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Rockford IceHogs 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5

Jan. 28, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.Chris Minard celebrated his 300th AHL game in style on Friday, recording a natural hat trick to blow open a 2-2 game and power the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs at Van Andel Arena.

Minard, a two-time 30-goal scorer in the AHL who entered the night with just five goals on the season, continued his revival with his third multi-point outing in the last five games, while rookie netminder Jordan Pearce made 39 saves to improve to 4-1-1 in his last six outings.

The Griffins (21-21-1-5), who snapped a 0-6-1-1 skid against Rockford (19-20-1-4), will visit Peoria at 8:35 p.m. EST on Saturday before enjoying four days off for the AHL all-star break.

The IceHogs struck first during a power play 5:30 into the opening period, taking advantage of a tired Griffins penalty killing unit that was unable to make a line change or get out of its own end. With just eight seconds left in Jamie Tardif’s minor penalty, Jeff Taffe found Ryan Potulny for an easy back-door goal.

Grand Rapids staged the first of its two rallies at the 10:26 mark during a 4-on-4 situation. Tomas Tatar, in just his second game since being reassigned by the Detroit Red Wings, spearheaded a 2-on-1 into the Rockford zone before ripping a shot past Alec Richards’ blocker from the high slot.

Potulny put a redirection past Pearce with four minutes remaining in the frame for his second power play goal and a 2-1 IceHogs lead, but the Griffins answered with their own power play marker with 35 seconds remaining to conclude a wild first period in a deadlock. From high along the left boards, Derek Meech sent a long pass across to Ilari Filppula, who slammed home his team-leading 16th goal from the right faceoff dot.

The Griffins grabbed their first lead with yet another power play tally 1:22 into the second period. Doug Janik’s blast from the point was denied by Richards, but Minard was waiting at the top of the crease to backhand the rebound for a 3-2 Grand Rapids advantage.

With 4:52 remaining in the third, Minard took a pass from Filppula and lauched a shot into the top of the net to make it a two-goal cushion, before finishing off his fifth career AHL hat trick – and first since Oct. 25, 2009 for Springfield – into an empty net off another feed from Filppula with 35 seconds left.

Pearce pushed his team-high save percentage to 0.911 on the season, holding the opposition to a pair of goals for the fifth time in his last six games, while Richards made 28 saves in defeat.

Notes: Curt Fraser logged his 208th game as the Griffins’ head coach, tying Danton Cole (2002-05) for the most in franchise history. Fraser’s all-time record stands at 98-85-10-15 (0.531)…Meech played in his 400th professional game, 274 of which have been served in a Griffins uniform.

Three Stars: 1. GR Minard (hat trick); 2. GR Filppula (power play goal, two assists); 3. RFD Potulny (two power play goals)

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