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One Way To Start It

May 15, 2024
Written By: Dylan Rider
1st 2nd 3rd Final
Grand Rapids Griffins 1 1 2 4
Milwaukee Admirals 1 1 0 2

Calder Cup Playoffs - Central Division Finals - Game 1 - Grand Rapids Leads Best-of-Five Series, 1-0

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4 at Milwaukee Admirals 2

MILWAUKEE -- Marco Kasper’s game-winning goal midway through the third period on Wednesday capped off a three-point night that powered the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals at Panther Arena.

The Admirals, who suffered their first home loss of the playoffs after three division semifinal wins against Texas, have now sustained seven consecutive playoff losses to Grand Rapids, including four straight in Milwaukee and two in a row at Panther Arena, the team’s home since 2016-17.

The series will remain in Milwaukee for Game 2 on Monday, May 20 before it heads to Grand Rapids for Game 3 next Wednesday, May 22. 

May 15, 2024  ·  2 Minutes

5-15-24 | Central Division Finals Game 1 Highlights | Milwaukee Admirals

In the early stages of the opening frame, Carter Mazur, whose eight points led the Griffins against Milwaukee in the regular season, polished off a nifty Austin Czarnik feed from the right hashmarks by popping a shot into a gaping net at the left post for a 1-0 Grand Rapids lead at 4:48. 

Later in the frame, a Juuso Parssinen pass from deep in Milwaukee’s zone sprung a red-hot Zach L’Heureux behind two Griffins defenders, and the winger sniped a shot inside Sebastian Cossa’s left post for his sixth goal in as many playoff games with 4:24 remaining.

The duo of Kasper and Zach Aston-Reese restored Grand Rapids’ one-goal lead 3:50 into the second period. Aston-Reese received a saucer feed while 2-on-1 with Kasper and one-timed the puck past a sprawling Troy Grosenick from the right circle. 

Milwaukee again fought back to forge a tie. Following a scramble in front of the net, Phil Tomasino’s rebound attempt bounced off a Griffin and through the legs of Cossa to make it a 2-2 game with 3:42 remaining in the middle stanza. 

Kasper put the Griffins ahead for good at 9:57 of the third, taking a slick pass from Brogan Rafferty out of the left corner and chipping the puck inside Grosenick’s far post from close range. Joel L’Esperance sealed the victory with an empty-net tally on a sharp angle from the right boards with 34 seconds remaining, giving Grand Rapids its first power-play goal of the postseason.

Cossa, who went undefeated in regulation against the Admirals during the regular season (3-0-1), now has back-to-back Game 1 victories on the road under his belt, as the rookie has posted a combined .918 save percentage in series openers at Rockford and Milwaukee.  

May 15, 2024  ·  7 Minutes

5 - 15 -24 | Post Game Interviews | Milwaukee Admirals

- The Griffins and Admirals have previously met three times in the playoffs, with each series ending in a sweep. The Griffins swept the Admirals 3-0 in the Central Division Semifinals in both 2017 and 2016, while Milwaukee broomed Grand Rapids 4-0 in the 2006 Western Conference Finals.
- Grand Rapids has won Game 1 on foreign ice in each of its last three playoff series, including the 2019 division semifinals in Chicago.

Box Score
Grand Rapids 1 1 2 - 4
Milwaukee 1 1 0 - 2

1st Period-1, Grand Rapids, Mazur 2 (Czarnik, Berggren), 4:48. 2, Milwaukee, L’Heureux 6 (Parssinen, Ufko), 15:36. Penalties-No Penalties

2nd Period-3, Grand Rapids, Aston-Reese 1 (Kasper, Shine), 3:50. 4, Milwaukee, Tomasino 4 (Wiesblatt, Svechkov), 16:18. Penalties-Afanasyev Mil (holding), 4:02; Mutter Mil (delay of game), 13:29.

3rd Period-5, Grand Rapids, Kasper 3 (Rafferty, Wallinder), 9:57. 6, Grand Rapids, L’Esperance 1 (Kasper, Johansson), 19:26 (PP EN). Penalties-Mazur Gr (tripping), 7:34; M. Del Gaizo Mil (hooking), 18:36.

Shots on Goal-Grand Rapids 6-4-4-14. Milwaukee 4-12-11-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Grand Rapids 1 / 3; Milwaukee 0 / 1.
Goalies-Grand Rapids, Cossa 4-1 (27 shots-25 saves). Milwaukee, Grosenick 3-1 (13 shots-10 saves).

Three Stars
1. GR Kasper (game-winning goal, two assists); 2. MIL Tomasino (goal); 3. GR Cossa (W, 25 saves)

Record / Next Game
Grand Rapids: 4-1 / Central Division Finals Game 2 / Mon., May 20 at Milwaukee 8 p.m. EDT
Milwaukee: 3-3 / Central Division Finals Game 2 / Mon., May 20 vs. Grand Rapids 7 p.m. CDT

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins