GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Tomas Jurco’s second two-goal game of the season complemented Petr Mrazek’s 30 saves and gave the Grand Rapids Griffins all the offense they needed on Friday, as they sent a sold-out Purple Community Game crowd of 10,834 home happy with a 2-1 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins (33-19-2-2), who won for the fourth time in five games and the sixth time in their last seven home contests, improved to 14 games over 0.500 for the first time this season and increased their lead atop the Midwest Division to seven points over Chicago. They’ll host a Star Wars Night bout with the Lake Erie Monsters at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Hamilton goalie Dustin Tokarski, who had recorded two consecutive shutouts entering tonight’s game, saw that scoreless run snapped 13:43 into the opening period. During a 4-on-4, Louis-Marc Aubry chased down Jurco’s dump-in in the right corner and centered a pass back to the rookie, who demonstrated his tremendous hands by collecting the puck on the doorstep and quickly popping a shot past Tokarski’s glove, ending the netminder’s shutout streak at 161:02.
The score remained 1-1 until midway through the third period, when Landon Ferraro worked through a defender in the high slot before getting the puck to Jurco, who unleashed a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that deflected off Tokarski and across the line at 9:12.
After replacing Tokarski with an extra attacker with 90 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs (23-28-1-5) applied sustained pressure and had a great scoring chance denied by Mrazek with 11 seconds left. Hamilton took a timeout to plan its last-second strategy with a faceoff coming in the Grand Rapids zone, but the Griffins were able to clear the puck to secure the victory.
Tokarski, who backstopped Norfolk to the Calder Cup last season before being acquired by the Montreal Canadiens organization in a trade from Tampa Bay in mid-February, made 31 saves and helped thwart all five Griffins power plays, but he still suffered just his 11th loss in 40 appearances this season (22-11-4).
Notes: Grand Rapids’ second annual Purple Community Game benefited cancer research at the Van Andel Institute…The Griffins’ fifth sellout of the season matched their total from the last two seasons combined (one in 2011-12, four in 2010-11) and are their most in any season since 2008-09 (six)…Grand Rapids has sold out four of its nine home games since Jan. 25…The Griffins’ average attendance through 31 home games is 7,239, a 1.7% year-to-date increase over last season. Through 31 games in 2011-12, their average was 7,119, en route to a season-ending 7,253.
Three Stars: 1. GR Jurco (two goals); 2. GR Ferraro (assist); 3. GR Mrazek (W, 30 saves)