GR 2, RFD 4
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2 at Rockford IceHogs 4
Jan. 4, 2014
ROCKFORD, Ill. — Despite a second-period rally by the Grand Rapids Griffins, a three-goal deficit was too large to overcome and the Rockford IceHogs played to a 4-2 win Saturday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The Griffins are 2-4-0-1 in their last seven games, but their 23-9-1-2 record for 49 points is enough to keep them atop the Midwest Division. The IceHogs pulled within three points of the second-place Chicago Wolves as they improved to 16-16-3-1 for 36 points.
Grand Rapids will look for redemption against the IceHogs when the teams meet again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Van Andel Arena. It will be the eighth of 10 total meetings between the division opponents.
The IceHogs picked up their first lead against Grand Rapids this season when Joakim Nordstrom redirected a shot by former Griffin Brent Skinner from the point at 4:17 of the opening period.
Near the 12-minute mark, Brennan Evans was called for elbowing after he laid an open-ice hit on a Rockford skater, but before he could be sent off, Brad Winchester confronted Evans and the two exchanged a series of knuckles. The IceHogs received a two-minute power play and Winchester and Evans got offsetting majors, but the Griffins killed off the penalty. Grand Rapids went four-for-four on the penalty kill during the game, improving to one-for-29 in the past seven games.
Less than a minute into the second period, the IceHogs were awarded a penalty shot after the puck was covered in the crease by a Griffin skater. Nordstrom flicked the puck underneath Jared Coreau for his second goal of the night at :43.
At 3:39, Nordstrom picked up his third point of the night with an assist on Jeremy Morin’s tally. Nordstrom shot the puck from the right circle, but it was blocked by Riley Sheahan and deflected to the stick of Morin, who one-timed it at Coreau’s backdoor.
Following the goal, Coreau was pulled from net and Tom McCollum took the ice. Coreau turned away 13 of 16 shots in his second start as a Griffin and fourth appearance overall. McCollum made 13 stops.
Cory Emmerton broke the Griffins’ shutout at 13:47 with a shorthanded goal as Martin Frk sat in the box on a slashing call. Emmerton and Xavier Ouellet exchanged passes before Emmerton walked in on Jason LaBarbera and lifted the puck above his right shoulder.
With 1:51 remaining in the middle period, Sheahan pulled the Griffins within one goal with a power-play marker. Sheahan stood on the edge of the IceHogs’ crease and pulled a loose puck out of the LaBarbera’s reach, sneaking it inside the right post as he was being pushed down to the ice.
In the final minutes, McCollum was pulled for an extra skater and Garret Ross scored an empty net goal with 45 seconds remaining.
LaBarbera stopped 31 of 33 shots in the win.
Three Stars: 1. RFD Nordstrom (two goals, assist) ; 2. RFD LaBarbera (W, 31 saves) ; 3. GR Sheahan (power-play goal)