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Grand Rapids Griffins defeat Oklahoma City 5-4, advance to Calder Cup Final

Updated 7x at 12:43 AM: The Grand Rapids Griffins won a wild and wacky Game 7 of their Western Conference Final series against the Oklahoma City Barons, defeating OKC 5-4, and as such, the Griffins advance to the AHL's Calder Cup Final.

They'll battle the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate, and the series will begin on Saturday, with Games 1 and 2 to take place in Syracuse, NY and Games 3, 4 and 5 to take place in Grand Rapids.

Update #2: Via We All Bleed Red on YouTube, Tomas Jurco scored the game-winner:

More to come as the media updates us with gnus...And I will most certainly need your help finding quasi-legal streams going forward (the AHL charges $11 to watch a crappy stream of both broadcasts), and yes, we may plan some sort of TMR gathering at the Griffins' home games (the barn needs filling, folks, it ain't more than half-full).

Update: the Griffins just posted the series schedule:

The Grand Rapids Griffins will play for the Calder Cup for the first time in franchise history after defeating the Oklahoma City Barons four games to three in the Western Conference Finals, capped off by tonight's wild 5-4 victory in Game 7 at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins, winners of the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference playoff champions, will now face the Syracuse Crunch in the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals. Games 1 and 2 will be played this Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 at the Onondaga County War Memorial, before the series switches to Van Andel Arena on Wednesday, June 12 for the first of as many as three straight games. The complete schedule is as follows:


2013 Calder Cup Finals - Best of Seven

Game 1  Sat., June 8  GRIFFINS at Crunch  7 p.m.
Game 2  Sun., June 9  GRIFFINS at Crunch  6 p.m.
Game 3  Wed., June 12  Crunch at GRIFFINS  7 p.m. (Game K)
Game 4  Fri., June 14  Crunch at GRIFFINS  7 p.m. (Game L)
*Game 5  Sat., June 15  Crunch at GRIFFINS  7 p.m. (Game M)

*Game 6  Tue., June 18  GRIFFINS at Crunch  7 p.m.
*Game 7  Thu., June 20  GRIFFINS at Crunch  7 p.m.

* If necessary    All times Eastern and subject to change.    All games on Newsradio WOOD 106.9 FM & 1300 AM.

Tickets for Games 3 and 4 and the potential Game 5 at Van Andel Arena will go on sale to the public tomorrow at 10 a.m. They may be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets locations, by phone at (800) 585-3737, or through http://griffinshockey.com All t.hree games will feature $2 beers and $2 hot dogs from 6-8 p.m.

This will mark the first-ever playoff meeting between Grand Rapids and Syracuse, each of which will make its Calder Cup Finals debut. The third-seeded Griffins reached the finals by beating No. 6 Houston (3-2), No. 2 Toronto (4-2) and No. 5 Oklahoma City (4-3), while fellow third seed Syracuse defeated the same seeds in sequence: No. 6 Portland (3-0), No. 2 Springfield (4-0) and No. 5 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (4-1).

The Griffins, who have reached a league final once before, falling in six games to Chicago in the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Finals, have won three consecutive playoff series for the first time in their history. Now in their 12th AHL season and 17th campaign overall, they came up short in their two previous AHL conference finals appearances in 2006 and 2003.

In their 19th season, the Crunch are also further in the playoffs than they've ever been, with their only other conference finals berth coming in 1996. However, 10 members of Syracuse's roster were part of the 2011-12 Norfolk Admirals squad that tore through the AHL on its way to the championship. The Admirals finished the 2012 postseason with 10 consecutive wins and won 43 of their final 46 games over the last four months of the year. Including the Crunch's 7-0 start to this year's playoffs, that core group of former Admirals won 17 straight playoff games and swept four consecutive series before dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, a 4-2 defeat that stands as its only loss of this postseason.

Syracuse won the East Division with 97 points (43-22-6-5), while Grand Rapids conquered the Midwest Division with 92 points (42-26-4-4). The two franchises have not met since the 2008-09 regular season, with the Griffins owning all-time series marks of 14-6-0-2 overall and 8-2-0-1 at home against the Crunch.

And, as the Free Press's Helene St. James notes:

Update #3: Here is the AHL's website's recap:

In a Game 7 befitting a classic series, the Grand Rapids Griffins outlasted the Oklahoma City Barons, 5-4, at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday night to win the AHL's Western Conference championship and advance to the franchise's first Calder Cup Finals.

