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DRESSED TO KILL

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins rang out 2006 with their first back-to-back shutouts in nearly three years, thanks to Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the first-place Rochester Americans. Coupled with Saturday’s 2-0 win against second-place Hamilton and Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Milwaukee, the Griffins (15-15-4-2) climbed back to the 0.500 mark by earning five out of a possible six points this weekend.

Three times during December the Americans (23-9-1-0) brought their premier North Division ranking into Van Andel Arena, and three times Jimmy Howard and the Griffins’ defense shut down one of the AHL’s elite teams. He made 32 saves tonight for his second shutout of the season, improving his numbers against Rochester this month to 3-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a 0.966 save percentage.

After celebrating the arrival of Baby New Year, the Griffins will return to action on Friday, Jan. 5 when they visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for their first clash against the Penguins since the 2003 Calder Cup Playoffs. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.

Dressed with his teammates in tuxedo-style jerseys that were auctioned afterwards for charity, Darryl Bootland gave the Griffins the only goal they would need at 6:31 of the first period. After Kip Miller forced a turnover along the end boards, Bootland collected the puck above the left circle and quickly wristed a shot top-shelf past Rochester netminder Craig Anderson.

Grand Rapids extended its lead to 2-0 with only 33 ticks remaining in the second period. On a rush into the Amerks’ zone, Miller dropped a pass to Josh Langfeld, who beat Anderson with a shot similar to Bootland’s and from the same spot on the ice.

A questionable five-minute boarding call on Brendan Brooks early in the third frame resulted in Brooks’ ejection and extended power play time for the Americans, but the Griffins’ resurgent penalty killers kept Rochester off the board. Grand Rapids, which denied all 17 opponent power plays over the weekend’s three games, added an insurance goal on an empty-netter by Miller with 1:09 remaining.

The Griffins last posted consecutive shutouts on Feb. 13-14, 2004, when they blanked both Manitoba (4-0) and Houston (3-0) at Van Andel Arena. Stefan Liv made 24 saves to shut out Hamilton on Friday.


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