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GRIFFINS' 5-0 WIN CREATES THREE-WAY TIE FOR THIRD

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A resounding 5-0 win over the Cleveland Barons on Tuesday gave the Grand Rapids Griffins something they haven’t enjoyed in more than two months – a share of third place in the West Division.

The Griffins’ victory created a three-way logjam with Houston and Cincinnati at 77 points, the first time since Jan. 21 that they’ve stood so high in the standings. Although the Ducks possess a game in hand, Grand Rapids (37-30-2-1) owns the tiebreaker advantage among the teams by virtue of its 37 wins, heading into the final 10 games of the regular season.

Jeff Panzer enjoyed a three-point night including a pair of goals, Kip Miller notched four assists to tie a franchise record for a home game, and Joey MacDonald made 22 saves to record his fifth shutout of the season. The Griffins, who improved their home record (17-17-2-0) to the 0.500 mark for the first time since Dec. 26 thanks to their fourth win in their last five Van Andel Arena outings, will continue their homestand by hosting the Utah Grizzlies this Friday and Saturday.

Grand Rapids got on the board just 1:34 into the contest, as Ernie Hartlieb fought for control of the puck behind the Barons’ net, carried it out into the slot and popped a backhand past Nolan Schaefer. Then, with the Griffins shorthanded midway through the period, a trio of veterans joined forces to make it a two-goal game. Miller tracked down an Eric Manlow pass along the right boards inside the Cleveland line and dropped a pass to Bryan Helmer, who blistered a shot into the top left corner of the net at 11:52.

It took Grand Rapids just 3:45 of the second period to increase its advantage to 4-0. Jiri Hudler stepped into a passing lane to steal the puck along the right boards, walked in unchallenged and wristed a shot over Schaefer’s left shoulder at 2:49. Fifty-six seconds later, Tomas Kopecky slid a pass from the left circle across the slot to Miller, who sent it back to Panzer in the middle for an easy tap in.

Panzer ended Schaefer’s night with his second goal at 11:35. With the Griffins on the power play, Panzer came out of the right corner to jam the puck past the netminder, giving Grand Rapids five goals on just 12 shots and ushering Dimitri Patzold into the crease. Miller earned his record-tying fourth assist of the night on the play.

The Griffins, winners of six of their last seven games and eight of their last 10, tied a season-high with the five-goal margin of victory, mirroring their 5-0 conquest of the Barons on Nov. 20 in Grand Rapids.


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