Cleveland Monsters 4 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 6
April 14, 2018
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Filip Hronek’s career-high four points paced the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 6-4 win over the Cleveland Monsters in Saturday’s regular season finale at a sold-out Van Andel Arena.
Hronek’s offensive performance, matched on the Griffins this season by only Turner Elson (Oct. 6) and Eric Tangradi (March 31), gave him 39 points (11-28—39) in 67 games, tying Robbie Russo’s 39 points in 2015-16 for the most prolific season ever by a rookie Grand Rapids defenseman.
By claiming victory in this clash between the last two Calder Cup champions, the Griffins locked up second place in the Central Division and will begin their quest to repeat against the third-seeded Manitoba Moose in the best-of-five division semifinals. The first two games of the 2-3 format will take place at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place next Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT each day, before the series shifts to Van Andel Arena for Game 3 on Wednesday, April 25.
Hronek, an AHL All-Rookie Team defenseman, put the Griffins ahead just 44 seconds into the opening period. He rushed in to pick off a lazy Monsters pass at the top of the left circle then split two defenders before banking a backhand off the right arm of netminder Matiss Kivlenieks and inside the post.
Colin Campbell made it a 2-0 contest at the 12:21 mark with the first of his three goals on the night, crashing the net to redirect Zach Nastasiuk’s feed from the bottom of the right circle.
Cleveland got on the board 23 seconds after intermission when Spencer Naas finished off a rush by potting Calvin Thurkauf’s pass, but the Griffins again scored in the 13th minute to restore their two-goal cushion. Libor Sulak’s blast from atop the left circle was denied by Kivlenieks, but a charging Campbell gobbled up the rebound in the slot and put a shot home on his forehand at 12:35. The assist was Sulak’s second in as many games since joining the Griffins.
Dominik Shine pushed the ledger to 4-1 with 2:03 remaining in the period by digging out the puck from a scrum at the right hashmarks, turning and firing it high into the near corner of the net.
The Monsters made it too close for comfort in the third, outscoring Grand Rapids 3-1 before the 12-minute mark to shrink their deficit to one. Gabriel Carlsson’s goal from the doorstep during a 4-on-4 at 3:28 was answered by a Ben Street laser from the left circle off a bad Cleveland line change at 6:37. The visitors then got goal number two from Naas at 7:26 and a marker by Doyle Somerby to cut it to 5-4 with 8:45 still remaining, but the Griffins held firm before Campbell notched his third into an empty net from center ice at 19:04 to send 10,834 fans home happy.
Jared Coreau made 19 saves to earn his first win since a pair of mid-February shutouts at Manitoba preceded his extended recall to the Detroit Red Wings. He has now earned points in his last 10 starts (7-0-3-0) for the Griffins, dating to Jan. 20. Kivleniks turned aside 30 of 35 shots.
Notes: Prior to the game, players from the Griffins and Monsters formed a circle at center ice during a tribute to and moment of silence for the Humboldt Broncos. Grand Rapids’ coaching and front office staffs wore green and gold ribbons in the Broncos’ honor, and several fundraisers for the team were held throughout the night…Brian Lashoff logged his 400th regular season game as a Griffin, second in team history to former blueliner Travis Richards (655)…Campbell notched his second career hat trick, both against the Monsters (Dec. 26, 2015 at Lake Erie).
Three Stars: 1. GR Hronek (goal, three assists); 2. GR Campbell (hat trick); 3. CLE Naas (two goals)