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Griffins Season On The Ropes After 6-3 Loss To Moose
Dennis Cholowski makes playoff debut...
By Jason Kasiorek
April 26th, 2018

The visiting Manitoba Moose scored early and often en route to a 6-3 win at Van Andel Arena to take a 2-1 in the best of five opening round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. That score was a bit misleading as two of the goals cam with an empty net on what was a 4-3 game. The Griffins got off to a slow start and despite 34 shots over the final 40 minutes could not find a way to take control of the game. Ben Street (3), Eric Tangradi (2) and Zach Nastasiuk (1) scored for Grand Rapids in the losing effort. Thomas McCollum got the hook after allowing three goals on eleven shots and Jared Coreau came on in relief making 11 saves.

Grand Rapids pressuring early but Manitoba scored the first goal. Robbie Russo dove to block the puck but missed and slid into the corner taking him out of the play and hanging McCollum out to dry. McCollum made the first stop but had no chance on the second as Sgarbossa hammered in his first of the playoffs. The Griffins fell behind 2-0 a few minutes later when Petan lasered a perfect shot from the circle between McCollum and the post for a powerplay goal. Lipon smoked Svechnikov with a late hit and Dan Renouf took exception skating over and dropping the gloves. The Griffins defender landed a few blows before throwing Lipon to the ice. This seemed to ignite the Griffins. On the ensuing powerplay, Ben Street picked up a puck in front and banged it home to break the goose egg. All hell broke loose as the puck crossed the line as multiple fights broke out. Spacek left the penalty box to join the melee, as two Moose players were engaging little Filip Hronek. Matt Ford put Stoykewych in a headlock and took him to the ice. Once they got everything calmed down, the benches looked pretty empty with several players headed to the locker room for at least the rest of the period. The Griffins were unable to do much with the ensuing powerplay, and ended the period killing off a penalty to Tangradi. Shots on goal: GR 14 - Man 10.

Shorthanded two-on-one with Elson and Elkins but Elkins lost the handle. Manitoba extended the lead to 3-1 when Niku notched a goal just after the penalty to Tangradi expired. That was the end of the night for McCollum was came out in favor of Jared Coreau. Can't blame McCollum for most of the goals, but the veteran netminder smashed his stick into pieces in the hallway after getting pulled. Grand Rapids struck back less than a minute later when Matt Puempel hit Tangradi with a lead pass and he snapped a shot past Comrie glove side. Coreau surrendered a goal on the first shot he saw when Melchiori fed Mackenzie back door on a bang-bang play. Zach Nastasiuk all alone in front and fanned on the shot. Brought back in and Elkins put a shot off the post that came out the other side. Nastasiuk jumped on it, but the Kulich, the Manitoba defenseman, actually tapped it into his own net. A shot just trickled wide of the Moose net and Hicketts picked up the rebound for a big drive. Three-on-one Manitoba, but Hicketts made a diving poke check to seep the puck away. Grand Rapids attacking the Manitoba net, but not having any puck luck as the puck keeps bouncing over sticks or hitting things on the way through. Tangradi with a shot in close and then he was immediately accosted. While that was going on, Lemieux was trying to get at Hronek and after some pushing and shoving with the official in the middle, they both went off. Ford and Cormier collided with a big hit! Tangradi with a dangerous shot right off the faceoff that almost got through. Shots on goal: GR 19 - Man 7.

Great wrap-around chance by Turner Elson and then Ford with a chance at the rebound. Hicketts threw a big hip check and knocked a moose forward flying. Tangradi big shot blocked in front. Hronek carried the puck around a defender and into the slot for a chance. Matt Ford carried the puck up the wing with speed and was tripped at the line. Griffins with the man-advantage and Tangradi in front had four chances on Comrie before it was cleared. Nastasiuk with a rush & tried to feed Elkins who got smoked right over the net. McIlrath hit his man along the boards, knocking him into the ref and sending the official flying to the ice. Coreau out for the extra attacker, but De Leo beat Russo and scored into the empty net. Coreau to the bench again and Lemieux pots an empty netter to run the score to 6-3. Lemieux then skated to the Griffins bench to celebrate his first goal of the playoffs. Big scrum at the final buzzer as these two teams do not like each other. Shots on goal: GR 15 - Man 8. For the game: GR 48 - Man 25.

#26 Tangradi - #10 Street - #73 Puempel
#55 Ford - # 21 Borkowski - #15 Elson
#19 Esposito - Various - #77 Svechnikov
#65 Shine - #47 Elkins - #37 Nastasiuk

#18 Lashoff - #52 McIlrath
#20 Renouf - # 2 Hicketts
#13 Hronek - # 5 Russo
#44 Cholowski

Starter: #30 McCollum
Backup: #31 Coreau

#4 Sulak
#9 Saarijarvi
#17 Crawford
#23 Turgeon - Injured - Thoracic Compartment Syndrome #25 Holmstrom - Injured #28 Lorito - Injured - Knee
#34 Fazio
#45 Campbell

Tangradi - Street - Esposito/Ford
Puempel - Russo/Hronek

Svechnikov - Elson - Shine/Hicketts
Cholowski - Russo/Hicketts

Elson - BorkowskiBR> Lashoff - McIlrath

Ford - Elkins
Renouf - Hicketts


The Griffins penalty killing, a strength all year, did not look good tonight, mainly the result of missing key players Dominic Turgeon and Colin Campbell. Luckily the Moose were only awarded two powerplays.

While the team got off to a slow start, they were also plagued with defensive breakdowns and Manitoba took advantage of them. GR also had no puck luck at all, and at times could not buy a break. I would bet that if this game was replayed with the same effort, GR wins more than they lose.

Dennis Cholowski made his playoff debut and gave an OK accounting of himself. He was not very noticeable, except his first couple of shifts where he looked tentative. He looked more comfortable as the game went on, but didn't really have much impact on the game.The officials had the whistles away early and let the game get out of control pretty quick. Things really bubbled over after Street scored, but the two teams were hacking, whacking and slashing each other at every opportunity in a chippy, borderline dirty game.

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