Rockford IceHogs 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2 OT
March 2, 2016
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – It was just another day, another third-period rally, another overtime power play goal and another win for the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday, as they beat the Central Division-leading Rockford IceHogs 2-1 at Van Andel Arena for their sixth consecutive victory.
Following Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against Chicago, when Andy Miele tallied the game-winner on the power play after Grand Rapids had trailed 3-1 in the third period, it was Mark Zengerle’s turn to complete the comeback tonight, just 39 ticks into the extra frame. From the left goal line, he tried to send a pass across to Eric Tangradi on the back door, but the puck was knocked into the net by the skate of sliding Rockford defenseman Ville Pokka. As a result, the Griffins improved to a sparkling 7-1 in overtime this season.
Tom McCollum, who shut out Iowa 3-0 in his last outing on Saturday, made 20 saves for his third straight win, during which time he has denied 79 of 82 opponent shots (0.963).
Rockford (30-14-7-4) drew its only blood during the opening period at the 15:44 mark. Out of the left corner, Mark McNeill threw the puck toward the slot to Bryan Bickell, whose snap shot from the edge of the left circle glanced off the right post before falling across the line.
Four consecutive minor penalties incurred by the Griffins (34-20-1-1) during the second period tested their penalty kill and prevented them from gaining much momentum, and the parade to the box continued when Tyler Bertuzzi was whistled off for high-sticking just 18 seconds into the third period.
But Bertuzzi, who scored four goals during Grand Rapids’ 4-1 series triumph over Rockford in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, made amends soon after by rekindling some of that magic to tie the game on the Griffins’ 22nd shot. Standing at the right faceoff dot, he took a long cross-ice feed from Zengerle and blasted a one-timer inside the far post of Michael Leighton at 6:37.
Another high-sticking penalty, to Rockford’s Jonathan Carlsson with 1:12 left in regulation, gave Grand Rapids its fourth power play chance of the night. The Griffins could not convert before the horn, but 48 seconds of that advantage carried into overtime, giving Zengerle the opportunity he needed to cap off a memorable night.
Leighton, who surrendered goals on two of the final 11 shots he faced, finished with 30 saves.
The Griffins, whose 22 home wins (22-9-1-0) are two more than any other AHL team, wrapped up a four-game homestand and will now play 14 of their final 20 regular season home games away from Van Andel Arena. The gauntlet begins this Friday and Saturday in Charlotte, with each contest beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Notes: Tonight’s near-capacity crowd of 10,017 lifted the Griffins’ average attendance for the season to 8,196. They need to average only 7,476 over their final six home games to achieve an average attendance increase at Van Andel Arena for the sixth straight season and ninth time in the last 10 years.
Three Stars: 1. GR Zengerle (overtime power play goal, assist); 2. GR McCollum (W, 20 saves); 3. RFD Bickell (goal)