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Jan. 4, 2017

– Thanks to two-goal, three-point nights by both Ben Street and Tomas Nosek, the Grand Rapids Griffins prevailed 6-5 over the Iowa Wild on Wednesday to reclaim the top spot in the AHL’s Western Conference in front of 8,515 fans at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins, who won their fifth straight game on home ice and are now 6-0-0-2 at Van Andel Arena since Thanksgiving, began the new year by earning points for the 15th time in their last 17 contests overall (12-2-1-2). As a result, their 0.703 points percentage (21-8-1-2) has nudged past Ontario’s 0.696 mark for first place among the conference’s 16 teams.

Nosek logged his second straight three-point outing and third since Dec. 7, paving the way for Eddie Pasquale to improve to 7-2-3 on the season behind 23 saves.

Street spearheaded a fast start for the home squad by scoring his two goals in less than two minutes, beginning 5:07 into the game. Joe Hicketts sent a stretch pass up to Mitch Callahan at the Iowa blue line, and the veteran slipped the puck across to Street for a wrist shot that beat Alex Stalock. Street struck again for a shorthanded tally just 1:55 later from nearly the same spot along the edge of the left circle, converting a pass from Dan Renouf off a Wild turnover.

Iowa, though, answered 27 seconds later during that same power play, with Zack Mitchell setting up in the right circle to deflect Zach Palmquist’s point shot behind Pasquale at the 7:29 mark.

Nosek made it a 3-1 game early in the middle period, tapping Martin Frk’s centering feed inside the left post at 3:52, but again the Wild quickly responded to get back within a goal, as Zac Dalpe made good on Colton Beck’s pass by scoring from the slot 36 seconds later.

After twice being down by a pair of goals, Iowa tied the score on Christoph Bertschy’s slap shot from above the left circle at 10:48, only to see the Griffins pull ahead 4-3 with 3:36 left before intermission, when Dominic Turgeon charged down the slot to clean up a rebound. Nosek then pushed the advantage back to two with his second of the night during a power play at 19:26, as he took a pass from Street at the Iowa line, split two defenders with speed and chipped a shot over Stalock’s blocker while falling to the ice.

The scoring continued at a frantic pace early in the third, with a pair of Wild markers sandwiching a Griffins tally to put Grand Rapids’ lead at 6-5 with more than 11 minutes remaining. Former Griffin Teemu Pulkkinen whipped a shot past Pasquale from the top of the left circle 49 seconds in for his first goal against his old mates, and a quick exchange saw Hicketts connect on a wrist shot from the point at 7:41 before Grayson Downing finished off a goal-mouth scrum at 8:32. 

Hicketts’ goal stood up as the difference, as the Wild were unable to score in the final minutes despite pulling Stalock for an extra attacker. The netminder made 27 saves for Iowa, which suffered its fourth consecutive loss to drop to four games below 0.500 on the season (14-18-2-1).

The Griffins will conclude their four-game homestand with games on Friday versus the Charlotte Checkers and Saturday against the Rockford IceHogs, with each faceoff at 7 p.m.

Notes: Matthew Ford earned an assist on Hicketts’ game-winner, highlighting his return after missing eight straight games due to injury…The Griffins have earned points in their last 10 home games against the Wild, posting a 9-0-0-1 series record at Van Andel Arena since sustaining a 3-1 loss to Iowa on March 8, 2014.

Three Stars: 1. GR Nosek (two goals, assist); 2. GR Street (two goals, assist); 3. IA Pulkkinen (goal, assist)