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Aaron Downey (L) and Justin Abdelkader


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Aaron Downey tallied his first goal since the 2006-07 campaign and added his first assist as a Griffin to lead Grand Rapids to a workman-like 3-1 win over the Rochester Americans on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids, which extended its home-ice point streak to seven games (5-0-0-2) and improved to 7-1-0-3 overall in friendly territory, will carry a four-game point streak (3-0-0-1) into a 4 p.m. Sunday road tilt against the Chicago Wolves, marking its fourth game in five nights. 

The Amerks had a great opportunity to take an early lead when Kenndal McArdle was awarded a penalty shot just 3:07 into the proceedings, but Jimmy Howard made a fine glove save to keep it scoreless and improve to 4-for-4 in penalty shots for his AHL career.

Downey instead staked the home team to the 1-0 cushion at the 10:51 mark, as he took a pass from Evan McGrath at the top of the circles, angled to the left and lifted a backhand past Chris Beckford-Tseu. The goal sparked a cascade of stuffed animals thrown onto the ice by fans as part of the Griffins’ ninth annual Teddy Bear Toss, which garnered approximately 1,000 toys for Hug-A-Bears of Kent County.

Grand Rapids (11-5-2-3) pushed its advantage to two goals with just 6.1 seconds left in the period, when Mattias Ritola banged home a rebound of Jamie Tardif’s shot from the left side.

Attempting to change their fortunes, the Americans swapped goalies during intermission to little immediate payoff. Late in the second period, a fierce flurry around the Grand Rapids net threatened to put the Amerks on the board, but the Griffins emerged unscathed and with a 3-on-2 rush and padded their lead to 3-0, with Justin Abdelkader sending a wrist shot past David Shantz from the high slot at 13:37. 

Rochester eventually lit the lamp with 1:59 left in the stanza, cutting its deficit to 3-1 on Stefan Meyer’s fifth of the campaign from the doorstep. The Amerks (3-17-0-1) continued to apply pressure during the third period but could not solve Howard for a second time, as they fell to 0-9 on the road this season.

Howard broke a personal four-game winless streak, finishing with 20 saves. Beckford-Tseu made nine stops in the loss, while Shantz turned aside 20-of-21 shots in a no-decision.

Three Stars: 1. GR Downey (goal, assist); 2. GR Howard (W, 20 saves); 3. GR McGrath (2 assists)
 

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