Griffins Grab 2-0 Series Lead With 2-1 Win Over Admirals

Calder Cup Playoffs – Central Division Semifinals – Game 2 – Grand Rapids Leads Series, 2-0

MILWAUKEE – Behind a brilliant 31-save performance by Tom McCollum, the Grand Rapids Griffins pushed the division champion Milwaukee Admirals to the brink of elimination with a 2-1 victory on Saturday in Game 2 of the Central Division Semifinals at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Grand Rapids will have a chance to close out the Admirals at Van Andel Arena when it hosts Game 3 of the best-of-five series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 4 would also take place on the Griffins’ home ice on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Griffins jumped on the game’s first power play opportunity to seize the early lead. Ryan Sproul set up Martin Frk for a one-timer above the left circle that Juuse Saros denied, but Anthony Mantha found the loose puck at the left post and used quick hands to slip it across the line at the 5:44 mark.

After failing to convert on two chances later in the first period, Grand Rapids worked its fourth man-advantage to perfection midway through the second to go ahead 2-0. Tyler Bertuzzi notched his third goal of the young series and his 10th in 16 career playoff games at 8:53, slamming Eric Tangradi's pass into the far corner of the net from low in the left circle.

Milwaukee had what initially looked to be a goal waved off with 3:26 remaining in the second, much to the vocal displeasure of the Admirals and their fans. Corey Potter fired a shot from the right point that was deflected into the net by Max Gortz, but the referee immediately signaled no goal, ruling that the crease-infringing winger had interfered with McCollum.

The Admirals eventually scored one that counted during a power play with 8:28 left in the final period, cutting their deficit to one. Vladislav Kamenev received a pass down low and stuffed the puck between McCollum’s pads, snapping the netminder’s shutout streak at 98:02.

But the division’s top seed could not get the equalizer, despite pulling Saros in favor of an extra attacker for most of the final two minutes. Saros finished the night with 22 saves.

Including eight regular season meetings between the Griffins and Admirals, tonight’s game was the first decided by a single goal.

Notes: With 10 career playoff goals, Bertuzzi already ranks second among active Griffins on the franchise’s all-time list, trailing only Jeff Hoggan (11 goals in 52 games)…McCollum’s 11 playoff wins as a Griffin rank behind only Jimmy Howard (12) and Petr Mrazek (20)…Over their 20-year history, the Griffins have a 2-1 record in best-of-five series when leading two games to none, having been on both ends of a team rallying from such a deficit to advance. In their first-ever postseason appearance in the 1997 IHL Turner Cup Playoffs, Grand Rapids won the first two games in Orlando before dropping three straight to the Solar Bears. Conversely, just last spring, the Griffins became the 11th team in AHL history to win a best-of-five series after trailing 0-2, losing twice in Toronto before winning the last three games of the series at Van Andel Arena.

Three Stars: 1. GR Bertuzzi (game-winning goal); 2. GR McCollum (W, 31 saves); 3. MIL Kamenev (goal)

Game 3 is in Grand Rapids on Tuesday night at 7PM. If the Griffins win and sweep the series, they'll await their next opponent. If they leave their brooms at home, game 4 will be in Grand Rapids on Wednesday night at 7 PM.