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STILL IN PURSUIT


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Hamilton Bulldogs rallied with three unanswered goals over the final 22 minutes on Saturday to take a 4-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins before the season’s eighth sellout of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena.

Despite the defeat, Peoria’s 3-2 shootout loss to Omaha reduced the Griffins’ magic number for securing the final playoff spot in the Western Conference to two points, meaning that Grand Rapids maintains control of its destiny entering Sunday’s regular season finale in Toronto. The Griffins would earn their ninth playoff berth in 11 seasons if they defeat the Marlies, or Peoria loses in regulation at Milwaukee, or both teams lose beyond regulation time. Grand Rapids and Toronto are set to clash at 4 p.m., while Peoria and Milwaukee will battle at 5 p.m. EDT.

The Griffins scored first just 4:30 into the game. After thwarting a Bulldogs clearing attempt by keep the puck inside the zone, Kyle Quincey quickly fired a blast from the left point that deflected out front and caromed into the top of Yann Danis’ net. However, the visitors quickly tied the score at the 7:18 mark, two seconds after a Grand Rapids penalty expired. Pinching defenseman Dan Jancevski took an innocent looking wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle that was momentarily stopped by Jimmy Howard’s left pad before trickling over the line.

Grand Rapids reasserted its lead at 2-1 with a tic-tac-toe power play goal 3:55 into the second period. Scott Parse took a cross-ice feed from Kip Miller in the left circle and fired a pass into the slot to Jonas Johansson, who snapped a shot past Danis’ blocker from below the hashmarks. Jancevski, who had scored only five goals in his first 78 games this season, bagged his second of the night with 1:40 remaining in the frame. He took a wrister along the right boards that slipped through a screen and eluded Howard’s grasp to make it a 2-2 game.

The Bulldogs took the lead early in the third by borrowing a page from the Griffins’ playbook, as Duncan Milroy finished off a partial breakaway by scoring shorthanded at 3:51. Then, after Grand Rapids incurred consecutive penalties in the final minutes, former Griffin Eric Manlow finished off his old mates with a 5-on-3 goal from the right side with 51 seconds left in the contest.

One bright spot in the third period was an announcement that the Griffins and Detroit Red Wings have reached an agreement in principal to extend their affiliation beyond the current season, the final year of a five-year pact. Details will be finalized and announced in the coming weeks.



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