11/09/2011 1:49 PM
Rockford IceHogs 5 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3
Nov. 9, 2011
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A strong start and finish were not enough to carry the Grand Rapids Griffins to victory on Wednesday afternoon, as they fell 5-3 to the Rockford IceHogs in their 11th annual matinee game at Van Andel Arena.
Jordan Pearce made his first start since Oct. 23 in place of the injured Joey MacDonald and stopped 29 shots, but he was upstaged on the other end by Alexander Salak, who weathered an early storm to finish with a season-high 39 saves and earn the win before a student-dominated crowd of 5,888.
The Griffins (5-7-0-0) will hit the road for two games this weekend, starting with Friday’s 7:30 p.m. faceoff in Hamilton, before returning to Van Andel Arena for a season-high five-game homestand.
Taking coach Curt Fraser’s week-long admonition to shoot the puck to heart, the Griffins piled up 19 shots during the opening frame, their most in any period this season. Salak proved up to the challenge, though, turning aside every attempt until 3:41 remained before intermission. Just after a Grand Rapids power play expired, Brendan Smith slid a pass from the point across to Doug Janik, who skated to the top of the left circle and blistered a shot high into the net.
However, a faceoff deep in the Griffins’ zone in the final minute of the period led to the IceHogs’ tying goal. Andrew Shaw’s shot from the bottom of the left circle sailed over Pearce’s left pad and just inside the far post only 10.6 seconds before the horn.
Building on the momentum of that late goal, Rockford (5-6-0-0) forged a 4-2 lead during the second period. Brandon Segal slammed home his own rebound from the doorstep 2:30 in, and Jimmy Hayes backhanded a shot top-shelf from the left of the goal at the 14:16 mark to put the IceHogs ahead 3-1.
Ben Smith then snapped a shot through Pearce’s five hole during a power play at 18:00 to make it a three-goal cushion for the visitors, but Louis-Marc Aubry answered 37 seconds later with his first pro goal to reduce Grand Rapids’ deficit to two. Janik made a nice play to hold the puck in at the point and sent a pass to the left boards to Smith, who quickly found Aubry at the right hashmarks for a shot that slipped beneath Salak.
Jamie Johnson pulled the Griffins within 4-3 midway through the third period, extending his goal streak to a career-high four games. From behind the Rockford net, Gustav Nyquist flipped the puck out to the left goal line to Johnson, who hammered it past Salak from the sharp angle with 10:19 remaining.
Despite continued pressure, the Griffins could not tally the equalizer, and Brett McLean scored for Rockford into an empty net at 19:14 for the final margin.
The Griffins’ record in their annual matinee game fell to 7-3-0-1.
Three Stars: 1. RFD Smith (power play goal, assist); 2. GR Janik (goal, assist); 3. GR Smith (two assists)