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RIVERMEN GET THE BOOT

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Darryl Bootland notched his first hat trick as a Griffin, Donald MacLean scored his AHL-high 48th goal of the season, and Jiri Hudler netted the team-record fourth overtime goal of his career. It all added up to a 5-4 win for Grand Rapids over the Peoria Rivermen on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins (44-16-1-4), winners of five of their last six games, improved their league-best totals to 44 wins and 93 points, and reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to just four points over Rochester. After a rare Friday-Saturday off, they’ll wrap-up their season series against the Chicago Wolves in a 4 p.m. start Sunday at Allstate Arena.

Bootland began his memorable night by making a little AHL history during a power play at the 9:32 mark of the opening period. Hudler’s shot from the right point glanced off Bootland on its way through netminder Chris Beckford-Tseu, making Bootland the first AHL player in eight years to record 20 goals and 200 penalty minutes (now 282) in the same season.

The Rivermen, who would score all of their goals on the power play, knotted things at 15:30, as Mike Mottau’s wrist shot from the top of the right circle slipped past Jimmy Howard. However, in the final minute, just moments after Bryan Helmer prevented a Peoria goal by clearing a wayward puck out of the crease, Tomas Kopecky sped down the right side and centered a pass to Bootland, who beat his defender to pop a redirection into the cage at the 19:14 mark.

Bootland’s third goal, just 53 seconds into the middle frame, marked his second hat trick as a pro and first in the AHL. His marker ended the night of Beckford-Tseu, who was replaced by Reinhard Divis after stopping only six of nine Grand Rapids shots. The Rivermen dominated the rest of the period, posting 15 shots and holding the Griffins without another attempt for the next 19:04, until only three seconds remained in the stanza. Meanwhile, Peoria’s Brendan Brooks scored on a give-and-go with Blake Evans from the slot at 18:03, pulling the visitors within 3-2 at the second intermission.

MacLean extended his franchise records for goals and power play goals (19) 5:14 into the third period, one-timing a Clay Wilson feed past Divis from the right circle. MacLean now has goals in six straight games, tying the franchise record held by Hudler, Kip Miller and Pavol Demitra. Peoria again cut its deficit to one at 11:59 on Ryan Ramsay’s goal from the right doorstep, minutes before being awarded a 5-on-3 advantage. The Rivermen (35-22-2-4) did not squander their opportunity, tying matters at 4-4 off the stick of Mottau at 13:24.

Hudler’s game-winner, coming from the right side on the power play at 4:32 of overtime, was his 62nd goal as a Griffin, moving him past Slava Butsayev into third place on the franchise’s all-time list. Howard improved to 17-4-2 overall and 13-2-1 in his last 16 decisions by making 29 saves.

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