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CLOSE CALL, BUT PLAYOFF BOUND


TORONTO
– Eric Himelfarb scored shorthanded in the opening period, but the momentum shifted for the remainder of the game as the Grand Rapids Griffins suffered a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Marlies Sunday evening at the Ricoh Coliseum.

However, good fortune was on the Griffins’ side as the Peoria Rivermen lost 4-0 to the Milwaukee Admirals, allowing Grand Rapids to clinch its ninth playoff berth in 11 seasons. The chase for the Calder Cup will begin on Thursday in Winnipeg when the Griffins take on the Manitoba Moose at 8:30 p.m. in the first of the best-of-seven North Division Semifinals. 

Knowing the importance of the game at hand, Darryl Bootland went toe-to-toe with Colin Murphy to set the tone for Grand Rapids just five seconds into the contest.

That tone was displayed when Himelfarb scored his fifth shorthanded goal of the campaign, tying Matt Ellis for the regular season franchise record, at 16:05 with help from Ben Simon causing a neutral zone turnover.

But once the second period started the Marlies took control and never looked back. The equalizer came at 1:03 during a power play as Jaime Sifers fired a shot from the right boards that rebounded to Robbie Earl, who quickly put it behind Jimmy Howard from the left dot.

The bounces continued to go in favor of Toronto during the second period, helping it to claim a 3-1 lead before heading into the final 20 minutes. John Mitchell tallied unassisted at 7:18 after winning a battle along the right boards and capitalized on a snapper from the circle, and assisted Brett Engelhardt during a two-on-one at 19:40.

Sifers extended the Marlies’ lead at 16:31, blasting a shot from the top of the right circle during a power play before Michel Leveille finished the assault by sending the puck into an empty net at 17:59.

Howard finished the night with 35 saves while Justin Pogge continued his dominance over the Griffins with 32 and improved to 4-0 over Grand Rapids.




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