ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Grand Rapids Griffins continued to struggle on the road as they dropped their fourth straight game away from West Michigan to the Rockford IceHogs 3-1 on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The Griffins (9-12-1-1) held onto a one goal advantage, thanks to Brian Lashoff’s second tally of the year, until the final three minutes of the second frame when the IceHogs (11-8-0-1) knotted the game at one apiece. Rockford was able to score twice in the final period, including an empty-netter to secure the victory.
Grand Rapids will look to snap its five-game losing streak on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at home against the Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m.
The Griffins started the contest well as Joe Hicketts and Alec McCrea tested Kevin Lankinen from the blue line during the game’s first power play. After multiple chances on net, the Griffins were unable to convert on the Nicolas Beaudin penalty.
The Griffins scored minutes later on Lashoff’s goal 6:17 into the period. A pass by Gustav Lindstrom, from the neutral zone, found Lashoff at the right boards and he skated into the IceHogs’ zone. His shot through traffic beat the five-hole of Lankinen to give Grand Rapids an early goal advantage.
Pat Nagle was called upon around the midway point of the period, as he started in his fourth game for the Griffins since the 2014-15 season. Nagle made a big kick save on a 2-on-1 break off a shot from just outside the crease. Dylan Sikura tested Nagle with his wrist shot from the right circle that was saved by his left skate.
Grand Rapids entered the second frame with a 13-8 shot advantage and much of the momentum in its favor. The penalty kill for the Griffins was challenged in the opening six minutes as they conceded three power plays to the IceHogs. Nagle and the Grand Rapids defense stood tall and only allowed five shots, suffocating any offensive chance for Rockford.
Late in the second, the IceHogs capitalized on a chance from Tim Soderlund with 2:24 remaining to tie the game 1-1. Lucas Carlsson ripped a shot from the point that missed wide and bounced off the boards to Soderlund at the bottom of the left circle and his one-timer beat the stick of Nagle for his first of the season.
Rockford entered the final period with a four-shot lead but the Griffins came out swinging as they posted four shots in just as many minutes. Hicketts fired a shot from the left boards that was rebounded in front of the net and Givani Smith flipped a shot toward the right corner but Lankinen was able to get his glove on it.
The IceHogs made their way to the forefront at 8:49 when a backdoor play found Joni Tuulola for his first tally of the year. Philipp Kurashev’s pass from the blue line zipped through the center of the Griffins’ zone toward the left goalpost and Tuulola’s shot snuck in the bottom right corner of the net.
Grand Rapids made a late push to tie the game, highlighted by a wrist shot from Smith who skated into the zone and shot from the right circle but Lankinen blocked it away from danger with under three minutes to play.
The Griffins pulled Nagle for an extra skater with 2:05 remaining and as soon as he reached the bench, Rockford scored on the empty net. MacKenzie Entwistle rifled a shot from the red line that sailed uncontested into the net for his fourth of the year, giving Rockford the 3-1 victory.
Notes: Grand Rapids outshot Rockford 30-29…The Griffins finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play while the penalty kill went 5-for-5…Nagle finished with 26 saves.
Three Stars: 1. RFD Soderlund (goal); 2. RFD Tuulola (goal); 3. RFD Lankinen (W, 29 saves)
Photo by Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs