Potent Griffins Offense Stuns Amerks 6-3|
Armstrong's two goals lead the way...
By Jason Kasiorek
On paper the Rochester Americans should have had an easy time dispatching the last place Griffins and clinching the 2nd seed for the playoffs. Grand Rapids must have forgotten to read that script however as they put on a dominant exhibition to beat Rochester 6-3. Role player Riley Armstrong had a pair of goals while Emmerton, Mursak, Abdelkader and May all added singles. The Griffins laid siege to the Americans' net, putting up 44 shots on goal and carrying play for large parts of the game. Goalie Thomas McCollum picked up the win, his 9th of the season, for Grand Rapids, which won its first in five games.
Grand Rapids came out of the gate ready to play and really took it to the Amerks early. Armstrong converted a cross-ice feed from Tardif to open the scoring halfway through the period giving the home team a 1-0 lead, and they would never look back. Late in the period, Pare sprung Emmerton who made it 2-0, flying through the front of the net and lifting a shot just past Plante's shoulder and under the bar. Shots on Goal: GR 15 - Roc 9.
The Amerks finally got on the board at the mid point of the period with Taffe chipping the puck in from the doorstep. Janik smoked Duco in the corner and when Duco tried to get up and start something, Janik just pushed him back down and stood over him. On the next shift, Duco got laid out again in the same corner by Tollefsen and was down for quite a while before making his way to the bench with help from the trainer. Mursak took a pass in front of the Rochester net with his back to the netminder and backhanded the puck past Plante for a 3-1 lead. Duco returned to the ice and chased down Janik with the intent of engaging him in the corner. Unfortunately, for Duco, Janik laid a pretty good beating on him. The Griffins blueliner eased up several times, but Duco wouldn't stay down so finally Janik pulled the jersey over his head and smoked him. Abdelkader picked up a long pass from McCollum, blazed in on net and blistered a shot past Plante to make it 4-1. After the whistle, Bonneau dropped the gloves and engaged in a short wrestling match with Tollefsen. Shots on Goal: GR 12 - Roc 10.
Rochester switched goalies to start the third with Plante yielding to Salak. Armstrong snuck in a knuckleball shot from the line that found its way past Salak high, glove side. A big hit near the Griffins bench turned into a scrum and Amerks sniper Taffe made the mistake of reaching in and pulling out Tollefsen who promptly accepted the challenge and beat him down. May tipped in a shot in front of the net with Salak screened by his own man to increase the lead to 5-1. Kindl shot the puck over the net after the whistle drawing a crowd but not much came of it. Pyett couldn't tie up his man at the side of the net and he was able to slide the puck past a down and out McCollum to pull within four. Rochester cut the lead to three with 3:47 left in the game, but it was as close as they would get. Salak went to the bench for the extra attacker and the Amerks call a time out with 35.6 seconds on the clock for one last push. Armstrong thought he had the empty net goal for the hat trick, and after several great chances, he deserved it, but it was not meant to be and the Griffins win 6-3. Shots on Goal: GR 17 - Roc 13. For the Game: GR 44 - Roc 32.
Ritola - Abdelkader - Tardif
May - Emmerton - Williams
Vigilante - Armstrong - Tardif
Tatar - #21 Wong - Pare
Kindl - #32 Lashoff
Janik - Tollefsen
Kolosov - Pyett
Travis Ehrhardt - Healthy
Paul Crosty - Healthy
Landon Ferraro - Healthy
Willie Coetzee - Healthy
Patrick Rissmiller - Wrist
Ryan Oulahen - Hip
May - Emmerton - Tardif
Kindl - Pyett
Ritola - Abdelkader - Mursak
Kindl - Lashoff
Ritola - Abdelkader
Kindl - Janik
Vigilante - Armstrong
Kolosov - Lashoff
3 Tardif - GR
2 Abdelkader - GR
1 Armstrong - GR
Another fun win for Grand Rapids. This new team is so much more entertaining than earlier in the season. They showed again that they could beat you on the ice or in the alley in taking down Rochester. The Amerks spent a lot of time looking over their shoulders trying to find Tollefsen and Janik who were crashing and banging with authority. Tollefsen especially brings a whole new dynamic to the Griffins blueline. Although he is borderline dirty sometimes, even when he is not it keeps the other team looking around instead of playing the puck.
Kindl played a tremendous game. He looked almost like a different player paired with the steady Lashoff for most of the game. He rushed the puck, played well in his own end, and even showed some flair making some cute little plays. The one attribute that was most noticeable was his speed, both his foot speed, and his ability to handle the puck and make plays at speed.
Jan Mursak played another good game in all three zones. He used his speed to make plays and go to the net and was rewarded with a goal. He seemed to click playing with Tomas Tatar and speedy newcomer Brandon Wong.
This was the first opportunity I had to see Wong in a game situation, and I came away impressed. While small, the rookie pivot had great speed and agility, and did not look out of place. He was very good defensively, seeming to know here the puck was going to be so he was in position to break up a play. I also noticed that he went to the front of the net in the attacking zone regularly despite the abuse in that area. He had one really nice break where he pounced on a loose puck and beat a defender for a shot from the wing, but shot it over the net.
Tatar was working hard all night, and did a good job of planting himself in the slot. He is so thick and has a low center of gravity, making it hard for the defense to move him from the prime scoring areas.
Kolosov was another player that stood out. He has come so far this season; his intensity and speed are greatly improved. He was very physical separating the puck carrier from the puck at the line several times.
Brian Lashoff does so many of the little things right, he looks like a seasoned blueliner instead of a rookie. His compete level is high and he does not look to have any problems adjusting to the tempo of the pro game. He plays with a lot of patience, seemingly with icewater in his veins, and rarely makes a mistake. He should be a lot of fun to watch next season.