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OUT WITH A BANG


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
– The Grand Rapids Griffins brought 2008 to an end in style on Wednesday, setting a franchise record with their fourth shutout in the last six games, a 6-0 slaughter of the Iowa Chops at Van Andel Arena.

Jimmy Howard made 24 saves for his second shutout in his last three appearances, while Francis Pare and Francis Lemieux remained red-hot with three points (1-2—3) apiece.

The first-place Griffins (20-7-4-3), who maintain their two-point lead over Manitoba in the North Division race, pushed their point streak to a season-high eight games (7-0-1-0) with tonight’s victory and improved to 10-1-2-2 in their last 15 home games. They’ll look to continue their run on Friday when they pay their first-ever visit to Hartford at 7 p.m.

Just 5:35 into the contest, Pare gave Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead by lighting the lamp for the fifth time in the last eight games. After taking a cross-ice pass from Lemieux, Pare patiently glided down the right side before bouncing a shot off and over Jean-Philippe Levasseur’s blocker from the circle.

The Griffins then dominated the second frame, outshooting the Chops to the tune of 22-10 – one shot off the franchise record for a single period – and taking a 3-0 lead. During a power play, Mattias Ritola whipped a rebound into a yawning net from the slot at 2:47, and Ryan Oulahen finished off a 2-on-1 by beating Levasseur from close range at 5:29.

The floodgates opened early in the third, with Lemieux and Evan McGrath both scoring to make it a five-goal game with barely more than four minutes elapsed. At the 3:46 mark, Pare grabbed a turnover along the left wall and quickly centered a pass that Lemieux redirected from the doorstep, while McGrath tallied his eighth of the campaign 26 seconds later.

Jonathan Ericsson capped off the scoring with a power play blast from the point with just 2.8 ticks remaining to end a forgettable night for Levasseur, who finished with 31 stops.

The line of Lemieux, Pare and McGrath has now combined for 27 points (13-14—27) over the last seven games, helping the Griffins improve to an incredible 9-0-0-1 this season when playing four games in five nights.

Three Stars: 1. GR Howard (shutout, 24 saves); 2. GR Lemieux (goal, 2 assists); 3. GR Pare (game-winning goal, 2 assists)
 

Griffins Game Rewind
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Post-Game Sound Bites: 1 2 3
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