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Going Out With A Bang

Dec 31, 2023
Written By: Dylan Rider
1st 2nd 3rd Final
Cleveland Monsters 0 0 1 1
Grand Rapids Griffins 1 3 1 5

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5 vs. Cleveland Monsters 1

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Albert Johansson's two-goal night and Michael Hutchinson's 26-save performance helped the Grand Rapids Griffins snap the Cleveland Monsters' seven-game win streak with a 5-1 victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena on New Year's Eve. 

Both Carter Mazur (four goals) and Joel L'Esperance (three goals) extended their goal streaks to four and three games, respectively. Austin Czarnik bagged three assists in the win, while Jonatan Berggren added two. Grand Rapids' third consecutive win marked the team's longest streak of the campaign, which put the Griffins at 4-1-1-0 in their last six contests and into a tie for third place in the Central Division.

December 31, 2023  ·  3 Minutes

12-31-23 | Highlights | Cleveland Monsters

L’Esperance opened scoring for Grand Rapids, as his shot from the bottom of the left circle snuck past Pavel Cajan at 6:01 for a 1-0 Griffins lead in the first period.

After killing a penalty to begin the second frame, Mazur skated in on Cajan, while on a breakaway, and sniped a laser from the slot to add to the Griffins' lead with 18:13 remaining in the period.

Grand Rapids continued its uncontested scoring when Johansson unleashed a blast from above the left circle for a 3-0 Griffins lead at 9:50. Just over four minutes later, Johansson struck again for his second goal of the evening on a shot from the right circle with 6:03 remaining in the period. Johansson’s tally set his career-high of goals in a game at two in the AHL.

Roughly eight minutes into the third period, Cajan left his net to play the puck, which led to him passing the puck directly to Zach Aston-Reese who then fired the puck from the top of the right circle into the wide-open net for a 5-0 lead at 8:19.

The Monsters found twine roughly 12 minutes into the final frame with a power-play goal from Mikael Pyyhtia, which was blasted past Hutchinson from the right circle with 7:15 remaining. Following Cleveland’s lone goal, Grand Rapids finished the contest with a 5-1 victory.

December 31, 2023  ·  14 Minutes

12-31-23 | Post-Game Interviews | Cleveland Monsters

- Aston-Reese and L'Esperance extended their point streaks to three games, while Mazur extended his to four. 
- Hutchinson's win tonight marked the first time this season that a goaltender has won back-to-back contests. 
- The Monsters have only had eight regulation losses, but they have allowed at least five goals in each of them.
- The Griffins have won six of their last eight New Year's Eve games with eight of their last 10 being sellouts. With the win, first-year head coach Dan Watson extended the streak of Griffins coaches winning their first New Year's Eve game to five. 

Box Score
Cleveland 0 0 1 - 1
Grand Rapids 1 3 1 - 5

1st Period-1, Grand Rapids, L’Esperance 9 (Aston-Reese, Edvinsson), 6:01. Penalties-Bjork Cle (holding), 12:54; Berggren Gr (slashing), 18:57.

2nd Period-2, Grand Rapids, Mazur 8 (Czarnik, Berggren), 1:47. 3, Grand Rapids, Johansson 2 (Czarnik, Berggren), 9:50. 4, Grand Rapids, Johansson 3 (Edvinsson, Czarnik), 13:57. Penalties-Butler Cle (roughing), 14:46; Shine Gr (delay of game), 14:46.

3rd Period-5, Grand Rapids, Aston-Reese 5 8:19. 6, Cleveland, Pyyhtia 5 (Fix-Wolansky, Bjork), 12:45 (PP). Penalties-Ahcan Cle (tripping), 9:47; L’Esperance Gr (tripping), 11:22; Gaudet Cle (high-sticking), 17:36.

Shots on Goal-Cleveland 11-8-8-27. Grand Rapids 17-9-12-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Cleveland 1 / 2; Grand Rapids 0 / 3.
Goalies-Cleveland, Cajan 4-4-1 (38 shots-33 saves). Grand Rapids, Hutchinson 7-7-1 (27 shots-26 saves).

Three Stars
1. GR Johansson (Two goals); 2. GR Hutchinson (W, 26 saves); 3. GR Czarnik (Three assists)

Record / Next Game
Grand Rapids: 12-13-3-1 (28 pts.) / Fri., Jan. 5 at Iowa 8 p.m. EST
Cleveland: 21-8-1-0 (43 pts.) / Wed., Jan. 3 at Toronto 4 p.m. 

Photo by Mark Newman//Griffins