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Greg Boysen The Hockey Writers

Published on Tuesday, December 24, 2019

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AHL Central News: Top Three Create Space

The eight teams of the American Hockey League had a very busy week heading into the Christmas break. The top three teams are starting to separate themselves while you can cover the bottom five teams with a blanket. Nobody is out of the playoff race, which means we will have some exciting hockey heading into 2020!

Admirals Keep on Rolling

The Milwaukee Admirals (22-4-3-2) continued to dominate on home ice with a pair of victories to extend their winning streak at the Panther Arena to nine games. They continue to lead the entire AHL with 49 points and have a 13-point lead in the Central Division.

Wednesday night’s game against the San Antonio Rampage was the Anthony Richard show as he scored both goals in a 2-1 win. He opened the scoring, late in the first period, by speeding by the defense on his way to the net. He scored his second of the night and ninth of the season by camping out in front of the crease and redirecting an Alex Carrier shot into the cage.

Alexandre Carrier Milwaukee Admirals
Carrier had four assists in two games last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Goaltender Troy Grosenick made 23 saves on the night to improve to 11-2-1 on the season. He gave up a goal shortly after Richard’s second tally, but that was the only blemish on his record for the evening.

Richard had another big night, on his 23rd birthday, versus the Cleveland Monsters on Friday. He scored a goal and picked up an assist in 4-0 victory over their Eastern Conference foe.

Mikka Salomaki got the Admirals on the board less than three minutes into the game with his second goal of the season. Carrier picked up his first of three assists on the night with the primary assist. Rem Petlick doubled the lead just over seven minutes later.

The Admirals added a goal from Tommy Novak in the later stages of the second period before Richard finished off the scoring early in the final frame. Connor Ingram made 29 saves to pick up his first shutout of the season and 11th of his AHL career.

Connor Ingram Milwaukee Admirals
Ingram picked up his first shutout of the season on Friday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“It’s six days, which is a long time, but then we come back for three in three,” head coach Karl Taylor said about the upcoming holiday break. “I don’t know who invented the schedule, but that’s what we are doing. So, someone’s got to get on a bike a get a little exercise. Hang your boots up, don’t put your skates on and enjoy your time. The guys have definitely earned this extra time for themselves.”

Player of the Week

Usually, a four-assist week for Carrier would be enough for the Player of the Week honors, but last week was all about Richard. He had two points in each of the Admirals games last week and finished with three goals and an assist. The 23-year-old forward is now third on the team with 10 goals.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 27 @ Grand Rapids Griffins; Saturday, Dec. 28 vs Griffins; Sunday, Dec 29 @ Chicago Wolves

Wild Bounce Back into Second Place

The Iowa Wild (16-11-2-2) had been struggling to earn points over the past couple of weeks, but they rebounded nicely last week. They won all three of their games to jump into second place in the Central with 36 points.

On Tuesday, Iowa got their leading scorer back when the Minnesota Wild reassigned Gerry Mayhew back to the AHL. He was in the lineup for Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime win at the Stockton Heat, which wrapped up a three-game road trip out west.

Gerald Mayhew, Iowa Wild
Mayhew was back in Iowa last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The action picked up in the middle frame following a scoreless first period that only saw 14 combined shots on goal. Less than a minute after the Heat jumped out to a 1-0 lead, Dmitry Sokolov tied the game with a wrist shot from the high slot. He struck again, about five minutes later, on a breakaway, to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.

The Heat tied things about four minutes into the third period. Sam Anas put the Wild back up 3-2 late in the third period with his seventh goal of the season, but Stockton forced overtime with just 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation.

Early in overtime, Sokolov broke up a rush and sent Kyle Bauman in on a breakaway where he won the game by going top shelf to beat goaltender Artyom Zagidulin. Kaapo Kahkonen made 29 saves for the win.

When Iowa returned home, they were joined by defenseman Brennan Menell, who had spent the previous two weeks in the NHL. He was back in uniform for Friday night’s 4-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Brennan Menell Minnesota Wild
The Wild was happy to see Menell back in the lineup. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Colton Beck made it rain teddy bears by scoring the opening goal on Teddy Bear Toss night for the second straight season. His second goal of the season, off a rebound, tied the game late in the first period and gave Beck 100 points in his AHL career.

