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BREAKING AWAY



ROCHESTER, N.Y. – If it seemed like déjà vu for the Rochester Americans, the recurring haunting images of Grand Rapids Griffins skating in alone on goal were the reason why. Identical breakaway goals by team-leading scorer Jiri Hudler and a short-handed snipe by Matt Ellis paced a 4-0 Griffins win over the Amerks at Blue Cross Arena Wednesday night.

Kent McDonell keyed the first period offensive explosion, threading the needle to Hudler on both occasions by sending long passes from his own zone to the Rochester blue line. Hudler registered goals 27 and 28 on the season with relative ease, and his 73 points place him third amongst AHL leaders.

Following up with a short-handed bid on the team’s first penalty kill of the game, Ellis knocked the puck loose from the Griffins blue line after Nate DiCasmirro took his man out against the boards. The captain then took a direct path to the goal, where he cleanly beat goaltender Michael Leighton five-hole for a 3-0 Grand Rapids lead with 4:03 remaining in the first. With the sixth shorty of his career, Ellis tied the Griffins all-time team record previously attained by Kory Karlander and Michel Picard.

The second period featured the Grand Rapids penalty kill at its finest. The Griffins doused four Amerks power plays, and part of a fifth to close the frame, en route to a perfect 6-for-6 performance on the night. The team’s kill has had an overwhelming chilling effect on opponents during the month of February – allowing just two goals in 57 chances for a remarkable 96.5 percentage of effectiveness.

Yet another breakaway goal, and perhaps the most electrifying of four such strikes on the night for the Griffins, came at 3:43 of the third – as Tomas Kopecky executed a brilliant move to his backhand under duress for his 20th of the season.

Joey MacDonald was brilliant when called upon in net, stopping all 33 shots he faced for his second shutout of the campaign. The only sour note of the night for Grand Rapids: Donald MacLean had his team-record point streak snapped at 19 games. Updating the Griffins archives, Hudler passed teammate Travis Richards for fourth place all-time in career goals (57) – just four back of Slava Butsayev. Kopecky’s 51st moved him into a tie with Ed Patterson for sixth on the list.

With the win, Grand Rapids extended its season-best road point streak to eight games for a 39-14-1-4 overall record. The Griffins continue their four-game road trek Friday night with a 7:05 p.m. start against the Philadelphia Phantoms at the Wachovia Spectrum.

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