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The Malik Report

Grand Rapids Griffins get ‘early’ jump on IceHogs, take matinee game

The Grand Rapids Griffins may have had to rise very early from their beds to take on the Rockford IceHogs during an 11 AM-starting matinee aimed to entertain Grand Rapids-area schoolchildren, but the Griffins experienced no struggles in focusing on their tasks at hand, defeating Rockford 6-2. The Griffins' website recounts the game's details...

Six was much more than just the date of Grand Rapids’ 13th annual matinee game at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday, as a 6-2 win over the Rockford IceHogs gave the Griffins their sixth straight victory and improved Tom McCollum’s record this season to 6-0.

Behind 27 saves, McCollum joined teammate Petr Mrazek (2012-13) as the only two netminders in Griffins history to start a season with six straight wins, and he helped Grand Rapids achieve its longest winning streak since an eight-game run from Nov. 3-24, 2012.

With their second win over Rockford in four days, the Griffins (8-2-1-1) increased their lead atop the Midwest Division to three points over the IceHogs and continued the third-hottest start in franchise history. In addition, pending the result of tonight’s game between San Antonio and Abbotsford, they reclaimed the overall Western Conference lead by one point over the Heat. 

Grand Rapids will try to make it seven in a row on Friday with a 7:30 p.m. visit to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The Griffins began the onslaught with a pair of first-period goals just 3:17 apart. Andrej Nestrasil tallied his first of the season at the 10:22 mark, when he collected the puck in the right corner, made a beeline for the net and jammed a shot past Antti Raanta. Minutes later, Riley Sheahan chased down a pass in the left circle and quickly sent a feed across to Luke Glendening for an easy tap-in and a 2-0 lead.

Rockford (7-6-1-0) benefitted from a fortunate bounce to get on the board 1:17 into the middle frame. From the left boards, Adam Clendening turned and threw a puck into the slot that deflected off the skate of a Griffins defender and behind McCollum.

The Griffins, however, answered with three more goals in the ensuing 5:27 to build a comfortable 5-1 cushion. Standing to the left of the net, Gustav Nyquist gathered a rebound and calmly lifted a shot into a yawning cage at 2:09, before Teemu Pulkkinen crashed the crease to put back another rebound at 3:59. That goal sent Raanta to the bench in favor of Kent Simpson, but Nyquist potted yet another second chance at the 6:44 mark to secure his second two-goal game in a span of eight days.

Awarded a power play later in the period, Grand Rapids struck again at 13:49 to make it 6-1. Nathan Paetsch fired a shot from the right point that hugged the ice before being tipped by Jeff Hoggan inside the far post. 

Brad Winchester accounted for the final margin by beating McCollum from close range with 10:54 remaining in the game.

Simpson stopped 19 of 21 shots in relief of Raanta (16-of-20), who took the loss.

Notes: The Griffins won their second straight matinee game to improve to 9-3-0-1 all time in the event…The crowd of 6,118 included approximately 4,000 elementary and high school students from across West Michigan.

Three Stars: 1. GR Nyquist (two goals); 2. GR Sproul (three assists); 3. GR McCollum (W, 27 saves)

The Griffins also posted a Flickr photo gallery from the game, and their YouTube channel also posted a slate of highlights and post-game interviews...

And the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner penned a recap (with an embedded photo gallery) which includes comments from the Griffins' coach and players:

The Griffins, who have been unstoppable on the road (6-0-1-1) but less than impressive at home (1-2-0-0), took care of that in a big way Wednesday, Nov. 6, before a matinee crowd of 6,118 at Van Andel Arena.

Gustav Nyquist scored two goals as part of a four-goal second period, and goalie Tom McCollum stopped 27 of 29 shots as the Griffins rolled past Rockford 6-2 for their sixth win in a row.

...

"Confidence is a big deal," coach Jeff Blashill said. "When you're winning, confidence breeds more confidence."

The Griffins scored twice in the first, added four in the second to chase goalie Antii Raanta and picked up at least a point for the seventh time in eight games.

...

Meanwhile, McCollum got the start in goal, a bit of a surprise since Petr Mrazek was returned Tuesday from Detroit after a shutout in his season debut with the Red Wings on Saturday. He was in uniform. But McCollum got the start for the fifth time in six games and continued to look sharp. The fifth-year vet was beaten by Adan Clendening after a long rebound a minute into the second period, but the Griffins responded with two goals with three minutes and four in the period. He also allowed a goal midway through the third.

"I feel really good in the net," said McCollum, the second Griffins goalie to win six in a row to start a season. "I've really been fortunate with the defense in front of me. They've been great clearing rebounds and giving me clean lanes to see pucks."

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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.