Defense Shines But Griffins Fall in Shootout
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - After surrendering two quick goals and their 1-0 lead in the third period, the Grand Rapids Griffins rebounded to force overtime on a Chris Terry tally and eventually earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Iowa Wild on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
In the skills competition, Sam Anas' first-round goal was answered by Terry to start round two, but the next two shooters for each side were denied until Gerry Fitzgerald ended it by solving Patrik Rybar. It spoiled an otherwise strong performance for Rybar and the Griffins' defense, which limited the AHL's second-ranked offense to just 23 shots and made Grand Rapids (3-5-0-1) just the second team this season to hold Iowa (6-2-0-0) to fewer than three goals in regulation time.
Having registered points in three of their four home games (2-1-0-1) to date, the Griffins will look to continue their success at Van Andel Arena on Saturday when they host the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m.
The Griffins dominated the early going and were rewarded 9:25 into the contest on Axel Holmstrom's third goal of the campaign. Libor Sulak kept the puck in at the point and took a shot that was knocked down by Colton Beck in the high slot, but when the Wild forward gave away possession due to pressure from David Pope, Holmstrom pounced and quickly wristed a shot off the crossbar and down into the cage of Andrew Hammond.
Grand Rapids finished the opening frame with that 1-0 lead and a commanding 18-6 shot advantage. Iowa's league-leading power play was presented a great chance to even the terms just over six minutes into the second period with 1:02 of a 5-on-3, but a fortunate bounce off the crossbar and a couple saves by Rybar preserved the Griffins' slim cushion.
That margin was maintained until the 5:48 mark of the third period. Thirteen seconds after the Griffins were unable to capitalize on a tripping penalty to former teammate Landon Ferraro, he and Mason Shaw broke into the Grand Rapids zone on a 2-on-1. Mason carried the puck into the left circle, cut toward the slot with a toe drag and ripped a shot through Sulak and past Rybar's glove to knot the score.
Only 2:08 later, the Wild's potent power play announced its presence to put the visitors ahead 2-1. Cal O'Reilly teed up a shot from the top of the left circle, and Kyle Rau planted himself on the doorstep to redirect the puck through Rybar's pads.
The Griffins answered at 11:14 to forge their own deadlock. On a rush across the Iowa blue line, Carter Camper dropped a pass in the right circle to Terry, and the 2017-18 AHL scoring champion snapped a shot inside the far post from the dot for his fourth goal of the season.
The home squad received its fourth power play chance with more than six minutes left and nearly retook the lead when Camper was left alone out front to take Matt Puempel's centering pass, but Hammond slid across and flashed the leather to deny the veteran. The Wild then had several whacks at game-winner in the final 10 seconds, but Griffins defenders blocked their shots to force Grand Rapids' first overtime of the season.
Rybar, who stopped 20 of 22 shots, shows a 1.44 GAA and a 0.932 save percentage for his last two outings, including Saturday's 3-1 win at Belleville. Hammond, however, earned first star honors by making 34 saves, backstopping a penalty kill that thwarted all four Griffins chances, and helping Iowa to its first road win in three tries.
The Wild's power play, whose 38.5 percentage entering the night was a full nine points higher than second-place Rochester, finished 1-for-3.
Notes: For the first time this season, the Griffins' lineup included all three of their defensemen who began the campaign with the Detroit Red Wings in Sulak, Joe Hicketts and Filip Hronek...Grand Rapids was the last AHL team to play a one-goal game this season...Fourteen of the last 19 meetings between these teams have been decided by a single goal.
Three Stars: 1. IA Hammond (W, 34 saves); 2. IA Rau (power play goal); 3. GR Terry (game-tying goal, shootout goal)
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