The Grand Rapids Griffins took full advantage of home ice to take a 2-0 lead over Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Final. The series now switches to Syracuse for game three, four and five starting Wednesday 7th June then on Friday 9th June and Saturday 10th. If needed, games six and seven will be at Van Andl Arena on June 13th and 14th.
Game One Recap
A Tomas Nosek Power Play Goal with seconds remaining gave the Griffins a 3-2 victory in Game 1. Syracuse was called for a too-many-men penalty with just 29 seconds to go and they were made to pay. Nosek jammed home a rebound after Matthew Ford tipped a Matt Lorito feed on net. The goal capped a come-from-behind victory for the Griffins and ensured that they extended both their home-ice winning streak and record for winning when scoring first to 8-0.
Things got off to a good start for the Griffins when they took the lead at the 4:56 mark. Nosek’s first of the game came when Tyler Bertuzzi found Mitch Callahan in the slot. His backhand shot was denied by Crunch goalie Mike McKenna but Nosek was on hand to bury the rebound. Syracuse tied the game at 9:25 on a short-handed goal. Evgeni Svechnikov’s shot cannoned off the boards and past Tyler Bertuzzi at the point, giving the Crunch an odd-man rush. Cory Conacher found Kevin Lynch and he tucked away the Crunch’s league-leading fifth shorty of the playoffs.
Syracuse grabbed the lead less than a minute into the second period. Joel Vermin found the net from the top of the left circle, sending a wrister past Griffins goalie Jared Coreau. The lead, however, was short-lived and the Griffins restored parity less than three minutes later. Nathan Paetsch sent a shot five-hole on McKenna having taken a pass from Colin Campbell.
Griffins goalie Coreau made 22 saves whilst the Crunch’s McKenna made 33 stops.
Three Stars from Game 1: 1. GR Nosek (two goals); 2. GR Bertuzzi (two assists); 3. GR Paetsch (goal)
Game Two Recap
Grand Rapids took the victory in Game 2 as Ben Street scored 7:02 into the second overtime period to seal a 6-5 victory over Syracuse. Syracuse had trailed on no fewer than four occasions, but the Griffins had their goalie Jared Coreau to thank for keeping them in the contest during overtime. Coreau made 16 saves during the first overtime period and finished the game with 50 saves. Street’s goal, the Griffins’ 51st shot of the contest, came after Eric Tangradi collected a turnover at the blue line and moved into the offensive zone. He found Street with a pass to the right hash marks, and Street beat McKenna on the far side.
As with Game 1, the Griffins struck early to take the lead. Martin Frk beat two defenders before firing home from the right circle. This was his first Power Play goal of the playoffs, having led the team with 12 during the regular season. Yanni Gourde tied the game for Syracuse at the 10:37 mark. His centering attempt deflected up off Robbie Russo, Gourde batting the airborne puck into the net.
Two minutes later, the Griffins were back ahead thanks to Street. He started and finished the attack, winning the puck in the offensive zone and being on hand to bury the rebound after Tangradi’s shot was stopped. Syracuse then scored twice just over a minute apart to take a 3-2 lead. First, Joel Vermin scored after picking up a loose puck in the offensive zone, beating a defender before firing home a forehand shot. Erik Contra then buried a rebound to give the Crunch the go-ahead goal.
The Griffins had their powerplay to thank for turning the game back in their favor. First, Evgeni Svechnikov buried a rebound from a Mitch Callahan shot before Tomas Nosek tipped in a Ben Street shot 24 seconds into the third period. Syracuse again tied the game at the 7:47 mark with a power play goal of their own. Cory Conacher buried a one-timer from the right circle to make it 4-4.
Grand Rapids again took the lead at 13:36., Tyler Bertuzzi this time scoring on the rebound. Syracuse, however, refused to lie down and although they were denied on a penalty shot they tied the game at
15:15. Michael Bournival got the goal.
The Crunch carried the play in overtime and really should have won the game. Coreau made big saves from Kevin Lynch and Vermin twice to keep the Griffins’ hopes of a ninth straight home win alive. And the Griffins did finally secure victory thanks to Street’s goal.
Three Stars for Game 2: 1. GR Street (two goals, assist). 2. GR Frk (goal, two assists). 3. SYR Conacher (goal).
The Griffins now travel to Syracuse knowing that they are two wins from sealing the Calder Cup for the first time since 2013, where the Crunch were also their opponents.