Calder Cup Playoffs – Central Division Semifinals – Game 4 – Series Tied, 2-2
Manitoba Moose 0 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3
April 26, 2018
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – For the third time in their four postseason meetings, the Grand Rapids Griffins and Manitoba Moose will play a winner-take-all game to determine who advances in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
On the strength of Jared Coreau’s 25-save shutout – his third in his last three starts against the Moose – the Griffins staved off elimination in Game 4 of the Central Division Semifinals on Thursday at Van Andel Arena with a 3-0 win that tied the best-of-five series at two games apiece, improving to 7-1 when facing elimination on home ice since 2013.
The Griffins, who lost a Game 7 in Winnipeg in 2007 and won a Game 7 against the Moose in Grand Rapids in 2006, will host the decisive Game 5 of this series on Monday at 7 p.m. Grand Rapids has won its last three winner-take-all games, all at home, including Game 5 wins against Toronto in 2015 and Houston in 2013.
Making his first start of the series after having entered Game 3 in relief, Coreau has now allowed just one goal in his last 232:29 against the Moose (0.26 GAA), including his back-to-back shutouts at Manitoba on Feb. 15 and 17.
A low-octane first period witnessed 11 combined shots and only three by the Griffins, who expended their share of energy in their own zone by successfully killing off three Manitoba power plays. Grand Rapids nearly scored just before the horn, though, as Joe Hicketts’ shot from the left boards pinballed off and between legs in the crease as the period expired.
The Moose momentarily appeared to have scored 4:56 into the second, but the goal was immediately waved off by referee Corey Syvret, who ruled that the puck was batted into the net by C.J. Suess.
The Griffins scored twice in the final 1:35 of the period by taking advantage of Moose miscues. After Sami Niku, the AHL’s outstanding defenseman for 2017-18, lazily bounced the puck off the boards to center ice, Robbie Russo snared the gift and entered the Manitoba zone with speed, threading a pass across to Matthew Ford for a snap shot from the right circle that blew past Eric Comrie’s glove at 18:25.
Soon after, the Moose again surrendered the puck at center ice to Matt Puempel, who quickly hit Ben Street along the boards. Street sped alone down the left side and launched a slap shot from the circle that slipped through Comrie’s five-hole and inside the far post with just 20 seconds remaining.
Two-time Calder Cup champ Brian Lashoff put the Moose away by scoring from nearly the farthest point possible with 2:56 remaining in the game. With Comrie on the bench for an extra attacker, Lashoff knocked the puck loose from a Moose player below the goal line and immediately flung it the length of the ice into the vacated net.
Comrie stopped 21 of 23 while seeing his lifetime record at Van Andel Arena drop to 1-6.
Notes: Grand Rapids never faced elimination on its way to the 2017 Calder Cup…The shutout was the Griffins’ first in the postseason since June 2, 2013 (Petr Mrazek at OKC)…The Griffins are 4-4 all time in winner-take-all games, including 2-2 in Game 5s and 4-2 at home…Tonight’s crowd of 7,357 was the third-largest of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs to date, with Wednesday’s 7,448 standing as No. 2.
Three Stars: 1. GR Coreau, (W, 25 saves, SO); 2. GR Ford (game-winning goal); 3. GR Street (goal)