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DOG-GONE



HAMILTON, Ont. – Costly mistakes at inopportune times sealed the Grand Rapids Griffins fate with their first regulation loss in eight games, a 4-1 decision against the Hamilton Bulldogs at Copps Coliseum Wednesday night.

Darryl Bootland sent an early message for the Griffins, dropping Johnathan Aitken with a single shot to the chops after the Hamilton defenseman attempted to bait the veteran enforcer into an altercation. Resulting coincidental double minors did not lead to a score for either side, nor did two full minutes of four-on-four action after Grand Rapids defenseman Bryan Helmer’s hooking penalty was accompanied by a diving call against Maxim Lapierre.

But after Helmer mishandled the puck off the draw on a power play, Lucas Lawson rocketed through center ice on a short-handed breakaway. The rookie forward was awarded a penalty shot when Helmer interfered with him, trying to get back into the play. Lawson bested Joey MacDonald top-shelf, as the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead into the break.

A brilliant dish from Tomas Kopecky enabled Valtteri Filppula to knot the score early in the second. Bootland denied a clearing attempt to spark the attack and add an assist on Filppula’s 14th goal of the year, moving the Finnish forward into third place on the club in the category behind Donald MacLean (20) and Jiri Hudler (18).

With 9:00 to go in the middle frame, James Sanford fired a shot from the high slot that was followed up by an opportunistic Lapierre to regain the edge for the Bulldogs. Consecutive penalties to defensemen Greg Amadio and Nick Martens gave Hamilton 1:04 on a two-man advantage, and Sanford made the Griffins pay on a point shot to make it 3-1 Bulldogs at 16:57.

The Griffins were granted a ripe opportunity to get back in the game with a four-minute power play following tripping and unsportsmanlike calls against Hamilton center Corey Locke. Grand Rapids was unable to convert, and ended the night 0-for-8 on the man-advantage – with a short-handed goal against – while facing the AHL’s least-effective penalty kill.

Grand Rapids continues their three-game road trip with a flight to Texas for weekend match-ups with the West Division-leading Houston Aeros (Friday, 8:35 p.m. ET) and the San Antonio Rampage (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET). The Griffins currently hold a two-point lead over the Manitoba Moose for first place in the North Division, with both teams through 38 games.


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