Grand Rapids Griffins 3 – Syracuse Crunch 2
The St. John’s IceCaps tried twice, Toronto Marlies four times and Providence Bruins failed on three occasions.
Grand Rapids Griffins were also unable to crack the Syracuse Crunch at the War Memorial Arena in game three.
However, it was ten and your out as Syracuse finally lost on home ice at the eleventh time of asking – possibly the pivotal moment of the Calder Cup Final.
Roared on by a capacity crowd, the Syracuse Crunch came charging out of the gate and held sway in the opening three minutes.
Jared Coreau was forced into some excellent saves as the hosts took aim on six occasions before rookie Anthony Cirelli ended up in the box, sending Grand Rapids on the power play
The visitors tested McKenna on two occasions with the extra man but the goaltender’s best save of the period would occur at the six minute mark.
A giveaway by Jake Dotchin allowed Martin Frk to escape unattended and the veteran goaltender had to be at the top of his game to deny him.
The teams would exchange a pair of glorious chances before the deadlock would be broken with exactly ten minutes on the clock. Ben Street claiming his seventh of the post-season with a second attempt after Mitch Callahan had been denied.
A second power play for Grand Rapids would prove fruitless but the visitors would double their lead late in the period.
A long shot from left boards seemed to deflect off a Syracuse player in front and then Dan Renouf, as the rookie scored his first ever playoff goal.
Despite a flurry of penalties and Tyler Bertuzzi going close in the final second of play, the Griffins lead would remain 2-0 heading into the middle frame.
The penalty theme continued into the second period as the teams took a combined four minor’s inside eight minutes.
Tomas Nosek forced McKenna into a wonderful stop to deny him a short-handed marker.
Grand Rapids failed to make a two man advantage count, whilst the home team’s power play looked largely inept.
The third goal of the game transpired as the midway point of the game was passed.
A break from the Griffins had the Crunch on their heels and Eric Tangradi made the perfect play to the trailing man. That player was Renouf, who made no mistake for his second of the evening. Not bad for a defenseman who had mustered just three goals through 67 regular season games.
Syracuse would strike back 72 seconds later after capitalising on a defensive breakdown from Grand Rapids.
Cory Conacher found Yanni Gourde all alone in front – a bad idea at the best of times for opposition teams, and he potted his seventh of the post-season by beating Coreau at his far post.
It was the home team now in the ascendancy as they searched for a second goal.
Syracuse failed to threaten with a power play opportunity but almost clawed within a goal thanks to their Eddie Shore Award winner.
With 75 seconds left on the clock, Matt Taormina let fly from the slot – a goal looked the only result possible but for an incredible shot block by Dylan McIrath.
It was time to put up or shut up from the Syracuse point of view and what they really need was an early third period goal to reduce the deficit.
Tye McGinn was gifted a chance by a turnover 80 seconds in but he couldn’t take advantage of his good fortune.
A third straight power play brought some opportunities for the Crunch but Jared Coreau denied them on multiple occasions, despite scrambling around. His best save was a magnificent left pad stop to deny Byron Froese.
Only a misguided soul would count out this Syracuse team and they pulled within one with 7:39 played.
Another defensive breakdown from the Griffins and they were made to pay after gambling on a rush of their own.
Michael Bournival with the tidy finish on a feed from Gabriel Dumont and the sound inside the War Memorial was now deafening.
Every pass, clearance and shot now took on extra significance but there was little tension from the players on either team.
Both goaltenders were playing at a high level – Coreau turning aside a redirected effort from McGinn and McKenna making an excellent glove save from Matt Lorita after beginning to slide in the opposite direction of the shot.
There was certainly no shortage of drama – no better encapsulated than during a crazy thirty seconds with seven minutes remaining.
Coreau bailing out his team with a miraculous save and then Tyler Bertuzzi blocking what looked to be a certain goal. Grand Rapids then created a 2 on 0 break but somehow failed to score.
A perfect opportunity for the visitors to clinch the win came with a two man advantage but the Griffins power play had lost it’s mojo during this game four encounter and barely troubled McKenna.
With the penalties expired an odd man rush followed but Colin Campbell whistled his shot wide of the cage on a rebound effort following another save from McKenna.
More late drama in this series?
There would be as Syracuse headed on the power play for the fifth time with 2:21 remaining.
McKenna was pulled for the extra attacker as Syracuse pushed Grand Rapids to the very edge.
Coreau pushed aside a bullet shot from Taormina but it was the shot blocking by the players in front of the goaltender that stood out.
Renouf twice laying has body on the line and he was ably helped out by McIlrath and Bertuzzi in that regard.
With the penalty having expired, there would be one last play after the Griffins had iced the puck.
A mere 7.6 left on the clock and the face-off in the right circle inside the Grand Rapids zone.
Syracuse would win the face-off but Conacher’s weak shot would be easily blocked and Grand Rapids held on for a 3-2 victory that see’s them pull into a 3-1 series lead.
The final buzzer witnessed a line brawl following unsavoury antics from Conacher.
Froese laying into Matt Ford with multiple punches despite the Griffins player prone on the ice, while the officials allowed Campbell to pile into Taormina.
Post Game Notes:
Grand Rapids improved to 10-0 this postseason when scoring the game’s first goal.
Jared Coreau made 31 saves for his fourteenth win of the post-season. An excellent bounce back performance after allowing ten goals combined in his two previous games (though not necessarily all his fault).
Yanni Gourde extended his points streak to seven games. His 22 points overall puts him second in post-season scoring.
Martin Frk led all skaters with six shots but was unable to find the net.
Grand Rapids are now one victory away from claiming their second Calder Cup Championship in four years.
They clinched the 2013 championship in Syracuse and could repeat the feat Saturday night.