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PROUD TO BEAT THE AMERICANS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – On the strength of Matt Ellis’ two-goal, three-point evening and arguably his team’s best performance of the season, the Grand Rapids Griffins slew the AHL’s top dragon on Friday, earning a 4-2 win over the Rochester Americans at Van Andel Arena.

Brock Radunske and Darryl Bootland also scored for the Griffins, while Jimmy Howard authored a solid 26-save effort against an Amerks squad that possesses the best record in the league. Amazingly, tonight’s game marked the first time this season that Rochester scored a goal but did not earn a point, as its previous two regulation losses were shutouts.

Grand Rapids (9-10-2-2) will get another shot at the Americans (16-3-1-0) on home ice in a 7 p.m. start on Saturday.

After killing consecutive penalties early in the opening period, Grand Rapids got the jump on Rochester at the 8:49 mark. Left alone in the slot, Radunske collected a rebound of Eric Himelfarb’s shot and shoveled a backhand past Craig Anderson for his second goal of the season.

The Amerks tied it at 14:17 when Anthony Stewart tipped a shot between Howard’s pads from close in, but Ellis answered 2:39 later from the left circle during a 4-on-4 situation, notching his second point of the night and giving the Griffins a 2-1 lead at the intermission.

Ellis’ second goal, on the power play 1:20 into the second period, extended his team’s cushion, as he skated across the slot and tucked the puck inside the left post.

Grand Rapids’ two-goal advantage held until the final period, when Mike Card’s blast from the point sailed wide right of the net and off the end boards. Howard, who had come out to challenge the shot, fell down several feet outside of his crease, affording Mark Mancari a vacated cage to ease the carom into at 7:08.

The Griffins’ undermanned defense – injuries to Brad Norton and Kyle Quincey, plus Danny Syvret’s weather-delayed return from Edmonton left them with only five blueliners – limited Rochester’s chances the rest of the way, while Dan Smith played the role of goalie in stopping a shot from reaching a wide-open net late in the third. Bootland added an empty-netter at 18:43 for the final margin.

Anderson finished with 32 saves but suffered just his second loss of the season against six wins.

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