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Calder Cup Playoffs – Central Division Semifinals – Game 3 – Manitoba Leads Series, 2-1

Manitoba Moose 6 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3

April 25, 2018

– Despite being outshot 48-25 on Wednesday, the Manitoba Moose managed to do what no other opponent could accomplish during the Grand Rapids Griffins’ march to the 2017 Calder Cup: win a game at Van Andel Arena.

Aided by a pair of empty-net goals in the closing minutes, the opportunistic Moose claimed a 6-3 win in Game 3 of the Central Division Semifinals, seizing a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and snapping the Griffins’ 10-game home-ice winning streak during the playoffs that began during last spring’s first round.

Manitoba, whose 54 road points (25-9-2-2) during the regular season ranked second to only Toronto, will have a chance to end the defending champs’ reign on Thursday when the Griffins host Game 4 at 7 p.m. Since the start of Grand Rapids’ six-year playoff run in 2013, the Griffins are 6-1 when facing elimination at Van Andel Arena.

The Moose capitalized off a turnover in the Griffins’ zone to strike first 4:16 into the opening period. Tom McCollum stopped the initial shot by Chase De Leo from low in the left circle, but a crashing Mike Sgarbossa popped home the rebound as Manitoba grabbed the 1-0 lead for the second straight game.

Nic Petan scored during a power play 4:09 later, hammering a one-timer from the right faceoff dot to stake the Moose to their first two-goal lead of the series despite Grand Rapids’ 11-5 shot advantage to that point.

Dan Renouf injected some life into the Griffins with less than five minutes remaining in the frame, objecting to JC Lipon’s late hit on Evgeny Svechnikov along the left boards by fighting the Moose winger and wrestling him to the ice, much to the delight of the robust weeknight crowd of 7,448.

The Griffins needed only 14 seconds to convert that energy into their own power play goal. Matthew Ford’s blast from the point and Eric Tangradi’s follow-up chance from just outside the crease were both denied by Eric Comrie, but Ben Street buried the rebound from the bottom of the right circle at 15:28, sparking a melee that eventually involved every skater on the ice and required two minutes for the combatants to be fully separated. When the dust settled, Ford and Filip Hronek received 10-minute misconduct penalties, as did Manitoba’s Patrice Cormier, Peter Stoykewych and Michael Spacek, who was also ejected for leaving the penalty box to rejoin the fray.

Each team scored twice before the second period was five minutes old. Sixty-five ticks into the stanza, Sami Niku’s shot from the top of the right circle slipped past McCollum just three seconds after a penalty to Tangradi expired, giving the Moose a 3-1 advantage and summoning Jared Coreau into the game to replace McCollum.

Tangradi made amends in short order, getting a step on his defender off a slick pass from Matt Puempel and beating Comrie top shelf from the doorstep at 1:43 to make it a 3-2 game.

The teams quickly exchanged goals yet again in the frenetic frame, with Skyler McKenzie tallying off a backdoor feed from Julian Melchiori at 2:26 to snap Coreau’s shutout streak against the Moose this season at 136:37. But Zach Nastasiuk answered for Grand Rapids at 4:49, winning a race to tap home a loose puck in the crease after Corey Elkins’ try had bounced off the right post, pulling the Griffins within one at 4-3.

A scoring reprieve ensued, with the final 15:11 of the second period and first 18:02 of the third transpiring without a goal, until De Leo tallied into an empty net to make it 5-3 just 10 seconds after Coreau went to the bench for an extra attacker. Brendan Lemieux added another empty-netter with seven seconds remaining.

Comrie finished with 45 saves to earn his first win in six lifetime decisions at Van Andel Arena. Coreau was saddled with the loss despite stopping 11 of 12, while McCollum turned aside eight of 11 in the no-decision.

Notes: The Griffins are 1-1 all time in best-of-five series when trailing 1-2, most recently rallying from 0-2 to take three straight home wins and defeat Toronto in the 2015 Western Conference Quarterfinals…Defenseman Dennis Cholowski, Detroit’s first pick (20th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, made his playoff debut with the Griffins, registering one shot on goal…In addition to missing Matt Lorito and Dominic Turgeon, both of whom are out for the season with injuries, the Griffins played without Axel Holmstrom (injured in Game 2) and Colin Campbell (one-game suspension)…Tonight’s attendance of 7,448 marked the second–largest crowd of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs to date (7,996 – Texas at Ontario on April 22).

Three Stars: 1. MB Niku (goal, assist); 2. MB Sgarbossa (goal, assist); 3. GR Street (power play goal, assist)