Lake Erie Monsters 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 6
Feb. 24, 2012
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Chris Minard’s second hat trick in five games and another solid effort between the pipes by Ty Conklin propelled the Grand Rapids Griffins to a dominant 6-1 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Jamie Johnson dished out four assists – and arguably should have had a fifth – to match a four-point night by Minard, as the pair set a Griffins season high for points in a game and helped Grand Rapids improve to 3-1 in its last four home games and 3-1-1-0 in its last five outings overall.
The Griffins (22-21-5-4), who have won consecutive games for the first time since winning three straight from Dec. 31-Jan. 7 and the first time at home since winning three in a row from Dec. 2-14, will look to stay on a roll Saturday when they visit the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies for a 5 p.m. start at the Ricoh Coliseum. Grand Rapids owns a perfect 3-0 record in the season series.
The teams traded goals during the opening period, with the Griffins striking first at 9:49. Francis Pare took a pass from Landon Ferraro at the right point, skated in a few strides and threw a shot toward the net that Chris Conner deflected past Cedrick Desjardins. But the Monsters answered a little more than four minutes later, when Greg Mauldin put a rebound past Conklin from the left circle at 13:55 for what would be their only tally of the night.
Grand Rapids’ Swedish line produced the team’s second goal 7:35 into the middle frame. Gustav Nyquist forced a turnover behind the net and sent a pass out front to Fabian Brunnstrom. After Brunnstrom’s attempt from point-blank range was denied by Desjardins, Joakim Andersson pounced on the loose puck at the bottom of the left circle and notched his 14th goal of the campaign. The assist pushed Nyquist’s season-high point streak to eight games, tying for the 18th-longest scoring run in franchise history.
After an apparent goal at the 9:22 mark was nullified by referee Jean Hebert’s ruling – vehemently disputed by the Griffins – that Brunnstrom kicked Johnson’s pass into the net from the top of the crease, there would be no doubt about their next tally. At 14:24, Johnson gathered the puck below the goal line and found Minard in the slot for a one-timer that pushed Grand Rapids’ lead to 3-1.
Early in the third, Minard set up the Griffins’ fourth goal by winning a race to the puck along the left half-wall and pushing it back to Doug Janik, who shimmied to the point before unleashing a slap shot that found the back of the net at 6:01. Minard then capped off the rout and his hat trick by scoring at 11:38 and 19:35, giving him 12 goals and 17 points in just 16 games since returning from a concussion that had sidelined him all season.
Conklin finished with 17 saves, backstopping a defense that has surrendered just three goals with him in net – the Griffins’ lowest total in consecutive games since they allowed two from Nov. 11-12.
Desjardins, who entered the game with a miniscule 1.92 goals against average, turned aside 34 of 40 shots. Over 35 games since October 2010, the netminder has allowed five or more goals just twice, both to the Griffins, who improved to 4-1-1-0 against Lake Erie (27-25-2-2) this season.
Three Stars: 1. GR Minard (hat trick, assist); 2. GR Johnson (four assists); 3. GR Conklin (W, 17 saves)