03/23/2005 9:55 PM
MILWAUKEE Tomas Kopeckys overtime blast and 44 saves by Joey MacDonald lifted the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-3 overtime win over the Milwaukee Admirals at the Bradley Center on Wednesday night. The Houston Aeros won against the Utah Grizzlies to maintain a three-point lead over Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids (34-29-2-1) struck first when Peter Vandermeer notched the 100th of his professional career. Ernie Hartlieb fed Vandermeer on the crease. Vandermeer waited netminder Brian Finley out and deposited the puck between Finleys legs halfway through the opening period. The goal snapped the Griffins scoreless spell in the Bradley Center at 105:12, dating back to Todd Robinsons goal on Dec. 3 in a 1-0 Griffins win.
The Griffins doubled their lead when Blake Sloan kicked a puck from his skates to his stick and wristed a shot inside the goalpost at 2:51 of the middle frame. Jeff Panzer sent the pass to Sloan for his first assist as a Griffin.
Milwaukee (41-19-4-4) cut the Grand Rapids lead to 2-1 when Simon Gamache banged in a rebound at 5:29 for his 25th marker of the campaign.
Tony Hrkac evened the score at 2-2 with a power play goal at 7:36 of the second period. Dan Hamhuis ripped a shot from the blueline. Wyatt Smith deflected the shot in front of the net allowing Hrkac to steer the ricocheted shot into an open net.
Grand Rapids regained a 3-2 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the second period courtesy of Matt Ellis 17th goal of the season. Kip Miller gained control of the puck behind the Milwaukee cage. He waited for an open teammate in front of the net. Miller slid a pass to Ellis who quickly tapped it through Finleys legs.
Milwaukee again tied the score with a power play goal. With under a minute remaining, Brad Tiley unleashed a bullet from the blueline which evaded the traffic in the slot and MacDonald at 19:01.
The Admirals started the third period with Seamus Kotyk between the pipes, relieving Finley after 11 saves in two periods of work. Kotyk kept the Griffins at bay through the third period, stopping all eight shots.
The Griffins netted the winner on their only shot of the extra session. Kopecky and Miller darted through the neutral zone on a three-on-two breakaway. The duo worked a give-and-go allowing Kopecky to walk in and laser a shot past Kotyk.
The Griffins continue their important road trip with three games in Texas this weekend. They shoehorn a game against the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday between showdowns with the Houston Aeros on Friday and Saturday nights.
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