In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins have had an up-and-down week thus far, with one more home game to come on Saturday night (against Milwaukee).
On Friday, things did not go so well, with the Griffins blowing 1-0 and 2-1 leads en route to a 4-2 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Matt Puempel had a goal and an assist and Eric Tangradi scored his 25th goal of the season, but the Griffins could not withstand a 3-goal 3rd period push from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2
March 2, 2018
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In their first West Michigan appearance in more than nine years, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins scored three times in the third period on Friday to waddle away with a 4-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.
After Garrett Wilson tied the score at 2-2 with a power play goal early in the final frame, Teddy Blueger capitalized on a turnover in the slot to pot what turned out to be the game-winning goal before Wilson tallied into an empty net in the final minute.
The Griffins, who were held to a season-low 19 shots, suffered just their second regulation loss in the last 16 games (12-2-0-2) and their fifth in the last 29 (21-5-0-3), falling to a Penguins squad that owns the fourth-highest points percentage in the AHL at .657.
Grand Rapids (31-20-1-6) will close out its homestand on Saturday by hosting the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m., marking the Griffins’ sixth home game in a span of 11 days. They will then play only six of the season’s final 17 games at Van Andel Arena.
Matt Puempel, who scored seven goals in 16 games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during his five seasons as a Binghamton Senator (2011-16), renewed acquaintances with his old foe by lighting the lamp 1:43 into the opening period. Ben Street chased down the puck in the right corner and immediately threw it out into the slot, where it glanced off the stick of Eric Tangradi on its way to a trailing Puempel, who hammered it past Anthony Peters.
The Griffins momentarily appeared to have doubled their lead during a power play at the 8:14 mark when Puempel’s blast from the left point found the back of the net. But the goal was immediately waved off by the referee, who ruled that Tangradi had made accidental contact with Peters while staking his ground atop the crease. The Griffins unsuccessfully argued that defenseman Kevin Czuczman had checked Tangradi into the netminder as the pair tussled for position.
The Penguins (33-16-4-1) answered early in the second period, as Adam Johnson circled behind the net before slipping a sharp-angle shot past Tom McCollum from the bottom of the right circle at 2:04.
Grand Rapids reclaimed the lead during a power play midway through the frame thanks to the crease-disturbing prowess of Tangradi, who split his first four pro seasons (2009-13) between the Baby Pens and Pittsburgh. Puempel launched a shot from the top of the left circle that Tangradi tipped inside the far post at 11:10 for his team-leading 25th goal of the season, an AHL-high 16 of which have come since Jan. 1.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton again knotted the score, 3:22 into the third in a near-replica of Tangradi’s tally. The Penguins used their own man-advantage to perfection, with Czuczman taking a shot above the left circle that a screening Wilson redirected into the right corner of the net.
A turnover in front of the Griffins’ net turned into the ultimate game-winner for the Penguins during a 4-on-4 at the 7:58 mark. Matthew Ford couldn’t handle Colin Campbell’s pass from below the goal line, and a forechecking Blueger was there to pounce on it and put his own rebound past McCollum from the doorstep.
McCollum, who stopped 25 of 28 shots, headed to the bench in lieu of an extra attacker in the waning minutes, enabling Wilson to record his second goal of the night into the vacated cage with 41 seconds remaining.
Peters made 17 saves in the win.
Notes: The Griffins celebrated their seventh annual Purple Community Game, with proceeds from a post-game auction of their purple jerseys benefiting the Van Andel Institute…The last time the Penguins visited Van Andel Arena – a 3-2 shootout win for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 21, 2008 – George W. Bush was in the final months of his presidency and the Griffins’ lineup included now-veteran Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard, Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson and Darren Helm, who scored both of Grand Rapids’ goals.
Three Stars: 1. WBS Blueger (game-winning goal, assist); 2. GR Tangradi (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Puempel (goal, assist)
The Griffins also posted a photo gallery, a highlight clip and an interview clip:
He has scored five times the past seven games as he closes in on his career high of 28 set in 2015-16, his first season with the Griffins.
“Here, rounding my game out late, I feel like I’ve found my stride at the right time,” said Tangradi. “For me, I always knew I could play this type of hockey, it was just a matter of putting all the pieces together and, mentally, I feel like I’m in a strong place.”
Last season he was besieged by injuries and held to 44 points (17-27-44) in 54 games.
This season he’s missed just one game and has 45 points (24-21-45) along with a more relaxed approach, compliments of his family life.
“A lot of it is what I do away from the rink now,” he said after Wednesday’s game. “I used to put a lot of pressure on myself in the past. Now, being married and having a kid, it’s easier when you get home to turn your mind off.
“I’ve found that’s been the biggest thing that has helped me. Knock on wood I continue to do the right things to stay healthy because I’m feeling pretty good about me game right now.”
Friday night’s game was the Griffins’ “Purple Game” to raise funds for the Van Andel Institute, and Wallner reports that the Griffins had a special guest drop the puck:
Evan Beukema has caught a pass in the high school football state finals and been a starter in soccer and basketball, but he never expected to find himself on the ice before more than 10,000 people.
It might have been his greatest athletic moment except Beukema doesn’t play hockey.
But he has overcome cancer.
The former South Christian High School athlete dropped the ceremonial first puck Friday as part of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Purple Community game in conjunction with Van Andel Institute.
