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HATS OFF TO HUDLER

Photo by Darren Abate.


SAN ANTONIO – It was a night for remedy and redemption at the SBC Center Wednesday – for goaltender Chris Osgood to get back to full strength, and for the Grand Rapids Griffins to get back on the winning track. Jiri Hudler’s hat trick ensured the latter, as the Griffins remained perfect through three road games this season with a 6-3 win over the San Antonio Rampage.

Hudler continued his incredible start to the 2005-06 campaign with another sterling performance, registering the second three-goal game of his AHL career. Both of his hat tricks have occurred in the Alamo, with the first coming in a 4-3 overtime win over the Rampage – almost exactly one year ago to the day (10/24/04).

The league’s reigning CCM Vector Player of the Week posted his seventh, eighth, and ninth goals of the season – extending his AHL lead in the category to a five-goal margin over Houston’s Erik Westrum. Hudler’s nine goals through five games sets an all-time club record pace, and his league-leading 13 points over the same time span are also best in Griffins history.

More history for the 21-year-old left winger: with tonight’s output, Hudler passed current Detroit Red Wings forward Mark Mowers for tenth all-time on the Griffins scoring list. By extending his goal-scoring streak to five games, it places Hudler just one shy of the team mark shared by Griffins greats Kip Miller and Pavol Demitra.

Nearly lost in the evening’s fireworks was the play of veteran goaltender Chris Osgood. The two-time Stanley Cup champion net-minder stopped 22 of 25 shots on his way to his first professional victory since the 2003-04 NHL season. Osgood began a conditioning assignment for the Detroit Red Wings with tonight’s start, recovering from a groin injury suffered in training camp a month ago.

Defenseman Bryan Helmer began the scoring with his first goal of the season on a wrister from the slot at 3:41 of the first. Captain Matt Ellis followed with a short-handed strike off his own rebound at 5:29, before San Antonio struck back to tie the score on tallies by Steve Gainey and Mike Bishai just 2:24 apart – as the first period horn sounded with the teams knotted at 2-2.

Only Darryl Bootland’s power play goal at 6:17 of the third would interrupt Hudler’s natural hat trick, and Layne Ulmer’s late power play marker for the Rampage made the final score 6-3. The Griffins improve to 4-1-0-0 and next visit the only team to beat them thus far this season – the Houston Aeros – in an 8:35 p.m. ET tilt at the Toyota Center Friday night.

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