Griffins Hold On For 6-4 Win|
Ritola and Leino Lead the way with two goal each...
By Jason Kasiorek
The Grand Rapids Griffins made a statement in the first period to their fans that this was a new year. They backed it up on the ice, scoring 6 goals in an energetic, exciting game featuring a little bit of everything that was a marked contrast to last season. Mattias Ritola led the way with 2 goals and an assist, while sniper Ville Leino added two of his own. Garrett Stafford had a goal and an assist, and West Michigan native Justin Abdelkader scored his third of the season. After a four goal first period, the Griffins backed off and allowed Hamilton back in, leading to a knuckle-biting finish.
After a rousing opening ceremony for the home opener, the first period was all Grand Rapids. Ritola gained the zone and held onto the puck drawing the Hamilton defenders to him. He hit a streaking Stafford with a perfect pass, and he stroked it past Denis glove side for 1 1-0 lead less than two minutes in. Abdelkader made it 2-0 a minute and a half later on the powerplay, camped out in front ala Holmstrom, he tipped an Ericsson point blast in past Denis. Less than two minutes later, Landon Wilson made a great play in his own zone along the boards to chip the puck past a Hamilton player and out to Emmerton who executed a textbook two on one with Ritola who buried it high, stick side. That was it for Denis as he went to the bench in favor of Desjardin. Ritola notched his second of the game just shy of the nine minute mark when Emmerton sprung him on a breakawy from center ice, roofing the shot over Desjardins. There was some controversy at the buzzer, as both lights came on, but it was ruled no goal, so GR ended the first with a 4-0 lead. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - Ham 4.
The Griffins had a lot less jump in the second, appearing to be content with a 4-0 lead, and not taking it to the Bulldogs. Russell got the dogs onto the board early in the second converting a pretty back door play. The Griffins had a 5-on-3 powerplay but could not get anything going. Miscommunication between Howard and Pyett at the end of the man-advantage led to a brutal turnover right in front that found its way into the net for a Hamilton Shorthanded goal. Late in the period the Griffins extended their lead to three when Helm spun around in the slot and let a shot go. Leino was in the right place, picked up the rebound and smoked it into the open side of the net for his third of the year. Things really started to get ugly at this point culminating in a hit from behind by Justin Abdelkader on Jancevski. Glumac took exception to the hit and jumped Abdlekader. "Abbie" turned the tables on Glumac and laid a beating on him in convincing fashion. Mursak coughed up the puck right in front of Howard, but the netminder came up big, making the stop. Hamilton is very chippy, with scrums breaking out after each stoppage in play. Shots on Goal: GR 12 - Ham 14.
D'Agostini took advantage of another giveaway to score an unassisted goal just past the opening minute of the period. The third period was penalty filled and very choppy with no real flow. D'Agostini scored his second of the period on yet another turnover to pull Hamilton within one goal with just over four minutes on the clock. Desjardins to the bench for an extra attacker with 35 seconds on the clock. A quick whistle killed Hamilton's as White and Oulahen engaged in a spirited tussle with Oulahen getting some good shots in. Leino sealed the deal with his second of the game, scored into an empty net, giving Grand Rapids a 6-4 win. Shots on goal: GR 5 - Ham 6. For the Game: GR 50 - Lake Erie 25.
#11 Leino - #15 Helm - #20 Haydar
#9 McGrath - #19 Abdelkader - #23 Tardif
#18 Ritola - #8 Emmerton - #26 Wilson
#13 Mursak - #16 Oulahen - #44 Downey
#4 Ericsson - #3 Pyett
#5 Kindl - #12 Galvin
#7 Stafford - #10 Jozsa
Starter: #33 Howard
Backup: #31 Larsson
Leino - Helm -Abdelkader
Haydar - Ericsson
Ritola - Emmerton - Wilson
Kindl - Stafford
Abdlekader - Tardif
Ericsson - Galvin
Mursak/Ritola - Oulahen
Kindl - Stafford
Leino - Helm
What a great first period! Also loved Johnny Walker with the anthems, and the video montage was good too.
While the offense was clicking on all cylinders, the defensive breakdowns got to be pretty ridiculous. Obviously some work to be done there, but the powerplay was much improved.
It looks like Mattias Ritola has finally put the pieces together, as his scoring has finally caught up to his talent, but not at the expense of his defensive game
Justin Abdelkader had a pretty great home debut, scoring a goal, winning a decisive bout, and displaying poise and energy.
Jakub Kindl looks greatly improved, showing good patience with the puck, and moving much better.
Logan Pyett is a good puck mover, making a strong first pass out of his end, but his defensive game needs a lot of work. He really needs to bear down more on the puck in his own end, his footspeed also could be improved.
Ville Leino was very impressive in all three zones, and his two goals notwithstanding, his most impressive play was ragging the puck on the PK and eating off over 30 seconds.