Milwaukee, Wisconsin is considered one of the birthplaces of American beer and has been dubbed Brew City, while Grand Rapids, Michigan has been named Beer City, USA for its unprecedented growth in the small, micro-brew/craft brew industry trend that has taken America by storm in the past decade or so. On Saturday night, the ambassadors for these cities met in Milwaukee to wage a different battle; not a battle of the brews, but a battle on the ice. It was a hard fought battle, but the Grand Rapids Griffins walked away with the evening’s victory over the Milwaukee Admirals, the current Central Division leaders in the American Hockey League (AHL).
As the first period got underway, it was the Griffins who looked as if they came to play hockey. Grand Rapids hit the ice hard and aggressively and at 5:56 Colin Campbell put away the first goal of the game with no assist against the Admirals goalie Marek Mazanec. At 8:48, the Admirals Mike Liambas was sent away for 2:00 for elbowing, opening up another opportunity for the Griffins when Mitch Callahan (Assists: Frk, Campbell) glossed one past the glove of Mazanec. Still on a tear and with the adrenaline pumping, an unassisted Louis-Marc Aubry rippled the Admiral net yet another time only thirty seconds later at 10:22.
This much activity so quickly into a game cannot go without some tensions starting to flare and frustrations beginning to show. The Admirals Jimmy Oligny caught 2:00 for cross-checking at 11:05. The Griffins were not immune either and Evgeny Svechnikov followed shortly thereafter, at 13:30, on a holding call. The period came to a close with Milwaukee’s Justin Kirkland, riding the penalty pine for goaltender interference at 18:30.
While the Griffins clearly dominated the first period of the game, the top-ranked team in the division had no intention of letting the game slip away that easily and they returned to the second period revitalized. Equally so, the Griffins had no intentions of slowing down or going away. Over nine minutes of second period action went by before the teams decided to step the game up and at 9:42 the increased action saw its first power play opportunity arise when the Griffins Conor Allen went to the penalty box for roughing. The Admirals, however were unable to capitalize on Grand Rapids short-handed two minutes. At 14:45, the Griffins were unable to clear their men off the ice fast enough and caught a bench min or for too many men on the ice which was served out by Martin Frk. Again, the Admiral’s were unable to capitalize on the power play, but only thirty one seconds later Matt White (Assists: Fiala; Dougherty) was able to move a deflected puck into the Griffins net and the Admirals made their numbers move for the first time. Energized, the Admiral’s Adam Pardy (Assist: Fiala) narrowed the game to a single point only 29 seconds later when he sneaked one past the Griffins netminder, Eddie Pasquale.
The third period was do-or-die for the Brew City boys. Two more power play opportunities passed unanswered by Milwaukee however; the first at 00:59 when Martin Frk was penalized for stick holding, and again at 04:58 when Joe Hicketts was on the short end of a slashing call. The period saw two more penalty calls, the first of those on Milwaukee’s Mike Liambas at 11:08 for boarding, and then the playing field leveling again when Grand Rapids’ Martin Frk was sent off for high sticking. Neither team was able to make hay on those opportunities. At 18:18, Admiral’s head coach Dean Evason pulled Mazanec from the net for the extra offensive man. At 18:40, Adam Payerl, quickly moving on a shot rebounded off Pasquale’s glove, was able to slip the game-tying goal into the net. The period closed and both teams prepared for overtime.
Overtime saw both teams vying for the puck, but it was the challengers from Beer City, the team who’d had a solid lead after the first period, that thirsted for the win. Not even halfway into the OT period, they redeemed themselves when Joe Hicketts, scoring his first professional goal, sealed the win for the Grand Rapids Griffins, taking their numbers to 8-4-0-0 for the season so far in this 4 – 3 victory.
Milwaukee dominated the game in shots with 37 shots on goal to the Griffins 26, but the Griffins were able to capitalize on a power play where the Admiral’s couldn’t and by refusing to roll over in the overtime period.