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LATE HEROICS RESULT IN IRELAND'S FIRST WIN

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Matt Ellis goal late in regulation and a pair of tallies by Jiri Hudler in the shootout gave the Grand Rapids Griffins a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday at Van Andel Arena.

Joey MacDonald stopped 24 shots in the game, plus four of six attempts in the shootout, to give Greg Ireland his first AHL head coaching victory and tie Mike Fountain atop the franchise’s all-time wins list with 55.

The Griffins (25-23-1-1), who’ve won three of their last five at home and four of six overall, will face a crucial matchup in Cincinnati on Saturday at 7:35 p.m. Coupled with the Mighty Ducks’ 3-0 loss to Philadelphia tonight, Grand Rapids has closed within just four points of their third-place West Division rival.

The Griffins dominated play in the opening period, particularly during the final minutes, but were unable to solve Brian Finley despite a 14-3 shot advantage.

Given a reprieve, the Admirals took advantage of a power play to strike first 3:50 into the second frame. After Andrew Hutchinson broke his stick while taking a shot from the point, his fastball-turned-changeup was deflected by Wyatt Smith past MacDonald.

Finley continued to thwart the Griffins, turning away 34 shots until the latter part of the third period when the home team netted the equalizer. After Ellis crashed the net from the left side, the puck trickled across the crease to a charging Jeff Hutchins, who shoveled it into a wide-open net at 13:52.

A fortunate bounce helped the Admirals regain the lead with 4:45 remaining. The puck deflected off the skate of defenseman Mark Eaton in the left circle to an uncovered Tony Hrkac, who beat MacDonald with a snap shot from the slot. However, Eaton gained his redemption with just 2:19 showing on the clock, blasting a shot from the point that Ellis tipped past Finley to ignite the crowd of 7,074 and send the game to overtime.

Following a scoreless extra session, Simon Gamache and Jordin Tootoo scored in the first and fifth rounds for the Admirals (35-14-2-4), but Tomas Kopecky answered in the second stanza and Hudler scored in the fourth and sixth rounds to seal the win. The victory was the fifth for the Griffins in six shootouts this season.


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