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ELLIS STANDS TALL WITH TWO SHORTIES IN 4-1 WIN

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Matt Ellis became the first player in Griffins history to score two shorthanded goals in a home game on Saturday, leading Grand Rapids to a 4-1 triumph over the Hamilton Bulldogs at Van Andel Arena.

Ellis’ memorable performance enabled the Griffins to remain four points behind Houston in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division. Grand Rapids (31-28-2-1), which is now 4-1-1-0 in its last six home games, will enjoy nearly a week off before hosting Edmonton on Friday, March 18.

Following a scoreless opening period, the Griffins jumped on top thanks to a tremendous effort by Ellis. He burst up the right side and took a blast from the top of the circle that Hamilton’s Dan Ellis turned aside. However, the hard-working center hustled to the rebound, swooped behind the net and beat the goalie to the left post with a wraparound at 6:55.

Darryl Bootland made it 2-0 at the 15:58 mark on a goal remarkably similar to Blake Sloan’s overtime game-winner against Manitoba on Friday. Taking a pass from Ernie Hartlieb, Bootland fired wide left of the net but collected the carom off the end boards and banked a backhand shot off Dan Ellis from below the goal line.

Early in the final period, Bootland and Bryan Helmer were both whistled off, granting Hamilton two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage. Outstanding penalty killing by Ellis, Sloan and Niklas Kronwall kept the Bulldogs off the board, and Kronwall sprung Tomas Kopecky for a breakaway goal at 5:15 – seven seconds after Hamilton’s power play had expired – to blow the game open.

During another shorthanded stint midway through the frame, Ellis stole the puck inside his own blueline and sped down the ice, notching an unassisted goal for his 15th of the season. Ellis, who has registered points in 13 of the last 18 games (8-9—17), joined Michel Picard and Ed Patterson as the only players in team history to score two shorthanded goals in one game.

Hamilton’s Benjamin Carpentier spoiled Joey MacDonald’s shutout bid with 5:16 left but could not tarnish another fine performance by the Griffins backstop, who finished with 35 saves while extending his own team record with his 17th consecutive appearance between the pipes.

The Griffins looked nothing like a team that was finishing up its busiest stretch of the season, playing its sixth game in eight nights. Grand Rapids registered 43 shots and held the Bulldogs (27-26-6-5) scoreless in eight power play chances.

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