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Stockton Heat 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2

Jan. 28, 2017

Ben Street snuck behind the Stockton Heat defense to score the decisive goal with 2:51 remaining on Saturday and lift the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 2-1 victory at Van Andel Arena.

Along the right boards at his own blue line, Mitch Callahan spotted Street speeding up the middle of the ice and hit him in stride with a pass at the Stockton line. Street kept his step on two trailing defenders and beat Jon Gillies top-shelf to send the Griffins into the AHL all-star break as the first-place team in the Western Conference.

Street’s heroics would not have been possible without a stellar performance by Eddie Pasquale, who stifled the Heat behind 30 saves to earn his 10th win of the season. He improved to 10-4-3 while pushing the Griffins’ record to 28-12-1-2.

Having wrapped up a five-game homestand, most of the Griffins will enjoy the next four days off while head coach Todd Nelson, left wing Matt Lorito and defenseman Robbie Russo head to Allentown, Pa., for Sunday’s AHL All-Star Skills Competition and Monday’s AHL All-Star Challenge. Both events will be televised live locally by Fox Sports Detroit, at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and 7 p.m. on Monday.

After being shut out in each of their last two games, the Heat saw their streak extend to nine full periods thanks to a scoreless opening frame for both teams. Stockton had a prime opportunity to end its drought six minutes into the second after a turnover deep in the Griffins’ zone, but Pasquale came up big by denying Andrew Mangiapane’s point-blank chance with a beautiful left pad save.

The Heat (19-16-3-1) dodged their own bullet with less than five minutes remaining in the second, when Gillies momentarily lost track of a sharp-angle shot by Lorito before quickly falling back to cover the loose puck.

Kyle Criscuolo finally broke the ice 2:50 into the third period, taking a centering pass from Tyler Bertuzzi in the high slot and whipping the puck past Gillies’ blocker inside the left post. But the Heat answered only 45 seconds later to finally end their scoreless run at 204:12. From behind the Grand Rapids net, Mike Angelidis threw the puck out front to Austin Carroll, who snapped a shot over Pasquale’s glove from between the circles. 

Grand Rapids nearly scored moments after its fourth power play of the night expired with less than seven minutes remaining. The rebound of a one-timer launched by Evgeny Svechnikov from the right circle popped into the air but was corralled by Gillies before any Griffin could get a stick on it in the ensuing scrum.

Shortly after Street’s goal, the Heat pulled Gillies for an extra attacker to no avail, eventually suffering their fourth straight defeat and seventh loss in their last eight outings. Gillies gave his offensively struggling team every chance to win in its inaugural visit to Van Andel Arena, finishing with 37 saves.

Notes: Tom McCollum, a 2013 Calder Cup champion with the Griffins and the franchise’s all-time leader in goalie games played (226), minutes (12,737) and saves (5,653) after seven seasons (2009-16) in Grand Rapids, made his first Van Andel Arena appearance as a member of the opposing team, serving as the backup to Gillies. While a tribute video played during a first-period timeout, he saluted and waved to the crowd as fans welcomed him back with an enthusiastic round of applause…After their first-ever meetings with Stockton and San Jose this weekend, the Griffins have played four of the AHL’s five California teams. They clashed with Bakersfield and San Diego last season but have yet to face Ontario.

Three Stars: 1. GR Street (game-winning goal); 2. GR Pasquale (W, 30 saves); 3. STK Gillies (L, 37 saves)