GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – An uncharacteristic inability to create offense, coupled with the Lake Erie Monsters’ knack for capitalizing on defensive mistakes, translated into a 4-0 loss for the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins suffered their first shutout since their second home game of the season, a 5-0 decision against Charlotte on Oct. 25, as Lake Erie goaltender Sami Aittokallio turned aside 19 shots to record his second whitewash of the campaign and help the Monsters earn just their third win in their last 11 outings.
The 19 shots were the fewest at home for the Griffins in two seasons under coach Jeff Blashilland tied the two-season low established in a 4-3 loss at Oklahoma City almost one year ago, on Feb. 8, 2013.
Grand Rapids (29-14-2-2), which has also lost three straight home games in regulation for the first time under Blashill, will take its six-point lead atop the Midwest Division on the road for two games before the AHL all-star break, beginning with a 7 p.m. battle on Friday against the Toronto Marlies. The North Division-leading Marlies have won all three meetings with the Griffins this season, including one overtime and one shootout victory.
Petr Mrazek, making his first appearance at Van Andel Arena since Dec. 7, made a number of early saves before being beaten 10:37 into the opening period. Andrew Agozzino won a faceoff back to the left point to Gabriel Beaupre, who fired a shot that snuck inside the near post of the screened netminder.
Agozzino also set up Duncan Siemens’ first pro goal that made it a 2-0 game, forcing a turnover behind the net before throwing the puck out to Siemens at the point for a blast that sailed past Mrazek 7:23 into the second.
Midway through the third, Lake Erie (20-21-0-4) cashed in on its fourth power play chance of the night to round out the scoring. Once again it was Agozzino setting the table, centering a pass from his knees to Colin Smith for a redirection.
Mrazek, who finished with 23 saves, saw his 10-game winning streak snapped just two games shy of Jimmy Howard’s franchise record, set during the 2005-06 season, along with his six-game run at home. He sustained his first loss as a Griffin since that Oct. 25 home contest against Charlotte.