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SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – There’s no place like home for the Grand Rapids Griffins, who beat the Toronto Marlies 6-3 on Saturday night to break a four-game losing streak and log their fifth win in their last six games at Van Andel Arena.

A second consecutive home sellout of 10,834 witnessed goals by six different Griffins, three-point nights by Kip Miller and Ryan Oulahen, and a 30-save performance by Stefan Liv in his return from an injury.

The Griffins (21-20-4-2) will enjoy four days off for the AHL All-Star Classic, which will take place tomorrow and Monday in Toronto, before regrouping and preparing to host a crucial contest with Peoria next Saturday, Feb. 3.

After totaling a single goal in three of their last four outings, the Griffins exploded for three in the opening period. Oulahen struck first at 7:02, taking a pass from Matt Hussey in the left circle and beating Toronto netminder Jean-Francois Racine.

The Griffins then jumped out to their first three-goal lead in seven games thanks to lamplighters just 28 seconds apart. Sprung out of his zone by newcomer Jamie Tardif, Miller carried the puck up the left side and threaded a centering pass to Darryl Bootland, who got a step on two Marlies defenders and lifted a shot over Racine’s glove at 13:32. Before the cheering had died down, Scott Barney converted during a goal-mouth scramble, thanks in large part to the dirty work of Matt Ellis and Jeff Campbell.

Liv stopped the first 16 shots he faced before an unfortunate bounce gave Toronto its first goal. From the left corner, Robbie Earl centered the puck and watched it deflect off Danny Syvret’s skate and across the line at the 6:29 mark.

The Marlies (18-25-2-3) made it a 3-2 game during a power play at 12:51, as Erik Westrum took a drop pass from Earl in the high slot and beat Liv top shelf with a wrist shot from 40 feet. Grand Rapids pushed its lead back to two with 60 seconds left in the period, however, on Tardif’s first AHL goal. After making a save to the right of his net, Racine was slow to react to the loose puck outside his crease, enabling a diving Tardif to capitalize after winning a race to the puck.

Toronto cut the deficit back to one 9:04 into the third period on a beautiful goal by Westrum. Camped in front of Liv’s crease, he reached out and redirected a Dominic D’Amour blast that was sailing wide right of the cage. But Eric Himefarb ended the Marlies’ comeback hopes with 1:16 remaining, taking a cross-ice pass from Oulahen and ripping a shot home from the top of the right circle, and Hussey added an empty-netter with 7.5 seconds left.



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