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Grand Rapids Advances to Calder Cup Finals for First Time in Team History

Last night, the Griffins survived a one-goal game to advance to the Calder Cup Finals.  They will take on the Syracuse Crunch of the Eastern Conference in a seven game series, beginning this Saturday night.

On Tuesday night, Grand Rapids was leading 3-1 when the third period began.  Tomas Jurco, Mitch Callahan, and Jeff Hoggan had all scored for the Griffins.  Petr Mrazek had stopped 26 of 27 shots.  All they had to do was play responsible defense for 20 minutes.

However, their lead vanished as quickly as it came.  Mark Arcobello, Toni Rajala, and Anton Lander helped Oklahoma City score three unanswered goals to win the game in the third period.  Two of the goals came with less than three minutes remaining in the game.  It was a crushing defeat for the Griffins on home ice, as they lost by a score of 4-3

One of the benefits of the AHL Playoff schedule is the very short rest period between games.  Game 7 was the very next day (last night).  The taste of defeat didn’t have time to linger in the players’ minds.  They simply regrouped and prepared for a deciding game.

The Griffins celebrate after a Game 7 win that allows them to advance to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time. Photos by Mark Newman
The Griffins celebrate after a Game 7 win that allows them to advance to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time.
Photos by Mark Newman

The first goal of the game belonged to Grand Rapids.  Forward Jan Mursak redirected a shot from defenseman Adam Almqvist that was able to reach the twine.  The goal came in the first minute of the game.

OKC struck twice on consecutive goals midway through the first.  Chris VandeVelde and Teemu Hartikainen scored just 25 seconds apart and the Barons had the lead.  Landon Ferraro turned the puck over at center ice, and VandeVelde found himself a breakaway, leading to his goal.  Hartikainen scored his goal on a precise snap shot from a difficult angle that sailed past Mrazek’s glove and into the top right corner.

Before the period came to a close, C.J. stretch apparently “stretched” too far and was called for hooking.  Tomas Tatar scored 50 seconds into the man-advantage and tied the game going into the second period.

The Barons were caught with too many men on the ice at the halfway point of the second, and Gustav Nyquist scored a powerplay goal 12 seconds in on a hard wrist shot.  Antti Tyrvainen tied it up once again late in the period for Oklahoma City after Mrazek couldn’t recover after serving up a dangerous rebound.

OKC had all the momentum heading into the final third of the game.  Taking advantage of the momentum, Taylor Fedun put his team ahead 4-3.  However Mrazek was able to stop the other 15 shots he faced in the period, the most shots in one period by either team in the game.  Jan Mursak (on a nice backhand shot) and Tomas Jurco (after he split the defense in a Datsyuk-like move) combined to make it 5-4, and Grand Rapids won the game in miraculous fashion.

Stats: Mrazek, after giving up 8 goals in the last two games of the series, still ended up with a save-percentage of .921 and goals-against average of 2.18.  His record is 11-7 in the postseason, including four shutout victories.

Surprisingly enough, Tomas Tatar has one of the worst plus/minus ratings on the team, despite the fact that he’s their leading scorer in the playoffs.  Through 18 games he has scored 11 goals and 16 points, but remains a -2.  Four of those 11 goals came on the powerplay.

Jan Mursak leads the team in plus/minus (+9), and is fourth in team scoring.

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser will likely start in Game 1 Saturday, adding yet another important piece to Grand Rapids’ playoff puzzle.

This is the Griffins’ first trip to the Calder Cup Finals in team history.

Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals is this Saturday night at 7:00 ET in Syracuse

Follow me on Twitter @yungspork

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka is the Senior Media Analyst and Detroit Red Wings beat writer at HOHM. He is also the author of the Fantasy Hockey Fridays, In Retrospect, Milestone Monday, and Legends By the Number segments.
Kevin Sporka

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