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HATS OFF TO JOAKIM!

Texas Stars 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4

April 4, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.Joakim Andersson’s first career hat trick powered Grand Rapids to a crucial 4-2 victory over the Texas Stars on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena, pulling the Griffins within four points of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with six games to play.

Andersson, who has now tripled the production of his seven-goal rookie campaign in 2010-11, scored once in each period, while Tom McCollum stopped 17 of 19 shots in his eighth consecutive start between the pipes.

The Griffins (32-28-6-4) will look to avenge Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Toronto when they host the North Division-leading Marlies on Friday at 7 p.m.

Andersson scored late in the first period and early in the second to stake the Griffins to a 2-0 lead, giving him 20 goals this season and 100 points as a pro. He crashed the crease to whack a loose puck past Jack Campbell during a power play with 55 seconds left in the opening frame before connecting on a one-timer from the top of the right circle 2:07 into the second.

For the third time in their last four games, though, the Griffins were unable to turn a 2-0 lead into a three-goal cushion, as Shawn Weller answered for the Stars from close range 1:16 after Andersson’s second tally.

Garnet Exelby notched the Griffins’ third goal 7:34 into the final period, darting down the slot and getting a wrist shot off while falling to the ice to make it a 3-1 game. But Texas again responded in short order, as AHL goal-scoring leader Matt Fraser popped his 34th of the season over McCollum’s left shoulder at 8:25.

Andersson completed his hat trick – the team’s fourth of the season and second in as many home games, following Chris Minard’s third trick on Saturday – with 5:01 remaining, when Logan Pyett’s shot from the right side hit the back of Andersson’s right leg at the top of the crease and deflected inside the left post. Francis Pare earned his third assist of the game on the play.

A hooking penalty on Louis-Marc Aubry with 2:01 left gave the Stars a chance to make things interesting, but Grand Rapids’ defense held firm to secure the victory.

Campbell kept Texas (30-37-2-2) in the game throughout despite Grand Rapids’ 34-19 shot advantage and finished with 30 saves.

Three Stars: 1. GR Andersson (hat trick); 2. GR McCollum (W, 17 saves); 3. GR Tatar (assist)
 

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ESPN Radio Highlights: Andersson 2nd Goal  Andersson Hat Trick
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