GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Mitch Callahan slipped the puck beneath Kent Simpson 1:21 into overtime on Friday to lift the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 3-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs at Van Andel Arena and keep his team’s unprecedented run intact for yet another night.
While pushing their franchise-record start to an incredible 21-5-1-1, the Griffins won for the 19th time in their last 22 games, a stretch of success unmatched in the team’s 18 seasons.
Callahan’s heroics were made possible by the yeoman efforts of Jeff Hoggan and Tom McCollum during regulation. Hoggan scored a power play goal in each of the first two periods while McCollum made 31 saves to claim his fourth consecutive victory and improve to 11-3 on the season.
The Griffins, winners of 11 of their last 12 at Van Andel Arena, will hit the road for their next three games, beginning with Saturday’s 8 p.m. EST visit to the Chicago Wolves. The radio broadcast will be aired on ESPN 96.1 FM.
Hoggan opened the scoring 5:52 into the contest, popping home a rebound from the doorstep after Cory Emmerton had tried to stuff the puck past Simpson. The IceHogs answered with 3:29 remaining in the frame when Philippe Lefebvre launched a wrister from the left circle that sailed into the far corner, a shot that McCollum could not see because of the traffic in front of his crease.
The Griffins’ captain then tallied on a wraparound at 3:32 of the second, jamming a backhand between Simpson and the left post. But again Rockford responded with a tying score, as Brad Winchester’s tip eluded McCollum at the 5:35 mark of the third for a power play goal.
The game eventually extended to overtime, the first at Van Andel Arena this season for the Griffins, who had played just a pair of one-goal games in their first 13 home outings. Landon Ferraro set up the game-winner by throwing the puck toward the net from the left corner. Alexey Marchenko had a stab at it before Callahan banged it into the net to ignite the crowd of 8,269 that braved an icy evening in West Michigan.
Simpson stopped 32 shots for the second-place IceHogs (15-12-3-0), who fell 11 points behind the Midwest Division leaders.
Notes: McCollum’s 56th career win moved him past Mike Fountain into sole possession of third place on the Griffins’ all-time list, behind only Jimmy Howard (90) and Joey MacDonald (109)…Including Wednesday’s 2-1 triumph at Iowa, the Griffins have won consecutive games in overtime for the first time in nearly 10 years, dating to Jan. 16-17, 2004.
Three Stars: 1. GR Callahan (overtime goal); 2. GR Hoggan (two power play goals); 3. GR McCollum (W, 31 saves)