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Jan. 1, 2011 – Peoria Rivermen 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 0

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins began 2011 in much the same manner that they spent 2010, dropping their 10th straight meeting with the Peoria Rivermen by a 2-0 count at Van Andel Arena on Saturday.

Rookie Jake Allen, the AHL’s top-ranked goaltender, made 30 saves to record his league-leading fifth shutout and help Peoria improve to 5-0 against Grand Rapids this season. The Griffins, who lost all seven clashes against Peoria during the 2010 calendar year, have now dropped nine straight games to the Rivermen in regulation and 10 straight overall (0-9-0-1) since their last series win, a 4-1 decision at Van Andel Arena on Dec. 5, 2009.

After suffering just its second loss in its last seven home games, Grand Rapids (16-16-1-4) will close out a three-game homestand by hosting the North Division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The contest will conclude a stretch that has seen the Griffins play 12 of 15 games within friendly confines.

Both teams had fruitless breakaway chances during the opening period. Midway through the frame, Phil McRae sped in on Joey MacDonald and took a shot that fluttered over the netminder but managed to stay out of the net. The Griffins’ chance came with 6:30 left in the stanza as Allen closed the door on Francis Pare, one of the heroes of last night’s dramatic 2-1 shootout win over Toronto.

With 3:02 remaining in the second period, the Griffins were awarded seven minutes of power play time after Graham Mink jumped newly recalled defenseman Sebastien Piche behind the Grand Rapids net and received two minutes for instigating, five for fighting and a game misconduct.

The Griffins carried over nearly four minutes of that power play time onto the fresh sheet of ice, but it was the Rivermen who enjoyed the best scoring chance prior to its conclusion, as Tyler Shattock broke in alone on MacDonald before clanging his shorthanded try off the left post.

The Griffins’ inability to capitalize on their opportunity proved costly with 7:59 remaining. With Peoria generating pressure in the Grand Rapids zone, Dave Spina took a shot that MacDonald turned aside, but Anthony Nigro slipped the rebound past him from the right side to give the Rivermen a 1-0 lead on their 23rd shot of the night.

MacDonald, who deserved a better fate with 23 saves, departed in favor of an extra attacker with just over a minute left, and T.J. Hensick scored into the empty net with 18 seconds remaining for the final margin.

Notes: The Griffins played without the services of five regulars – forwards Jan Mursak and Tomas Tatar in Detroit, and injured defensemen Doug JanikBrian Lashoff and Brendan Smith – and lost forward Brandon Straub to injury during the game…Earlier on Saturday, Grand Rapids welcomed Piche on a reassignment from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye and signed forward Trent Daavettila to a professional tryout…The contest was the Griffins’ first-ever on New Year’s Day.

Three Stars: 1. PEO Allen (W, 30 saves); 2. GR MacDonald (L, 23 saves); 3. PEO Nigro (game-winning goal)

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