ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Grand Rapids Griffins saw their four-game point streak against the Rockford IceHogs come to an end in a 4-0 defeat on Friday at the BMO Harris Bank Center, which concluded their four-game road trip.
The IceHogs (29-29-1-2) scored twice in the middle frame to push their lead to three before adding a power-play goal in the third, which ended a streak of 26 consecutive penalties killed by Grand Rapids against Rockford. The Griffins (27-27-3-4) outshot the IceHogs in the final two periods and finished with a 34-29 advantage but could not solve the puzzle of Collin Delia, who earned his third shutout of the season. Grand Rapids and Rockford now sit in a tie for third in the Central Division with 61 points, one ahead of San Antonio and two in front of Chicago.
The Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena tomorrow at 7 p.m. for a rematch against the IceHogs to begin a four-game homestand.
Rockford got things going at the 9:47 mark of the first period when MacKenzie Entwistle finished off a 2-on-1 break. Along the left boards in the IceHogs’ zone, Garret Mitchell found Entwistle skating into Griffins’ territory. Entwistle made his way into the left circle and fired a shot that slipped under the glove of Pat Nagle for his 10th of the year.
Nagle went on to make save after save during the opening frame, none better than an acrobatic point-blank stop on a shot by Joni Tuulola with 4:09 remaining. The netminder finished the period by stonewalling Alexandre Fortin on a breakaway chance and ended the first with 14 blocks.
Despite holding a 13-6 edge in attempts during the middle frame, the Griffins failed to convert and Rockford score twice, beginning with Fortin’s eighth of the campaign just 1:50 in. Tuulola pushed the puck to Fortin who got in behind the defense and skated uncontested toward Nagle. Fortin made a nice move that sent the netminder to the right post and he placed his shot into the left corner to give the IceHogs a 2-0 lead.
With 7:13 remaining, Rockford scored on its fourth attempt of the period when Dylan Sikura tallied his 14th of the season on a 2-on-1 break. From the left wing, Philipp Kurashev sent a pass toward Sikura at the bottom of the right circle and his one-timer sped past the glove of Nagle.
The Griffins created their best chance of the contest at 17:18 when Michael Rasmussen hammered a slap shot over the left shoulder of Delia and off the right post. Grand Rapids carried that momentum into the final frame and outshot Rockford 13-8, but could not create a dangerous chance on Delia and the Rockford defense.
The IceHogs made it a 4-0 game with 3:55 remaining when Gabriel Gagne scored on a two-man advantage. Sikura skated over the blue line and found Gagne at the left circle and his one-timer floated into the right corner. Despite giving up the power play, the Griffins finished 4-for-5 on the penalty kill and have gone 33-for-35 in the series.
Nagle was credited with 25 saves and his counterpart Delia ended with 34. The Griffins’ power play went 0-for-5, which ended a five-game scoring streak that matched a season-high.
Notes: Matt Puempel saw his four-game point streak (1-4—5) come to an end…Moritz Seider returned from injury after missing the last four contests…Gustav Lindstrom picked up his first NHL point on an assist against Chicago tonight.
Three Stars: 1. RFD Delia (W, SO, 34 saves); 2. RFD Sikura (goal, assist); 3. RFD Entwistle (goal)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]