For the second time in five years, the Grand Rapids Griffins have won the Calder Cup Championship!
The Griffins clinched the Cup thanks to two third period goals. Grand Rapids found themselves down 3-2 heading into the final period before Tyler Bertuzzi tied the game at three. Frk then scored the winner with just over seven minutes remaining in the third, leading the Griffins to a 4-3 victory. Bertuzzi was awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs. With his game tying goal, Bertuzzi passed Teemu Pulkkinen on the Griffins franchise list with 23 career playoff goals. He collected 19 points (9-10-19) throughout the postseason.
Griffins veterans Brian Lashoff, Mitch Callahan, and Nathan Paetsch won their second championship with the franchise. Head Coach Todd Nelson became the third coach to also have played to win a cup.
Syracuse scored the opening goal of the contest with 5:51 remaining in the first period. Goalie Jared Coreau went behind the net to play the puck as two Crunch players crashed the area causing Coreau to make an errant pass which resulted in a Cory Conacher pass to Yanni Gourde whose shot beat Coreau to the net for the Crunch to take a 1-0 lead.
Grand Rapids found themselves on the man advantage three times in five minutes before the end of the opening frame. They had not scored a power play goal in the three previous games in Syracuse but that drought ended when Matt Ford tied the game just a few seconds into the middle period. Tomas Nosek intercepted a deflection attempt from the Crunch and the puck found Ford for the tally.
Syracuse regained the lead at the 7:51 mark when Matt Tarmonia collected a rebound that beat Jared Coreau to put the visitors back into the lead at 2-1. The Griffins tied the game up again just a few short minutes later. Crunch goalie Mike McKenna made an errant pass from behind his own net which was intercepted by Ben Street. Street then found Mitch Callahan who scored before McKenna could regain his positioning.
Before long, the Crunch found themselves back on top when Gourde scored his second goal of the evening. Syracuse lead 3-2 heading into the final period.
The Griffins quickly tied the game for the third time of the night when Tyler Bertuzzi collected a rebound from a Martin Frk shot and found the back of the net for his franchise record 23rd career postseason goal. Martin Frk later scored the game winner and cup clincher with just over seven minutes remaining.
Grand Rapids survived a late push by the Crunch to win its second championship and its first ever on home ice. The Griffins finished 10-0 at home during the playoffs.
Jared Coreau made 29 saves and finished with a 15-4 playoff record.
The Griffins are only the 14th city all time to win two or more Calder Cup titles.
This season was one for the ages. The Griffins had a regular season record of 47-23-1-5 and went 15-4 in the playoffs. They swept the Milwaukee Admirals for the second consecutive season before beating the Chicago Wolves and San Jose Barracuda each in five games. This championship round was by far the most difficult for the Griffins who were pushed to six game by the Syracuse Crunch,
There are many unknowns heading into the offseason for Griffins hockey. You wonder if guys like Mitch Callahan and Brian Lashoff will return. Eric Tangradi has one more season on his deal, but is not waiver exempt. Will Jared Coreau be in Detroit next season? Will Todd Nelson be offered an NHL job? But for now, let’s enjoy what has been an incredible season leading to one unforgettable night for the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When captain Nathan Paetsch hoisted the cup above his head, there was no greater feeling among over 11,000 Griffins faithful who stayed to celebrate deep into the late hours of the night. The energy was electrifying and every single person was elated to cap off a magical run with another Championship.
Thank you all for your tremendous support of the Griffins throughout. I will be writing periodically throughout the offseason as transactions and player updates take place.