Griffins Topple Division Leaders on Late Goal
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - For the second straight night at Van Andel Arena, the Grand Rapids Griffins went toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the AHL. But on Saturday it was the home team that prevailed, by a 2-1 count on a late goal by Dylan McIlrath that sank the Central Division-leading Milwaukee Admirals in regulation for just the second time in 13 games this season.
Harri Sateri enjoyed the best of his seven outings in a Griffins uniform, turning away 24 shots to earn first star honors and help extend Grand Rapids' point streak to a season-high three games, following Friday's 3-2 shootout loss to Iowa and last Saturday's 3-1 victory at Belleville.
The Griffins (4-5-0-1), who have matched the record they had through 10 games last season when they finished second in the Central Division, will complete their first 3-in-3 of the season on Sunday when they travel to Cleveland for a 5 p.m. encounter with the Monsters.
The best chance of a scoreless opening frame came off the stick of Filip Zadina, whose blast from the left circle during a power play rang off the iron behind Troy Grosenick.
Instead it was the Admirals (8-2-3-0) who struck first, 5:33 into the second period. Jeremy Gregoire picked up the puck along the left boards at center ice, skated around Brian Lashoff in the left circle and punched it past Sateri from close quarters.
The Griffins answered 2:13 later on a play that began with a slick pass by Zadina, who outwaited a defender on the rush before centering a pass for Matt Puempel, whose point-blank try was denied by Grosenick. But Christoffer Ehn crashed the net to pop home a backhand for his first goal in North America.
The 1-1 score persisted deep into the third period and was nearly altered with just under four minutes left when, off a turnover in the slot, Axel Holmstrom found Chris Terry on the backdoor for a redirection that Grosenick managed to stave off. But Ehn won the ensuing faceoff in the left circle back to Puempel, who sent a long pass across to McIlrath at the right point for a one-timer that sailed high into the net with 3:42 remaining.
Milwaukee pulled Grosenick during the final minute and had several chances around the Griffins' net in the waning seconds, but Sateri and his defense stood strong to improve the team's home record to 3-1-0-1.
Grand Rapids' penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3 but its struggles on the power play continued with a 0-for-5 effort. The Griffins ranked 28th in the AHL with the man-advantage entering the game and are now a combined 0-for-14 over their last three games.
Grosenick's 29 saves weren't enough to prevent the first blemish on his record this season (3-1-0-0).
Notes: Milwaukee goaltender Tom McCollum, who served as Grosenick's understudy tonight, ranks as the Griffins' all-time leader in wins, saves, goalie games played and minutes played. He totaled eight seasons with Grand Rapids (2009-16; 17-18) and was a member of the Griffins' 2013 Calder Cup championship team.
Three Stars: 1. GR Sateri (W, 24 saves); 2. GR McIlrath (game-winning goal); 3. MIL Grosenick (L, 29 saves)
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