GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A goal in the final minute by Chris Terry sent this contest to overtime, and Matt Puempel delivered the game-winner in the shootout as the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Iowa Wild, 4-3. Three different players scored goals in regulation for Grand Rapids, ruining a two-goal night for Iowa superstar Gerald Mayhew. The victory extended the Griffins point streak to six straight games (4-0-2).
Mayhew got the scoring going just after the four-minute mark of the first period. With the Wild on the power play, Sam Anas had the puck along the boards in the Grand Rapids end. He passed it to Mayhew in the slot, who blasted the one-timer that crept through the pads of Griffins goaltender Pat Nagle and in to give Iowa a 1-0 lead.
That was the 28th goal of the season for Mayhew in just 36 games, breaking his single season high for goals. It also set an Iowa Wild franchise record for tallies in a season. Mayhew also leads the AHL in goals.
At the 16:25 mark, Tyler Spezia tied the score for Grand Rapids. Chase Pearson passed the puck out of his end to Dominik Shine moving through the neutral zone. Shine entered the Iowa end, then fed the puck across to Spezia coming down the slot. He fired a wrist shot that beat Kaapo Kahkonen for his fourth goal of the year.
The Wild were outshot 16-13 in the first, but were tied entering the second and had the remaining 18 seconds of a power play to start the frame. However, it would be the Griffins who would use their special teams to take the lead just 12 seconds into the second period.
Grand Rapids won the opening faceoff, blasting the puck into the Iowa end. The Wild defender was a little lax getting to the puck, allowing Dominic Turgeon to sweep in and gain control. He moved from the boards across the slot, getting Kahkonen down before firing a wrist shot over the sprawling goaltender for his ninth goal of the season. That was the third short-handed goal the Wild have allowed in their last three games.
The Griffins dominated play in the second, outshooting the Wild 16-5 in the frame, but Kahkonen kept his team in the contest. He made a number of great saves including just before the nine-minute mark when Taro Hirose had control of the puck to the right of the Iowa goaltender. He made a great feed across the crease to Terry, who blasted the one-timer, but Kahkonen was somehow able to get over and block the shot to keep this a one-goal game.
The 2-1 lead held into the third, but two straight goals by Iowa put them back on top. The first came at 5:45 with the Wild on a 5-on-3 advantage. Luke Johnson passed the puck to Anas along the boards. He moved in on Nagle, who was screened by a Wild player. Anas fired a shot between the legs of the Griffins goalie for his 13th tally of the year. Brennan Menell earned the assist on the play, his 100th point in an Iowa Wild uniform.
A little less than 11 minutes later, Mayhew scored his second goal of the game. Matt Bartkowski passed the puck to Mayhew just before he entered the Grand Rapids zone. The Iowa forward moved in, using a Griffins defender as a screen, then fired a blistering wrist shot that sailed over Nagle’s shoulder for his 29th goal of the year.
The Wild looked like they would get a big win in Michigan, but Terry tied the score with just 57 seconds left in the contest. The Griffins were trying to setup inside the Iowa end as Michael Rasmussen passed the puck to Hirose, who was crashing the net. He slipped as he approached the goal and Kahkonen was able to kick aside his attempt behind the net.
Bartkowski was trying to knock the puck away from Rasmussen, kicking it along the boards where it came right to Terry in the corner of the Iowa zone. He decided to fire a shot looking to get a deflection off the Wild goaltender and in, and that is exactly what happened, as the puck went off the back of Kahkonen and across the goal line for his 17th goal of the year.
The Terry goal sent this contest to overtime where Grand Rapids nearly won it just before the four-minute mark. Hirose gained control of the puck in his own end, then headed down the left boards and into the Wild zone. He started to move toward the net, and a little miscommunication between the two Iowa defenders allowed him to skate in uncontested. He was able to get Kahkonen down on the ice as he swept across the crease, but the Wild goaltender stayed with the play, making a great kick save.
Hirose regained control of the puck, passing it to Rasmussen, who blasted a one-timer from the slot that the Wild netminder turned away as well. That helped send the contest to a shootout.
Terry supplied the only goal through the first two rounds. Dmitry Sokolov tried to keep the Wild hopes alive to start round three, and did so when he scored on a shot that Nagle got a piece of but slithered through his body and in. That brought on Puempel, who cruised in on Kahkonen before firing a wrist shot from about 10 feet out that went over his shoulder to win it for Grand Rapids.
Besides Mayhew’s two goal, Anas finished with a goal and an assist. The two are tied for second in the AHL in points with 45 each. Menell had two assists for the Wild, his second straight game with a pair of assists.
Nagle stopped 27 shots for Grand Rapids. No Griffins player had more than one point in the game.
The Iowa Wild return home to take on the Manitoba Moose on Friday night. It is the first of two games between the two teams before the All-Star break. The puck drops at 7:00 CT.
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