The Griffins will meet the Syracuse Crunch in the best-of-seven league championship series beginning Saturday night in Syracuse, N.Y.

Each team erased deficits twice in Game 7 and the Griffins avoided a repeat of their Game 6 setback, this time holding on after Tomas Jurco gave them the lead for good with 6:12 left in the third period.

After surrendering two goals in the final 2:27 of the third period last night and falling 4-3, Grand Rapids grabbed the early lead in Game 7 when Jan Mursak tipped Adam Almquist's shot past Yann Danis (28 saves) just 54 seconds into the first period. It was the fifth time in the series that the Griffins had scored the game's first goal.

As they did the night before, the Barons wasted little time turning a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. First, Chris VandeVelde split two Griffins defenders and slipped the puck past Petr Mrazek to tie the game at 1-1 at the 13:07 mark of the first.

Then, 25 seconds later, Oklahoma City grabbed a 2-1 lead as Teemu Hartikainen circled out of the corner and snapped a shot into the top corner over the glove hand of Mrazek.

Grand Rapids tied the score at 2-2 with a power-play goal at 15:55 as Joakim Andersson's pass from behind the net got tangled in skates before Tomas Tatar collected it and potted the equalizer.

Grand Rapids regained the lead with another power-play goal after Oklahoma City was caught having too many men on the ice. Gustav Nyquist walked in from the right point and fired a shot that beat Danis to the short side, making it 3-2 in favor of the Griffins at 9:47 of the second period.

Antti Tyrvainen pulled the Barons even again with 2:58 to play in the middle frame when his shot was saved by Mrazek but the rebound pinballed into the net off a backchecking Griffins defender.

Oklahoma City came out quickly in the third period and moved back on top just 1:21 into the frame as Taylor Fedun buried the rebound of a Mark Arcobello shot.

The game was tied up for the fourth time at 6:32 of the third when Mursak chased down a loose puck and shoveled a backhand past Danis for his second goal of the night to make it 4-4.

Tomas Jurco then put the Griffins back in front with 6:12 remaining with a great individual effort on an end-to-end rush, finishing with a shot from between the circles that beat Danis to the stick side.

Oklahoma City, which finished with 16 shots on goal in the third period and 39 for the game, had several chances to force overtime late but Mrazek (35 saves) and the Griffins fended them off.

Grand Rapids was 2-for-4 on the power play in Game 7 and went 6-for-14 over the final four games of the series. Oklahoma City was 0-for-3, finishing 2-for-30 in the series.

Update #4: Here's a full slate of highlights from the AHL:

Update #5: The Grand Rapids Griffins posted their highlight clip and post-game interviews with Jeff Blashill and Tomas Jurco:


The Griffins also posted a superb set of from-the-crowd photos and a Fickr photo gallery from the game, and WZZM 13 posted a slideshow;

WOOD TV8 posted 2 highlight clips...

 

Fox 17 posted a highlight clip...

 

And the Oilers' website posted their highlights...

As well as--if you're interested--a post-game wrap-up and individual interviews with coach Todd Nelson, Chris VandeVelde, Josh Green and Ben Eager.

Update #6: The Barons were just devastated with their loss--especially given that they blew 3-1 and 4-3 leads--as they told EdmontonOilers.com's Ryan Dittrick...

"It was a great season," Head Coach Todd Nelson said. "I think the guys learned a lot this year. They learned how to deal with adversity and they're better men now than they were at the start of the year because of it. They've always been very good people, but their character and how they handled the adversity this year was tremendous. To see how they fought through adversity this year was amazing and truly inspirational. We did it all together and that's the most important. The guys are pretty down right now, but they can walk out of the room with their heads held high."

"I'm pretty proud of the guys," captain Josh Green added. "They worked extremely hard and battled right to the end. It seemed like we played our best when our backs were up against the wall. It was crazy. It was one of the most interesting seasons I've ever been a part of. It was a lot of fun."

On the back of a huge Game 6 victory less than 24 hours earlier, the Barons became the fourth team in AHL history to win three road elimination games. The Barons have said all along that they prefer doing things the hard way. No team has ever won four. For the time being, it will remain that way.

...

