Griffins Stomp Syracuse 5-1
Leino breaks 20 game goal drought...
By Jason Kasiorek
The Grand Rapids offense clicked for five goals and a patchwork defense stepped up to lead the Griffins to a 5-1 rout of the visiting Syracuse Crunch. Five different players scored for the home team including Finnish phenom Ville Leino, his first goal since October 25th. But the real story was the outstanding play of the Griffins blueline, missing their top two rearguards - Jonathan Ericsson and Garrett Stafford - to injury. The Crunch were limited to just 21 shots on goal, and Jimmy Howard stopped all but one. Haydar (11), Helm (8), Pare (5), and Abdelkader (10) also scored in the win.
Syracuse's Grant Clitsome took a penalty early in the period, setting up the first of the Griffins' eleven powerplay opportunities. It only took 34 seconds for Darren Haydar to put Grand Rapids up by one, taking a nice feed from Ritola and blasting a shot from the line that found it's way behind LaCosta. They would ride that momentum through the rest of the period, really taking it to the Crunch, outshooting them 12-1 in the first nine minutes. The Griffins also did a good job of stacking bodies in front of the net to create traffic and screens. Darren Helm made it 2-0 around the halfway mark of the period, stealing the puck for a breakaway, and finishing it off with a couple of nice moves before just pushing it in. Shots on Goal: GR 17 - Syr 7.
Syracuse showed more life in the second, and the game got much more chippy and physical. The wakeup call came when the Crunch outshot GR 4-1 on their first powerplay of the period. Tom Galvin dropped the gloves with Alexandre Picard, who was at his agitating best, but the Griffins blueliner got the worst of the limited exchange. Frankie Pare made it 3-0 later in the period on the powerplay, taking a Ritola centering pass from behind the net and burying it from the slot for his fifth of the season. The Crunch finally got on the board 12 seconds later with York letting a shot go from the top of the circle that Howard probably should have had. Logan Pyett had a nice chance late in the period when he snuck in as the late man and ripped a loose puck just wide. Leino worked a shorthanded two on one with Abdelkader and ripped a high shot past LaCosta Glove side to give the Griffins a three goal lead with a minute and change left in the period. Shots on Goal: GR 8 - Syr 9.
The third period was a penalty filled affair with a steady stream of players (mostly from Syracuse) going to the box. At one point the teams played 3 on 3, a rare situation with lots of open ice. The Crunch took another penalty which should have led to a Griffins 4-on-3 powerplay, but for some reason it remained three on three. Abdelkader capped off the scoring late in the third, his tenth of the season, to put the nail in the coffin on this game. Shots on Goal: GR 13 - Syr 5. For the Game: GR 38 - Syr 21.
Oulahen - Helm - Downey
Leino - Abdelkader - Tardif
Lemieux - Gagnon - Pare
Ritola -Emmerton - Haydar
Pyett - Kolosov
Atherton - Jozsa
Ericsson - Shoulder
Stafford - Ribs
Ritola - Helm - Abdelkader/Emmerton/Pare
Haydar - Kindl
Leino - Abdelkader - Tardif
Kolosov - Pyett
Helm - Oulahen
Kindl - Galvin
Leino - Abdelkader
Jozsa - Kolosov
Lemieux/Haydar - Gagnon/Emmerton
During the early stages of the game I remarked that Ville Leino looked more involved, playing on a line with two gritty physical players in Abdelkader and Tardif. Sure enough he ended up back on the scoresheet later on. Hopefully this is the start of another hot streak.
Jakub Kindl had another strong game, especially on the PP where he did a great job on the point, keeping the puck in and distributing it to other players.
The defense as a whole had a pretty good game, a tough job without Stafford and Ericsson. Kolosov really was a standout, and seemed to thrive on the extra responsibility. His intensity level was up and he made a good first pass up ice.
Abdelkader was very gritty, sticking his nose in everywhere and really playing with a foul disposition. The budding young power forward even got a goal to continue his hot streak offensively.