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04/13/2012 8:40 PM - Chicago Wolves 7 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5

April 13, 2012

– The Grand Rapids Griffins and Chicago Wolves staged a barnburner of a game on Friday at Van Andel Arena. By the time it was over, the Griffins’ slim playoff hopes were reduced to ashes.

Grand Rapids was officially eliminated from postseason contention with a 7-5 loss to the Wolves, who responded to four straight Griffins goals by notching the final four tallies of the game, all in the third period.

With the victory, Chicago (41-27-3-3) clinched the Midwest Division title and the Western Conference’s third seed in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Grand Rapids (33-30-7-4) will conclude its 16th season on the road with a weekend set against the Hamilton Bulldogs, beginning with a 7 p.m. Saturday faceoff at Copps Coliseum.

Tom McCollum made 16 saves in the opening period to limit the Wolves to just a 1-0 lead at the first intermission, despite Chicago’s commanding 17-8 shot advantage. Just 72 seconds into the game, a Brendan Smith giveaway in the neutral zone enabled Jordan Schroeder to break in alone, and he beat McCollum with a snap shot along the ice.

The Griffins, who didn’t record their first shot on goal until the game was 8:10 old, tied it 4:48 into the second period. During a 4-on-4, Francis Pare took a pass from Joakim Andersson and launched a shot from the left circle that caromed off Chicago netminder Eddie Lack and into the back of the net. It marked Pare’s 79th career goal as a Griffin, moving him past his former roommate, Jamie Tardif, into sole possession of second place on the franchise’s all-time list, behind Michel Picard (158).

The deadlock lasted only 21 seconds, though, as former Griffin Darren Haydar made it 2-1 by collecting a juicy rebound in the slot and ripping a shot past McCollum’s glove.

Steve Reinprecht gave the visitors a two-goal cushion during a power play at 16:59, centering a pass from the left goal line that banked off McCollum and across the line, but the Griffins answered 33 seconds later when Willie Coetzee deflected Louis-Marc Aubry’s shot over Lack to make it 3-2.

Grand Rapids netted the equalizer 1:07 before the second intermission, when Tomas Tatar beat his defender down the left side to pot a centering pass from Pare. Tatar’s 63rd career goal moved him past Donald MacLean into 10th place all-time on the club.

The Griffins tallied their third and fourth unanswered goals early in the third to go on top 5-3. Pare one-timed a Logan Pyett pass inside the far post from the right circle at the 43-second mark, and Andrej Nestrasil slammed the puck beneath Lack from the doorstep at 2:56. Mike Thomas and Alan Quine earned the assists for their first points as a Griffin and as a pro, respectively.

Refusing to pass quietly, Wolves scored three straight of their own to take a 6-5 lead. At 5:39, Anton Rodin set up just outside the crease to deflect a shot up and over McCollum, before Taylor Matson’s first pro goal tied matters at 6:51, as he backhanded a rebound home at the left post.

Chicago went back on the power play after Pyett flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, and Mark Mancari capitalized to give his team its final lead when his slap shot from the top of the left circle somehow passed through McCollum.

Reinprecht added an empty-netter with 49 seconds left for the final margin.

Lack won the goaltending battle of attrition, stopping 36 of 41 shots, while McCollum finished with 30 saves.

Notes: Pare’s 10-game point streak ties for the seventh-longest run in franchise history and is the longest since Haydar tallied in 10 straight games for Grand Rapids from Feb. 20-March 13, 2009….Tonight’s attendance of 10,217 gave the Griffins a final average home attendance of 7,253 for the 2011-12 campaign (275,632 total), marking the team’s fifth attendance increase in the last six seasons.

Three Stars: 1. CHI Mancari (game-winning goal); 2. GR Pare (two goals, assist); 3. CHI Kevin Connauton (three assists)

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