The Barons kept the momentum rolling into the third. Pouncing on a rebound at the near circle after Mark Arcobello's point shot was turned aside, Fedun sailed a lightning-quick wrister over a sprawling Mrazek to give the visitors a 4-3 lead at 1:41.

"We were [feeling good] at that point," Green said. "We made it hard on ourselves, but certainly with that 4-3 lead we wanted to hold onto it and put the game away. We had a 3-on-1 when we were up 4-3 and that could have been a game-changer, too, but we didn't capitalize."

That proved costly. Mursak notched his second of the night less than six minutes later, making it a 4-4 game before the third was 10 minutes old.

Jurco scored the game-winner with 6:12 to play. Racing end to end and with room to skate, the slick Slovakian split Andrew Hotham and Randy Jones before delivering a wrist shot past Danis on the blocker side.

The Barons pulled Danis for an extra-attacker with 1:35 to play and, while Mrazek was peppered with a number of high-quality chances in deep, it wasn't enough.

"I think (the experience) goes a long way," Eager, who won a Calder Cup in 2005 with the Philadelphia Phantoms, said post-game. "Personally, I was part of a couple long runs when I was a younger player. I think guys will take this and remember it for the rest of their lives. Next time they're in this situation, they'll know what it takes to get to the next round.  The guys can all go out with their heads held high. Everyone gave it a good effort."

The Griffins' website offered its recap around midnight...

Tomas Jurco finished off a wild, back-and-forth contest by scoring the game-winning goal with 6:12 remaining on Wednesday, as the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 5-4 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals at Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids advances to face the Syracuse Crunch in its first Calder Cup Finals and its first championship series appearance since the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Finals. Games 1 and 2 will take place in Syracuse this Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., before the series shifts to Van Andel Arena on Wednesday, June 12 for as many as three straight games. Tickets for all home games will go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday at http://www.griffinshockey.com

.

The Griffins needed only 54 seconds to get on the board, as Jan Mursak redirected Adam Almquist’s wrister from the point past Yann Danis. But the Barons’ quick-strike offense scored twice in a span of 25 seconds later in the frame to move ahead 2-1. Chris VandeVelde picked up the puck at center ice, split a pair of defenders as he drove down the slot and buried a shot between Petr Mrazek’s pads at 13:07, before Teemu Hartikainen skated around Nathan Paetsch in the left circle and blistered a shot into the far corner.

Tomas Tatar knotted the score at two with a power play goal at the 15:55 mark, finding the puck in the slot and ripping it over Danis’ left shoulder. Tatar’s 11th goal tied the franchise record for a single postseason (Kevin Miller in 2000) and set a team Calder Cup Playoff mark, eclipsing the 10 tallied by Stacy Roest in 2003.

The Griffins used another power play to take a 3-2 lead midway through the second, when Gustav Nyquist whipped a shot through traffic from atop the right circle at 9:47 for his first of the playoffs. But the Barons benefitted from a lucky break with 2:58 remaining in the frame, as the rebound of an Antti Tyrvainen shot was inadvertently knocked into the net by the skate of a hard-backchecking Triston Grant.

Oklahoma City lit the lamp again just 1:21 into the third, with Taylor Fedun doing the damage from the bottom of the left circle to again give the visitors the lead. Mursak’s second goal then forged the fourth tie of the night at 4-4, connecting on a sharp-angle backhand from near the left corner at 6:32, before Jurco finished off a near cost-to-coast rush by beating Danis cleanly from the slot at 13:48, igniting the Van Andel Arena crowd.

The Barons refused to go quietly, forcing the Griffins to withstand several last-minute faceoffs in their zone, including one during a 6-on-4 advantage with Danis pulled and 13 seconds remaining, but to no avail.

Mrazek stopped 35 of 39 on the night, while Danis turned aside 28 shots.

Notes: The 11 playoff wins earned by the Griffins and Mrazek represent new records for both the team and an individual goalie in a single postseason. Grand Rapids won 10 games during its 2003 and 2000 runs, which were backstopped by Marc Lamothe and Jani Hurme, respectively…June 5 matched the latest game date ever for the Griffins, who fell to Chicago in Game 6 of the IHL Turner Cup Finals exactly 13 years ago…The Griffins improved to 11-13 all time and 4-9 at home when their opponent faces elimination, 8-10 overall and 5-5 at Van Andel Arena when facing elimination themselves, and 2-2 in Game 7s…In the three games since Joakim Andersson and Nyquist returned from Detroit, Grand Rapids has gone 6-for-14 on the power play. Over the series’ first three games, the Griffins went 0-for-9.

