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DOGS HAVE THEIR DAY

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After bouncing back from one of the strangest opponent goals in their 11 seasons, the Griffins could not overcome a pair of shootout tallies by Andrei Kostitsyn, as the Hamilton Bulldogs emerged with a 3-2 win on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena. The visitors finished November with a 10-2-0-1 mark and a four-game winning streak despite the best efforts of Jimmy Howard, who made 38 saves to limit a Hamilton offense that had totaled 15 goals in its previous three victories.

The challenge increases for the Griffins this weekend, when they’ll welcome the AHL-leading Rochester Americans to town for a two-game set. Friday’s contest will feature the team’s first-ever 6:30 p.m. home start, part of a double-header that will conclude with a feud between Calvin College and Hope College.

Hamilton (12-8-0-1) out-shot the Griffins 21-9 in the opening period, firing the final 13 shots and taking a 1-0 lead. At the 17:53 mark, Mathieu Roy threw a shot on net from the right boards that found its way just inside the far post.

The Bulldogs’ 21 shots tied a Grand Rapids record for the most allowed in a home period set three times previously, most recently against Milwaukee on Dec. 4, 1999 when the Griffins were members of the International Hockey League. Howard, meanwhile, equaled his own franchise mark for saves (20) in a home period, established Oct. 28, 2005 versus Iowa.

Grand Rapids responded by out-gunning the visitors 8-1 in the early minutes of the middle period and knotting the score at 5:51, when Brendan Brooks’ blast from above the right circle bounced past Yann Danis. Tables continued to turn until the final shots for the period showed a 16-5 advantage for the Griffins, but the teams took a 1-1 tie into the second intermission.

Deep into an evenly played third period, potential disaster struck the Griffins on an odd Hamilton goal. Roy wound up at center ice and sent a shot on net that deflected off Howard’s shoulder and high into the air directly above the netminder. Having lost sight of the puck, Howard instinctively backed into his goal, but the puck finally dropped behind his right skate and trickled into the cage at 16:23.

Undaunted, the Griffins (8-10-2-2) quickly answered at 17:16 on a goal from the slot by Darryl Bootland. Then, early in the overtime session, Grand Rapids’ penalty killers did a masterful job of thwarting a 4-on-3 Hamilton power play, and Howard made six heart-stopping saves during the five-minute stanza to keep his team alive. In the shootout, Kostitsyn scored in the first and sixth rounds to trump Matt Hussey’s second-round goal. Danis earned the win with 32 saves and five more stops during the shootout.


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