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GRIFFINS FALL SHORT IN UTAH

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – An early three-goal deficit was too much for the Grand Rapids Griffins to overcome as the Utah Grizzlies won 4-3 on Saturday night at the “E” Center. With four games to play, Grand Rapids trails Houston and Cincinnati by three points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division.

Utah (21-48-2-5) got off to a fast start as they outshot Grand Rapids 12-2 in the opening frame. The Grizzlies also converted two of their four power play opportunities, enroute to opening a 3-0 lead through the opening 20 minutes.

Kiel McLeod took a pass from Dustin Wood through the neutral zone and beat Joey MacDonald 7:06 into the first period. Utah doubled its lead when Matthew Spiller stepped into a one-timer just inside the blue line that eluded traffic and slipped between MacDonald’s legs for a power play tally at 12:14 of the first period. Peter White completed the three-goal barrage when he popped a rebound into an empty net for Utah’s second power play marker with 2:38 remaining in the opening 20.

The Griffins (40-32-2-2) stormed the ice in the second period, controlling the opening minutes enroute to outshooting the Grizzlies 20-5 in the period. Their work was rewarded three minutes into the second period when Jeff Panzer pounded the rebound of Bryan Helmer’s point shot past Jamie Storr.

The Grizzlies answered 1:04 later when Fredrik Sjostrom one-timed a shot from the left faceoff circle to take a 4-1 lead.

Grand Rapids pulled back within two when Mark Eaton blasted a power play goal at 7:21 of the middle frame. The goal is the Griffins fifth power play conversion of their last nine opportunities.

Thirteen minutes into the second period, Drew MacIntyre relieved MacDonald in the Griffins net. MacDonald made 11 saves in 33:17.

With 3:55 remaining, the Griffins cut the lead to one goal when Jiri Hudler banged in a centering pass from Kip Miller. Eaton hit a Utah skater along the boards creating a turnover. Eric Manlow sent the puck deep into Utah territory to Miller. The wily veteran fed a pass to the top of the goal mouth where Hudler deposited it into the net.

MacIntyre stopped all 12 shots he faced in over one period of work. Storr kicked out 38 attempts for the Grizzlies.

Grand Rapids will head to Milwaukee to face the Admirals on Tuesday at 8 p.m.


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