And the Griffins spoke to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner about their victory:

“It’s a great next step for the team,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It was obviously a grueling, hard series with two even swings both ways. We feel very fortunate and excited to compete for the Calder Cup championship.”

Nothing was bigger than Jurco’s goal. The 20-year-old rookie broke free at center ice, moved left and right and put it past goalie Yann Danis to break a 4-4 tie with 6:12 remaining.

“I saw their D didn’t have any speed so I tried to skate around him, and Frankie Pare was on my right side and I tried to fake a pass to him and ended up in the middle of the ice, and between the D, and I shot low blocker,” Jurco said of his seventh goal of the postseason. “I was just happy it went in.”

Perfect spot for a guy known for his stick-handling skills.

“Maybe I got lucky …,” he said before he got a shaving cream pie in the face from teammate Triston Grant.

...

It was quite a turnaround for the Griffins after a stunning late loss to the Barons the previous night.

“I think we just had to forget about last night,” said Gustav Nyquist, who scored in the second period for his first goal since his return from Detroit. “We know how to be successful. We showed that down in Oklahoma when we took two in a row, so we said we’ll just do what we’ve been doing and said, ‘Why change that?’”

Update #7: If you're interested, the Oklahoman's Dean Holzwarth penned a recap, too:

The game was deadlocked at 3-3 after two periods, but Oklahoma City took a 4-3 lead less than two minutes into the third.

Taylor Fedun punched in a rebound off a shot from Mark Arcobello, but Grand Rapids' Jan Mursak scored at 6:32 to knot the score again on a backhand past Yann Danis.

“We were feeling good, we had the lead and we were just trying to protect it,” Green said. “It was a lucky bounce for them to tie it, and it kind of rolled up Yanni and hit a couple of sticks.

“It was tough, and we certainly made it hard on ourselves, but we would've liked to held onto that 4-3 lead and put the game away. Give them credit, they hung around and got the goals they needed to win the series.”

Grand Rapids scored 54 seconds into the game on a shot that was flicked into the net and found its way past Danis.

Oklahoma City answered late in the first, and took the lead with goals from VanderVelde and Teemu Hartikainen 25 seconds apart.

Tomas Tatar registered a power-play goal to make it 2-2 after the first period.

Both teams scored a goal a piece in the second. Gustav Nyquist ripped a power-play goal in, and Antti Tyrvainen pushed one past Petr Mrazek.

“We came together at the right time, and we wanted to go onto the next round, but it was Game 7 and it was a one goal game,” said Oklahoma City's Ben Eager, who had an assist. “We were right there, but unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it. I think this team learned a lot about how to win in the playoffs, and we will be better from this. We can go out with our heads high.”

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Comments

SYF's avatar

Jeff Blashill in his first year as head coach of the Grifs and he’s already taken them to the Calder Cup Finals.  That’s some good shit.

WOOD Radio currently covering the noise in GR.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 06/05/13 at 09:43 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Helene St. James @HeleneStJames

Good news for GR Griffins as they head into Calder Cup championship: D Danny DeKeyser will be available to join lineup.

Raaaaaahhhh…we were so close to having him back in the Wings lineup.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 06/05/13 at 09:53 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Go Griffins!!

Let’s get as many Wings fans at Van Andel as we can!

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 06/05/13 at 09:58 PM ET

Avatar

Anyone know how long Blashill’s contract is?  I just don’t want other teams poaching him.

Posted by zombietroy on 06/05/13 at 10:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman suggested that the Stars and Jim Nill will probably interview Blashill.

My issue with that is something I would prefer to not state in the blog, but probably will: Blashill’s youngest son had open heart surgery to repair a tear at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor last summer, and the pediatricians there have been helping the Blashill family since Owen—who is 2 and will probably need more corrective surgery as he grows older—was born.

