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Griffins Hold off Rockford 6-5
Leino scores a goal and adds two more in shootout...
By Jason Kasiorek

The Griffins jumped out to early lead, scoring 5 goals in the first period, but had to settle for a shootout win after allowing the IceHogs to rally back. Recently named AHL all-stars Jakub Kindl and to a lesser extent Daniel Larsson both had tough nights for the home Griffins in a sloppy game. Grand Rapids got goals from five different players in regulation: Francis Pare (11), Justin Abdelkader (11), Aaron Gagnon (4), Logan Pyett (1st career goal), and Ville Leino (9). Leino also added two shoot-out goals including the game winner. Daniel Larsson was named third star of the game despite giving up 5 goals, stopping 36 shots behind a suddenly porous defense.

Justin Abdelkader opened the scoring a minute and a half into the period,taking advantage of a scramble around the net. Niemi went behind the net to play the puck and met Aaron Downey, causing a rushed clearing attempt which Leino intercepted and fed to Abdelkader for his 11th of the season. A minute later Lemieux and Pare on an odd man rush, Lemieux hit Pare flying in off the wing, and Pare stroked it into the open side of the net for a 2-0 lead. Rockford scored two quick goals to tie it up before the halfway mark. On the first, Skille took advantage of a Griffins turnover in front and turned and rifled a bullet past Larsson. Shortly after that Kindl let Pelletier get by him (a common theme on the night) for a point blank scoring chance on Larsson who couldn't stop him.

Grand Rapids rallied back again with two quick goals in a 1:16 span. Gagnon retaliated 8 seconds after the IceHogs goal with his fourth of the season, and then Logan Pyett let a point shot go through traffic for his first career goal. This signalled the end of the night for Niemi who was sent to the bench in favor of Crawford. McGrath had a great chance to put GR up 5-3 on a partial breakaway, but rang his shot off the crossbar. Ville Leino held off Danny Groulx with one hand while cutting in on Crawford, but couldn't get the puck by him. The Griffins took advantage of their first powerplay of the game to go ahead by three. Ville Leino ripped a shot from just outside the circle that beat Crawford high. The Griffins ended up in penalty trouble at the end of the period killing off most of a 5-on-3 disadvantage until time ran out with a great diving save by Larsson. Shots on Goal: GR 17 - Rock 15.

Rockford scored just after the balance of those penalties expired. Klinkhammer took advantage of another Griffins turnover in front of Larsson to cut the lead to two goals. Rockford lost some intensity in the second, as Grand Rapids carried play for large parts of the epriod. At times it looked like Grand Rapids had a man-advantage as they cycled the puck at will in the IceHogs zone. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - Rock 14.

Kindl got caught pinching in and allowed a shorthanded breakaway to Dowell who deked and slid it past Larsson, low stick-side for a shorthander to cut the lead to one. Grand Rapids got very sloppy in the latter stages of the game, allowing a more determined Rockford squad to get back into it. With Grand Rapids in penalty trouble, killing off a lengthy 5-on-3 in the second half of the period, the stage was set for the IceHogs comeback. The GR penalty killers were incredible, not letting the Rockford powerplay to get set up, and was easily the story of the game. Unfortunately as time ticked down on the second penalty, Helm tried to be cute instead of just clearing the puck, and ended up lifting it the length of the ice and over the glass for a delay of game penalty, putting his team back in a 5-on-3 situation. With time running out in the period, Rockford called Crawford to the bench for the extra skater, and Pelletier let a shot go from the circle that pinballed through traffic and off the stick of MacArthur to tie the game with a minute and change on the clock. Gr couldn't regain the lead, so the game went to overtime. Shots on Goal: GR 14 - Rock 9.

Leino had a super chance early in the extra session, going outside-inside on the IceHogs defender and getting a great shot off. Larsson came up huge in the final seconds, making a big save with his skate and then holding it out while Rockford got a couple of extra swipes at it. Shots on Goal: GR 5 - Rock 3. For the Game: GR 47 - Rock 41.

The Shootout:
Kontiola was the first shooter for Rockford, and he scored an easy goal as Larsson went down early leaving most of the net open. Oulahen was next for GR and he ripped a shot wide of the net. Pelletier next for the Icehogs but Larsson stoned him. Pare was the Griffins second shooter but he missed high and wide. Danny Groulx started the third round shooting the puck into Larsson's pad. Evan McGrath brought the crowd out of their seats, deking crawford out of his pads and depositing the puck into the net. Klinkhammer for Rockford got a break when Larsson stumbled, and was not able to recover, allowing a goal stick side. Ville Leino tied things up, making a couple of nice moves before roofing it past Crawford. MacArthur missed the net on his chance, and Darren Haydar had the puck roll off his stick on his. Kontiola started the sixth round, but Larsson challenged him and tried to poke check him, causing the shot to go wide. Leino made another jaw-dropping move and scored to send the crowd home happy.

Ritola - Gagnon - Haydar
Oulahen - Helm - Tardif
Leino - Abdelkader - Downey
Lemieux - Pare - McGrath

Pyett - Ericsson
Kolosov - Stafford
Kindl - Galvin

Starter: Larsson
Backup: Howard

Atherton - Knee

Oulahen - Helm - Tardif
Haydar - Kindl

Leino - Abdelkader - Ritola
Stafford - Ericsson

Lemieux - Pare - McGrath

Helm - Oulahen
Stafford - Ericsson

Leino - Abdelkader
Kindl - Galvin

Ritola - Gagnon


Jakub Kindl celebrated his naming as a starter on the planet USA all-star game by turning in one of his worst games. He was getting beaten like a rented mule all night, allowing his man to get by on the way to the net. Hopefully it was just a blip on the radar.

Sloppy, sloppy game. The Griffins defense was the complete opposite of the New Years eve win over Iowa, leaving Larsson out to dry several times. He didn't look as sharp as normal, but it is tough to look good with that many turnovers and point blank opportunities. Win or not, this team can't be happy with the product tonight.

Evan McGrath had a strong game and really looked to be working hard. He may have finally figured out that it isn't who has the most talent, but he who works the hardest. Great to see his game come along.

Kolosov turned up his physical play a notch this game, laying some big checks behind the net and along the boards. He still has a way to go, but the parts are definitely there.

Aaron Downey also recovered from a recent down stretch with a strong game. He had lots of energy and was forechecking with enthusiasm.

I have been biting my tongue for awhile, but last night really called it to my attention. Darren Helm is not on top of his game. There I said it, fling the rocks and arrows as you see fit. It used to be inconsistency that was his biggest hurdle, but now he is not doing the things he did last year and earlier this year. He is not going to the net, defensively he has looked off, and he has not used his speed as of late as the weapon it should be. Moved into a more defensive role on the team as of late, he just doesn't look as interested. With the obvious talent he has he needs to be more of an impact player. You could tell his competitive fire was lit for at least a few minutes last night, after that awful delay of game penalty, he came out of the box, streaked into his own end, laid a huge hit out and took the puck up ice. He should be making that kind of a difference more often...

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