Losing Streak Reaches Ten As Stars Top Griffins
Hartigan Scores A Pair in Losing Effort...
By Jason Kasiorek
The Grand Rapids Griffins continued to display their Jekyll and Hyde personality, racking up a franchise record 10th straight loss. It looked as if the streak might be over after a dominant first period which saw them out-shoot the Stars 20-4. But things fell apart in the second, and the team spiraled down again, needing Mark Hartigan's late heroics to force overtime where they lost in the shootout. Adam Berkhoel stopped 21 of 23 shots and 2 of 4 shooters in the shootout for the loss.
Grand Rapids came out of the gate really hustling, it didn't take long to realize this may have been the best opening effort of the season. The Griffins had a couple of dangerous chances on the powerplay early with Hartigan ringing a shot off the post on a nice back door play. They finally capitalized on their third man advantage of the game. Ericsson was screening in front, Hartigan got the puck in close and bounced it in for a 1-0 lead. Iowa looks shellshocked as the Griffins just keep coming at them in waves, and when they do manage to get the puck, the Griffins defense is aggressive and airtight. Incredible period, all in Grand Rapids' favor. Shots on goal GR 20 - Iowa 4.
McGrath started out the second with a great chance in front, and the team is getting good energy from the Walsh - Keefe line. Consecutive high-sticking penalties to Keefe and Insana leave the Griffins in a 5-on-3 hole. Lessard, all alone in the circle, smoked a shot that beat Berkhoel high, stick-side, one that the netminder probably would like back. Things get rough in front of the Griffins net with lots of pushing and shoving. Huge momentum shift after the Stars goal, Grand Rapids is imploding and has completely lost its confidence. Iowa winning all of the little battles and the Griffins look disorganized. Late in the period Tardif tipped a shot that beat Stephan, but the puck hit the post and went wide. Shots on goal GR 7 - Iowa 9.
Hartigan starts the third with a great chance, fighting through a trip for a shorthanded partial breakaway, but he couldn't get a good shot off. The Griffins had a couple of good shifts and looked to be showing some life when a defensive breakdown led to an Iowa two-on-one. Vas took the pass and fired it over a sprawled out Berkhoel high, glove-side. Grand Rapids tried to tie things up late in the third with several good chances by Tardif and Hartigan. With five minutes left in the game, Corazzini streaked and weaved in and out of the defense before finding Hartigan all alone at the side of the net for a backdoor slam. Things got exciting in the closing seconds when Tardif intercepted the puck and sprung Hartigan for the hat trick, but the play was blown offside. Shots on goal GR 12 - Iowa 7.
The overtime was an end-to-end affair with several dangerous looking opportunities for both teams. The best was when Tom Galvin got the puck in front of an empty net, but fell down as he tried to skate backwards as he lined up the shot. Shots on goal GR 1 - Iowa 3. For the game GR 40 - Iowa 24.
The shootout was very anti-climatic as Grand Rapids didn't show very well, only getting one shot on goal in four chances. Polak went first for Iowa, but Berkhoel made a nice kick save to keep the puck out. Mark Hartigan cut in on net and Stephan poked a rolling puck off his stick. Lessard was next for the stars, and he rang it off Berkhoel's pad. Corrazini forced Stephan to make a save on him, and then Sertich started the scoring, blowing a high shot into the GR net stick-side. Cullen made a nice move and had the puck roll off his stick, followed by Petersen who fired a laser past Berkhoel stick-side. Ritola was the last shooter for GR and made a slick move only to have the puck roll off his stick. Iowa wins 3-2 in the shootout.
Corazzini - Hartigan/McGrath - Helm
Ritola - Cullen - Tardif
Oulahen - McGrath - Gelech
Walsh - Helm/Oulahen - Keefe
Galvin - Quincey
Ference - Stafford
Insana - Ericsson
Corazzini - Cullen - Ericsson/Tardif
Hartigan/Ericsson - Stafford
Helm - McGrath - Tardif
Insana - Quincey
Tardif - Oulahen
Ference - Ericsson
Insana - Quincey
Hartigan - Gelech
This team has some very fragile confidence, and you could tell when they ended up on the wrong side of that 5-on-3 early in the second that things were going to go bad. After that powerplay goal, the whole team collapsed until late in the third when Hartigan and Tardif tried to get them going. It would appear that they are lacking some leadership in the room to help them shrug things off.
Hartigan and Tardif were easily the two most dangerous players on the ice for Grand Rapids. They both went to the net and made things happen. Tardif was officially credited with 6 shots on goal, but he had at least that many more that hit posts or bodies and changed directions.
It is staggering to watch all of the mistakes that veteran Andrew Ference makes in a given night. For someone that has over 500+ pro games including 250 at the NHL level, much more is expected. Overheard in our section was a fan wondering if he needed glasses because of all the pucks he couldn't get a stick on.
Jonathan Ericsson had an off night and looked to be playing in Quicksand, slow to react or move up ice.
Ryan Oulahen stepped up his game, leading by example doing all of the little things (Blocking shots, battling in the corners, etc.) to help his team win.
Mattias Ritola was more involved tonight, especially defensively and on the forecheck. He had a huge open ice hit in the first and was very noticeable.
Winger Johan Ryno while listed as a scratch, has apparently returned to Sweden for further seasoning. While the 6-5 Ryno had 7 points in 12 games, it was obvious he needed some more time to grow into his size, and it wouldn't hurt to work on his foot speed either.