GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday pushed their winning streaks to six games overall and seven at home with a 5-1 beating of the Rochester Americans at Van Andel Arena.
Paced by two goals from Landon Ferraro and 33 saves by Petr Mrazek, the Griffins (16-4-1-1) improved their AHL-best winning percentage to 0.773 and increased their lead atop the Midwest Division to seven points over Milwaukee.
Having outscored the Americans 13-2 in two meetings this season, including an 8-1 win in their season opener in Rochester on Oct. 4, the Griffins will look to sweep the weekend set on Saturday when they host a rematch with the Amerks (10-9-2-2) at 8 p.m.
In their first games back in Grand Rapids as visitors, former Griffins captains Matt Ellis and Jamie Tardif were recognized prior to faceoff for their longtime service to the franchise. After receiving a warm welcome from Griffins fans and current captain Jeff Hoggan, the pair nearly joined forces to score just seconds into the game when Ellis sent a pass across to Tardif during a two-on-none, but Mrazek came out of his net to swallow up the puck.
Tardif got his goal later in the period, though, as he set up on the doorstep during a power play and jammed a rebound past Mrazek at the 16:27 mark. The Griffins then answered during their own advantage at 18:18, when Ryan Sproul unloaded a slap shot that was tipped behind Matt Hackett by Tomas Jurco.
Early in the second, two quick goals by Ferraro staked the Griffins to a 3-1 lead. First, from the left circle, he drove hard to the net and had several whacks at the puck before putting it across the goal line 1:21 into the frame. Then, just 2:17 later, Luke Glendening centered a pass out of the left corner that Ferraro redirected past the Amerks netminder from the slot.
The Griffins appeared to extend their advantage to three at the 5:24 mark when Mitch Callahantipped a Nick Jensen feed home from the left post, but controversy ruled as the goal was immediately waved off by referee Ryan Hersey, citing incidental contact with Hackett by Triston Grant. A vehement protest ensued from the Griffins’ bench and the arena’s stands, but to no avail.
And no further bother, apparently, as the Griffins scored one that stood at 9:22, with Riley Sheahan blistering a shot into the top of the net from the left circle to make it a 4-1 contest.
The visitors’ frustrations were put on display with less than four minutes remaining in the period when Ferraro and Rochester’s Frederick Roy, sons of longtime NHLer Ray Ferraro and Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, dropped the gloves at center ice, a tussle that ended with Ferraro on top as the pair tumbled to the ice.
Grand Rapids scored a knockout punch of a different sort with 10:13 remaining in the contest. Off a turnover in the Rochester zone, Jurco immediately found Patrick Eaves all alone in the slot, and the NHL veteran took advantage of his time and space to chip in his fourth goal in the last four outings.
The win was the eighth straight for Mrazek as a Griffin, while Hackett finished the night with 29 saves on 34 shots.
Notes: While extending a franchise record by scoring five or more goals for the seventh straight home game (previous record four games), the Griffins set another mark by scoring at least four goals for the seventh consecutive contest at Van Andel Arena. The previous record of six was accomplished twice, most recently from Nov. 23-Dec. 14, 2011…Grand Rapids has won 14 of 16 games following a 2-2-1-1 start to the season…Jensen made his AHL debut and logged his fourth pro game after recovering from an injury suffered during the Detroit Red Wings’ development camp in July.
Three Stars: 1. GR Ferraro (two goals); 2. GR Jurco (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Mrazek (W, 33 saves)