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GRIFFINS THREE POINTS OUT FOLLOWING 4-1 LOSS

HAMILTON, Ontario – A critical five-game road swing for the Grand Rapids Griffins began with a 4-1 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday at Copps Coliseum.

Hamilton’s Dan Ellis was forced to make just 19 saves as the Bulldogs strengthened their hold on fourth place in the North Division with their fifth win in their last six outings. The Griffins (38-31-2-2), who suffered only their third regulation loss in the last 13 games, nonetheless fell three points behind both Houston and Cincinnati in the race for the final two playoff spots in the West Division. Seven games remain for all three teams.

Grand Rapids will continue its road trip this Thursday with a visit to San Antonio, commencing its tenth 3-in-3 of the season.

After a scoreless and evenly contested opening period, the Bulldogs grabbed a 1-0 lead early in the second. Left by himself in front of the Griffins’ net, Jason Ward collected a rebound, drew Joey MacDonald down to the ice and popped a shot over the netminder at 1:29. A fortunate bounce then helped Hamilton extend its lead at the 11:40 mark. A blast from the point hit a body out front and deflected to Tomas Plekanec, who jammed his own rebound into the net from the right side.

Antti Miettinen’s wrist shot from 10 feet with 1:03 left in the period put Grand Rapids in a deep hole, but the Griffins finally lit the lamp with 21 seconds remaining to make it a two-goal game at the second intermission. Jiri Hudler knocked the puck down in the corner, chased it behind the net and flipped it out front to Eric Himelfarb, whose shot through traffic found the upper right corner of Ellis’ net.

Drew MacIntyre began the third period to provide a spell for MacDonald, who extended his franchise records by playing his 28th straight game and making his 21st consecutive start. A series of Griffins penalties late in the period, including an elbowing major to Peter Vandermeer, provided the Bulldogs (34-28-7-5) with about three minutes of 5-on-3 power play time. They did not let it go to waste, as Chris Higgins scored on a rebound with 6:21 left for the final margin.

MacDonald finished with 22 saves, while MacIntyre made four stops in just his second period of work since Feb. 20.

Over their four meetings this season, the Bulldogs were awarded more than twice as many power plays as the Griffins. Hamilton converted seven of its 32 chances, while Grand Rapids capitalized on only one of its 15 opportunities.

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