The 21-year-old Caledonia resident was presented with the puck by Griffins captain Matthew Ford before the start of the game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye had a better Friday evening, with Colin Jacobs, Simon Denis (1G, 2A), Dylan Sadowy and Mike Borkowski (1G, 1A) scoring goals and Pat Nagle stopping 18 of 20 shots as the Walleye defeated the South Carolina Stingrays 4-2. The Walleye’s website posted a recap:
Walleye tie record for consecutive home wins with victory over Stingrays
(Toledo, OH) – The Walleye defeated the Stingrays 4-2 on Friday night in Toledo. Simon Denis picked up three points and Pat Nagle stopped 18 of 20 shots to improve to 28-4-2-1 on the season. The Walleye are 39-14-2-2 on the season and 24-4-0-0 at home. The win tied their record for consecutive home victories set in 2015-16, which was 13 straight.
The Walleye would dominate much of the play in the first period, outshooting South Carolina 15-4. Toledo would break a scoreless game at 11:20 of the first when Colin Jacobs picked up the rebound on Simon Denis’ original shot and snuck it past Stingrays goaltender, Jeff Jakaitis, on the power play to make it 1-0. “A lot of that shot was the puck being up at the net and I just had to pick up the rebound,” Jacobs said. “They don’t let in many pucks in with clean shots, you have to pick up those rebounds.”
Shane Berschbach sent a pass over to Denis, who slammed the puck into the back of the net on the power play to make it 2-0 at 16:18 of the second frame.
South Carolina would sneak the puck past Nagle just 14 seconds into the third period to cut the Walleye lead to 2-1 on the power play. Dylan Sadowy would give the Walleye a 3-1 lead at 1:11. Christian Hilbrich’s dump-in hit the glass, and bounced in front to Mike Borkowski, who found the back of the net at 12:07 to make it 4-1. South Carolina would cut the Walleye lead to 4-2 at 17:12 of the final period.
Coach Watson considered this a playoff type game. “I knew it was going to be a battle,” said Watson. “The special teams is huge, especially in the playoffs, and I consider this to be a playoff game.”
The Walleye are home Saturday for a 7:15 p.m. puck drop against South Carolina. The team is in Brampton on Sunday for a 2:00 p.m. puck drop against the Beast.
Nagle stopped 18 of 20 shots and improves to 28-4-2-1 on the season. He’s currently on a ten-game winning streak, continuing his record. He was named ECHL goaltender for the month of February after going 8-0-0.
Dylan Sadowy has scored in six straight games and has 11 points in his past nine games.
Beau Schmitz skated in his 300th career game tonight.
Colin Jacobs scored in his first game as a Walleye tonight.
Tonight’s victory ties a record set in 2015-16 of 13 straight home wins.
The Walleye also posted a highlight clip and interviews with Colin Jacobs and coach Dan Watson:
In the KHL, on Thursday, Alexander Kadeikin finished at -1 with 1 shot and a 57% faceoff record in 12:39 played during Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s 5-2 loss to CSKA Moscow;
In the Finnish Liiga, on Thursday, Libor Sulak had an assist, finishing at +1 in 21:49 played as the Lahti Pelicans lost 4-2 to KalPa;
In the SHL, on Wednesday, Christoffer Ehn did not play in the Frolunda Indians’ 2-1 win over Brynas IF;
In the Swedish Allsvenskan, on Friday, Mattias Elfstrom scored a goal in Vasterviks IK’s 4-1 win over Sodertalje SK;
Gustav Lindstrom played on the second defensive pairing in Almtuna IS’s marathon 4-3 shootout loss to MODO Ornskoldsvik;
In the Swiss NLA, Joren van Pottelberghe served as the back-up to Gilles Senn in HC Davos’ 2-0 loss to SC Bern;
In the OHL, on Wednesday, Jordan Sambrook had 2 assists and finished at +2 on 1 shot as his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds won 4-1 over the Saginaw Spirit. Sambrook was named the game’s third star, and Reilly Smith finished at -1 with 3 shots for Saginaw;
On Thursday, Kaden Fulcher stopped 30 of 34 shots in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 5-4 OT win over Niagara;
Cole Fraser finished at -1 with 1 shot and Zach Gallant did not play for the Peterborough Petes as Peterborough lost 4-3 to London;
On Friday, Jordan Sambrook finished even with 2 shots in the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds’ 6-5 shootout win over Sarnia;
Kaden Fulcher served as the back-up in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Ottawa;
Givani Smith finished at -1 with 2 shots in the Kitchener Rangers’ 3-2 loss to Oshawa, but Smith was named the game’s second star;
In the WHL, on Wednesday, Lane Zablocki finished at -1 with 2 shots and a 5-for-13 faceoff record in the Victoria Royals’ 5-1 loss to Kamloops;
On Friday, Dennis Cholowski had an assist, finishing at -1 with 1 shot in the Portland Winterhawks’ 5-4 shootout loss to Seattle;
Lane Zablocki finished at -1 with 3 shots, a 3-for-3 faceoff record and a fight in the Victoria Royals’ 2-1 OT loss to Prince George;
Michael Rasmussen finished even with 3 shots and a 5-for-17 faceoff record in the Tri-City Americans’ 5-4 OT loss to Spokane;
In the USHL, Filip Larsson did not dress in the Tri-City Storm’s 4-1 loss to Cedar Rapids;
In NCAA hockey, on Friday, in playoff action:
Chase Pearson finished at +2 with 2 shots and a 12-for-25 faceoff record, and Patrick Holway finished even with 2 shots in the University of Maine Black Bears’ 4-1 win over New Hampshire. Maine has a 1-0 lead in the teams’ best-of-3 series;
Chase Perry served as the back-up in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers’ 3-1 loss to Colgate. Colgate has a 1-0 lead in the teams’ best-of-3 series;
Keith Petruzzelli got a surprising start and he stopped 22 of 23 shots as the Quinnipiac Bobcats won 5-1 over Yale. Quinnipiac has a 1-0 lead in the teams’ best-of-3 series;
In regular season action, David Pope had an assist, finishing even with 2 shots in the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s 4-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth.