Syracuse Crunch 3 – Grand Rapids Griffins 4
In what’s been a memorable 2017 Calder Cup Finals, a third period comeback sealed a second championship in five years for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
They were made to fight every step of the way by a talented Syracuse Crunch team, who will certainly look back to missed opportunities in this game six and three previous defeats in the series.
Looking to inflict Grand Rapids first defeat of the post-season on home ice, it was the visiting Syracuse outfit that were the better side through the opening forty minutes of play.
The game began with flurry of booming hits and generally physical play and it was Syracuse who garnered the best chance through the first period.
On a rush inside the opening three minutes, Ben Thomas jumped into the play but his shot clunked against the right post with Jared Coreau beaten.
Two straight power plays presented Syracuse with a pair of chances but no goal as Coreau turned aside Adam Erne and Joel Vermin.
An error after miscommunication behind the home team’s net would see the deadlock broken at the fourteen minute mark. Coreau’s intended pass/clearance ended up in slot, where Cory Conacher teed up Yanni Gourde for the easiest of finishes.
It could have been a 2-0 lead within seconds of the restart had Coreau not redeemed himself with a right pad save to deny Erne.
Grand Rapids would draw three penalties to finish the period, including a two man advantage for 37 seconds, but were unable to capitalise.
With an intermission to settle themselves down, the Griffins would find the net on a power play carried over from the first period.
It took just 18 seconds for the home side to level, thanks to a terrible turnover from Jake Dotchin.
Matthew Ford applied the final touch and the home fans cheered in much of relief as joy.
Despite wasting a power play without testing Coreau, Syracuse once more went ahead with almost eight minutes played.
Grand Rapids turned the puck over in their own zone after winning a defensive face-off and paid the price. A plethora of shots finally paid dividends as an effort from Michael Bournival provided a rebound for Matt Taormina in the slot, and the Eddie Shore award winner doesn’t miss often and put the Crunch up 2-1.
As they did when taking the lead in the first period, Syracuse created another great chance following a goal.
Conacher was all alone in the slot but Coreau came up with yet another vital save to keep his team within one.
The Syracuse power play misfired shortly after and Grand Rapids once more tied the game up.
This time it was Mike McKenna with the misplay from behind his own net, gifting possession to Ben Street out in front. Mitch Callahan gratefully received the pass from his team-mate and slid home into the vacant cage for a gimme equaliser.
After being out-played for pretty much the entirety of the middle frame, Grand Rapids pulled up their socks and finally applied some pressure on Syracuse during a two minute spell following the tying goal.
That would lead the home team to earn themselves a power play but a failure to convert would see Syracuse regain the lead for a third time. Bournival leapt out of the penalty box, taking a pass in stride and led a rush toward the home net.
After several blocked shots and saves from Coreau, Gourde struck for the second time in the game and Syracuse would hold the advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.
Grand Rapids had to play a whole lot better in the third period if they were to lift the Calder Cup at the final horn.
They duly delivered their best twenty minutes of the game and struck a tying goal with 3:30 on the clock.
Tomas Nosek entered the Syracuse zone and was brave enough to take a hit from the on-rushing Dotchin. The hit accomplished nothing except take out both players, as Nosek was able to dish the puck off before the collision and Martin Frk made a delicious pass to Tyler Bertuzzi, who was left with a backdoor tap-in.
Syracuse responded to being pegged back with a storming shift. Coreau was in no mood to be beaten for a fourth time, especially after his earlier blemish – the goaltender coming up with a pair of huge saves.
The first wave of “We want the cup” chants then went up from the home fans, who seemed to sense their team were in the ascendancy.
They were almost immediately proved right but McKenna came up with a piece of absolute robbery to deny Matt Ford on a backdoor, one-time effort.
The slightly cagey hockey of the previous two periods had been replaced by flowing play from both teams and they then exchanged chances inside twenty seconds.
A giveaway presented Bournival with a chance from the slot but Coreau got enough of the puck to send it over the crossbar.
Callahan then almost nabbed a second goal for himself, but his attempt whistled an inch wide with McKenna beaten.
It was a likely source from the unlikeliest of positions that would break the deadlock with seven minutes remaining. Following a face-off win, Frk found himself in possession just inside the blue line.
The Czech native is far more used to shooting from closer range but decided to go for broke with his bullet of a shot.
With McKenna unsighted due to a great screen in front, Frk’s attempt found the net before the goaltender could move and the home team took the lead for the first time in the game.
Syracuse would throw the kitchen sink at Grand Rapids during the remainder of regulation time – pulling McKenna with just under two minutes to play.
Coreau was immense however, making a handful of saves including a top north stop to rob Byron Froese.
The Griffins bore down and saw out the final minute of action to finally oust the Syracuse Crunch, to finish what was a magnificent championship series between two equally matched teams.
Post Games Notes:
This was the fifth time that the Calder Cup has been awarded on June 13. The last occasion was 1987.
A remarkable story for Martin Frk, who was released by the Red Wings at the end of camp, claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes only to be waived and re-claimed again by the Detroit organisation.
He had a two point game, setting up the tying goal for 3-3 before scoring the winner.
Tyler Bertuzzi was named playoff MVP with nine goals, 19 points and fifty penalty minutes to his name.
A pair of goals for Yanni Gourde, taking his post-season tally to nine. His 27 point total was one fewer than Cory Conacher – the two Syracuse forwards first and second in post-season scoring.
Tomas Nosek assisted on three goals, taking his points total to 22 – leading his team in playoff scoring.
Grand Rapids were a perfect 10-0 at home during the playoffs, outscoring opponents 46-26.
Grand Rapids and Syracuse scored a combined 42 goals during this six game series.
A total of 457,672 fans attended games during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, the most ever in a single postseason. The Tuesday night crowd of 10,834 was the fourth sell-out of the Finals.