GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins matched a franchise record by scoring five goals in the first period and staved off a valiant comeback by Rockford, ultimately defeating the IceHogs 6-5 in a shootout Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena.
Twelve different Griffins etched their names on the scoresheet during the win that extended the team’s home point streak to seven games. In addition, Grand Rapids (22-8-4-3) has earned points in 15 of its last 16 home contests (11-1-2-2) and still has just two regulation losses through 20 games in friendly confines.
Moments into the contest, the flood gates opened on a seven-goal first period. Grand Rapids jumped out to a two-goal lead less than three minutes in on their first two shots. Justin Abdelkader lit the lamp at 1:32 and Francis Pare backhanded a one-timer past Antti Niemi at 2:39 off a feed from Francis Lemieux during a 2-on-1.
Rockford (19-14-0-4) quickly erased the deficit by tallying goals just 1:51 apart minutes later. Jack Skille sent a shot past Daniel Larsson from the top of the left circle at 6:56, before Pascal Pelletier took advantage of a breakaway at 8:47.
The Griffins finished the opening frame by scoring three more, with Aaron Gagnon wristing the puck under the cross bar from the right circle at 8:55, shortly to be followed by a Logan Pyett point shot at 10:11. The goal marked Pyett’s first tally of the season and the end of night for Niemi, as Corey Crawford took over in the Rockford crease. Ville Leino capped off the record-matching stanza by firing the puck past the IceHogs’ fresh goaltender at 16:18 during a power play.
But the IceHogs battled back through the final 40:00 and ultimately sent the game into a shootout. After Rob Klinkhammer made the Griffins pay on a turnover in front of their own net by pounding a loose puck in from the goal mouth just 1:16 into the frame, Rockford netted two goals during the final period. First, Jake Dowell scored a shorthanded goal at the 7:08 mark, deking Larsson on a breakaway after stealing the puck at his own blue line. Rockford then forced overtime, scoring with just 1:20 remaining in regulation when Pelletier sent a pass to the slot from the right corner that Pete MacArthur snapped into the net.
Following a scoreless overtime, Leino scored twice during the six-round shootout for the Griffins, including the deciding goal, while Evan McGrath also tallied. Petri Kontiola and Klinkhammer both netted goals for the IceHogs. Larsson, who made four saves during the dual session, had 36 on the night. Crawford stopped 37 of 38 shots he faced in relief for Rockford after Niemi made four saves on eight shots.
The Griffins will continue their three-game home stand Friday, in the first of a weekend set against the Philadelphia Phantoms at 7 p.m.
Three Stars: 1. GR Leino (1 goal, 1 assist, 2 shootout goals); 2. RFD Crawford (37 saves); 3. GR Larsson (36 saves).