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Griffins Raise Banner, Rout Moose 5-2
4th Line keys offense in season opening win...
By Jason Kasiorek
October 6th, 2017

On a night when the Grand Rapids Griffins raised their Calder Cup championship banner, it was only fitting that the fourth line that played such a large role in their postseason success provided most of the fireworks. The trio accounted for three goals and 6 assists in leading the Griffins over the visiting Manitoba Moose 5-2 at Van Arena. The home team took an early lead scoring three first period goals, then held on as the Moose tried to mount a comeback. Fan Favorite Dylan mcIlrath scored his first goal as a Griffin late in third to close out the scoring. Netminder Jared Coreau made 27 stops on 29 saves and looked very strong in the net in picking up his first win of the season.

Grand Rapids was able to come out strong despite the pre-game banner raising and celebration. They overcame an early penalty to captain Matt Ford, showing off the strength of their penalty killing units. Dominik Shine used his speed to get inside and cut to the net with the puck but was taken down setting up a GR powerplay. Ben Street at the point faked a shot and then slid the puck cross-ice to Ryan Sproul at the other point. Sproul fired a cannon of a shot into the top corner of the net for a powerplay tally and a 1-0 lead. A minute and a half later the Griffins 4th line victimized the Moose, Great work by Campbell to win the battle and take the puck behind the net for a wraparound chance with Comrie cheating to the other side of the cage, and Turgeon banged home the puck from the edge of the crease. Eric Tangradi sent Street in alone, but he fired it over the net. Late in the period Turner Elson faked a shot and feathered a pass through to the side of the net where Colin Campbell batted it out of the air and into the net. Brendan Lemieux made contact with Coreau, drawing a meeting with McIlrath, look for more on this later. Shots on goal: GR 9 - Man 7.

Matt Lorito not strong at the line on the powerplay, allowing Schilling to get the puck around him and down the ice with speed. Schilling drew the defenders and then centered the puck for Maclise who was crashing the net and tipped it past Coreau for a shorty. Another turnover led to a Manitoba breakaway, but Sproul chased him down and made a nice defensive play to poke the puck off his stick without taking a penalty. Sgarbossa in the slot rang a shot off the post that stayed wide. Play went back the other way and Sproul took a pass in the slot and fired a big shot that stung Comrie. Sproul took exception to Buddy Robinson and the two spent some time pushing and shoving as tempers have started to heat up. Joe Hicketts was smoked into the end boards with no call. Big Dylan McIlrath called out the offender and then called out the Manitoba bench, but no one wanted a piece of him. Renouf in the box for slashing and Coreau had to make a couple of point blank stops. The Griffins started to push the pace again after successfully killing off the penalty. The top line started cycling the puck deep in the Manitoba zone, making tic-tac-toe passing plays to keep the Moose running around. Big hit by Tangradi sent a pair of Moose down. Great play by Campbell to thread a pass through a diving defenseman to Turner Elson. Elson kicked it to his stick and fired it in over Comrie for a 4-1 lead. Shots on goal: GR 10 - Man 10.

Dan Renouf and Kale Kessy dropped the gloves early in the third period. Renouf got a couple of good shots in early before going down after a flurry of blows to the head. The Griffins seemed to sag after the fight, and the Moose really carried play for a large part of the third period. Defensive breakdown in the GR zone, Coreau hung out to dry, made the first two stops before Stoykewych lifted it over the the sprawled out netminder. Comrie was summoned to the bench late in the period for an extra skater as the Moose attempted to make up the two goal deficit. Grand Rapids managed to clear the zone and force a faceoff at center ice, bringing Comrie back out. Dylan McIlrath had a lot of room at the point and walked right up the slot before wristing a shot past Comrie through traffic for his first goal as a Griffin and a 5-2 lead. Brandon Lemieux took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, killing the chances for a Moose comeback. Shots on goal: GR 3 - Man 12. For the game: GR 22 - Man 29.

#26 Tangradi - #10 Street - #55 Ford
#19 Esposito - #25 Holmstrom - #28 Lorito
#29 Sadowy - #47 Elkins - #65 Shine
#15 Elson - #23 Turgeon - #45 Campbell

#2 Hicketts- #52 McIlrath
#18 Lashoff - #5 Russo
#7 Sproul - #20 Renouf

Starter: #31 Coreau
Backup: #30 McCollum

#9 Saarijarvi
#12 McCarron
#13 Hronek
#21 BorkowskiBR> #22 Carey
#37 NastasiukBR>
#39 Bertuzzi
#77 Svechnikov
Were introduced with the team, but are technically still on injured reserve with Detroit (NHL).

Ford - Lorito - Tangradi
Sproul - Street

Sadowy - Holmstrom - Esposito
Hicketts - Russo

Turgeon - Campbell
Lashoff - Hicketts

Tangradi - Street
Renouf - McIlrath

Elkins - Ford


Nice ceremony to celebrate the Calder championship and introduce the new captain, Matt Ford, who brought the cup out. The crowd was definitely into the video and watching the banner raise to the rafters. Per coach Todd Nelson's wishes, the celebration was short and to the point so his team could get down to the business of defending the cup.

The Griffins had a lot of jump off the opening faceoff, and then tailed off as the game went on, how much the 3-0 lead played in that I don't know. In any case they had enough to polish off Manitoba and tomorrows rematch should be a rough one.

Can't say enough about the 4th line, Campbell (1+2), Turgeon (1+1) and Elson (1+3) had big nights, both offensively but also defensively, especially on the PK. At one point in the second they were even rewarded with a powerplay shift. It seemed at times last year that no matter how good Turgeon and Campbell were defensively, they were snakebit around the net. Here's to hoping this is a sign of things to come.

Ryan Sproul and his big shot were a welcome addition to the man-advantage unit and helped to cushion the loss of Martin Frk's heavy shot. Despite ending the night -2, he had more good defensive plays than bad ones and did a very good job of transporting the puck and getting the puck at the net.

Also have to give a thumbs up to big Dylan McIlrath who played a pretty good game on the blueline, provided a physical presence without taking a bunch of bad penalties, and even scored a goal.

On the other side of the ledger, the second and third lines were almost invisible on the evening, one nice rush by Dominik Shine being the lone bright spot. The first line didn't produce much but that was not from lack of effort. Robbie Russo also stood out for the wrong reasons and shows what a worthless stat plus/minus is for evaluating a player. Several times he flailed at the puck, sending it right onto the stick of a manitoba player, and was ver lucky that partner Brian lashoff was there to bail him out after mis-reading a play.