GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A nightmarish defensive stretch continued Sunday for the Grand Rapids Griffins, who dropped a 7-2 decision to the Lake Erie Monsters at Van Andel Arena.
Grand Rapids allowed at least five goals for the fourth straight home game and the sixth time in its last seven contests overall. After giving up 75 goals in their first 27 games this season, the Griffins have surrendered 50 in their last 10 games alone, a stretch during which they’ve posted a 2-7-0-1 mark and allowed fewer than four goals just once.
The Griffins (19-17-0-1) will try to get back on track this Wednesday when they host the San Antonio Rampage at 7 p.m.
A giveaway deep in the Griffins’ zone allowed the Monsters to strike first with 3:39 remaining in the opening period. Ryan Stokes lost the handle on the puck as he circled out to the left of the net, and Tom Fritsche quickly fed Justin Mercier for a beautiful, top-shelf one-timer from the left hashmarks that Jordan Pearce had little chance on.
The turnover bug continued early in the second period, enabling the Monsters (16-18-0-3) to score the quickest goal against the Griffins this season. Lake Erie intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, worked it down low and finished on a wraparound by Mercier just 17 ticks into the frame.
When Tom Preissing connected on a rocket from the right side that slid just under the crossbar 39 seconds later, Pearce went to the bench in favor of Daniel Larsson, marking the fifth time in the last seven games that the Griffins’ starting netminder was pulled.
Larsson fared no better, however, as he surrendered a shorthanded goal to Marty Sertich at 5:17 before letting Wes O’Neill’s shot from the point trickle through him at the 6:59 mark, ushering Pearce back to the Griffins’ pipes.
After allowing at least five unanswered goals for the second straight home game, Grand Rapids finally lit its own side of the scoreboard at 9:30. Jan Mursak took a pass from Francis Pare in the left circle and went hard to the net, slipping a shot inside Billy Sauer’s right post before being crushed by a Monsters defenseman. Mursak’s 15th goal of the campaign gave him sole possession of team leadership in that category, one more than Jeremy Williams.
The good vibes did not last long, as Ryan Stoa blasted a low shot past Pearce’s stick from the slot at 11:48 for a 6-1 Lake Erie lead.
Trent Daavettila, signed by the Griffins to a tryout earlier today, netted his first AHL goal at 12:04 of the third period, setting up in the slot to tip an Andy Delmore shot underneath Sauer’s pads. Lake Erie’s Mike Bartlett then rounded out the scoring at 17:43, potting his own rebound from the left side.
Sauer made 32 saves for the win, Pearce stopped 16 of 21 in the loss, and Larsson denied one of three shots in a no-decision.
Three Stars: 1. LE Mercier (two goals, assist); 2. LE O’Neill (goal, assist); 3. LE Sauer (W, 32 saves)