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12/31/2011 8:13 PM -

Milwaukee Admirals 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3

Dec. 31, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.Tom McCollum made 29 saves to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday in the team’s 15th annual New Year’s Eve game at Van Andel Arena, in the process tying his personal best with a four-game winning streak as a Griffin.

Recalled from ECHL Toledo earlier today due to an injury to Jordan Pearce, McCollum was thrust into immediate duty and helped the Griffins (13-13-4-2) close out 2011 at the 0.500 mark. McCollum, who shows a 5-3 record with a 3.03 goals against average and a 0.901 save percentage for Grand Rapids, has won four straight for the first time since his rookie season (Oct. 24-Nov. 13, 2009).

Now in fourth place in the North Division, the Griffins reside just two points behind third-place Lake Erie, three behind second-place Rochester and five behind first-place Toronto in an ever-tightening race. They’ll be idle until next Friday and Saturday when they travel to Abbotsford, British Columbia, for a two-game set against the Heat. Faceoff both nights will be at 10 p.m. EST.

Grand Rapids drew first blood midway through the opening period. From the end boards, Francis Pare slipped a pass out front to Tomas Tatar, who buried the puck behind Jeremy Smith for his ninth goal of the season at the 9:36 mark. Pare’s assist made him just the sixth player to record 90 helpers as a Griffin, while Tatar’s 49th career goal put him one shy of becoming the 15th Griffin to light the lamp 50 times during his career.

Tatar’s marker held up as the only goal of the first period, as McCollum turned aside eight shots and received significant support from his goal posts, as the Admirals rang four shots off the iron during the frame.

McCollum’s good fortune ran out 3:20 into the second. Caught behind his own net when Robert Slaney beat him to the puck and threw it out front, McCollum hustled to get back into position in the crease and went to the butterfly, but he could not prevent a point-blank try by Zack Stortini from sneaking between his pads.

The Griffins went back on top 2-1 on a power play goal with just 14.8 seconds remaining in the period. Logan Pyett made a nice play to beat an Admiral to the puck at the right half-wall then circled around the net and tried a centering pass that deflected off a Milwaukee player and out to the high slot to Brian Lashoff, whose slap shot sailed through a sea of bodies and cleanly found the back of the net.

Brendan Smith pushed the Griffins’ lead to two exactly eight minutes into the final stanza, darting down the slot and ripping a wrist shot past Smith from between the circles. That would prove to be the game-winner, as former Griffin Chris Mueller scored from the slot while Smith was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:10 remaining.

Grand Rapids held on to claim the victory over a powerful Milwaukee squad (19-9-0-1) and earn points for the 11th time in its last 13 games (6-2-3-2). Smith finished with 20 saves in the losing effort.

Notes: The special jerseys worn by the Griffins – which were designed by Jason Valenti of Sayre, Penn., and chosen as a winner in the team’s annual jersey design contest – raised $11,670.50 for the Grand Valley State University club roller hockey team through a post-game auction. Greg Amadio’s jersey garnered a high bid of $1,050...The Griffins improved their New Year's Eve record to 6-8-1-0, winning for the second straight year and the fourth time in the last six seasons.

Three Stars: 1. GR McCollum (W, 29 saves); 2. GR Tatar (goal, assist); 3. GR Johnson (two assists)

Griffins Game Rewind
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ESPN Radio Highlights:  Tatar Goal   Lashoff Goal   Smith Goal
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