attacker to create a 6-on-4. The Gulls (18-16-3-2) withstood the challenge on the penalty kill then salted away the game when Sam Carrick shoveled a backhand nearly length of the ice into the vacated cage with 31 seconds remaining.
Pickard, who stopped 16 of 18 shots, saw his personal four-game winning streak snapped and suffered just his second loss in his last nine appearances with the Griffins. He helped Grand Rapids hold San Diego scoreless in five power play opportunities while his teammates converted one of their seven chances.
Three Stars: 1. SD Stolarz (W, 38 saves); 2. SD Gates (game-winning goal); 3. GR Puempel (power play goal)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]
Nothing serious on Zadina. Ben Simon said he wanted to play but there was something tweaking they didn’t think was worth having him push through.— Max Bultman (@m_bultman) January 26, 2020