[From the Griffins]
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Riley Barber’s 20th goal of this shortened 32-game season, scored with 5:37 remaining on Saturday, broke a 1-1 tie and propelled the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Monsters in their 2020-21 finale at Van Andel Arena.
Grand Rapids’ fifth power play chance of the night proved decisive, as Barber found time and space in the right circle to rip a shot into the far corner of the net. Dominic Turgeon and Givani Smith then added empty-netters in the final two minutes to salt the game away for a steel-forged Griffins team that played its fourth game in five days, sixth game in nine days, 12th game in 20 days, and 16th game in 30 days.
The Griffins needed just 46 seconds to light the first lamp of the night. Off a Chase Pearson faceoff win in the left circle, Kyle Criscuolo grabbed the puck and fired it past Daniil Tarasov’s glove for his 11th goal of the campaign.
The score remained 1-0 into the third period despite the Griffins outshooting Cleveland 20-5 in the second and 33-16 through 40 minutes, as Tarasov endured the workload and absorbed shot after Grand Rapids shot.
Tarasov’s impenetrability paid dividends 4:01 into the third when Cleveland capitalized on its third power play opportunity to knot the score, with Gavin Bayreuther blasting a one-timer from the point that eluded Calvin Pickard.
Barber was the appropriate Griffin to provide the game-winner. His team-leading 20 goals and 34 points, projected over a normal 76-game season, would amount to 47 goals and 80 points; in franchise history, only Donald MacLean (56 during his MVP 2005-06 season) has scored that many goals while only nine players have registered as many points, the most recent being Darren Haydar (80) in 2008-09.
• The Griffins’ 0.563 points percentage gave them a third-place finish in the six-team Central Division, as they leap-frogged Iowa tonight.
• Despite having six games postponed and subsequently rescheduled due to COVID protocols between March 19 and April 15 — including four straight from April 9-15 — the Griffins were able to play all 30 games on their original 2020-21 schedule along with an extra pair of contests against Cleveland that were added mid-season. Grand Rapids’ last 16 games, constituting half of its season, were played without any COVID interruptions.
Cleveland 0 0 1 - 1
Grand Rapids 1 0 3 - 4
1st Period-1, Grand Rapids, Criscuolo 11 (Pearson), 0:46. Penalties-Crawley Cle (cross-checking), 7:03; Struthers Cle (slashing), 14:42; Turgeon Gr (slashing), 17:36.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Dunne Cle (roughing), 7:32; Spezia Gr (roughing), 7:32; Crawley Cle (slashing), 11:10; Loggins Gr (slashing), 14:33; Newpower Cle (roughing, cross-checking), 16:56; Veleno Gr (roughing), 16:56.
3rd Period-2, Cleveland, Bayreuther 3 (Simpson), 4:01 (PP). 3, Grand Rapids, Barber 20 (Hicketts, Hirose), 14:23 (PP). 4, Grand Rapids, Turgeon 6 (Veleno, Hicketts), 18:31 (EN). 5, Grand Rapids, Smith 9 (Veleno), 19:43 (EN). Penalties-Veleno Gr (tripping), 3:52; Smith Gr (high-sticking), 5:24; Sikura Cle (slashing), 12:44; Dunne Cle (holding), 18:20; Criscuolo Gr (holding), 18:20.
Shots on Goal-Cleveland 11-5-15-31. Grand Rapids 13-20-12-45.
Power Play Opportunities-Cleveland 1 / 4; Grand Rapids 1 / 5.
Goalies-Cleveland, Tarasov 4-2-0 (43 shots-41 saves). Grand Rapids, Pickard 1-1-1 (31 shots-30 saves).
1. GR Barber (game-winning goal); 2. GR Criscuolo (goal); 3. GR Pickard (W, 30 saves)
Grand Rapids: 16-12-3-1