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FIVE FOR FIGHTING



CLEVELAND – For the third straight game, the Grand Rapids Griffins found themselves in an 0-2 hole – and for the third straight game, they found a way to dig themselves out of it. Grand Rapids exploded for five third period goals, tying a franchise record, en route to a 5-3 win over the Cleveland Barons at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night.

After out-shooting the Barons 11-7 in a scoreless first period, the Griffins surrendered consecutive goals just 27 seconds apart in the late stages of the second. Markers by right wingers Shane Joseph (14:11) and Curtis Armstrong (14:38) gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead at the second intermission.

The tables turned dramatically in the third period, where Grand Rapids has enjoyed a tremendous edge all season long – posting a 193-121 shot advantage over their opponents, and out-scoring them by a 32-10 margin. The Griffins continued their trend of late surges, starting on the league’s fifth-rated power play with defenseman Bryan Helmer’s second goal in three games. The Barons answered as center Tom Cavanaugh registered his first goal of the season, after drawing assists on each of Cleveland’s first two goals, to reclaim a two-goal edge at 3-1.

A whirlwind of Griffins goals followed, as the red-hot line of Darryl Bootland, Valtteri Filppula, and Tomas Kopecky got things going once again. Just 24 hours after striking for ten points collectively against the same foe, the three joined forces to light the lamp on Filppula’s eighth goal of the season – cutting the deficit back to one.

Captain Matt Ellis stung the net and the Cleveland crowd with the equalizer at 11:46, and AHL-leading scorer Jiri Hudler vaulted Grand Rapids into the lead on a nice cross-ice dish from center Eric Manlow with 6:42 remaining. Winger Tomas Kopecky took his turn, the fifth different Griffin to score in the frame, by adding the back-breaker with help from linemates Bootland and Filppula – giving the team four unanswered goals in just over eleven minutes.

Goaltender Joey MacDonald made it two for two since returning from off-season back surgery, stopping 20 of 23 shots to earn the victory for the Griffins.

Grand Rapids improves to 12-3-0-1 with the win, maintaining a three-point advantage over Manitoba for the North Division lead. The Griffins move on to the second of a four-game road trek with a Sunday tilt in Toronto against the Marlies beginning at 5 p.m.


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