GRAND RAPIDS, MI — It is developing into a matchup against a team that could do no wrong for the better part of two seasons vs. a team that simply does not make mistakes.
When you don’t make mistakes, you make it look easy.
The Grand Rapids Griffins win Game 3 tonight by a score of 4-2 over the Syracuse Crunch and can win the Calder Cup Friday with one more win in the best of seven series.
Same lineup for both teams from Sunday in Syracuse.
The Crunch open with waves of early pressure on the Griffins defense and their netminder Petr Mrazek.
Then, Adam Almquist was hit hard into the boards, went down and stayed down, no call by referee Terry Koharski. In the fracas, the Crunch get on the board on a pretty wrist shot by Richard Panik. It would be the first lead of these Calder Cup Finals for the Crunch.
Grand Rapids would get two cracks at the power play late in the period but could not convert on either of their chances.
Overall a very solid, aggressive and needed period of hockey for the Crunch, who could not afford to fall behind against a Griffins team that ran them around in Games 1 and 2 this past weekend.
With just over two minutes gone in the second period, Griffins winger Tomas Tatar continues his torrent playoff goal scoring pace and receives a pass from Nathan Paetsch and wraps around the net of Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins and ties the game at one. It was actually an errant shot from Paetsch which banked off of the board to Tatar for the wraparound goal, his Calder Cup Playoff leading thirteenth.
That goal would be the first blown lead for the Crunch in these playoffs.
2:44 later, a shot from the left low side by rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser caroms off of Desjardins and Luke Glendening was right there on the doorstep to collect the rebound and push his Griffins team out ahead 2-1.
Later, Dan Sexton chops down a Griffins clearing bid and fires a shot from the blue line that sails through to tie the game at two. A great defensive forecheck by JP Cote set up the goal for the Crunch.
The teams would retreat to the locker room with the score deadlocked at two.
Jeff Hoggan is the captain of the Grand Rapids Griffins. For those unfamiliar with the Griffins simply because this is the first batch of Griffins hockey they have been exposed to this season, the third period proved to you why.
Hoggan had his first crack at trying to break the 2-2 tie on a quick release which nearly fools Desjardins but he closes up the five hole to keep it square at two a piece early in the third.
This would be a preview of coming attractions for the better part of the period for Desjardins.
A pad save on Tomas Jurco who weaved his way past Crunch defenders. Gustav Nyqvist on a mini breakaway? Better luck next time. Mitch Callahan posting up in front of Desjardins and deflecting a shot from the wall? Not today.
Finally, the Griffins captain wheels around the net draped by Philip-Michael Devos spins, throws a harmless shot at the net from the low left circle which deflects off of Jan Mursak’s skate and into the net finally breaking the tie and sending the Griffins to the lead at 15:11 of the third.
Hoggan wasn’t done yet.
Brendan Mikkelson gives up a puck right to Hoggan. He skates in and crashes the net and scores to put the Griffins up 4-2. Desjardins took umbrage to Hoggan’s aggressive move and was very upset but nothing materialized. in the way of fisticuffs.
The Crunch would try to get Desjardins out for the extra attacker with enough time to score two goals but it would be a futile effort. The Griffins would hold on and win in front of 10,102, their largest playoff crowd in their time in the AHL.
Almquist would not return after his hit into the boards in the first.
Syracuse was 8-0 scoring first and 7-0 leading after one period in playoffs.
Game 4 is Friday and the crowd is expected to be a sellout with a crowd of 10,834 anticipated.