GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two goals by Cory Emmerton in a 2:35 span of the opening period provided more than enough scoring for the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday, as they coasted to a 4-0 victory over the Iowa Wild in their third annual Purple Community Game to benefit the Van Andel Institute and cancer research.
Emmerton finished with three points, Petr Mrazek posted his third shutout of the season with 16 saves in light duty, and Adam Almquist chipped in a goal and an assist to power the Griffins (37-17-2-3) to their third seven-game winning streak this season and their fourth run of seven or more games in two seasons under coach Jeff Blashill.
Iowa, meanwhile, dropped its second straight 4-0 decision and its sixth consecutive game in regulation, a slump during which the team has been outscored 28-6. The Wild were outshot tonight by a 36-16 margin.
The Griffins, who extended their lead atop the Midwest Division to seven points over idle Chicago and reclaimed Western Conference supremacy by one point over idle Texas, will host a rematch with the Wild (22-25-6-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday before embarking on a season-high seven-game road trip. It will be Star Wars Night at Van Andel Arena, with an anticipated crowd of more than 10,000.
Midway through the first period, Almquist took advantage of an Iowa line change to hit Emmerton with a stretch pass at the Wild blue line. Emmerton sped in alone on John Curry and deked right before pulling the puck back to his forehand and flipping it into the twine at 10:42. Almquist’s assist gave him 40 points on the season, making him just the fifth defenseman in franchise history and the first since Garrett Stafford in 2008-09 to reach that milestone.
Minutes later, Emmerton beat Curry again for his third shorthanded goal of the campaign. Leading a 2-on-1 down the right side, he fed a pass across to Nick Jensen, whose quick shot was denied. But the puck fluttered into the air behind Curry and Emmerton batted it into the open cage at the 13:17 mark.
The Griffins added a pair of third-period tallies to salt away the game. Almquist one-timed a stray puck into the top of the net from the high slot at 11:07, and Teemu Pulkkinen ripped a patented slap shot over Curry’s glove from above the right circle with just 35 seconds remaining. Pulkkinen’s 25th goal of the campaign established a new record for a Griffins rookie, beating the 24-goal efforts of Justin Abdelkader and Francis Pare in 2008-09.
Thanks to his perfect performance, Petr Mrazek now owns the best goals against average (2.01) and save percentage (0.928) in the American Hockey League. Curry made 32 saves in defeat for Iowa.
Notes: A pre-game moment of silence was held in honor of Ryan Fischer, the senior co-captain of Grandville High School’s hockey team who passed away in his sleep last night due to an enlarged heart…The Griffins are 20 games over 0.500 for the first time since April 9, 2009, when they owned a 43-23-6-6 mark before dropping their final two regular season games…Only four of the eight head coaches over Grand Rapids’ first 16 seasons led a streak of at least seven wins, and each of them accomplished the feat just once.
Three Stars: 1. GR Emmerton (two goals, assist); 2. GR Almquist (goal, assist); 3. GR Mrazek (W, 16 saves, SO)