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Griffins' Magic Number at Two After 6-1 Roasting of 'Hogs

April 1, 2015 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Grand Rapids Griffins News Release

Grand Rapids Griffins Goalie Tom McCollum vs. the Rockford IceHogs
Grand Rapids Griffins Goalie Tom McCollum vs. the Rockford IceHogs
(Grand Rapids Griffins, Credit: Mark Newman)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The dominance of Tom McCollum combined with an opportunistic offense to power the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 6-1 thrashing of the Rockford IceHogs on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.

This battle between the Midwest Division's top two clubs saw the Griffins (41-19-6-2) claim their third straight series victory and improve to 4-0-0-1 in their last five against the IceHogs, who now trail Grand Rapids by five points in the division race.

While earning their third straight win overall and their eighth triumph in their last nine home games, the Griffins reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to just two points. They could secure a berth on Thursday while idle, if Adirondack loses at San Antonio and Hamilton falls in regulation to Chicago.

Rockford (39-21-5-2) will have an immediate chance at redemption on Friday, when it hosts a rematch with the Griffins at 8 p.m. EDT at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

McCollum turned aside 45 shots for the second consecutive game, including Saturday's 4-3 win at Texas, and was a monster during the first period, stopping all 21 Rockford shots while his teammates capitalized twice on only nine tries against Michael Leighton.

On an odd-man break created by a poor Rockford line change, Martin Frk sped down the left side and waited patiently before threading a centering pass between an IceHogs defender and Leighton to Louis-Marc Aubry, who popped the puck into the wide-open net just 3:24 into the game.

Andy Miele seized the team's scoring leadership from Teemu Pulkkinen with his 62nd point of the campaign late in the frame, taking a return pass from Anthony Mantha on the rush and putting home a backhand at the 17:11 mark.

An own-goal by Rockford pushed the Griffins' advantage to 3-0 just 1:11 into the second period. After a Kevin Porter shot from the left side was denied, Miele chipped the rebound toward Mantha at the right post, but the puck deflected off the stick of IceHogs center Peter Regin at the top of the crease and past Leighton.

That goal marked the end of Leighton's night and the start of Antti Raanta's, who was called on early to keep the score manageable when the Griffins were awarded a penalty shot less than four minutes later. He denied Nathan Paetsch's try, then watched Matt Carey cut his team's deficit to two by whipping a rebound past McCollum from the bottom of the right circle at 10:21 on the visitors' 29th shot of the night.

But Grand Rapids answered just 15 seconds later, as the IceHogs allowed Landon Ferraro to carry the puck from the red line to the goal mouth before slipping a backhand past Raanta for a 4-1 Griffins lead. Tomas Nosek added the fifth goal at 15:25, firing a shot from the high slot that glanced off the netminder before crossing the line, and Alexey Marchenko knocked home a power play goal at 9:04 of the third period for the final margin.

McCollum improved to 12-1-3 in his last 16 games with Grand Rapids. Leighton and Raanta each allowed three goals on the night, although Raanta made 21 saves to just seven by Leighton.

Note: Jeff Blashill became the first coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to three 90-point seasons. Bruce Cassidy and Danton Cole each had two squads hit that milestone.

Three Stars: 1. GR McCollum (W, 45 saves); 2. GR Ferraro (goal, two assists); 3. GR Miele (two goals)

Images from this story

Grand Rapids Griffins Goalie Tom McCollum vs. the Rockford IceHogs
Grand Rapids Griffins Goalie Tom McCollum vs. the Rockford IceHogs

(Mark Newman)

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