DES MOINES, IA – Taro Hirose scored two goals to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-2 victory over the Iowa Wild on Friday evening. The loss was the seventh in the last eight games for the Wild who find themselves in last place in the Central Division. Gerry Mayhew added an assist to give him at least one point in four consecutive games.
The Griffins got on the board first. After Gabriel Dumont went off for tripping at 9:16, Grand Rapids took advantage of the power play, taking the lead 10 seconds later. Joe Hicketts had the puck near the blueline, passing it to Dominic Turgeon who was along the boards. He curled just inside the left faceoff circle, firing a wrist shot that sped past Wild goaltender Hunter Jones for his second goal of the season.
Iowa has now allowed a power-play goal in five straight games. They are last in the AHL in penalty killing at 71.9%.
The Griffins held the 1-0 lead into the second period, but Hirose extended the lead to two 5:40 into the frame. A terrible giveaway by Louie Belpedio set up the goal. The Wild defenseman carried the puck behind the Iowa net, flipping the backhander out in front where Hirose was racing down the slot. He simply blasted the shot past Jones, who had no chance on the play.
About eight minutes later, the Wild finally got on the board. Mayhew picked up the loose puck just outside of his own end, moving down the boards and into the Griffins end. As he crossed the blueline, he dropped the puck back through his legs to Luke Johnson. Johnson passed the puck to Keaton Thompson who was trailing the play. Thompson moved down the slot, firing a great backhander that beat Kevin Boyle to the blocker side for his first goal of the year.
Iowa continued to put the pressure on and Johnson nearly tied the game seconds later, but it would be Grand Rapids that would light the lamp with just over four minutes left in the second period. The Griffins were maintaining control inside the Wild end. Hirose fed the puck back to Gustav Lindstrom at the blueline. He made a quick pass to Riley Barber standing alone in the high slot. Barber quickly turned, firing a wrist shot that beat Jones for his 10th goal of the year, extending the Grand Rapids lead to two.
Grand Rapids would make this a three-goal lead with their second power-play goal of the contest, 5:31 into the third. Barber passed the puck into the slot, where Wild defenseman Matt Bartkowski was able to stop the pass attempt, but Chase Pearson knocked it off Bartkowski’s stick, getting two whacks at the puck before he was able to knock it past Jones. That was the 18th power-play goal the Wild have allowed this season.
About four minutes later, Jarrett Burton scored his first goal of the season to cut the deficit to two. Moments after Boyle had made a great save on a point-blank attempt by Burton, Iowa continued to battle to keep the puck in the Grand Rapids zone. Tyler Sheehy passed the puck back to Bartkowski at the point, who fired a wrist shot that was knocked down in front of the goal, but Burton sped in, firing a wrist shot over the shoulder of Boyle.
The Wild had a huge opportunity to cut the deficit to one with about 90 seconds left in the game. With Jones off for the extra attacker, Johnson fired a shot from just inside the left faceoff circle that Boyle saved, but the rebound was loose. Mayhew raced in, retrieving the loose puck, but his attempt was knocked down and sent into the corner.
Moments later, Hirose fired his second goal of the game into the empty net to secure the 5-2 victory for the Griffins. He finished with three points. Barber also had three points, finishing with a goal and two assists for Grand Rapids. Hicketts added three assists. Boyle stopped 27 of 29 shots.
Jones faced 24 shots, stopping 20 of them. Six different Iowa players had a point in the game. The Wild missed on their one power-play opportunity. Grand Rapids was two for three with the man-advantage.
These teams will go at it again on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 6:00.
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