GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
Nate DiCasmirros second goal of the night with 3:50 left broke a 2-2 tie and propelled the red-hot Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-2 win on Saturday, spoiling the Peoria Rivermens first visit to Van Andel Arena.
The victory improved the Griffins AHL-best home record to 21-3-1-2, including an incredible 12-1-1-0 in their last 14 games in friendly confines. Grand Rapids, whose 37-12-1-3 record overall is the best 53-game mark in franchise history, has also tied team records with 13 wins in its last 15 games (13-1-0-1) and 19 wins in its last 23 contests (19-2-1-1).
The Griffins, league-leaders in both wins and points (78), will try to extend their nine-game point streak and their 10-point division lead on Tuesday, when they host the Manitoba Moose in a showdown between the North Divisions top two teams.
After Joey MacDonald made a big save to thwart a Rivermen scoring chance on the games first shift, Grand Rapids opened the scoring just 60 seconds in. Derek Meechs shot from the left boards was stopped by Reinhard Divis, but the puck trickled through his pads and rested tantalizingly on the goal line until DiCasmirro charged in to tap it across.
The Griffins shutout streak of 120:56 and run of 12 unanswered goals at home ended at the 3:21 mark, when Gavin Morgan stole the puck at Grand Rapids blueline and beat MacDonald on a breakaway.
The home squad regained the lead midway through the period, after Meech sprung Darryl Bootland on a break by threading a blueline-to-blueline pass. As he closed in on Divis, Bootland brought the puck to his forehand and slipped a shot inside the right post at 10:45, eclipsing his previous Griffins high with his 15th goal of the season.
The Griffins maintained their 2-1 lead late into the second period, when it was threatened by consecutive penalties that gave Peoria 2:50 in power play time, including 1:10 of a two-man advantage. However, the Griffins penalty killers, including the newly-assigned Niklas Kronwall, stifled the Rivermen to take their one-goal margin into the second intermission.
Grand Rapids, which entered the night 21-0-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes, saw Peoria tie the score halfway through the third period. Blake Evans deflected a Mike Stuart blast, and the bouncing rubber eluded MacDonald at 9:20. However, the Griffins quickly respond with a pair of quick goals late in the frame to pull out the victory. DiCasmirro redirected a Meech pass on the doorstep at 16:10, then set up Donald MacLean for an insurance tally at 17:37.
MacLeans 15-game point streak now stands as the second-longest in franchise history, two shy of Derek Kings standard.