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San Antonio Rampage 4 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 7

Feb. 12, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – An early scoring barrage and a hat trick by Chris Minard carried the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 7-4 victory over the San Antonio Rampage on Sunday at Van Andel Arena.

The Western Conference’s most prolific offense erupted for its second-most goals of the season, helping the Griffins (20-20-4-4) conclude their rare three-in-three at home on a high note. Minard’s second hat trick as a Griffin – and the team’s first of the season – gives him nine goals and 11 points in 12 games since returning from a concussion that forced him to miss Grand Rapids’ first 36 contests.

With the conclusion of their season-high five-game homestand, the Griffins will hit the road on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. EST clash against the Chicago Wolves.

San Antonio (27-21-2-0) entered the game as one of the AHL’s hottest teams, with wins in three straight and 10 of its last 12 games, but the Griffins rudely welcomed their visitors by scoring three times in the opening 2:57.

Minard set up on the doorstep to deflect a Jamie Johnson shot past Dov Grumet-Morris just 35 seconds into the contest, before Trevor Parkes darted down the slot to pot Louis-Marc Aubry’s centering pass at 2:14. Rampage coach Chuck Weber pulled Grumet-Morris in favor of Brian Foster after the former had stopped only two of four attempts, but when Foster ceded a goal to Tomas Tomas on his first shot faced just 43 seconds later, Grumet-Morris reassumed his position between San Antonio’s pipes.

Grand Rapids built a 10-0 lead in shots before the Rampage registered their first try at 13:53, but unfortunately for Griffins goalie Jordan Pearce, that 140-foot dump-in by Keith Seabrook wound up in the back of his net. From just above the faceoff circle in his own end, Seabrook teed up a shot that was headed several feet wide right of the Griffins’ cage, but when Pearce drifted out to play the puck, it deflected off the netminder’s stick and across the goal line.

Exactly eight minutes into the second period, Grand Rapids reestablished its three-goal advantage when Willie Coetzee carried the puck along the right boards and centered a pass for Gustav Nyquist, who had a step on a trailing defender and deftly lifted a backhand home. But just 90 seconds later, the Rampage answered on a long shot by Michael Caruso that slipped inside the right post, pulling San Antonio within 4-2.

With 4:29 left in the second, after an Aubry faceoff win in the Rampage zone, Mitch Callahan took a pass from Parkes at the bottom of the left circle and roofed a shot that clanged off iron on its way in. At the 19:31 mark, though, San Antonio converted a turnover into a backdoor goal by Michal Repik, making it a 5-3 game entering the final 20 minutes.

Bracken Kearns scored from the left side 9:09 into the third to slice the Griffins’ lead to one, but Minard responded with his second goal of the night from close range at 11:25 to again put Grand Rapids ahead by two at 6-4. Minard then finished off his hat trick by scoring into an empty net at 18:30.

Pearce turned aside 23 shots to earn his third win of the campaign, while Grumet-Morris suffered the loss behind 25 stops.

Three Stars: 1. GR Minard (hat trick); 2. GR Parkes (goal, assist); 3. GR Aubry (two assists)

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