Griffins Dig Deep to Rout Rockford 5-2|
Chase Pearson nets a pair in Griffins win...
By Jason Kasiorek
November 15th, 2019
The Griffins, missing three regular defenseman, hosted the surging Rockford IceHogs Friday night at Van Andel Arena. The story didn't look good for our heroes on paper, but the team dug deep and got key contributions from the fourth line and newcomer Alec McCrea making his AHL debut to hand the visitors their first loss in seven contests. Jarid Lukosevicius opened the scoring with his third of the year, while Chase Pearson (2,3), Matt Puempel (9) and Chris Terry (9) also scored in the win. Puempel's goal extended his point streak to 11 games, while Terry's two points padded his lead atop the the AHL's scoring charts to three with 24 points in 16 games.
The Griffins struck first just past the six-minute mark of the first period, with Jarid Lukosevicius walking into the middle right off the faceoff and wristing a shot past Delia for a 1-0 lead. About two minutes later Matt Puempel snuck in back door and arrived at the same time as Dominic Turgeon's pass for a quick redirect past Delia, stick side to run the lead to two. The fourth line of Lukosevicius, Gregor MacLeod and Dominic Shine was on fire all night, creating havoc around the net and giving the IceHogs fits. Lukosevicius drew a penalty while moving into prime scoring position with the puck. Joe Veleno won a battle in the corner for possession of the puck and fed Matt Ford in the circle for a shot. Oliwer Koski blocked a shot then picked up the wrong man and allowed his check to walk in for an easy tap-in to an empty cage. Rockford appeared to bat the puck past Pickard with a high stick, but it was waived off. Pickard got caught behind the net trying to play the puck, but the Griffins recovered and got the puck out of harm's way. Shots on goal: GR 13 - Rock 9.
Chase Pearson gave the Griffins a little breathing room when he fired a knuckler from the circle on the rush that beat Delia opposite side, low. Filip Zadina shifty with a sneaky burst of speed to surprise the Rockford defender and steal the puck in close. Moritz Seider in the box on a weak call, and then Brian Lashoff clears the puck over the glass, setting up a 5-on-3 advantage for the IceHogs. Holm scored pretty early into the penalties to cut the lead back to one. Shots on goal: GR 2 - Rock 13.
Koski couldn't keep his man from getting a grade-A scoring chance while shorthanded, Good save by Pickard. Griffins on the powerplay, sick play by Zadina who wound up for a shot but faked and put a perfect cross-ice pass onto the stick of Terry for the one-timer and a 4-2 lead. Koski immediately took a penalty giving the IceHogs a chance to pull closer. It was a rough night for the rookie rearguard. MacLeod with a steal and then into the Rockford zone and a nifty pass to Zadina. Zadina drew in the defender and then sent it back to MacLeod who couldn't get a stick on it. Joe Veleno with speed took a pass from Svechnikov for a good chance. Great pressure again by the fourth line, cycling the puck and creating chances. Delia to the bench with three minutes left for the extra attacker. Veleno skates in and sets up Pearson for the empty netter and a 5-2 win. Shots on goal: GR 9 - Rock 5. For the Game: GR 24 - Rock 27.
#15 Elson - #90 Veleno - #55 Ford
#73 Puempel - #23 Turgeon - #25 Terry
#37 Svechnikov - #22 Pearson - #11 Zadina
#14 Lukosevicius - #10 MacLeod - #65 Shine
#18 Lashoff - #29 Alec McCrea
#53 Seider - #5 Lindstrom
#9 Saarijarvi - #7 Kaski
Starter: #31 Pickard
Backup: #30 Larsson
#3 Blake Hillman
#15 Elson - #25 Terry - #11 Zadina
#73 Puempel - #5 Lindstrom
#55 Ford - #90 Veleno - #37 Svechnikov
#7 Kaski - #53 Seider
#22 Pearson - #65 Shine
#18 Lashoff - #29 McCrea
#23 Turgeon - #90 Veleno
#53 Sender - #5 Lindstrom
#15 Elson - #55 Ford
Going into the game tonight there was a feeling that offense would need to carry the day with Joe Hicketts, Dylan McIlrath and Jonathan Ericsson in Detroit and Alec McCrea and Blake Hillman up from Toledo. As it turned out the defense was very strong and the defensive players led the way offensively in a convincing win over the Rockford IceHogs, winners of six straight heading into tonight. The one dark spot on the blue line was the erratic play of Oliwer Koski who just had a tough night. Moe Seider stepped up and played one of his best games of the season, playing in all situations and logging a ton of minutes. He is just such a head-up player and did a great job of moving the puck.
Alec McCrea looked way more seasoned than a first year pro making his AHL debut. He was mobile and used his good positioning and solid stick work to shut down lanes and keep the puck out of harms way. If the griffins weren't as stacked this season on the blue line, this kid looks like he could step right in and be a contributor. Paired with Brian lash off, the two really closed off the Griffins end of the ice while they were out both at even strength and on the penalty kill. Gustav Lindstrom was also given more responsibility and stepped up to play a very strong game, looking much more confident than he has so far in the early going.
Great night by Chase Pearson, even if you take away the two goals. He was noticeable and energetic and crated some quality scoring chances for his line mates. I also have to give a shout out to Joe Veleno who is rapidly making the adjustment to the pro game and was a factor all night. I think he wore out some of the IceHogs defenders, trying to chase him down as he weaved his way in and out of traffic with the puck to create chances. He also was very good on the penalty kill and his anticipation is incredible as he knows where to be to intercept passes and shots, and is not afraid to sacrifice the body to block them.
Filip Zadina kept up his impressive streak of play as he rounds into a complete player. He never stops working with or without the puck and will battle int he hard areas of the ice. He has started to show off some other dimensions to his game as he adjusts, and his playmaking skills are very underrated as evidenced by some of the incredible goals he has set up out of seemingly nothing. As noted above, he has also learned to not skate at top speed all the time, using his change of pace to surprise defenders and puck carrier to force turnovers which he is capable of converting into prime scoring chances. His improvement over this point last season is night and day. On the Terry goal, he skated into his spot in the circle, wound up for the shot and everyone positioned to block it, and without changing his motion he sent it cross-ice, through traffic, tape-to-tape to Terry for a beautiful goal.