Grand Rapids came into Game 6 looking for a chance to win the Calder Cup in front of their home crowd. The energy in the air was palpable and the Griffins did not want to disappoint the 10,834 in attendance at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI.
“The electricity in the building, it was unreal,” Griffins’ coach Todd Nelson said. “On the bench coaching and watching the fans get involved … it was just an unbelievable night.”
In a fantastic contest filled with twists and drama, Martin Frk’s fifth goal of the playoffs, assisted by Brian Lashoff Tomas Nosak with 7:19 remaining, was the bolt of lightning the Griffins were looking for as Grand Rapids snapped the tie and downed the Syracuse Crunch, 4-3, to clinch the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup in six games.
Matthew Ford, Mitch Callahan and Tyler Bertuzzi also scored while Jared Coreau made 29 saves in net as Grand Rapids won its second Calder Cup in team history and second in the last five years after staking claim to its first AHL title in 2012-13.
The first period was a defensive period as both teams tried to set the tone and each goalie was making saves, but then the first goal would come from a goalie’s mistake. With 5:51 to play in the frame, Coreau went out to play the puck but turned it over and Syracuse made no mistake as Yanni Gourde found the empty net to make it 1-0.
The Crunch carried the lead into the intermission but in the second period Grand Rapids equalized almost immediately. Just 18 seconds in, and on a power play that carried over from the first, Ford took his time and whipped a wrister passed Crunch goaltender Mike McKenna to tie the game at 1-1.
Syracuse would respond, though, as they picked up the pressure and took the game to the Griffins. It didn’t take long to pay off and 7:58 into the middle frame Matt Taormina banged home a rebound to give the Crunch their lead back, 2-1. Once again the lead would be short-lived, quickly becoming the theme in Game 6.
A little over halfway through the second period, Grand Rapids received a little karma. Syracuse had been gifted their first goal on a Coreau turnover and McKenna was kind enough to return the favor as Callahan hit to tie the game again, 2-2, with 11:50 left.
Syracuse and Gourde would take the lead one more time as the undrafted left winger from Saint-Narcisse, Quebec native connected again with assists from Taormina and Dominick Masin as the Crunch carried a lead into the intermission once again, this time with a 3-2 advantage.
“I think we really battled hard tonight again. But they answered our goals every time,” Gourde said. “That was the key of their game tonight.”
Grand Rapids would need just 3:50 of play into the third period to tie it on a beautiful passing play. After weaving through defenders, Frk slid a beautiful pass over to Bertuzzi who put away his ninth of the post-season to even the score at 3-3 and set the stage for the hero.
The hero was Frk and his moment came with 7:19 to play in the game when his shot through a screen eluded McKenna and tickled the twine for the game-winner. Syracuse wouldn’t give in and tried their best to find an equalizer of its own but Coreau made several huge stops to seal the deal.
Syracuse played better in a lot of areas for most of the game Tuesday, but in the end they fell in another one-goal game on the road.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Syracuse coach Ben Groulx said. “We played hard, I thought we played like champions tonight. We didn’t get the bounces. Credit to the Griffins. They’re a great team and they found a way to win. For us. Obviously it’s tough because at one point you feel that you can touch the Cup. You’re so close, and, phew, it’s gone. So it’s tough right now.”
In the other locker room, the mood was a little happier.
“What a fun year,” Nosek, who will likely graduate to the Grand Rapids’ NHL parent club Detroit Red Wings next season, said. “These are great guys. I wish that every player can feel the moment after the buzzer and raise the Cup. It was unbelievable.”
A great series full of tight games, all four of Grand Rapids wins in the finals were one-goal games. In the end, the Griffins proved unstoppable on home ice improving to 10-0 in front of friends and family at Van Andel Arena during the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Written by Cameron D. Turner / @OSUcam
Special to The HockeyClan
Main Image: Grand Rapids goaltender Jared Coreau (31) maintains control in between the pipes for the Griffins. Coreau made 29 saves in net as Grand Rapids won its second Calder Cup in team history. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)