ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Grand Rapids Griffins opened the new year by snapping a five-game losing streak with a 5-4 shootout win over the Rockford IceHogs at the Rockford MetroCentre on Saturday.
Grand Rapids improved to 19-16-0-1 with the win, and they hold an all-time record of 5-4-1-1 against the IceHogs, who fell to 19-16-2-2 with the loss.
The Griffins will head back to Van Andel Arena on Sunday to face the Lake Erie Monsters for a 4:00 p.m. face off.
Despite a lineup that was hindered by injury and recalls, Grand Rapids showed promise from the start of the opening period. They killed off back-to-back penalties within the first 6:13 of regulation, Daniel Larsson stood strong with a flurry of saves, and they grabbed at 1-0 lead when Jan Mursak tucked a wrist shot inside the left goal post at the 8:11 mark. Mursak snuck past the Rockford defense, caught a pass from Francis Lemieux, and cashed in on a breakaway from the right circle.
The Griffins’ lead was short-lived however, as Rockford converged on their third and fourth power play chances of the first period. At 16:38, Bryan Bickel walked off the right half board and roofed a shot on the short side of the net to tie the game at 1-1. Then, Bracken Kearns buried the rebound of Mark Cullen’s shot from the point for the go-ahead goal with less than a second remaining.
Grand Rapids battled back to knot the score at 2-2 just 35 seconds into the second stanza. Travis Ehrhardt rifled a shot from the point, and Francis Pare was anxiously awaiting the rebound at the doorstep, from where he notched his sixth goal of the season.
The IceHogs regained their lead when Matt Keith jumped on a rebound of his own at 3:19, slamming a quick wrist shot past Larsson from the right side of the crease.
The Griffins resented their deficit once again, and perhaps caught a lucky break when their lone All-Star Patrick Rissmiller threw a backhand shot at the net that found it’s way through the pads of Alec Richards at the 9:35 mark. Rissmiller’s goal chased Richards (14-for-17) from the IceHogs’ net, which made way for Joe Fallon who filled in admirably, robbing Jeremy Williams on several one-time opportunities on an ensuing Griffins’ power play.
Pare was able to solve Fallon with a backhand shot at 16:26, his second of the night that put the Griffins up by a 4-3 count. Rockford then used a controversial hooking call against Logan Pyett to even things up with their third power play goal of the night. Kyle Greentree, who had been testing Larsson persistently, took a shot from the left circle and collected his own rebound to slide a backhander in to the right side of the net at 18:04.
Both teams recorded seven shots in the third period, but the game remained deadlocked at 4-4, and headed to a five minute overtime session which also ended in a stalemate.
In the second round of the shootout, Grand Rapids got the only tally they needed when Williams made a quick move to his forehand and put a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net. Meanwhile, Larsson was perfect in stopping all five of Rockford’s attempts, sending the Griffins to their second win ever in five games at the Rockford MetroCentre.
Larsson turned aside 25 shots for the Griffins’ net, while Fallon made 19 saves through 35:25 for Rockford, and denied three-of-four shootout candidates.
Three Stars: 1. GR Delmore (2 assists); 2. RFD Keams (1 goal, 1 assist); 3. GR Pare (2 goals).