[From the Griffins]
CLEVELAND – Kaden Fulcher earned his first AHL shutout behind 22 saves and Joe Veleno and Riley Barber scored first-period power play goals to give the Grand Rapids Griffins a 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Monsters on Tuesday at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Winners of three straight, the Griffins improved to 6-2 against the second-place Monsters this season and remain alive in the chase for the Central Division title. Third-place Grand Rapids needs to win its final three games – beginning with Wednesday’s home tilt against first-place Chicago and concluding with a home-and-home set versus Cleveland – while the Wolves need to lose their three remaining games in regulation. The Griffins swept a two-game set from Chicago last weekend.
Less than nine minutes into this game, Gavin Bayreuther drove Kyle Criscuolo head-first into the corner boards, drawing a five-minute major for boarding that the Griffins capitalized on at the 12:31 mark. From the left circle, Taro Hirose lasered a pass to the goal mouth to Veleno, who redirected the puck past Matiss Kivlenieks for a power play goal in his first game as a Griffin in exactly 14 months.
Barber snapped home his 18th goal of the campaign from the right circle with 1:43 left in the period, rounding out the scoring and moving into sole possession of second place in the AHL goals race.
In the third period, the Monsters were afforded little opportunity to spoil Fulcher’s first shutout since March 3, 2019 with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, as the Griffins enjoyed a massive 18-3 shot advantage over the final 20 minutes. Kivlenieks stopped all 18 shots and finished the game with 34 saves.
Cleveland’s power play, which had converted seven of its last 17 opportunities against Grand Rapids, was limited to three chances on this night while the Griffins finished 2-for-6.
• The Griffins avoided what could have been their first-ever season – albeit a shortened one – without registering a shutout. Grand Rapids logged a franchise record-low one shutout during the 2009-10 campaign.
• In three games against Cleveland this season, Fulcher is 2-1 with a 1.34 GAA and a 0.953 save percentage.
• Barber is averaging more than a point per game versus the Monsters, scoring five goals and four assists in eight outings.
• Defenseman Seth Barton made his pro debut with the Griffins. The UMass-Lowell product was Detroit’s 6th choice, 81st overall, in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Grand Rapids 2 0 0 - 2
Cleveland 0 0 0 - 0
1st Period-1, Grand Rapids, Veleno 1 (Hirose, Barber), 12:31 (PP). 2, Grand Rapids, Barber 18 (Hicketts, Hirose), 18:17 (PP). Penalties-Shine Gr (high-sticking), 2:19; Bayreuther Cle (major - boarding), 8:44; Crawley Cle (hooking), 17:02; Shine Gr (tripping), 18:40.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Scott Cle (goaltender interference), 6:43; Crawley Cle (high-sticking), 12:58; Smith Gr (hooking), 18:36.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Scott Cle (cross-checking), 6:50.
Shots on Goal-Grand Rapids 10-8-18-36. Cleveland 9-10-3-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Grand Rapids 2 / 6; Cleveland 0 / 3.
Goalies-Grand Rapids, Fulcher 2-2-2 (22 shots-22 saves). Cleveland, Kivlenieks 6-2-0 (36 shots-34 saves).
1. GR Fulcher (W, SO, 22 saves); 2. GR Barber (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Veleno (power play/game-winning goal)
Record / Next Game
Grand Rapids: 15-10-3-1 (34 pts.) / Wed., May 12 vs. Chicago 7 p.m.
Cleveland: 15-9-1-2 (33 pts.) / Fri., May 14 vs. Grand Rapids 7 p.m.