GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins rallied from a goal down late in regulation and a 3-1 deficit in the shootout to seize a wild and memorable 4-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Trailing by two in the shootout, the Griffins answered with goals by Mattias Ritola and Evan McGrath – both of which drew ire and protest from Bulldogs goaltender Yann Danis and the Hamilton bench – before winning it on Carl Corazzini’s second tally of the session in round six.
With their second shootout win over the defending champs in three days, the Griffins (12-13-1-2) improved to 5-1 in their last six games both at home and overall and claimed sole possession of third place in the North Division for the first time since Oct. 28. Grand Rapids will attempt to even its overall record on Saturday when it concludes its season-high six-game home stand against the Milwaukee Admirals. Game time is 7 p.m.
A penalty-filled opening period saw the Griffins jump out 2-0 before Hamilton (8-11-0-5) answered with three of its own by intermission, belying Grand Rapids’ 21-9 margin in shots. With Grand Rapids handed a two-man advantage only 21 seconds into the contest, a Jonathan Ericsson shot caromed off the end boards to Brett Engelhardt, who tapped it into the cage from the doorstep at 1:33. Kyle Quincey added the second marker at 3:11, scoring on a cannon from the right point.
The Bulldogs would follow the exact script, however, scoring 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 goals to tie the score. Corey Locke did the damage on each occasion, slinging the puck over Jimmy Howard’s shoulder from below the right circle at 5:33 and scoring again from the right side at 17:06. Former Griffin Eric Manlow then gave the visitors an improbable 3-2 lead just 52 ticks before the break, taking a pass during a 2-on-1 rush, faking to his forehand and lifting a backhand into the net.
Following a calmer and comparatively uneventful second period, Danis made the save of the night early in the third to maintain his team’s lead, robbing Ryan Oulahen’s point-blank attempt with his catching glove. But the Griffins received their 10th power play of the game with less than four minutes remaining and again burned the Dogs’ top-ranked penalty killers with their third power play goal of the contest, as Ericsson unleashed a rocket from the right point that sailed over Danis’ right shoulder at 17:18.
In the shootout, Hamilton took particular umbrage at McGrath’s goal, arguing that it had been kicked in, a ruling that would have ended the game in the Bulldogs’ favor. Hamilton head coach Don Lever ultimately marched across the ice at game’s end to voice his displeasure to the referee, bringing a surreal conclusion to an already strange game.
Danis’ frustration doubtlessly stemmed in part from his stellar work in the face of the Griffins’ season-high 50 shots, while on the other end, Howard earned his fifth win in six December starts by turning aside 25 Hamilton attempts.