It was a history-making night for the Grand Rapids Griffins, as both Donald MacLean and Tomas Kopecky carved their names in the team record books in impressive fashion with an overwhelming 9-2 assault on the Cleveland Barons at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night.
Grand Rapids struck quickly after killing off Clevelands first power play, as Nate DiCasmirro made a slick move to split the wickets of Barons defenseman Tim Conboy and thread a shot past the shoulder of goaltender Nolan Schaefer for a 1-0 Griffins lead four minutes into the contest. MacLean lit the lamp on a Griffins power play at 17:03 with help from Valtteri Filppula, who drew the attention of Schaefer and the Barons kill long enough to provide a shooting lane for the AHLs leading goal-scorer. With the marker, MacLean extended his point streak to 17 games tying the all-time Griffins team mark set by Derek King in 2000-01.
Emerging from the first intermission up 2-0, the Griffins weathered 1:17 of a Cleveland 5-on-3 before Kopecky took command with a rare feat: a natural hat trick all in one period.
Jiri Hudler found Kopecky gliding into the offensive zone, and the Slovakian veteran buried a sinister wrister from the left circle at 7:56 of the second. A Kyle Quincey blast from the left point on a subsequent power play was tipped in by a well-positioned Kopecky at the top of the crease. Another redirect by Kopecky on a Bryan Helmer blue-line shot found its mark, making it three uninterrupted goals for the left-winger and his first hat trick of the season. It also marked the first time a Griffin notched three scores in a single frame since Petr Schastlivy victimized Milwaukee in November 2001.
Hudler and MacLean combined for a highlight-reel goal to begin the third on a two-man break at the Cleveland blue line. After rendering Schaefer spellbound with a quick juke, Hudler dropped a blind pass between his skates for a trailing MacLean who was automatic for the people with a clean top-shelf finish, his 38th goal of the season. Clay Wilson answered a Josh Hennessey goal with his seventh of the year, Kent McDonell pounded home his 18th on the man-advantage, and Nick Martens closed out the scoring on a power play with his third of the campaign.
The Griffins broke an all-time team record for goals in a road game, previously set in an 8-3 win at Fort Wayne in December 1996. Grand Rapids has not lost back-to-back games in regulation since snapping a five-game losing streak with a 4-3 win at Syracuse on December 18. The team went on to win six in a row, and are an astounding 20-3-1-1 ever since. The Griffins welcome the Hamilton Bulldogs to Van Andel Arena Friday night for a 7 p.m. start.