11/26/2004 9:50 PM
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. Defenseman Travis Roche scored a pair of goals, each in the final minute of a period, to propel the Chicago Wolves to a 3-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
All three of the Griffins winning streaks this season their franchise-record 5-0 start, plus two three-game streaks - have now been ended by the Wolves. Adding insult to injury, Chicago has won three straight against Grand Rapids, along with six consecutive visits to West Michigan and nine of the last 10 clashes between these teams overall.
The Griffins (11-5-1-0) will attempt to turn the tables on the Wolves (8-6-1-1) tomorrow night and replicate the success of their 5-1 victory in the Windy City on Oct. 16. Game time at Allstate Arena is set for 8 p.m., as Grand Rapids tries to protect its status as the AHLs only perfect road team (5-0-0-0) and keep the visiting team unbeaten in the season series.
The Griffins had the edge in play during the opening period, but it was the persistence of the Wolves that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at the first break. With time ticking down, the Griffins failed to clear the puck from their zone, and J.P. Vigier tracked down the loose puck near the boards atop the left circle. He turned and whipped a pass toward the slot to Roche, who redirected the rubber past Joey MacDonald at 19:59, a split-second before the buzzer sounded.
Grand Rapids seemed anything but discouraged as the second period began, however, attacking the net and scoring the equalizer just 1:23 into the frame. Busting down the left side, Darryl Bootland fired a shot that Kari Lehtonen turned away, but the puck pinballed off a Wolves defenseman and into the cage to end the Chicago goalies franchise-record shutout streak at 170:54. The goal unleashed a torrent of stuffed animals from the Van Andel Arena stands, in celebration of the annual Teddy Bear Toss. An estimated 1,000 toys were collected and given to Hug-a-Bear for distribution to needy kids.
Griffins killer Vigier, whos averaged nearly a point per game against Grand Rapids in three seasons with the Wolves, gave Chicago another lead at the 11:37 mark, spinning in the left circle and beating MacDonald while falling to his knees. The Wolves would again tack one on in the final minute of the period, as Roche tallied his second of the night top-shelf from the left side with 29 seconds remaining.
Drew MacIntyre relieved MacDonald in net to begin the third period, and the Griffins showed signs of life by outshooting the Wolves 12-4 during the frame, but to no avail. Lehtonen stopped 29 shots for his fourth straight win, while MacDonald suffered the defeat with 15 saves for the Griffins, who lost for just the second time in their last eight outings.
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