GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4 at Iowa Wild 3 SO
Feb. 11, 2017
DES MOINES, Iowa – Three times, the Grand Rapids Griffins grabbed a one-goal lead. And three times, the Iowa Wild came back to even the score before Tyler Bertuzzi lit the lamp in the fourth round of the shootout to seal a 4-3 victory on Saturday before a crowd of 10,580 at Wells Fargo Arena.
Winners in four of their last six contests, the Griffins (31-14-1-2) briefly overtook the San Jose Barracuda atop the Western Conference standings until the latter’s 4-3 overtime win at Bakersfield. Cal Heeter turned away 37-of-40 shots to earn his eighth victory in 10 starts this season. If he met the 900 minutes benchmark, Heeter would tie for the league lead with a 0.931 save percentage and his 2.18 goals against average would place in a three-way tie for third.
Grand Rapids carried the play in the early stages as Joe Hicketts started the scoring 6:39 into the opening period. Bertuzzi sent a backhanded pass to Hicketts at the point, who worked his way into the high slot and placed a wrist shot off the inside of the left post and in. Credited with the secondary assist, Evgeny Svechnikov pushed his point streak to 10 consecutive games, registering 12 points (4-8–12) in that span.
Iowa (25-19-5-2) capitalized on its first power play opportunity 2:28 later. After Pat Cannone drove the net and forced Heeter into a pair of pad saves, Grayson Downing managed to get his stick on the rebound and forced the puck inches over the goalline.
The Griffins recaptured the lead thanks to relentless pressure from a fourth line consisting of Drew Miller, Matthew Ford and Colin Campbell. Nine seconds after an Iowa bench minor expired, Miller centered a pass to Conor Allen at the bottom of the left circle for a quick strike past a sea of bodies and into an open net at the 12:50 mark for his first goal in a Grand Rapids uniform.
The hosts evened the score a second time with exactly eight minutes remaining in the middle frame when Christoph Bertschy gained control of a bouncing puck at the right circle and sent a turnaround pass to Sam Anas at the left post for a shot into an empty cage.
Ford put Grand Rapids back in front on the man advantage just 15 seconds into the third. Kyle Criscuolo flipped the puck to Robbie Russo at the point for a rising slapshot that deflected off the stick of Ford in front and underneath the blocker of Alex Stalock.
Iowa would not go away quietly, outshooting the visitors 15-1 to close out regulation. The pressure intensified after Hicketts was whistled for delay of game at the 16:40 mark, eventually prompting Wild head coach Derek Lalonde to use his timeout and pull Stalock to create a 6-on-4 advantage. Zack Mitchell restored parity on the power play when he took a feed from Anas at the right circle and fired a one-timer inside the left post with 1:39 on the clock to force the extra session and extend Iowa’s point streak to a franchise-record 11 straight games (7-0-3-1). The Griffins withstood more Wild chances in overtime, with Teemu Pulkkinen grazing a crossbar near the halfway point in addition to a 4-on-3 penalty kill lasting the final 1:20.
The Wild elected to go first in the shootout with Anas and Svechnikov trading goals in the opening round. The next five shooters failed to cash in before Bertuzzi sent a shot along the ice inside the right post to confirm the victory for the Griffins.
Grand Rapids finished 1-for-3 on the power play while Iowa converted on 2-of-6 opportunities. Stalock blocked 31-of-34 shots in defeat.
The Griffins return to Van Andel Arena for a five-game homestand starting with an 11 a.m. contest on Wednesday against the Manitoba Moose.
Notes: Bertuzzi played in his 100th regular season game as a Griffin on Saturday…Grand Rapids is 25-3-1-1 (0.867) when scoring first and 21-1 (0.955) when leading after one period…The Griffins are 8-2 (0.800) in contests in which the attendance is greater than 10,000 this season...Grand Rapids finished 5-2-0-1 (0.688) against Iowa in the regular season series. Six of eight meetings were decided by a single goal.
Three Stars: 1. IA Anas (goal, assist); 2. IA Bertschy (two assists); 3. GR Bertuzzi (shootout-winning goal, assist)