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Flying Toasters Burn Belleville in Heated Contest 6-4
Berggren keeps hot hand in win...
By Jason Kasiorek
January 27th, 2024

The Grand Rapids Flying Toasters opened up a big lead (3-0) on the visiting Belleville Senators for the second game in a row. But after a disastrous 2nd period defensive collapse which saw them surrender 4 goals, they needed to dig deep and fight back for the win. Elmer Soderblom (5) scored the game-winner midway through the third, while red-hot Jonatan Berggren (13) added an empty netter late to put the nail in the coffin. The Toasters also got goals from Wallinder (3), Johansson (4), Spezia (5), and Czarnik (6), while Berggren notched 3 points for the second game in a row (3-3-6). Sebastien Cossa came in in relief of Andrew Hutchinson and stopped all 11 shots he faced to pick up his 9th win of the season.

First Period:
As might be expected after last night's 3-0 shutout, the game was much more physical early as Belleville tried to change the tone. Carter Mazur went off for hooking just 32 seconds into the game, but the Flying Toasters' penalty killing was dominant, allowing only one shot on goal. A few minutes after the penalty expired William Wallinder walked into the circle and unloaded a shot past Merilainen for a 1-0 lead. Simon Edvinsson put a shoulder into the Belleville player, separated him from the puck, and set up a nice scoring play. Albert Johansson bulled his way to the slot using his body to protect the puck and then fired a wicked backhand past Merilainen to extend the lead to 2-0. Great pass by Mazur to bank a pass off the boards around a Belleville player and right onto the tape of Austin Czarnik behind the defense for a great scoring chance. Shots on goal: GR 9 - Belleville 8.

Second period:
The Flying Toasters started the period on the powerplay and used the man advantage to pressure the Belleville net. Nice play to get the puck to Zach Aston-Reese at the edge of the paint. He clanked a shot off the post that continued on behind the netminder and wide of the net. Less than a minute after the penalty expired Tyler Spezia sped up the gut and wristed a rocket from the edge of the circle past Merilainen for a 3-0 lead. That was the end of the night for Leevi Merilainen who headed to the bench and was relieved by Mandolese. Edvinsson with a great chance in front, and then Berggren headed off to the box for a slash. The Toasters penalty killers were up to the task again allowing a single shot to Crookshank near the end of the penalty.

Berggren skated out of the box and picked up a pass for a breakaway and went in alone on Mandolese. He tried to cut to the right and freeze the netminder, but he couldn't get the puck over Mandolese's leg pad. Elmer Soderblom to the box for tripping as the Flying toasters were starting to get into penalty trouble – and it cost them. Crookshank in the circle, banged home a rebound to put Belleville on the board 3-1. Less than two minutes later, Brogan Rafferty gave the puck away behind his own net, and Currie right in front snapped it past Hutchinson to cut the lead to one. Cross Hanas crashed the net, trying to make a juggling Mandolese drop the puck. This touched off a big scrum. Spezia pushing and shoving with Heatherington and they both go off for two minutes.

The Griffins took advantage of the extra room on the ice, setting up several fancy tic-tac-toe passing plays, but couldn't get the puck past Mandolese. Antti Tuomisto great job at the line to distribute the puck and control play before cranking a low, hard shot through traffic that found its way to the net. A toasters' defensive breakdown allowed Highmore to set up all alone in the slot and beat Hutchinson high, glove side to know the score at three aside. With time winding down in the period, Hutchinson went behind the net to play the puck and his pass was intercepted before he could get back into the crease and Crookshank scoffed his second of the game, into the empty net. Shots on goal: GR 16 - Belleville 7.

Third period:
Sebastien Cossa in the nets for the Toasters to start the third period. Big hit by Simon Edvinsson as he drove a Belleville skater hard into the endboards. Currie to the box for tripping and the Griffins have a chance to tie the score again. Czarnik on the point of the powerplay drove a shot on net with Mazur causing havoc in front that got past Mandolese to make the game 4-4. Spezia carrying the puck, crossed into the Belleville zone and was elbowed by Boucher, putting the Toasters back on the powerplay. Berggren set up several grade-A scoring chances, passing the puck through traffic with ease. Elmer Soderblom unloaded a shot from the circle that beat Mandolese just after the penalty expired to restore the GR lead 5-4.

Rafferty with a drive that Mandolese just got a piece of. Dom Shine and DeSaulnier pushing and shoving for a while and they both went to the box. Czarnik went end-to-end on a breakaway but fired the puck into Mandolese. Rafferty for the second time tonight, gave the puck away right next to the net, allowing Belleville a great scoring chance that Cossa had to be sharp on. Another scrum in front after the whistle, as these two teams are starting to boil over. Jonatan Berggren in scoring position is fouled twice with no call and he is hot.

Mandolese to the bench for the extra skater, but the Toasters get the puck deep. Battle behind the net and Kasper knocks his man down to keep possession of the puck. The puck eventually came loose and went into the Belleville net off a Belleville player giving Grand Rapids a 6-4 lead with a minute left. All hell broke loose as Belleville attacked the Toasters while they were celebrating, touching off a line brawl. Didier was jumped from behind as he skated toward center ice with his arms in the air in celebration. As things started to wind down, Crookshank was tied up with Edvinsson and was trying to goad the towering Swede into dropping the gloves. Edvinsson resisted for a while, but after taking a punch in the face, he dropped the gloves and pounded Crookshank, eventually throwing him to the ice. Berggren was the last Griffin to touch the puck, so he was given credit for the goal. Mandolese went back to the bench, but the Senators were unable to score another goal as the buzzer sounded. Shots on goal: GR 10 - Belleville 11. For the Game: GR 35 - Belleville 26.

Starting Lines:
#26 Gettinger - #27 Czarnick - #43 Mazur
#12 Aston-Reese - #92 Kasper - #48 Berggren
#71 Hanas - #21 Stevens - #20 Soderblom
#32 Spezia - #93 Lombardi - #65 Spezia

#23 Johansson - #25 Rafferty
#77 Edvinsson - #4 Tuomisto
#22 Wallinder - #44 Didier

Starter: #35 Hutchinson
Backup: #33 Cossa

#3 McIsaac
#5 Viro
#11 L'Esperance
#17 Hirose


#26 Gettinger - #27 Czarnik - #43 Mazur
#48 Berggren - #77 Edvinsson

#93 Lombardi - #92 Kasper - #20 Soderblom
#25 Rafferty - #4 Tuomisto

#27 Czarnik - #12 Aston-Reese
#77 Edvinsson - #22 Wallinder

#32 Spezia - #65 Shinek
#25 Rafferty - #23 Johansson


Official Game Sheet