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OH RATS!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After suffering their eighth one-goal loss of the season on Saturday, the Grand Rapids Griffins find themselves at a very unfamiliar place 15 games into their schedule: the 0.500 mark.

Keith Aucoin’s shorthanded goal with 6:56 remaining gave the Albany River Rats a 3-2 win in the first-ever meeting of these franchises, dropping the Griffins (6-6-2-1) to the breakeven point for the first time at this stage of the season since the 1998-99 campaign.

Grand Rapids, which for the first time in its history played four games in five nights without securing at least one victory, will try to right the ship against – ironically enough – the Milwaukee Admirals in Tuesday’s sixth annual matinee game. Faceoff is set for noon at Van Andel Arena.

The River Rats (7-6-1-0) grabbed a 2-0 lead with goals 44 seconds apart midway through the opening period. Peter Tsimikalis had an easy tap-in from the doorstep during a power play at 10:25, and Shane Willis followed up with a seemingly harmless wrister from the high slot that eluded Jimmy Howard stick-side at 11:09.

Kip Miller answered for the Griffins with 42 seconds left in the frame, shoveling a rebound past Tyler Weiman from the left side to break Grand Rapids’ 0-for-21 drought on the power play.

The deficit remained 2-1 until the 10:28 mark of the third period, when Miller helped set up Grand Rapids’ second power play marker of the night. Ryan Keller took a pass from Miller in the left circle and fired an unsuccessful shot, but Josh Langfeld picked up the rebound and whipped the puck past Weiman.

After giving up two goals to the Griffins while out-manned, the River Rats penalty killers got their own goal for the game-winner at 13:04, when Aucoin’s backhander deflected out front and floated into the top corner. 

The Griffins’ power play unit out-gunned the opposition for the first time in five games but could not prevent the team’s winless skid from reaching four games (0-3-1-0), its longest during the regular season since losing five straight in regulation from Dec. 9-17, 2005.

Howard made 21 saves, while Weiman turned aside 34 attempts.


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