GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4 at Texas Stars 5
March 8, 2017
CEDAR PARK, Texas – Leading 4-2 and on the power play with under six minutes remaining, the Grand Rapids Griffins surrendered three goals in a 1:34 span in a 5-4 defeat to the Texas Stars on Wednesday at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
In a shocking turn of events, Gemel Smith netted a pair of shorthanded tallies 44 seconds apart before Brandon DeFazio scored the deciding goal when he redirected Mark McNeill’s centering pass into the top left corner with 3:38 on the clock. The result snaps the Griffins’ six-game regular season win streak against the Stars on foreign ice dating back to a 6-4 loss on Jan. 24, 2014.
Four Grand Rapids skaters registered multiple points, including a three-point (2-1–3) performance from Ben Street. The Griffins look to get back on track as they open a two-game California trip on Saturday against the San Jose Barracuda with puck drop from the SAP Center at San Jose set for 9 p.m. EST.
Travis Morin started the scoring for Texas (27-27-1-2) 7:45 into the contest. Jason Dickinson sent a pass from the top of the right circle down low to McNeill, who quickly fed the puck across the goal mouth to Morin for a tap-in into an open net.
The Griffins (38-17-1-2) exploded for four second-period goals beginning when Kyle Criscuolo evened the score at the 2:48 mark. After Evgeny Svechnikov whiffed on an effort at the right circle, Criscuolo gathered possession below the goalline and banked a shot off the back of Justin Peters and in.
Matthew Ford gave Grand Rapids its first lead 1:13 later. Under pressure from Eric Tangradi, Dillon Heatherington’s clearing attempt was intercepted by Street, who delivered the puck to Ford all alone in front for a shot that snuck through the five-hole.
The Stars eventually restored parity when Denis Gurianov’s centering feed pinballed off Conor Allen and Eddie Pasquale before Smith raced in from the right side to bury the loose puck at the 14:18 mark of the middle frame.
The Griffins needed all of 46 seconds to recapture the lead when Ford’s pass out of the right corner reached Street at the right circle for a snapshot past the catching glove of Peters.
Street’s second tally of the night came on the power play with 3:14 to go in the second. Matt Lorito assessed his options at the right circle before sending the puck to Street at the point for a snapshot into the top right corner to tie Martin Frk with his 21st goal of the season and give Grand Rapids a two-goal cushion.
A 4-2 Texas deficit seemed insurmountable when Julius Honka was called for interference 14:11 into the final frame. However, momentum began to shift when Smith added a shorthanded tally with 5:02 remaining. On an eventual 2-on-1, Smith worked his way in close and was initially repelled by Pasquale, but tucked his own rebound past a sliding Grand Rapids netminder.
With just over 30 seconds remaining in the same power play, Tyler Bertuzzi mishandled the puck at the left point, jumpstarting another Texas odd-man rush. This time, Dickinson fed the puck to Smith at the left circle for a shot between Pasquale’s pads with 4:18 to play.
The Stars continued to carry the play and earned both points with 3:38 remaining when McNeill fired a centering pass from the right half-boards toward DeFazio in front for a deflection into the top left corner to complete an improbable comeback.
The Griffins finished 1-for-3 on the power play while Texas failed to cash in on four opportunities. Peters turned away 19 shots to earn the victory as Pasquale blocked 17 in defeat.
Notes: Lorito has earned multiple points in four consecutive games and six of his last eight outings…Street has five goals in six games and points (4-2–6) in four straight …Tangradi has points (5-9–14) in eight of his last nine contests…The Griffins last allowed two shorthanded goals in a single game on Nov. 16, 2016 versus Texas...Grand Rapids is 26-2 when scoring four or more goals and 28-2-1 when leading after two periods this season.
Three Stars: 1. TEX Smith (hat trick); 2. TEX DeFazio (game-winning goal); 3. GR Street (two goals, assist)