Peoria Rivermen 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3
April 19, 2013
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – For the first time since 2006, the Grand Rapids Griffins are division champions.
The Griffins donned the Midwest Division’s crown with a 3-1 victory over the Peoria Rivermen on Friday at Van Andel Arena, earning the sixth division title in their history and their fourth as members of the American Hockey League.
Tomas Jurco scored during a mad scramble around the Peoria crease with just 12.9 seconds left in regulation, after Jeff Hoggan had redirected a Landon Ferraro feed on net. The loose puck eventually deflected off Jurco’s skate as he was cross-checked from behind, and the power play goal was upheld after a video review by referee Graham Skilliter.
Jan Mursak added an empty-netter with two seconds remaining.
By virtue of winning the division, Grand Rapids is assured of entering the Calder Cup Playoffs as either the No. 3 or No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Current No. 2 seed Toronto leads the Griffins by three points and owns the tie-breaker with two games remaining for each team, meaning Grand Rapids must win out and the Marlies must lose twice in regulation for the Griffins to claim the second seed.
The Griffins will close out the regular season with visits to Lake Erie tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and Chicago on Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT.
Peoria led 1-0 after 20 minutes but it wasn’t for the Griffins’ lack of trying, as they outshot the visitors 14-4 during the period. T.J. Hensick did the deed for the Rivermen at the 3:31 mark, notching his series-high 11th point by darting down the left side and slipping a backhand through the sliver of daylight between Petr Mrazek and the goal post.
Grand Rapids continued to fire away at Mike McKenna and finally broke through in the second period on its 22nd shot, as Brett Skinner’s blast from the right point found the back of the net at 9:04.
The Griffins, who built a 26-13 advantage in shots during the first two periods, were beneficiaries of consecutive Peoria penalties midway through the third that presented them with 40 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time, but they were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
After surviving a Rivermen power play with six minutes left, the Griffins were afforded another chance for the go-ahead goal when Rivermen defenseman Jeff Woywitka sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty with 1:37 remaining, setting the stage for Jurco’s heroics.
Mrazek improved to 23-15-2 behind 18 stops, while McKenna deserved a better fate with his 40-save performance.
Note: With tonight’s crowd of 10,627, the Griffins finished their home slate with an average attendance of 7,676 (291,690 total), giving them an increase for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Hershey, which will finish with an increase for the 10th straight season, is the only AHL team with a longer/better attendance trend since 2006-07.
Three Stars: 1. GR Jurco (game-winning goal); 2. GR Mrazek (W, 18 saves); 3. GR Skinner (goal)