Will Bitten took advantage of a misplayed puck behind the Griffins’ net for his fifth goal of the season early in the second period. However, the Griffins answered just 26 seconds later to even the score at 2-2.

The game remained tied until Mayhew scored the eventual game-winning goal midway through the third period. He iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final minute of play for his 16th goal of the season.

The Wild completed the weekend with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Griffins on Saturday night. Bitten scored the lone goal of the first period by cashing in off a rebound on a shorthanded odd-man rush.

The Griffins drew even just over a minute into the second period and then grabbed a 2-1 lead about a minute after that. Kyle Rau extended his point streak to eight straight games with a goal from the slot to even things up later in the frame.

The visitors took a 3-2 lead nine minutes into the third period. With just under four minutes remaining in regulation, and just as a power play expired, Bitten one-timed a pass from Menell for his second goal of the night and sent the game to overtime.

Will Bitten Iowa Wild
Bitten finished the week with five points. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Late into the extra time. Kahkonen made a big save on a breakaway, which led to a 2-on-1 rush going the other way. Mayhew slid the puck over to Sokolov who fired home the game-winner for his second overtime point on the week.

Related – THW’s Goalie News: Hellebuyck’s Shutout, Darling’s Birthday & More

“It was very emotional to tie it and then to win in overtime” head coach Tim Army said after the game. “And having Sokky score, it was great. Going into to Christmas break; you can’t go into the break any better than that!”

Player of the Week

Bitten led the way with three goals and five points, but Sokolov will get the nod this week. He also scored three goals and had one fewer assist, but his performance in overtime was so critical to the team’s success. After getting the primary assist on Tuesday night’s game-winner, he was on the receiving end of a great pass to end Saturday night’s game.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 27 @ Rockford IceHogs; Saturday, Dec. 28 vs Wolves

IceHogs Take Two Out of Three

The third-place IceHogs (17-11-0-1) had their week end in disappointing fashion after picking up two big wins. They currently sit all alone in second place with 35 points, just one point behind the Wild and five ahead of fourth place.

The IceHogs finished their three-game road trip through Canada with a big comeback victory at the Laval Rocket on Tuesday night. The Rocket started off hot with a pair of goals in the first period, but the IceHogs refused to give up.

Midway through the second period, Joseph Cramarossa cut Laval’s lead in half with a shorthanded breakaway goal, his first with the IceHogs. With less than nine minutes to play in regulation, defenseman Dmitry Osipov tied the game with a wrist shot for his first career AHL goal.

After a scoreless overtime, the game headed to the shootout where both Colin Delia and Keith Kinkaid were perfect through four rounds. In the fifth and deciding round, Delia made a sprawling save on Joe Cox before Anton Wedin won the game for the IceHogs.

Delia made 31 saves for this third straight win. helping the IceHogs to improve their road record to 6-6-0-1 this season.

The IceHogs returned home to take on the Texas Stars on Friday night and got a huge night out of John Quenneville to help beat the Texas Stars 4-2.

John Quenneville Rockford Icehogs
Quenneville came up huge for the IceHogs last week. (Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)

Quenneville opened the scoring, just over four minutes into the game, by striking from the high slot. The Stars drew even a few minutes later, but the IceHogs regained the lead with a power-play goal late in the first period. Quenneville set a pass across the ice over to Philipp Kurashev who went to the glove side for his fifth goal of the season.

Defenseman Lucas Carlsson doubled the lead, early in the third period, by one-timing a bounce off the dasher boards from the left circle. The Stars pulled to within a goal, late in the game, by scoring with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. Quenneville picked up his third point of the night by assisting on Brandon Hagel’s empty-net goal. Delia made 33 saves for his fourth straight victory.

It was Cramarossa’s turn to have a big night on Saturday, but his pair of goals was not enough in a 3-2 loss to the visiting Monsters. He didn’t take long to find the scoresheet as he gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead just 30 seconds into the game.

The Monsters took control of the contest with three goals during the second period. Cramarossa made things interesting by scoring a power-play goal with 12 minutes to play. He used his size to get to a loose puck in front of the net and swipe it over the goal line. Unfortunately, the IceHogs were unable to get the equalizer before time ran out in regulation.

