Scrappy New Year
Milwaukee Admirals 4 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5
Dec. 31, 2021
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Overcoming a depleted roster that dressed only 14 skaters – four shy of a full lineup – due to COVID protocols, injuries and NHL callups, the Grand Rapids Griffins gritted their way to a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday in their 24th annual New Year’s Eve celebration at Van Andel Arena.
Victor Brattstrom earned his first AHL win, stopping 29 of 33 Admirals shots, for a Grand Rapids team that played just its second game since Dec. 11 due to a string of recent postponements. Seth Barton and Josh Dickinson netted their first goals as Griffins, helping the home team improve to 12-10-1-1 all time on New Year’s Eve.
Milwaukee started strong, getting a stellar chance when Kole Sherwood was denied on a breakaway in the early going, but it was the Griffins who got the scoring started less than a minute later. Admirals netminder Connor Ingram padded away a Dominik Shine shot from the high slot, but Tyler Spezia collected the rebound at the right post and sent it over Ingram’s glove at 4:21 to give Grand Rapids the lead.
With just under five minutes to play in the first, Brett McKenzie intercepted a Milwaukee clearing attempt at the left point and tapped the puck to Barton. Marching to the top of the right circle, the rookie defenseman snapped a wrist shot past Ingram’s blocker for his first professional goal and a 2-0 advantage at 15:01.
The Admirals struck 1:04 into the second period when Mitch McLain worked down the left-wing wall and wired a shot into the top right corner past Brattstrom’s glove, bringing the visitors to within one.
Just 2:12 later, with Grand Rapids on the powerplay, the Admirals’ Cole Smith scooped up the puck off a faceoff in the offensive zone. He let a shot go from the outside of the right circle that was headed wide before McLain skillfully redirected it into the top left corner for his second tally of the period.
In the waning moments of the stanza, Dickinson won an offensive zone draw back to the right point, where Jared McIsaac teed up a slap shot that was tipped by Dickinson in front before hitting the twine behind Ingram at 19:05. Dickinson’s first goal as a Griffin and third in the AHL sent the teams to their dressing rooms with Grand Rapids leading 3-2.
The sixth minute of the third period saw fireworks from both sides. Shine extended the Griffins’ lead to two at 5:37, intercepting a Milwaukee pass at the defensive blue line and breaking away shorthanded before beating the goaltender on a nifty deke. The Admirals responded just 14 seconds later, though, when Cody Glass fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle through the five-hole of Brattstrom, cutting Grand Rapids’ lead to 4-3.
Milwaukee captain Cole Schneider’s team-leading 12th goal of the campaign drew the game even on a power play at the 7:41 mark, as he batted home an airborne rebound from an Egor Afanasyev shot from just outside the goal crease.
However, Riley Barber was not about to let Milwaukee have all the fun on the man-advantage. With Dylan Blujus in the box for hooking, Jonatan Berggren fired a shot on goal from the right-wing circle. Ingram made the initial save with his right pad, but the rebound fell onto Barber’s stick on the back door, and he was able to pot it into the empty cage at 12:52 for what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.
- The Griffins have won five of their last six New Year’s Eve affairs.
- The 14 skaters that dressed for Grand Rapids tonight are believed to be the fewest the Griffins have ever started a game with.
- Following the COVID-shortened World Junior Championship in Alberta, Donovan Sebrango returned to the Griffins’ lineup tonight. The Canadian scored a goal and posted a plus-two rating in two games before the tournament was canceled.
- With the two first-period goals tonight, the Griffins have now outscored their opponents 10-2 in the opening frame of the last six games.
Milwaukee 0 2 2 - 4
Grand Rapids 2 1 2 - 5
1st Period-1, Grand Rapids, Spezia 5 (Shine, Berggren), 4:21. 2, Grand Rapids, Barton 1 (McKenzie, Witkowski), 15:01. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-3, Milwaukee, McLain 7 (Healey, Blujus), 1:04. 4, Milwaukee, McLain 8 (Smith), 3:16 (SH). 5, Grand Rapids, Dickinson 1 (McIsaac, McKenzie), 19:05. Penalties-Sherwood Mil (boarding), 2:42; Apap Mil (boarding), 7:34.
3rd Period-6, Grand Rapids, Shine 5 5:37 (SH). 7, Milwaukee, Glass 5 (Apap), 5:51. 8, Milwaukee, Schneider 12 (Afanasyev, Glass), 7:41 (PP). 9, Grand Rapids, Barber 8 (Berggren, Pearson), 12:52 (PP). Penalties-Barton Gr (high-sticking), 3:42; McIsaac Gr (slashing), 6:22; Smith Mil (cross-checking), 8:52; Blujus Mil (hooking), 12:10.
Shots on Goal-Milwaukee 6-13-14-33. Grand Rapids 11-10-11-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Milwaukee 1 / 2; Grand Rapids 1 / 4.
Goalies-Milwaukee, Ingram 9-9-2 (32 shots-27 saves). Grand Rapids, Brattstrom 1-3-1 (33 shots-29 saves).
1. GR Shine (shorthanded goal, assist); 2. GR Berggren (two assists); 3. MIL Glass (goal, assist)
Record / Next Game
Grand Rapids: 10-10-3-1 (24 pts.) / Sat., Jan. 1 at Milwaukee 7 p.m. EST
Milwaukee: 12-14-2-0 (26 pts.) / Sat., Jan. 1 vs. Grand Rapids 6 p.m. CST
Photo by Mark Newman/Griffins