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SQUEAKY CLEAN EFFORT FALLS SHORT


HAMILTON, Ontario – For the second consecutive game, the Grand Rapids Griffins were unable to overcome the stellar play of Hamilton Bulldogs netminder Jaroslav Halak, dropping a 4-1 decision Friday at Copps Coliseum.

Grand Rapids (14-18-2-3) maintains fourth place in the North Division, though Hamilton (13-14-1-5) now sits one point back in the standings. The Griffins have an opportunity to make up ground against the North’s third-place Syracuse Crunch (18-19-1-1) when the teams clash in Syracuse on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Griffins found themselves in a 2-0 hole early on, thanks to a pair of unusual Bulldog goals. With Grand Rapids on the power play, Jimmy Howard skated to the right circle to play the puck, but Corey Locke intercepted Howard’s pass a step inside the blue line and blasted a shorthanded goal into the vacated net at 5:27. Just over two minutes later, the Griffins’ misfortune continued as Duncan Milroy’s centering pass from the left wing was tipped into the cage by Locke.

The Bulldogs would not be content to sit on their lead, however. Thirty-four seconds into the middle frame, former Griffin Eric Manlow unleashed a slap shot from the blue line and Greg Stewart used a backhanded tip to beat Howard, extending the Hamilton lead to 3-0.

Grand Rapids eventually lit the lamp when Darren Helm, assisted by Evan McGrath and Jamie Tardif, scored his fourth goal of the season on a wrist shot from the left circle at 15:12 of the third period. The Griffins later pulled Howard for an extra attacker in the game’s final minute, but Hamilton capitalized on the situation as Ajay Baines added an empty net tally with 37 seconds remaining.

In a game that witnessed few whistles, Grand Rapids was not charged with a single penalty and received just two power plays, neither of which was converted. Howard recorded 25 saves in the losing effort, while Halak stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced.


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