(photo: Grand Rapids Griffins)
The battle of the Midwest reigned today as the Grand Rapids Griffins hosted the Lake Erie Monsters at Van Andel Arena. With the University of Michigan falling to the Buckeyes of The Ohio State University in Big 10 football action in Ann Arbor, the atmosphere was charged in west Michigan as yet another Ohio team came to wage war.
The action began quickly with Grand Rapids scoring the first goal of the game at 3:29. The goal, by right-wing Mark Zengerle (Assists: Russo, Ouellet) launched a cascade of teddy bears onto the ice in support of this years “Teddy Bear Toss” game to benefit Hug-A-Bears of Kent County, a charity that provides bears as comfort to children who have been victims of traumatic events such as crime or disaster. Hundreds of bears were thrown and collected off the ice.
Once the bears were cleared the action resumed quickly with Griffins right wing Daniel Cleary, on conditioning from the Detroit Red Wings, going to the penalty box at 5:27 for high sticking. The Monsters were unable to capitalize on the power play however, and the game remained in Grand Rapids hands. At 9:11, Lake Erie’s defenseman Jaime Sifers was charged with holding and the Griffins had the one man advantage. Like Grand Rapids before them, Lake Erie was strong on the penalty kill and the power play proved a non-event for the boys from the mitten state. Finally, at 15:24 Lake Erie struck when left-wing Trent Vogelhuber blasted a shot past Griffins goalie Tom McCollum and the score was tied at 1-1 and remained so through the remaining four and a half minutes of first period play.
The second period saw a lot more physical action between these rivals with a total of five penalties and a fight that resulted in the Griffins Mitch Callahan going to the box at 6:00 on a roughing penalty. This penalty had already been preceded by two other Grand Rapids violations, one at 1:03 when defender Xavier Ouellet sat for holding, and another at 3:40 when center Louis-Marc Aubrey got caught for a delay of game on a faceoff violation. In both cases however, the Griffins remained solid and defeated the Monster penalty plays. Unfortunately for the winged beasts of west Michigan, the Callahan penalty proved to be the Monsters reward as their hard work on the penalty play put them up 1-2 at 7:00 on a goal by left-wing Nick Moutrey (Assists: Tynan, Kukan). The aggressive action continued with Lake Erie’s right-wing Josh Anderson being sent off for two minutes at the 13:20 mark for a cross-check. Four minutes later the Monsters’ Dean Kukan also caught bench time for holding. This time, the Griffins made good on the power play opportunity and left-wing Eric Tangradi (Assists: Miele, Sproul) slipped the little rubber disk past Lake Erie net minder Anton Forsberg to even things at 2.
The third period opened almost immediately with a Grand Rapids penalty as defender Nick Jensen was penalized for roughing at :34 but the Griffins stayed strong on the penalty kill. At 6:37 Monsters D-man Dillon Heatherington was penalized for interference, but their penalty kill was too effective for the Griffins to overcome. Two more penalties and power plays marked the period, one at 7:44 by Ryan Sproul of the Griffins and then at 13:28 by the Monsters Lukas Sedlak, but neither team was able to convert on the power plays. Despite a final minute and a half dominated by strong and solid play by Grand Rapids the third period closed with the teams locked in a 2-2 tie and the game headed to a three-on-three five minute overtime period.
Both teams entered the overtime period strong and solid but smart enough to avoid the penalties that would have dangerously depleted their numbers. McCollum and Forsberg remained solid in their nets, deflecting multiple shots until the 2:02 mark when the Griffins Mitch Callahan, on a well-orchestrated play put the puck past Forsberg and ended the game, Griffins 3, Lake Erie 2.
Throughout this event, both teams played hard and aggressively. Both teams had exceptional plays and other moments when even the most simple of passes just seemed to bobble off the sticks of their intended targets. Equally, while the play was aggressive and was reflected in the high number of penalties and power play opportunities, both teams excelled in penalty killing and the game was overall a very fair battle of wills. Named as the three stars of the game were GRG Goalie Tom McCollum who put in a solid performance; GRG Left Wing Eric Tangradi for his power play goal and solid play throughout the game; and, Mitch Callahan for the game-winning OT shot.