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SHOOTING STARS

Ben Simon


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Jimmy Howard made 27 saves and Ryan Oulahen and Ben Simon each had a shorthanded goal and an assist to pace the Grand Rapids Griffins to an important 4-1 victory over the Iowa Stars on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.

With the win, the Griffins (33-24-5-2) moved five points ahead of the Stars (32-29-3-1) in the race for a playoff spot with one game still in hand.

Grand Rapids, which improved to 13-4-1-0 in its last 18 games overall and 9-1 in its last 10 on home ice, will continue its four-games-in-five-nights test by hosting a pair against the North Division-leading Manitoba Moose this Friday and Saturday.

The Griffins used their special teams to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. At 9:54 of the opening period, Jamie Tardif planted himself at the right goal post during a power play and redirected a cross-ice pass from Jeff Campbell past Dan Ellis. The goal extended Tardif’s point streak to seven games and was his fifth lamp-lighter in the last five games, while Campbell’s assist gave him 29 points on the season, matching the 10th-best single-season total for a Griffins rookie.

Grand Rapids’ lethal penalty killing squad struck at the 13:34 mark, when Simon broke in alone on Ellis and sent a backhander five-hole for his second shorthanded goal in as many games.

Iowa made it a 2-1 game 4:53 into the second period. As Mark Fistric circled behind the Griffins’ net, he sent a pass out front to Shane Endicott, who quickly buried a shot high into the net from the bottom of the left circle.

The Griffins again scored while undermanned for their AHL-leading 20th shorthanded goal of the season, closing within one of the franchise record set in 1998-99. On a two-on-one break, Matt Hussey sped down the right side and sauced a pass across to Oulahen, who deked the goaltender and scored into the vacated net at 10:11.

Almost exactly one period later, Kip Miller increased the margin to 4-1 with another breakaway goal against Ellis, who got a piece of the puck before it trickled inside the left post with 9:51 remaining in the game.

Ellis made 18 saves in the loss, the fifth for the Stars in their last six games.



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