At this point I would imagine that the Blashill family wants to find some stability as they wait to see whether Owen’s health stabilizes, and as he coached at Western Michigan and enjoys the teaching aspect of the game, I’d imagine that staying put in GR makes sense for Blashill and family, for at least another year or two.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/05/13 at 10:18 PM ET

Avatar

I feel bad for the guy DeKeyser is going to replace. Has a roster spot all locked up in the AHL and then some college kid who should be in the NHL gets to come in and kick him out before the finals.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 06/05/13 at 10:30 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

At this point I would imagine that the Blashill family wants to find some stability as they wait to see whether Owen’s health stabilizes, and as he coached at Western Michigan and enjoys the teaching aspect of the game, I’d imagine that staying put in GR makes sense for Blashill and family, for at least another year or two.

family first

If there’s a game 5, maybe I can make it. Overall, the arena is in a pretty safe area for being downtown (GR is safer than the big city downtowns I’ve been in, although obviously nothing’s perfectly safe). The arena is pretty good as well.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/05/13 at 10:36 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

Dallas has a really good children’s hospital for heart issues.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 06/05/13 at 10:37 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

We aren’t Blashill and we can’t make his decisions. I didn’t think that Nill would leave given that Mrs. Nill’s battling breast cancer again, but the Stars clearly hooked the family up with the best oncologists in Dallas.

This is the kind of thing I try not to worry about too much until the series is over.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/05/13 at 10:43 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I’ll definitely look into going to game 4, and if necessary, game 5.

And I’ve said it before, but as key as Mursak has been to the Griffin’s playoff run, I really hope that the Wings take another look at him sometime down the road.  He maybe one of those guys who just cant make the jump to the next level, but I don’t think he really got a fair shake with the Wings, with injuries and grind line duty when he was called up.

Posted by Hootinani on 06/05/13 at 10:44 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The problem for Mursak is that he’s essentially going to have all of five minutes to pack up his apartment in Detroit and wherever he’s been living in GR because the KHL’s training camps take place in mid-July and the preseason starts in August…And Khabarovsk is as far away from anywhere else that you can get.

If the Wings intervene, it’d better be quickly, and I’m sure they can’t match the $ or promises of playing time that Amur can.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/05/13 at 10:52 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

George, if you have the time/$ to see a game in GR, maybe the GR contingent could help (and maybe even if you don’t have the $, but I can’t make promises). Tickets are from $17-$35, and the parking’s not ridiculous in GR.  I’d bet someone from GR is going to go to at least one of the games that would recognize you, if you don’t already know people there.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/05/13 at 10:59 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

We aren’t Blashill and we can’t make his decisions. I didn’t think that Nill would leave given that Mrs. Nill’s battling breast cancer again, but the Stars clearly hooked the family up with the best oncologists in Dallas.

It’s interesting to read about this sort of thing as factors, though.  We know it played a part in the Bowman’s decision with Chicago and it may be having an effect here, again.  Dallas is part of a quickly growing Metroplex (6.2M people, up 23% since ‘10) and the combination of no state income tax and traditionally conservative politics (tied to lower malpractice insurance rates and favorable judicial system) makes it a growing area for medical practice.  There’s several good hospitals in the area and the city has been steadily growing northward toward, around and past the Stars facility in Plano so that area is very attractive and “new”.  As a bit of an amusing note; my mom stays at a hotel a couple blocks from the Dr. Pepper Center (stars practice facility) when she’s in Dallas frequently for ongoing medical treatment and she and my dad ate breakfast a table over from Jaromir Jagr and Antoine Roussel a week before the trade deadline because all of that stuff is very congested in that area (and there’s a toll road right through the middle of it which makes it very easy to get around the entire north part of the metroplex area).  She’s a huge Stars fan and coordinates doctor appointments with their home game schedule.  “I’ll be in surgery tomorrow, but the Wings are in town tonight, so…” 

It would be pretty easy to pitch the area and it’s accouterments to a prospective hire for whom you have the inkling that such things matter.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 06/05/13 at 11:00 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

And I’ve said it before, but as key as Mursak has been to the Griffin’s playoff run, I really hope that the Wings take another look at him sometime down the road.  He maybe one of those guys who just cant make the jump to the next level, but I don’t think he really got a fair shake with the Wings, with injuries and grind line duty when he was called up.

Mursak is one of several forwards who I never felt got the opportunities I’d have liked to see them have recently, but his problem will always be size.  He’s one of those guys who we would think about a lot differently if the rules were actually called as they’re written.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 06/05/13 at 11:02 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Mursak: Darren Helm speed with a scoring touch. Bummer injuries derailed his chance at a permanent spot on the Wings roster.
What a great game and once again a decent turnout.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 06/06/13 at 07:51 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.