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GRIFFINS K.O. OKC

Oklahoma City Barons 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 6

March 31, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich
. – Four-point nights from Chris Minard and Chris Conner and a 38-save effort by Tom McCollum paced the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 6-2 victory over the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

Minard scored his third hat trick of the season and teamed with Conner and Jamie Johnson on a line that racked up 10 points to pull the Griffins within four points of a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs with eight games to play.

Oklahoma City last night became the first team in the conference to clinch a playoff berth, but it was Grand Rapids that put a beating on the Barons for the second time in seven days, following a 4-1 road decision on Sunday. The Griffins will look to continue their climb on Sunday when they pay a 3 p.m. visit to the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies, against whom they are 4-1 this season.

The Griffins seized an early 2-0 lead for the second straight night, this time courtesy of a pair off the stick of Minard. The veteran finished off a nifty passing play by whipping a shot into a gaping cage from the right side at 5:17, then scored a power play tally at 8:55 on a one-timer from the left circle that beat Yann Danis, the AHL’s leader in goals against average at just 2.00. That second goal was Minard’s 19th in only 31 games this season, surpassing his 79-game total (18) from the 2010-11 campaign.

Just 3:01 later, Landon Ferraro made it a 3-0 game by crashing the crease to pop a rebound over Danis, prompting Barons coach Todd Nelson – the first player ever signed by the Griffins franchise back in 1996 – to call his timeout in an attempt to settle his troops. Notre Dame product Riley Sheahan, playing in his fifth pro game after signing an amateur tryout with the Griffins on March 20, earned the second assist on Ferraro’s goal for his first point.

Late in the second period, Minard completed his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his Griffins career with 26 seconds remaining, potting a pretty backhand pass while trailing Conner during a 2-on-1. Donald MacLean, who registered five hat tricks during his AHL MVP season in 2005-06, is the only player in franchise history to net more hat tricks in either a season or a career than Minard. 

Tanner House spoiled McCollum’s shutout bid at the 6:32 mark of the third period, putting a backhand under the crossbar from close range, but Sheahan answered 1:08 later during a power play for his first pro goal and a two-point night. House again scored at 10:12 to make it a 5-2 contest before Joakim Andersson notched his 18th of the season at 13:30 to account for the final margin.

Danis finished with 25 saves.

Three Stars: 1. GR Minard (hat trick, assist); 2. GR Conner (four assists); 3. GR McCollum (W, 38 saves)


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