GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins will eagerly turn the page to 2010, following a 7-3 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday at Van Andel Arena that marked their fifth straight defeat and seventh setback in their last eight games (1-6-0-1).
The Griffins, whose lineup continues to be decimated by injuries and callups, were without the services of three of their top defensemen (Detroit’s Doug Janik and the injured Jakub Kindl and Sergei Kolosov), along with forwards Mattias Ritola (Detroit) and Tomas Tatar (Slovakian World Junior team). Coupled with several others who played while hurt or ill, plus the ejection of Kris Newbury less than four minutes into tonight’s contest, and it was a tough row for the Griffins to hoe against the top team in the Western Conference.
Grand Rapids (18-16-0-1), which maintains fourth place in the North Division, will look to wipe the slate clean when it begins the new year by visiting Rockford on Saturday for an 8:05 p.m. EST start against the IceHogs.
The North Division-leading Bulldogs (22-8-2-3) netted the fastest goal allowed by the Griffins to start a period this season when Ryan White threw a rebound into a gaping cage from the right side just 18 ticks into the contest.
Undaunted, the Griffins battled back to take a 2-1 lead by the midpoint of the frame. During a power play at 5:03, Cory Emmerton pounced on a puck that trickled out of the left corner, quickly turning and firing a shot from the left hashmarks that sailed past Curtis Sanford.
Grand Rapids went ahead at the 10-minute mark, as Michael Nylander sped down the right side and dropped a pass back to Andy Delmore, who blistered a one-timer from the top of the circle into the back of the net.
Just over three minutes later, Sanford was shaken up in a collision with Emmerton and left the game in favor of Cedrick Desjardins, who entered the night ranked among the AHL’s top three netminders in goals against average (2nd), save percentage (3rd) and shutouts (1st).
It took only a 26-second span early in the middle period for Hamilton to turn its one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead, with Frederic St. Denis scoring at 1:17 and P.K. Subban following up at 1:43. Brock Trotter’s goal at 5:12 sent Daniel Larsson to the bench, but replacement Thomas McCollum fared no better. The onslaught continued on goals by Andre Benoit at 9:18, Tom Pyatt at 12:29 and Ryan Russell at 17:23, prompting Griffins head coach Curt Fraser to re-insert Larsson into the game after having watched Hamilton score six unanswered goals for a 7-2 lead.
Jan Mursak tallied his 13th goal of the campaign – second on the Griffins to only Jeremy Williams’ 14 – from the high slot 5:09 into the third period to complete the scoring.
Larsson (26-of-30) absorbed the loss, Desjardins (13-of-14) earned the win, while McCollum (5-of-8) and Sanford (11-of-13) had no-decisions.
Hamilton’s six goals in the second tied a Griffins franchise record for most surrendered in a period and set a mark for the most they’ve ever allowed in a home period, as Grand Rapids extended a dubious team record by allowing at least five goals for the fifth straight game. It marks the first time in the franchise’s 14 seasons that the Griffins have lost four straight games by a margin of three or more goals, as well as the first time they’ve allowed seven goals four times during a single season.
Twenty of the game-worn and game-issued jerseys donned by the Griffins tonight – which were designed by local artist Chad B. Stilson and featured a fierce-looking Griff – were auctioned to the public after the game, raising $9,625 for the GVSU club roller hockey team. Mursak’s jersey drew a high bid of $950.
Three Stars: 1. HAM Darche (four assists); 2. HAM Pyatt (goal, three assists); 3. HAM Subban (goal, two assists)