OT Game Winner Caps Tangradi's Triumphant Return|
Griffins 3-2 win keeps them in the hunt for division title...
By Jason Kasiorek
April 14, 2017
The Grand Rapids Griffins appear to be getting healthy at just the right time. Last night rugged wingers Eric Tangradi and Tyler Bertuzzi made their return to the lineup after prolonged absences due to injury. Their return helped power a 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Charlotte Checkers and keep the Griffins in the hunt for a division title. Besides Tangradi's overtime game winner, the Griffins also got powerplay goals from Matt Lorito (22) and Matthew Ford (14). Jared Coreau turned in a strong 27 save performance to earn his 19th win of the season.
Grand Rapids came out strong and carried play for the first half of the period before falling back and trying to match the Checkers pace. Ben street had a nice chance form the slot on an early griffins powerplay that McCollum just got a piece of. Bertuzzi, making his presence known, really battling along the walls and in the corners. A Charlotte forward tripped over Renouf's stick and went down, leading to a GR penalty. Bryan lashoff standing tall on the PK, fearlessly blocking shots in front of the net and sacrificing his body. Poturalski in the circle tipped a shot out of midair and redirected it past Coreau, stick side. Robbie Russo with a big hit along the boards, showing off his new defensive game brought back from the NHL. Kyle Criscuolo taken down behind the play and after the whistle Lashoff went over for some words with the aggressor. Shots on goal: GR 7 - Cha 12.
Filip Hronek went end to end and in on McCollum for a great chance 4 on 4. Going back the other way Hronek fell down, but Coreau cut down the angle enough to take the net away. Matt Lorito at the side of the net for a great scoring chance lacrosse style. Grand Rapids had three pokes at the puck, but somehow McCollum kept it out. Charlotte appeared to score a second goal, but the official had blown the play dead because they had too many men on the ice, giving the Griffins a powerplay. Lorito didn't take long, picking up a pass from Street and whipping it past McCollum stick side to tie the score at one. Scramble in front of Coreau, but it was fired over an open net. Hicketts the other way took the puck to the net setting up a scramble in front as the Griffins had several chances. Hronek got a pass in scoring position but fanned on the shot. midway through the second, Matt Ford kept up his hot hand, tipping a Lorito shot past past McCollum for a 2-1 lead. Hicketts fired a long low shot on net and the Griffins pounded on the rebound setting up a flurry of shots. The Checkers had another goal called off when the net was knocked off before it went in. Tangradi knocked a checkers player off the puck and had a nice scoring chance, fighting his way to the net. Big shot by Mitch Callahan along the boards that beat McCollum but hit the post. Shots on goal: GR 16 - Cha 11.
Tangradi pounced on a loose puck in the circle but fired it just wide. Campbell won a battle in the corner and walked out with it for a shot. Tangradi picked up the rebound and had a point blank chance of his own. Tangradi smoked Samuelsson along the boards and then was challenged by Woods, dropping the gloves for a short bout. On the ensuing powerplay, Fleury fired a long shot that bounced past a screened Coreau, glove side to knot the score at two. Street on the rush, just missed the top of the corner as he circled around the net. Grand Rapids trying to battle back after weathering the storm of the Charlotte counterattack. Nosek sick pass through traffic to Lorito in the slot. He ripped a shot off the crossbar. Campbell won a battle along the boards and peeled out in front for a pair of backhand chances. Nice play by Turgeon and a couple of good chances right in front of McCollum. Heads up pass by Bertuzzi to Lorito for a wide open chance in the dying seconds. Shots on goal: GR 17 - Cha 6.
Grand Rapids controlled play for most of the 3-on-3 overtime period. A minute and a half in, Tangradi found a seam, skated into the zone, cut cross ice and put a shot past McCollum for the win. Shots on goal: GR 1 - Cha 0. For the Game: GR 41- Cha 29.
12 forwards - 6 defense
Tangradi - Street - Callahan
Bertuzzi - Nosek - Lorito
Svechnikov - Criscuolo - Holmstrom
Ford - Turgeon - Campbell
Lashoff - Russo
Renouf - Hicketts
Paetsch - Hronek
#11 Cleary - Veteran
#27 Frk - Injury
Ford - Nosek - Svechnikov
Lorito - Street
Tangradi - Callahan - Bertuzzi
Hicketts - Russo
Turgeon - Campbell
Paetsch - Lashoff
Ford - Nosek
Hicketts - Russo
With Martin Frk the lone player out with injury, the Griffins are boasting a reasonably full lineup for the first time in several months. This has pushed some players down the lineup, giving them more opportunity against lesser defenders which should add to the scoring potency. The other benefit is in the faceoff dot, where a full complement of center has increased the Griffins time of possession. Ben Street won over 10 straight draws in the first period alone, something that was hurting this team a week ago.
What a difference it made having Tangradi and Bertuzzi in the lineup as the team had a lot more snarl and really battled. Tangradi several times bulled his way to the net, dragging defenders and knocking people out of the way. you can't replace that size and strength when he is out of the lineup.
Filip Hronek continues to improve each game, and actually had a pretty impressive outing. Even more so when you consider that he displaced hulking Dylan McIlrath who has played very well in the lineup. He has gotten quicker and has shown off the confidence to move the puck up ice with flair. He still has at least one facepalm moment a game, but has adjusted quickly. It will be interesting to see what the last pairing is come playoff time.
On the flipside, Axel Holmstrom has not enjoyed a particularly smooth adjustment to the AHL. The much heralded forward has gotten some pretty good ice time, most recently with Svechnikov and Criscuolo, but pretty much been invisible. I am not expecting him to score a point per game, but he should at least be getting some good chances. The good news is that he must be doing at least OK defensively as I havent noticed him in that regard either. At this point I would expect him to be the player that comes out when Frk returns.