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Jan. 5, 2011 – Hamilton Bulldogs 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins built a dominant 48-21 advantage in shots en route to a 3-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena, their second straight series win over the North Division leaders.

The Griffins set a season high for shots against Hamilton’s Curtis Sanford, the AHL’s fourth-ranked netminder, and secured the victory on a goal by newcomer and Portage, Mich., native Evan Rankin with 11:38 remaining. With the win, the fourth-place Griffins climbed to within one point of third-place Toronto and six points of Hamilton in the North Division race.

After playing 16 of their last 22 games with the cozy confines of Van Andel Arena, where they’ve won six of their last eight, the Griffins will begin a season-high six-game road swing on Thursday with an 8 p.m. EST start against the Milwaukee Admirals.

The Griffins tamed the Bulldogs during the opening period thanks to a 19-7 advantage in shots, but each team scored to keep matters deadlocked after 20 minutes.

Fight fans got their fill when the newly re-signed Adam Keefe – a fan favorite during his 2006-08 stint in Grand Rapids – engaged in an epic tilt with Hamilton’s Jimmy Bonneau at the 9:27 mark, before Greg Amadio dropped Andrew Conboy with one punch just over four minutes later.

In the interim, though, the Bulldogs struck at 10:35, as J.T. Wyman beat Joey MacDonald with a long-range shot through traffic from above the right circle. The Griffins, who to that point had a 13-3 shot cushion, eventually solved Sanford with their final shot of the period at 18:56. On rush into the Hamilton zone, Logan Pyett took a pass from Cory Emmerton on the right side and launched a blast that Sanford turned aside, but the rebound was inadvertently put into the net by the left skate of backchecking Bulldogs center Gabriel Dumont.   

The only goal of the second period came off the stick of Amadio, his first in 137 career games as a Griffin. Ilari Filppula took control of the puck in the right corner and skated above the goal line before spotting the pinching defenseman, who redirected Filppula’s centering pass past Sanford from the left slot at 8:14. No player in franchise history had played more games before scoring his first goal than Amadio.

Mathieu Carle tied the score at 2-2 seven minutes into the third period, blistering a shot into the top of the cage from the right point. But the Griffins, who had out-shot Hamilton 40-14 to that point, went back on top just 1:22 later, when Rankin tallied during a wild scrum at the goal mouth to put an exclamation point on his solid debut as a Griffin.

MacDonald stopped 19 shots to improve to 10-6-1 on the season, while Sanford fell to 12-6-1 despite 45 saves.

Notes: Derek Meech played his 264th regular season game for the Griffins, tying Derek King for eighth place on the franchise’s all-time list…Grand Rapids’ career leader in wins, MacDonald moved within two of the century mark…The Griffins played without the services of six regulars due to either recalls to Detroit (Jan Mursak and Tomas Tatar) or injuries (Doug Janik, Brian Lashoff, Brendan Smith and Brandon Straub).

Three Stars: 1. GR Rankin (game-winning goal); 2. HAM Sanford (L, 45 saves); 3. GR Amadio (goal)

Griffins Game Rewind
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