Special Teams Resurgence
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 6 at Texas Stars 2
Feb. 3, 2023
CEDAR PARK, Texas - The Grand Rapids Griffins’ penalty kill and power-play units came up big in a 6-2 win against the Texas Stars on Friday at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Grand Rapids tallied a pair of man-advantage goals, as well as a short-handed score from Cross Hanas. This was the first time since Dec. 22 (8-7 OTW at CHI) that the Griffins have lit the lamp multiple times on the power play. Grand Rapids’ penalty kill was 5-for-5 despite the Stars coming into the contest ranking 10th in man-advantage conversion rate in the AHL. Taro Hirose (2-1–3), Matt Luff (0-2–2), Austin Czarnik (0-2–2), Albert Johansson (1-1–2) and Joel L’Esperance (0-2–2) each contributed two or more points to the scoresheet. Filip Zadina played the first game of his conditioning stint, registering three shots on goal.
Ryan Shea opened the first period with a tally for Texas at 6:19, rifling a shot over Alex Nedeljkovic’s (W, 35 saves) catching glove. The Griffins quickly responded with a pair of special teams goals, beginning with Hanas. While short-handed at 10:51, Czarnik stripped the puck from Anton Khudobin behind the cage and passed to Hanas in the slot. The rookie sent the puck in on an open net to knot the game at one apiece. After Luff’s shot from between the circles was saved, Elmer Soderblom buried the rebound from the crease with 5:55 left to take a 2-1 lead on a power play.
The Stars punched back in the second frame after Jasper Weatherby turned the puck over in the Griffins’ zone, allowing Curtis McKenzie to score unassisted at 4:36. Grand Rapids recaptured the lead on the behalf of Czarnik’s second assist from behind the net. The veteran forward found Hirose on the doorstep to allow the former Spartan to fire a shot past Khudobin for a 3-2 advantage with 1:15 to go in the stanza.
Just 34 seconds into the third, Luff’s blocked shot benefited Grand Rapids again, as Hirose gathered his miss and lasered a one-timer into the top shelf. The Stars made one last attempt by pulling Khudobin at 16:55, but Johansson (16:37) and Chase Pearson (17:07) each tacked on empty-net goals to secure a 6-2 victory on the road.
- Soderblom continued his point streak, with his opening-period goal making it three contests in a row with a point. In those outings, the Swede has five points (4-1–5).
- Brian Lashoff skated in his 750th professional game.
- With an assist on Pearson’s empty-net goal, Jakub Vrana has 150 in his professional career.
Grand Rapids 2 1 3 - 6
Texas 1 1 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Texas, Shea 4 (Petrovic, Blumel), 6:19. 2, Grand Rapids, Hanas 9 (Czarnik), 10:51 (SH). 3, Grand Rapids, Soderblom 4 (Luff, Hirose), 14:05 (PP). Penalties-Hirose Gr (hooking), 7:17; Hirose Gr (tripping), 9:35; Karlstrom Tex (hooking), 13:05; Edvinsson Gr (holding), 16:45.
2nd Period-4, Texas, McKenzie 14 4:36. 5, Grand Rapids, Hirose 10 (Czarnik, L’Esperance), 18:45. Penalties-Tufte Tex (tripping), 2:24; Gardner Tex (boarding), 19:31.
3rd Period-6, Grand Rapids, Hirose 11 (L’Esperance, Luff), 0:34 (PP). 7, Grand Rapids, Johansson 3 16:37 (EN). 8, Grand Rapids, Pearson 2 (Vrana, Johansson), 17:07 (EN). Penalties-Pearson Gr (slashing), 5:20; Pearson Gr (tripping), 7:40.
Shots on Goal-Grand Rapids 6-12-11-29. Texas 13-12-12-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Grand Rapids 2 / 3; Texas 0 / 5.
Goalies-Grand Rapids, Nedeljkovic 6-3-2 (37 shots-35 saves). Texas, Khudobin 13-4-4 (27 shots-23 saves).
1. GR Hirose (two goals, assist); 2. GR L’Esperance (two assists); 3. TEX Shea (goal).
Record / Next Game
Grand Rapids: 18-20-2-2 (40 pts.) / Sat., Feb. 4 at Texas 8 p.m. EST
Texas: 24-11-6-2 (56 pts.) / Sat., Feb. 4 vs. Grand Rapids 7 p.m. CST
Photo by Andy Nietupski/TTL Sports Media