Joseph Cramarossa Rockford IceHogs
Cramarossa has been a good fit with the IceHogs. (Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)

“If there’s anything we take from this game is that we got a little comfortable,” said head coach Derek King. “We got back on our heels and stopped playing there for a short span of the second period. That cost us. We’ll learn something from it and hopefully, that doesn’t happen again.”

On Sunday morning, Quenneville was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks for his first stint with the team. He has two goals and five points in 33 NHL games with the New Jersey Devils. Quenneville has four goals and eight points in his last five games after dealing with some early-season injuries.

Player of the Week

Cramarossa was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins shortly after Kris Versteeg announced he was leaving the team. He has provided the veteran leadership the team was in need of and has added some size and grit to the lineup. He scored his first three goals with the IceHogs this past week and now has five on the season.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 27 vs Wild; Sunday, Dec. 29 @ Manitoba Moose

Wolves Holding on to Final Playoff Spot

The Wolves (14-16-2-0) have been playing better hockey over the past three weeks. Even though they dropped their final game before the break, they still had a successful week with a pair of victories. If the Calder Cup playoffs were to start to today, they’d be in the fourth and final spot. They are currently tied with the Rampage and Moose with 30 points but hold the tiebreakers.

School Day games are a favorite for the Wolves as they won their second of the season, and seventh in a row, by beating the Rampage 4-1 on Tuesday afternoon. The day belonged to Nicolas Roy, who picked up a hat trick and a primary assist.

Nicolas Roy Chicago Wolves
Roy had a huge afternoon on Tuesday. (Courtesy Chicago Wolves)

After a scoreless opening frame, the Rampage opened the scoring with a power-play tally midway through the second period. Roy scored his first goal of the day, while shorthanded, shortly after that to tie the game.

Roy scored the eventual game-winning goal about seven minutes into the second period. Lucas Elvenes started the play by making some nice moves to get through the neutral zone. Once over the blue line, he got the puck to Curtis McKenzie in the slot who quickly moved it over to Roy in the left circle for a one-timer.

Related – Nicolas Roy: Succeeding in Extreme Conditions

The Wolves got a five-minute power play later in the period and Brandon Pirri redirected a pass from Roy for his sixth goal of the season. Roy completed his hat trick, the first by any Wolves player this season, with an empty-net goal in the final minute. Goaltender Oscar Dansk made 23 saves to earn his fourth win in a row.

“He’s had some consistency here with his line-mates,” head coach Rocky Thompson said of Roy. “He wants to be a National Hockey League player. He knows that if you come down here and dominate at this level, which we think he can, he’ll be able to translate that with momentum when he gets his next call up. I think he’s doing a great job.”

The Wolves continued their week of games against teams from the Lone Star State when the Texas Stars came to town for a pair of back-to-back games starting on Saturday night. Dansk was the star of the night with a fantastic 41-save effort in a 2-1 win.

The Stars took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal before the game was eight minutes old and it held up until early in the second period. Keegan Kolesar found Pirri streaking towards the net and put a nice touch pass right on his tape for the game-tying goal.

Brandon Pirri Rockford Icehogs
Pirri continues to rack up points in Chicago. (Courtesy of Chicago Wolves)

Gage Quinney scored the game-winning tally with just over a minute to play in the third period. He started the play by forcing a turnover in the offensive zone and then got to the net to stuff home a rebound for his seventh goal on the season.

The Wolves offense struggled in the rematch Sunday afternoon, dropping a 3-0 decision. The home team got off to a great start, early in the first period, but they started to get themselves into penalty trouble and even gave the Stars a pair of 5-on-3 power plays during the opening frame.

The Stars took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, with a power-play and shorthanded strike, before scoring the final goal of the afternoon early in the second period. The Wolves outshot the Stars 32-19 but trailed in the only category that matters when the final horn sounded.

Player of the Week

Dansk has been playing his best hockey of the year after a bit of a slow start to the season. He gave up just two goals last week on 66 shots for .969 save percentage (SV%) in his two starts. His 41 saves versus Texas on Saturday night was a new career-high and he has won each of his last five starts.

Oscar Dansk Chicago Wolves
Dansk has won his last five starts. (Courtesy Chicago Wolves)

The Week Ahead

Saturday, Dec. 28 @ Wild; Sunday, Dec. 29 vs Admirals

Rampage Struggle During Busy Week

The Rampage (11-13-5-3) spent their week on the road with four games in three different cities. The trip was not a kind one as they were only able to salvage one win. They head into the Christmas break with 30 points and are in fifth place.

