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GRIZZLIES CLAW GRIFFINS, 5-2

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Utah Grizzlies jumped out to a stunning five-goal lead before the game’s midpoint on Friday, on their way to a 5-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.

In spoiling the debut of new Griffins head coach Greg Ireland, the Grizzlies snapped a 13-game road losing streak and kept Grand Rapids from claiming sole possession of fourth place in the West Division. The Griffins capitalized on just two of 42 shots against longtime NHLer Jamie Storr, while Utah’s deluge came on just 22 attempts.

While most of the Griffins will enjoy three days off before preparing to host Milwaukee one week from tonight, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and goalie Joey MacDonald are off to participate in this weekend’s 2005 Dodge AHL All-Star Classic in Manchester, N.H.

The Grizzlies (13-33-0-3) grabbed a 2-0 advantage less than 12 minutes into the contest, marking their first two-goal lead in an opening period this season. At 10:58, an unchecked Aaron Gavey ripped a shot from the left dot over the far shoulder of MacDonald, and Terry Virtue redirected a pass into a gaping net during a power play 48 seconds later.

A second power play goal by Virtue early in the second period gave the Griffins a steeper hill to climb. From the left corner, he whipped a shot that deflected out front and eluded MacDonald at the 2:33 mark. A pinpoint goal by Justin Cox during a 2-on-1 break at 9:16 ended MacDonald’s night after 16 shots, and Erik Westrum welcomed the reliever by scoring unassisted on the first shot against Drew MacIntyre at 9:58, making it a 5-0 game.

The Griffins (24-23-1-1) finally broke the drought, as Matt Ellis found himself alone with the puck to the right of Storr. Ellis waited patiently for an opening before stuffing a backhand inside the left post at 13:19.

Grand Rapids inched closer on a goal by Todd Robinson from the left circle at 4:10. Robin Bouchard, the Muskegon Fury sniper making his AHL debut, earned the second assist on his once-and-current teammate’s goal.

Despite pulling MacIntyre in favor of an extra attacker for 3:34 of the game’s final 3:40, the Griffins could not get any closer. MacIntyre finished with five saves in relief.


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