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Griffins Close Out 2017 With Three Game Winning Streak
Ford's overtime game winner sinks Admirals 4-3...
By Jason Kasiorek
December 31st, 2017

After a tough start to the season, the Grand Rapids Griffins look to be turning a corner as the calendar changes to 2018. Sniper Evgeny Svechnikov scored a pair of goals, giving him 3 in his last two games after scoring just 2 in the season's first 27. The Griffins held a 3-0 lead through two periods before squandering it in the third and forcing captain Matt Ford's heroics in the extra session. The win gave the Griffins their first three-game winning streak of the season. Jared Coreau made 27 stops to earn his 10th win of the season.

Things started off well for the home team as Matt Puempel notched his 12th of the season just five minutes in. Dan Renouf with a heads up play hit Puempel at the faceoff dot with a great pass and Puempel wired it in over Lindback's glove for a 1-0 lead. The Griffins attacked the Milwaukee net and the score would have been much higher if not for Lindback. Late in the period GR got their first powerplay, but Lorito promptly took a penalty to negate it. When the penalty expired, the speedy forward leapt out of the box and took a nice pass from Turgeon to go in alone on the Admirals Netminder. He just couldn't get it over Lindback's glove. Robbie Russo sprang Svechnikov on a break but Lindback made the initial stop and then a another on Russo's attempt with the rebound. Shots on goal: GR 18 - Mil 9.

Russo took an early penalty but the Griffins penalty killers were up to the task, keeping the admirals man advantage unit off the board. Turgeon with a sick behind the back pass from the corner to Campbell cutting through the crease for a quick re-direct, but it hit Lindback. Turgeon and Campbell force the shorthanded turnover for a nice chance in front. Holmstrom with a slick pass from the low slot to Svechnikov in the circle, Svechnikov on one knee ala Brett Hull cranked a shot into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead. Next shift, Hronek carried up the middle and hit the trailer Svechnikov for a point blank chance he roofed for his 2nd of the night. Shots on goal: GR 13 - Mil 11.

Milwaukee took advantage of an early Dan Renouf penalty to start their comeback. Just over a minute into the third, a long shot missed the net, hit the end-boards and took an Admirals bounce back inn front and right onto the stick of Smith who banged it past Coreau to cut the lead to two. This goal seemed to bring the Admirals to life and the they really started to take control of the game. Great defensive play by Joe Hicketts in front of the net to reach in and flick the puck right off the shooter's stick. Milwaukee regained control and Butler ripped a shot past Coreau to pull within one. Griffins doing there best to hang on and ride the clock out. Russo crosschecked Butler in the face right in front of the official with just three minutes left. Both players went off as Butler embellished the call. Lindback out for the extra attacker with two minutes left. Gaudreau, the extra skater, went right from the bench into the griffins zone and took advantage of traffic in front of Coreau to sneak a shot in past the Griffins netminder to tie the game at three. Shots on goal: GR 9 - Mil 8.

Milwaukee with a great chance on the first shift of overtime but Smith was called for goaltender interference setting up a rare OT powerplay. Ben Street in deep fed the puck across to Ford to the side of the net and he fired a bad angle shot from the line right into the top of the net for the win. Shots on goal: GR 2 - Mil 2. For the game: GR 42 - Mil 30.
GR Went with 11 forwards and 7 defenseman, meaning several players rotated in.

#77 Svechnikov - #25 Holmstrom - #55 Ford
#26 Tangradi - #10 Street - #73 Puempel
#28 Lorito - #23 Turgeon - #45 Campbell
several players - #47 Elkins - #65 Shine

#18 Lashoff - #9 Saarijarvi/#13 Hronek
#2 Hicketts- #52 McIlrath
#20 Renouf - #5 Russo

Starter: #31 Coreau
Backup: #30 McCollum

#19 Esposito - Scratch
#15 Elson - Illness
#37 Nastasiuk - Scratch

Tangradi -Street - Lorito
Puempel - Hronek/Saarijarvi

Holmstrom - Ford - Svechnikov
Hicketts - Russo

Turgeon - Campbell
Lashoff - McIlrath

Elkins - Ford
Hicketts - Renouf


Things were definitely not looking good in the third as the Griffins surrendered a three goal lead. Unlike earlier in the season, however, they didn't fold up like a house of cards, and just kept playing their game. There did not seem to be a lot of panic on the bench, hopefully a sign that things are starting to look up for the defending Calder Cup Champions.

One of coach Nelson's new line combinations really looks good, and it appears that Matt Lorito may have finally found a home. He was placed on the left side with Turgeon and Campbell and it has already paid dividends. Turgeon and Campbell are always hustling and forcing turnovers on the forecheck. Lorito has done a pretty good job of getting open and turning those into goals as of late. Some of his shortcomings are also masked by the defensive prowess and hustle of his linemates.

The competition for the last spot on the Griffins blueline has heated up. The Griffins chose to dress seven defenders last night and Hronek and Saarijarvi were both rotated in and out of a pairing with Lashoff and also powerplay point duties. While both had good games, Hronek really upped the ante, and was noticeable for the right reasons. In truth they both should be in the lineup regularly, but give props to coach Nelson for finding a way to get them both going.

Official Game Sheet