Griffins Outlast IceHogs 4-3|
Russo's game winner and 5 shots lead the team over division rival...
By Jason Kasiorek
January 20th, 2018
The surging Grand Rapids Griffins found a way to win, beating the visiting Rockford IceHogs 4-3 at Van Andel Arena Saturday night. The Griffins trailed early before their offense started firing on all cylinders, and managed to hold off a late IceHogs rally to force the win. Four different scorers lit the lamp for the home team including Eric Tangradi (4 goals in his last 3 games) (16), Matt Puempel (16), Dominik Shine (4) and Robbie Russo (4). Jared Coreau looked very sharp, making 34 stops to pick up his 15th win of the season, giving him 7 wins in his last 9 starts.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Griffins as Rockford capitalized on an early penalty to Turner Elson to notch a powerplay goal just 1:22 in to the first period. Sikura won a battle for the puck behind the Griffins net and found Hayden right in front for a quick backhand and a 1-0 lead. Eric Tangradi answered right back 14 seconds later. The big left winger found a seem up the middle and ripped a long shot from the slot past Tompkins high, stick side to tie the score at 1. Vili Saarijarvi with great possession time, skated the puck into the Rockford zone and then weaved his way around defenders to generate scoring chances and get the puck back again. Long shot on Coreau and the puck lay in the crease just next to him, Hicketts dove into the crease and pushed it into Coreau's glove just before an IceHog could tap it into the net. Long range shot from Puempel on the powerplay then Tangradi tipped it in front, but Tompkins made the save. Tangradi with another chance right on the doorstep. Saarijarvi picked up the puck off the faceoff, took two strides and was gone, blowing by everyone into the offensive zone. He circled back and hit Tangradi with a pass for a good chance. Campbell won a board battle in the corner and pushed it to Lorito behind the net. Lorito centered but it was just knocked away. Huge stop by Coreau off a broken play in front to close the period. Shots on goal: GR 14 - Rock 15.
Give and go between Svechnikov and Ford to get it in close, then Hicketts came late and got a great chance right in front and then got smoked into the endboards. Rockford really pressuring in the Griffins zone. GR got caught in their own end and couldn't clear or get a change. Elkins and Svechnikov were stuck out for almost 3 whole minutes. Grand Rapids eventually got a clear and were able to weather the storm. Ford sprung on a breakaway from the blueline in, he got a shot off on Tompkins but was slashed from behind, setting up a Griffins powerplay. Matt Puempel gave the home team the lead when he wired a shot from the circle in over Tompkins glove the teams lone man advantage marker of the night. Shots on goal: GR 7 - Rock 8
Grand Rapids killed off an early penalty to Joe Hicketts to keep the one goal lead. Coreau had no chance on Rockford's second goal. Kero in front with a perfect redirect into the back of the cage to knot the score at two. It took Dominik shine just 21 seconds to answer back when he blazed up the middle from center ice and ripped a shot in over Tompkins shoulder, stick side. Saarijarvi won a battle in the corner against Two IceHogs and made a sick pass to Russo all alone in front. The surprised defenseman corralled the pass and wristed it past Tompkins to push the score to 4-2. Coreau with the save of the game then lost his stick and dove back across the crease to make a point blank stop from the opposite side of the net. Rockford pulled Tompkins for the extra skater with about two and a half minutes remaining. Sikura redirected a shot past Coreau from the edge of the paint to cut the lead to one with 39 seconds remaining. Tangradi with the puck coming from behind the empty monsters net but taken down giving the Griffins 6.7 second powerplay. The horn sounded on a 4-3 Griffins win over the Rockford IceHogs. Shots on goal: GR 8 - Rock 14. For the game: GR 29 - Rock 37.
Grand Rapids dressed 11 forwards and 7 defenseman
#26 Tangradi - #10 Street - #73 Puempel
#28 Lorito - #15 Elson - #45 Campbell
#77 Svechnikov - #47 Elkins - #55 Ford
Several players - #25 Holmstrom - #65 Shine
#18 Lashoff - #9 Saarijarvi
#20 Renouf/#13 Hronek- #5 Russo
#2 Hicketts- #52 McIlrath
Starter: #31 Coreau
Backup: #30 McCollum
Tangradi -Street - Lorito
Puempel - Hronek
Holmstrom - Ford - Svechnikov
Hicketts - Russo
Elson - Campbell
Lashoff - McIlrath
Elkins - Ford
Renouf - Russo
Robbie Russo played his best game of the season, and maybe his best game in a year against the IceHogs. He was aggressive and reacted to the play more instead of thinking about it. He made several good defensive plays to move the puck up ice, and was involved offensively. He led the team with 5 shots on goal, but even more important was the lack of turnovers committed. He even played the body a bit and looked confident. Would love to see more of this overt he second half.
Vili Saarijarvi was outstanding all night. His skill set and motor are highly noticeable every game, but he really looked on tonight. He can make plays at high speed in traffic and looks very fluid and confident. The other noticeable part of his game tonight was that he won several battles along the boards and in the corners against much larger and stronger players. His first pass continues to be among the best on the team.
Dominik Shine had a very strong game, doing all of the little things that don't show up on the scoresheet, but endear him to his teammates and coaches. A couple of times he blazed in and just got his stick on a puck at the line that would have meant his team had to exit the zone and start over. He is tough to play against because he grinds all night and uses his speed to get in the way and intercept passes. He was rewarded with a goal tonight that was due to his hard work pouncing on loose pucks.