Griffins Bound for Playoffs Despite Loss to Admirals
MILWAUKEE - The Grand Rapids Griffins fell 5-0 to the Milwaukee Admirals at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Saturday, but a Manitoba loss to Chicago the same night allowed the Griffins to clinch a berth to the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The clinching scenario marked only the second time in the franchise's 23-year history in which Grand Rapids' playoff spot was determined on or after its final regular season game. Regardless, the berth extends the Griffins' franchise-record postseason streak to seven years and marks the 17th time in the franchise's 23-year history in which they have qualified for the league's playoffs.
Matchups and dates for the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals are still to be determined, as the Admirals (35-24-14-2) are back in action tomorrow against Rockford. A Milwaukee win over the IceHogs would place Grand Rapids at fourth in the standings for a matchup with Chicago, while a loss for the Admirals would lead the Griffins to a faceoff against Iowa.
Grand Rapids closes its regular season with a 38-27-7-4 record before entering the postseason next week.
Facing a red-hot Milwaukee team riding a 12-game point streak, the Griffins found themselves saddled with a three-goal deficit within the first two minutes of the opening period. The first goal was scored just 14 seconds in, when Yakov Trenin took a centering pass from Colin Blackwell in the slot and slid the puck between the pads of Patrik Rybar.
Fifty seconds later, Laurent Dauphin shot the puck toward Rybar from the right-wing circle and Adam Helewka slotted it past the displaced goaltender for a two-goal lead. At 1:48, six seconds after Dylan McIlrath was called for roughing, Eeli Tolvanen extended the lead when his wrist shot sent the puck flying over Rybar's glove to put the score at 3-0.
The next 13 minutes saw goaltender changes for both teams, with Harri Sateri making his way between the pipes for Grand Rapids while Tom McCollum replaced Troy Grosenick after he injured himself trying to save a point-blank shot from Dominic Turgeon. A late surge from the Griffins placed pressure on McCollum, but the Admirals ended the frame doubling Grand Rapids' shot total, 10-5.
Milwaukee capitalized on a pair of shots early in the second period when another pair of goals from Trenin and Helewka increased its lead to 5-0. Thirty-six seconds into the frame, Blackwell fired off a shot from the high slot that Trenin tipped in from the doorstep, granting the center his second goal of the game.
Barely a minute later, Helewka tallied his second of the night at 1:41. Skating the puck into the slot, Helewka dragged the puck around Joe Hicketts and backhanded it between Sateri and the left post for a five-goal lead, one that the Admirals would maintain through the remainder of regulation.
Despite a 4-on-3 advantage late in the third period, the Griffins fell to 0-for-4 on the power play for the night. Grand Rapids killed off a strong 5-on-3 push from Milwaukee's power play to end the final frame, but was sentenced to a 1-for-4 finish due to Tolvanen's goal early in the first period.
McCollum earned third-star honors with 20 saves for the win, while Sateri made 24 stops on the night.
Notes: Grand Rapids' nine-game winless streak (0-8-1-0) is its longest since the 2007-08 season, when it went 10 games (0-8-0-2) without a victory from Oct. 28-Nov. 23...Ben Simon is the eighth head coach in franchise history to head to the postseason during his first full season behind the bench, joining Dave Allison (1996-97), Bruce Cassidy (2000-01), Danton Cole (2002-03), Greg Ireland (2005-06) Curt Fraser (2008-09), Jeff Blashill (2012-13) and Todd Nelson (2015-16).
Three Stars: 1. MIL Trenin (two goals); 2. MIL Helewka (two goals, one assist); 3. SJ Chekhovich (two assists)
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