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Wild Slip Past Griffins in Shootout 3-2
Griffins defense shines bright in loss...
By Jason Kasiorek
November 2nd, 2018

The new look Griffins defense, playing together for only the first time all season, put on a convincing performance, holding the potent Iowa Wild offense to just 19 shots through regulation. Unfortunately it was not enough to give the Griffins a win as they were unable to capitalize on an early lead and ended up settling for overtime before falling in the shootout. The Griffins blueline featured four players who started the season with the parent Wings, Libor Sulak, Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts all saw games in the NHL, while veteran Bryan lashoff was recovering from a knee injury. Chris Terry (4) and Axel Holmstrom (3) scored in regulation, while Terry added a tally in the 2nd round of the shootout. Patrik Rybar was solid in his first start at home, making 20 saves and stopping 2 of 4 shooters in the skills competition.

Matt Puempel was presented with the Huntington Bank player of the month award in a short pregame ceremony before the opening puck drop. The ice was tilted in favor of the home team as the Griffins were very aggressive, spending large chunks of time in the Iowa zone, laying siege to the Wild's net. Axel Holmstrom snuck in behind another Griffins player, using him as a screen to to laser a shot in over Hammond from the high slot for his 3rd of the season. Grand Rapids putting a shooting gallery on Hammond with just a flurry of quality chances from every angle. Hammond stellar under the onslaught keeping the game 1-0. Griffins shorthanded giveaway and Rybar made the initial stop. The puck trickled through between his legs but Holmstrom dragged it out of the crease before it crossed the line. Shots on goal: GR 18 - Iowa 6.

Griffins in penalty trouble in the second period, two men in the box for over a minute. The penalty killers were up to the task, killing off a huge 5-on-3. Great work by McIlrath to bat a puck out with his glove behind Rybar as it was going in. Liambis slashed Zadina in front of the Wild bench, leaving the Griffins rookie in a heap on the ice, clearly in pain. Filip Hronek went right over and challenged Liambis and the Wild bench. The ensuing powerplay was underwhelming as the Wild ended up with several odd-man rushes and were much more dangerous than Grand Rapids. Shots on goal: GR 8 - Iowa 6.

Another ineffective Griffins powerplay and Iowa ended up with a 2-on-1 as it expired. Sulak took away the pass, but Shaw blistered a shot past Rybar to tie the game at one each. Elson with speed drove to the net and fed Puempel for a glorious scoring chance.Rybar waaaayyyyy out to play the puck, but got it out of harms way. McIlrath to the box for delay of game after a puck was cleared over the glass. The Wild had a short powerplay as Rybar again had a puck he stopped dribble through him, this time into the net to give Iowa their first lead of the game. Terry blazed up the wing and roofed a shot in over Hammond to restore the tie. Sick pass by Saarijarvi to set up a quality scoring chance in front. Puempel hit Camper back door, but he double-clutched and Hammond got over to take it away. Terry fanned on a one-timer in the slot. Griffins diving to block shots in front of Rybar as time ticked down. McIlrath and Prosser were trying to get at each other after the buzzer. Shots on goal: GR 8 - Iowa 7.

The Wild controlled most of the overtime with a couple of dangerous looking chances that the Griffins defense broke up. Great chance by Rau all alone in front of Rybar. Ford split the defense and and went in on Hammond for a great chance, but Hammond took it away. Hronek up the ice to Zadina for a 2-on-0 but the officials blew the whistle as Hammond was having equipment problems. The Griffins and Coach Simon were protesting and very unhappy. Hronek in alone and fanned on the shot. Ford got in behind the defense but the final buzzer sounded as he wound up for the shot. Shots on goal: GR 2 - Iowa 3. For the game: GR 36 - Iowa 23.

The Shootout:
Puempel was the first shooter for Grand Rapids, shooting in on goal and then missing the net with a quick shot. Sam Anas went for the Wild, popping the puck into the net over Rybar's shoulder, stick side. Chris Terry evened the score in the second round as he deked and backhanded the puck in over Hammond. Luke Kunin was the second shooter for Iowa, but Rybar knocked the puck away with the shaft of his stick. Filip Zadina started the third round, coming down the wing and cutting across the front. Hammond opened the five hole as he moved across, but still managed to make the save as Zadina slid it between his pads. O'Reilly was the third Iowa shooter, firing a shot off Rybar's leg pads. Axel Holmstrom started the fourth round, firing a low shot that Hammond kicked out. Fitzgerald won it for the Wild when his low shot beat Rybar in the fourth round for a 3-2 shootout victory.

#15 Elson - #19 Camper - #25 Terry
#11 Zadina - #26 Ehn - #73 Puempel
#55 Ford - #23 Turgeon - #28 Dylan Sadowy
#12 Pope - #10 Holmstrom - #65 Shine

#18 Lashoff - #13 Hronek
#4 Sulak - #52 McIlrath
#2 Joe Hicketts - #9 Saarijarvi

Starter: #42 Patrik Rybar
Backup: #29 Harri Sateri

#14 Hamilton
#27 Chelios
#45 Campbell (Concussion protocol)
#54 Smith

#55 Ford - #10 Holmstrom - #19 Camper
#73 Puempel - #13 Hronek

#11 Zadina - #15 Elson – #25 Terry
#2 Hicketts - #4 Sulak

#15 Elson - #23 Turgeon
#18 Lashoff - #13 Hronek

#55 Ford - #65 Shine
#2 Hicketts - #52 McIlrath


The Griffins defense was very impressive looking as a whole, and tonights game had a much different complexion then the last home stand. Libor Sulak in particular stood out with his fluid skating and footwork. He does such a good job of being in the right position, and it is interesting to watch his posture as he transitions from offense to defense. It was also interesting to see Saarijarvi take a step back with the deeper defensive corps as he was hardly noticeable this game after being a standout the last few.

Axel Holmstrom looks like a different player than last season as he seems to have gained a step and a whole lot of confidence. He has already scored 3 goals in 9 games which is half is output in a full season last year. He also just looks more intense and engaged which is a good sign.

Rybar needs to work on pinching off that five-hole better, but played a solid game, and looked better than Sateri did the last few starts. How much of that is because of the improved defense in fornt of him I am not sure. He played well enough to get the win.

Official Game Sheet