The busy week on the road began with a matinee in Chicago on Tuesday. The Rampage entered the game with five wins in their last seven visits to the Allstate Arena, but their luck ran out in 4-1 loss to the Wolves.

Things started off well for the Rampage as they struck first following a scoreless opening period. Halfway through the second stanza, and while on the power play, defenseman Mitch Reinke’s shot from the point made it through heavy traffic for this third goal of the season.

It was all downhill from there as the Wolves the next four goals on the afternoon. They struck in a variety of ways with a shorthanded goal, a 5-on-5 tally, a power-play strike and an empty-netter for good measure.

During the third period, captain Jordan Nolan got into an argument with Jake Lechyshyn before a faceoff. The sparring match got physical and Nolan was given a five-minute major for spearing and a match penalty. He received a one-game suspension for his actions and had to sit out Wednesday night’s game in Milwaukee.

Jordan Nolan San Antonio Rampage
Nolan served a one-game suspension in Milwaukee. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Rampage fell 2-1 to the Admirals without their captain the following evening. The Admirals converted on an odd-man rush to break the scoreless tie, late in the first period. They doubled their lead early into the middle frame.

For the second straight night, a defenseman was responsible for the Rampage’s lone goal. This time it was Joey LaLeggia who lit the lamp. With just over six minutes to play, Andreas Borgman shook off a defender in order to get a wrist shot off that LaLeggia redirected for his second goal of the season.

Ville Husso made 23 saves in the losing effort as the Rampage dropped their fifth straight road contest.

The road trip headed north for a weekend set of games at the Moose, which began with Saturday night’s 6-4 loss.

The first period was an absolute nightmare for the Rampage as they gave up a pair of goals just 32 seconds apart early in the frame. They surrendered another two goals before the period ended and headed into the first intermission trailing 4-0.

The second period settled down with no scoring on either side before the two teams combined for six goals during the final frame. Ryan Olsen got the Rampage on the board about nine minutes into the third period. The Moose answered less than two minutes to give the Moose a 5-1 lead.

Nolan and Nolan Stevens scored a pair of goals less than three minutes apart to cut the lead to 5-3 with 5:29 left to play. Tanner Kaspick capped off the scoring with his fourth goal of the season just 19 seconds after the Moose added an empty-netter.

After three straight losses to start the week, and seven consecutive defeats overall, the Rampage got back into the win column with a 4-2 victory over the Moose on Sunday afternoon. The penalty-kill unit’s big day led the way to victory.

Austin Poganski helped set up the game’s opening goal, less than three minutes into the game, by passing to Stevens who finished off a 2-on-0 rush for the team’s first shorthanded tally on the season. The Moose came back to tie the game before the end of the first period.

Five minutes into the second period, Stevens scored his second shorthanded goal of the day, with a wrist shot from the left circle, to give the Rampage a 2-1. The Moose tied the game just before the intermission with a power-play goal following Jake Dotchin’s five-minute major and ejection for boarding.

The Rampage needed to kill off over a minute off a 5-on-3 power-play to start the third period. They have now only allowed one goal on 13 two-man advantages against this season. Nathan Walker won the game by redirecting a LaLeggia shot into the Manitoba net with just under two minutes to play. Jake Walman capped off the scoring with a power-play goal in the final seconds of the game.

Player of the Week

Olsen entered the week with just four points in 27 games. He doubled his season output with two goals and two assists in last week’s four games to lead the Rampage in scoring. Four of his five goals on the season have come in the month of December as he had just one goal and one assist in October and November combined.

Ryan Olsen San Antonio Rampage
Olsen had his best week of the season for the Rampage. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 27 vs Stars; Saturday, Dec. 28 @ Stars

Defensive Woes Hurt Moose

The sixth-place Moose (15-18-0-0) had a chance to make up some ground in the standings with four games on the week. Unfortunately, they were only able to win one of those games while allowing 23 goals in the process. They are currently tied with the Wolves and Rampage with 30 points as they head into the final week of the year.

