HAMILTON, Ontario – In a contest that saw the tempers of a North Division rivalry flaring early and often, the Grand Rapids Griffins earned a 3-2 win over the division-leading and second-overall ranked Hamilton Bulldogs Friday night at Copps Coliseum.
The win gives Grand Rapids points in three straight games (2-0-1-0) for the first time since a four-game run from Feb. 9-15, as well as points in four of its last five contests (2-1-1-1).
The Griffins (27-34-3-2) and Bulldogs’ (43-15-3-5) rivalry will quickly be renewed with a rematch tomorrow night at 7 p.m., which will cap off a six-game season series in which Grand Rapids now owns a 2-3 record.
Grand Rapids drew first blood early at 5:51, scoring the lone goal of the opening frame. Francis Pare skated around the Bulldogs’ net and sent a pass out front to Jamie Tardif, whose shot bounced off Cedrick Desjardins and to the stick of Cory Emmerton, who tucked the rebound under the cross bar over the sprawled-out goaltender.
The physical play quickly picked up for remainder of the period, as several scrums erupted after the whistle and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen delivered a bone-crushing center-ice hit on Chad Anderson, before fighting Ryan White at 17:23.
Hamilton notched the equalizer with a shorthanded tally at 8:05 of the second period. Mike Glumac picked up a loose puck and sped out of his own zone on a break away and was denied by Daniel Larsson, but Grant Stevenson followed up by batting an air-born rebound into the cage. The goal marked just the third shorthanded tally against the Griffins this season and the first on the road.
The tie lasted a mere 1:40, as the Griffins’ trade deadline acquisitions connected when Jordan Owens from the right corner found Riley Armstrong breaking towards the net to snap a shot past Desjardins, giving each of them their first points with Grand Rapids.
Patrick Rissmiller put the Griffins up 3-1 just 1:17 into the third, after being left alone in the slot and backhanding the puck into the mesh off a pass from Sergei Kolosov at the point.
Hamilton answered at 9:15 as Aaron Palushaj found Ryan Russell streaking untouched through the goal mouth, where Russell roofed a backhand shot over the glove of Larsson to get his team within one. But Grand Rapids continued to outmatch Hamilton physically and held on for the 3-2 win.
Justin Abdelkader was held off the score sheet for the first time since Feb. 20, snapping his team- and career-high point streak at eight games (5-6—11). Meanwhile, Doug Janik’s career-high assist and point streak ended at five games.
Larsson gave a solid 32-save performance in the crease for the Griffins, while Desjardins made 17 saves for the Bulldogs.
Three Stars: 1. GR Rissmiller (GW goal); 2. HAM Russell (1 goal); 3. GR Emmerton (1 goal)