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GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 1 at Manitoba Moose 3

April 4, 2017

WINNIPEG – Manitoba Moose goaltender Eric Comrie stopped 35 shots – including 29 over the final two periods – to keep the Grand Rapids Griffins’ offense at bay in a 3-1 decision on Tuesday at the MTS Centre.
Despite the result, the Griffins (43-22-1-4) remain in front of the Chicago Wolves in the Central Division standings by 0.002 percentage points. Grand Rapids returns to the MTS Centre on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. EDT rematch against Manitoba.
The Griffins carried the play in the early stages, preventing the Moose (26-36-4-5) from registering a shot on Jared Coreau’s goal until the 7:36 mark. The visitors had a golden opportunity to open the scoring just past the halfway point following back-to-back minor penalties assessed to Paul Stoykewych and Jake Kulevich, but were unable to convert on a 5-on-3 lasting 83 seconds. 
Danick Gauthier struck first on the power play for Manitoba with 2:39 left in the first. Kevin Czuczman’s snapshot from the left point was deflected by Patrice Cormier in front and bounced off the pads of Coreau, but the rebound rolled to Gauthier at the right circle for a shot into an open net.
Grand Rapids once again controlled the momentum and outshot Manitoba 15-4 in the middle period, with seven of those shots coming during a Brenden Kichton high-sticking minor. However, the Moose came way with the only goal of the frame on an eventual 2-on-1 when Scott Kosmachuk took a lead pass from Francis Beauvillier and fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle inside the left post at the 8:17 mark.
The Griffins continued to apply pressure, but Comrie made a number of dazzling saves to preserve Manitoba’s lead. Axel Holmstrom sent a pass to Martin Frk, who moved from forehand to backhand in front only to be denied by the left post. After Frk put his own rebound back across the goal mouth, Holmstrom and Joe Hicketts added efforts of their own before the Moose netminder froze the puck with 4:44 to play.
Matt Lorito spoiled Comrie’s shutout bid on a shorthanded tally with 1:17 remaining. With Coreau on the bench to give Grand Rapids five skaters, Hicketts’ feed from the right point deflected off the stick of Jimmy Lodge at the right circle before Lorito batted the puck out of mid-air and inside the right post for his 21st goal of the campaign.
Still shorthanded, the Griffins called timeout and kept Coreau on the bench with 43.4 seconds remaining. Even though Grand Rapids won the ensuing offensive-zone faceoff, the strategy backfired when Matthew Ford lost control of the puck at the left circle and the Moose regained possession, resulting in an empty-net, power play goal from Beauviller with 20.5 seconds on the clock to lift the hosts out of the Central Division cellar. 
Manitoba finished 2-for-3 on the power play while Grand Rapids was unable to cash in on four opportunities. Coreau blocked 24 shots in defeat.
Notes: Holmstrom made his North American debut on Tuesday…Brian Lashoff played in his 450th professional game...Kyle Criscuolo became the seventh Grand Rapids skater to hit the 40-point mark…Hicketts is the sixth Griffin with 25 or more assists this season…The Griffins are 35-13-0-3 (0.716) when recording 30 or more shots in a game this season…Grand Rapids has a 27-14-0-3 (0.648) record when outshooting its opponent.
Three Stars: 1. MB Comrie (W, 35 saves); 2. MB Beauvillier (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Lorito (shorthanded goal)