The Grand Rapids Griffins exorcised a porcine demon and extended their winning streak to five games on Friday with a 5-3 victory over the Rockford IceHogs at Van Andel Arena.
After having inexplicably gone 0-3-0-3 in their first six games against the IceHogs this season, the Griffins brought home the bacon this time behind three-point nights by Ben Street (2-1—3), Eric Tangradi (1-2—3) and Matt Puempel (0-3—3). Grand Rapids earned at least a point for the seventh straight game and improved its record to 16-15-1-4, moving above the .500 mark for the first time since standing 8-7-0-1 in mid-November.
Now only one point out of a playoff position in the Central Division, the Griffins will kick off a three-game road trip on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST by visiting the Chicago Wolves, who themselves are riding a four-game winning streak and a 13-game point run.
Puempel and Matt Lorito, the Griffins' newly anointed AHL All-Stars, joined forces to give Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead during a power play exactly nine minutes into the opening frame. Puempel's shot from atop the left circle – off a slick feed by Filip Hronek – caromed off Tangradi's skate blade to a waiting Lorito, who chipped the puck into a yawning net from the bottom of the right circle.
The teams combined for three goals in a span of just 25 seconds early in the middle period, with tallies by Dominik Shine and Street bookending a goal by Matheson Iacopelli. Shine got things started at the 2:03 mark, blowing the puck past Collin Delia's glove with a snap shot from the right circle, only to see Iacopelli finish off a rush by potting a Graham Knott pass from the left side 14 seconds later.
Delia then misplayed a dump-in behind his net, enabling Tangradi to gobble up the puck and send it out front to Street for a shot into the vacated net that made it a 3-1 contest only 2:28 into the stanza.
The shooting gallery continued, with each team lighting the lamp again before the period was eight minutes old. Iacopelli took advantage of a Corey Elkins miscue to notch his second of the night at the 5:01 mark, scoring from the slot against an unsuspecting Jared Coreau after the puck rolled off Elkins' stick behind the net and slid directly to the unmarked Rockford winger.
Tangradi, however, made amends for his teammate by restoring the two-goal cushion a little more than two minutes later, slipping a rebound under Delia at the right post with 12:47 still showing on the weary scoreboard.
The tote board rested for less than seven minutes before Rockford scored the sixth combined goal of the period, as Matthew Highmore batted an airborne puck past Coreau during a power play at 14:05 to cut Grand Rapids' advantage to 4-3.
Street scored his second goal during a power play at 12:01 of the third, jamming home a rebound through traffic from the left side for the insurance tally. Grand Rapids ended the night 2-for-4 with the man-advantage.
A pair of Griffins penalties in the final five minutes made things interesting, giving Rockford 18 seconds' worth of a 5-on-3 advantage and 3:42 of power play time overall. But Grand Rapids killed off the two-man deficit and withstood Rockford pulling Delia for an extra attacker to seal the victory.
Coreau finished with 33 saves and was the backbone of a Griffins penalty kill that denied Rockford on five of six chances. Delia made 19 stops in defeat.
Notes: Puempel extended his point streak to five games (4-5—9) with his third multi-point contest since missing seven straight games due to injury. He has points in nine of his last 10 appearances overall (7-7—14)…Coreau won his fourth consecutive outing and improved to 5-0-1 in his last six games...Rockford, now 6-1 versus the Griffins, is 12-14-1-1 against the rest of the AHL.
Three Stars: 1. GR Street (two goals, assist); 2. GR Tangradi (goal, two assists); 3. GR Puempel (three assists)