The Moose began a two-game set at the Colorado Eagles on Tuesday night with a 5-3 loss. The first period was not the luckiest one the Moose have ever played with Jansen Harkins hitting the post early on and a goal being waved off because of a high stick. The Eagles grabbed a 1-0 lead with just over a minute left in the opening frame.

Seth Griffith wasted little time by tying the game at 1:33 of the second period with his team-leading 12th goal of the season. C.J. Suess gave the Moose a 2-1 lead just under four minutes later, while on the power play, by firing home a rebound off a Logan Stanley shot.

C.J. Suess Manitoba Moose
Suess put up six points last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Shortly after the Eagles tied the game, Skyler McKenzie scored another power-play goal with a wicked one-timer. The lead did not last long as Colorado came back to even up the score just 47 seconds later. The took a 4-3 lead with just 19 seconds left in the middle stanza.

The Moose did all they could to draw even with 16 shots on goal in the third period, but they could not get another one past goaltender Adam Werner. The Eagles added an insurance goal midway through the final period.

Before Wednesday night’s rematch in Colorado Springs, the Jets lost two big pieces of their offensive attack when both Mason Appleton and Harkins were recalled by the Winnipeg Jets. Harkins picked up an assist during his NHL debut Saturday; a 6-0 win for the Jets at the Wild.

Wednesday night was a disaster for the Moose as the gave a season-high 10 goals in a loss to the Eagles. Things got off to a great start as Leon Gawanke struck on the power play, just over two minutes into the game.

After the Eagles quickly tied the game, JC Lipon restored the Moose’s one-goal advantage with his seventh goal of the season. The Eagles scored two more goals before the end of the period and extended their lead to 4-2 early in the middle stanza.

JC Lipon Manitoba Moose
Lipon continues to contribute. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Defenseman Jimmy Oligny cleaned up a rebound for his third goal of the season and got the Moose to within one goal. The Eagles scored three more goals before the second intermission to take a 7-3 stranglehold into the final 20 minutes of play.

Derek Hulak scored Manitoba’s fourth and final goal, early in the third period, by capitalizing on another rebound. The Eagles scored three more times before the clock mercifully ran out to finish off a dominating 10-4 performance.

Griffen Outhouse started the game in net, but he was pulled after the Eagles’ fourth goal on just 13 shots. Mikhail Berdin did not fare much better as he allowed six goals on 29 shots.

The Moose returned home on Saturday night to host the Rampage and Griffith’s big night led the way to a 6-4 victory.

They enjoyed a huge first period which saw them score four times, starting with Cole Maier’s goal just over three minutes into the game. Skyler McKenzie quickly doubled the lead 32 seconds later by sneaking a shot over the goal line. Griffith added a pair of goals late in the frame to give the Moose a 4-0 lead heading into the second period.

After a scoreless middle frame, the Rampage got on the board midway through the third period. Andrei Chibisov picked up his third assist of the night, less than two minutes later, by setting up Suess’ ninth goal of the season.

Andrei Chibisov Manitoba Moose
Chibisov had three assists on Saturday night. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Rampage roared back with two quick goals to cut the deficit down to 5-3 before Griffith completed his hat trick with an empty goal. San Antonio added a late power-play goal but they could not get any closer.

The weekend ended in a split with the Rampage getting revenge in a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon. After surrendering an early shorthanded goal, Griffith struck again to tie the game midway through the first period.

The Rampage scored again while on the penalty kill just five minutes into the second period. Griffith continued his huge weekend by evening things up again in the final minute of the middle frame. The game remained tied until the Rampage scored a pair of goals in the last two minutes of play.

Player of the Week

This was about as easy as gets after Griffith found the scoresheet in all four games last week, finishing with six goals and eight points. His hat trick on Saturday night was his second of the season. The soon to be 27-year-old forward leads the Moose with 17 goals; the second-most in the entire league behind Reid Boucher of the Utica Comets’ 20.  He had 16 goals in 69 games last season.

Seth Griffith Manitoba Moose
Griffith average two points per game last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“I worked on my shot in the offseason,” he said of his successful start to the season. “That was one of the main things I focused on; not as much stick-handling and more on my shot. I planned on shooting more in the summer and it is starting to pay off.”

The Week Ahead

Sunday, Dec. 29 vs IceHogs

Griffins Cannot Wait to Get Back Home

Before the Griffins wrapped up their four-game trek through California, veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard was assigned to the roster for a conditioning stint as he recovers from an injury suffered back on Nov. 27.

