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BEYOND COM-PARE

Rochester Americans 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5

March 5, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.Francis Pare’s first career hat trick led the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-2 win over the Rochester Americans on Saturday and a sweep of their crucial two-game set at Van Andel Arena.

A near-capacity crowd of 10,058 saw the Griffins extend their season-high home winning and point streaks to four and six games (5-0-0-1), respectively, and improve to 6-1-0-2 in their last nine games overall. As a result, they’ve pulled within five points of a guaranteed playoff berth in an ever-tightening North Division race.

The Griffins (29-25-1-8), who have won five of their last six and claimed their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 5-11, 2009 – a span of 118 games – will commence a four-game road trip by visiting the Peoria Rivermen on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. EST.

Grand Rapids grabbed the lone goal of the opening period at the 4:56 mark. Brendan Smith’s slap shot from the point was redirected by Joakim Andersson right to the stick of Pare, who pushed the puck into a wide-open cage from the doorstep. The goal was Pare’s 56th as a Griffin, tying him with Travis Richards for 11th on the franchise’s all-time list.

Michael Duco tied matters during a Rochester power play 3:10 into the second, tipping Chris Taylor’s shot from the left side past Jordan Pearce.

Pare then seized sole possession of 11th place among Griffins goal scorers at 7:41, putting Grand Rapids back on top at 2-1. Sprung on a breakaway by an outlet pass from Smith, he skated in alone on Tyler Plante and deked to his backhand before lifting a shot over the netminder’s glove.

Former Griffin Mark Cullen answered for the Amerks (29-29-3-3) less than two minutes later, picking up a loose puck to the right of the cage and stuffing it past Pearce from close range at 9:22.

Pare completed the hat trick with 31 seconds remaining in the period to make it 3-2, one-timing Andersson’s pass into the back of the net from the right circle. He now resides just three goals behind 10th-place Slava Butsayev (61) on the team’s all-time list.

Chris Minard provided breathing room by scoring from the slot with 3:02 left in the third, giving him goals in three straight games and six of the last seven contests, before Tomas Tatar tallied into an empty net at 19:16 for the final margin.

Pearce, now 10-3-0-4 in his last 17 decisions, made 27 stops in the win, while Plante turned aside 37 in defeat.

Three Stars: 1. GR Pare (hat trick); 2. GR Andersson (two assists); 3. GR Smith (two assists)
 

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