Youth is Served in Griffins’ Win

<strong>San Antonio Rampage 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4</strong>

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Highlighted by Moritz Seider’s two-point night, five Griffins rookies combined to score three goals and chip in three assists on Wednesday as Grand Rapids claimed a 4-3 victory over the San Antonio Rampage at Van Andel Arena.

Seider’s first AHL goal proved to be the game-winner and followed up tallies by first-year forwards Gregor MacLeod and Ryan Kuffner, while Joe Veleno and Chase Pearson each registered an assist on Kuffner’s power play marker midway through the second period. Combined with a strong 27-save performance by veteran Calvin Pickard en route to his 100th AHL victory, it added up to the Griffins’ third win in their last four outings both at home and overall.

The Griffins (9-7-1-1) will begin a weekend home-and-home set with Milwaukee on Friday when they welcome the Admirals to Van Andel Arena for a 7 p.m. start.

Turner Elson netted the Griffins’ fastest goal to start any period this season just 23 seconds into the game. Seider’s wrister from the top of the right circle sailed wide of the near post but caromed off the end boards to Elson, whose sharp-angle shot from along the left goal line banked off netminder Ville Husso and into the cage. Back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game in Rockford due to an injury, Filip Zadina earned the second assist on the play to extend his point streak to five games (3-4—7).

MacLeod cashed in on a fine play by Dominik Shine to make it a 2-0 contest at the 5:12 mark. Shine took a feed from Matthew Ford in the neutral zone, sped across the blue line and made a dash toward the net, drawing four San Antonio defenders to him. The puck was knocked off Shine’s stick in the slot, but a trailing MacLeod was there to gobble it up and whip it past Husso’s glove.

The Rampage (7-6-3-2) lit the scoreboard less than six minutes later, courtesy of former Griffin Zach Nastasiuk. A 2019 Calder Cup champion with Charlotte, Nastasiuk found a rebound just outside the crease and hammered it into a wide-open net at 11:55. A power play goal by Derrick Pouliot at 17:23 then provided a tie game at intermission, as his one-timer from the point snuck through traffic and under Pickard’s left pad.

Grand Rapids reclaimed the lead with its own power play tally 8:44 into the second. Veleno’s centering pass from the right side set up a Pearson deflection on the doorstep that Husso denied, but a backhanded whack by Kuffner put the rebound inside the left post for a 3-2 Griffins advantage. Veleno’s assist pushed his scoring streak to a season-high four games (1-4—5).

Less than five minutes later, Seider scored his first goal in North America seven seconds after being sprung from the penalty box to stake the Griffins to their second two-goal cushion of the evening. After Grand Rapids broke into the Rampage zone on a 3-on-1, Shine sent a pass across to Seider above the left circle, and the 18-year-old defenseman snapped a wrist shot past Husso’s blocker at 13:14.

With exactly six minutes left in the third period, the Rampage turned a power play into a 6-on-4 advantage by pulling Husso for an extra skater, and the gambit paid off in the form of Nathan Walker’s backdoor goal with 4:15 remaining. They tried the same strategy over the final minute following a roughing penalty to Ford, but Grand Rapids denied the visitors’ efforts to net the equalizer.

Husso made 18 saves and helped hold the Griffins to 1-for-5 on the power play. San Antonio finished 2-for-6.

Notes: Brian Lashoff logged his 600th game as a pro, 470 of which have been in a Griffins uniform. Only Travis Richards (655) has played more games for Grand Rapids…This marked Grand Rapids’ first game this season decided by one goal in regulation.

Three Stars: 1. GR Seider (game-winning goal, assist); 2. GR Shine (two assists); 3. GR Pickard (W, 27 saves)

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