GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – One night after clinching a berth in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs, the defending champion Grand Rapids Griffins were welcomed home from a season-high seven game road trip by a sellout crowd of 10,834 that was given plenty of reasons to cheer.
After falling behind early in the second period, the Griffins (42-20-2-4) ripped off four consecutive goals to earn a 4-1 decision, their fifth win in the last six games at Van Andel Arena. With the victory, Grand Rapids reached 90 points on the campaign and tied the haul of last season’s team with its 42nd win while maintaining its four-point lead over Chicago in the Midwest Division race.
Eight games remain on the Griffins’ regular season schedule, including a 6 p.m. EDT visit to Milwaukee on Sunday.
A scoreless opening period was kept that way thanks to a pair of tremendous Petr Mrazek saves in the waning seconds, as the Griffins finished killing off a Rockford power play that expired just before the buzzer sounded.
The IceHogs (32-26-5-4) eventually notched the game’s first goal 4:58 into the second period, when Alex Broadhurst’s deflection on the doorstep clanged off iron but still fell behind the goal line.
During a power play at the 10:25 mark, Mitch Callahan got his stick on a Cory Emmerton one-timer from the right circle, and the change of speed and direction fooled Jason LaBarbera, who watched the puck slide into his gaping cage.
Colin Campbell, signed by both the Griffins and the Red Wings on March 17, then tallied his first pro goal in his fifth game on a similar play with 2:43 remaining before intermission, deflecting Adam Almquist’s blast from along the right half-wall with his stick blade to put Grand Rapids on top.
Jordin Tootoo pushed the home team’s advantage to two goals 6:46 into the final period, taking a shot from below the right goal line that glanced off and somehow found its way behind LaBarbera. Teemu Pulkkinen finished off the scoring with his team-high 28th goal during a rush with 3:36 remaining, taking a nifty pass from Callahan in the slot and going airborne to slip the puck inside the right post.
Mrazek’s 20th win of the season was the result of 22 saves, while LaBarbera turned aside 25 shots in defeat.