Howard was in net for the Griffins’ 3-2 shootout victory over the San Diego Gulls on Tuesday night. Eric Tangradi opened the scoring, while on a power play, with less than a minute to play in the first period by redirecting home a shot from Dennis Cholowski.

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard
Howard made his first AHL start since 2009. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

The Gulls tied the game with a shorthanded goal in the opening minute of the second period. The Griffins regained their lead with another power-play tally about seven minutes later. Joe Veleno fed the puck to Evgeny Svechnikov in the slot where he picked the top corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season.

Daniel Sprong forced overtime by cashing in on his own rebound with just over six minutes left in regulation. The Gulls outshot the Griffins 4-2 during the overtime session, but Howard kept them off the board. He stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout as Taro Hirose scored the lone goal for the extra point.

Wednesday may have been a travel day for the team, but the front office was very busy back in Grand Rapids. First, the team announced that defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Joe Veleno were assigned to play in the upcoming World Junior Championship. Seider will play for his native Germany while Veleno will suit up for Team Canada beginning on Dec. 26.

Head over to our World Junior Championship page for all your tournament needs.

Later that day, Matthew Ford was named as one of the two playing captains for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic. Matt Moulson of the Hershey Bears was also named a captain. Ford, a native Los Angeles, CA, will head to nearby Ontario, CA for his first-ever All-Star Classic appearance.

The Griffins wrapped up their season-long, six-game road trip with a pair of games in Iowa of the weekend. They dropped Friday night’s contest, 4-2, after an offensive power outage in the third period.

Tangradi broke the scoreless tie, while on the power play, with less than five minutes to play in the first period. Matt Puempel, who missed the last seven games due to injury, picked up the primary assist on the play. The Wild answered with a tying goal less than two minutes later.

Matt Puempel Grand Rapids Griffins
Puempel made an impact as soon as he returned from injury. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The visitors took a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but the Griffins got even just 26 seconds later. Ford skated to the front of the net where he redirected a shot from Dominik Shine for his fifth goal of the season.

The Griffins managed just four shots on goal during the third period and the Wild scored twice to take the victory. Howard made 25 saves in his second and final start during his conditioning stint as he was recalled by the Red Wings on Sunday.

Shortly after the Wild took a 3-2, the Griffins did not allow a goal during a five-minute major handed out to Jarid Lukosevicius for head-butting. It was their 24th consecutive penalty killed. Meanwhile, Lukosevicius was suspended two games for his actions.

The Griffins were unable to win the rematch on Saturday, but they earned a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Wild. They fell behind, early in the first period, by allowing a shorthanded goal on their first power play of the night.

Hirose evened things up just over a minute into the second period by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with Puempel. Tangradi gave the Griffins a 2-1 lead 78 seconds later by scoring from close range. The Wild tied the game about 10 minutes later by taking advantage of a rebound off of goaltender Pat Nagle.

Chris Terry gave the Griffins a 3-2 advantage, nine minutes into the third period, with his team-high 16th goal of the season. Iowa forced overtime with less than four minutes to play in regulation. Hirose had a great chance to win the game with a breakaway, but seconds after he was denied, the Wild cashed in a 2-on-1 rush for the extra point.

Chris Terry Grand Rapids Griffins
Terry leads the Griffins with 16 goals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Player of the Week

Bringing back Tangradi has proven to be a great move by the Griffins. The veteran forward scored a goal in each of the Griffins’ three games last week and he has at least one point in six of seven games since returning. Scoring in Grand Rapids is nothing new for Tangradi, who had 76 goals and 164 between 2015-18 with the Griffins.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 27 vs Admirals; Saturday, Dec. 28 @ Admirals

Stars Drop Two of Three in Illinois

The Stars (12-16-1-2) spent the entire week in the state of Illinois and despite playing some pretty good hockey, they returned home for the break with just two points. They are still in eighth place of the division, but they are just three points out of the playoff spot.

The week began in Rockford for a Friday night meeting with the IceHogs, where they came up short in a 4-2 loss.

After the IceHogs scored first, Michael Mersch sent Josh Melnick off on a breakaway and he converted for his third goal of the season. The game did not remain tied for long as the IceHogs took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission with a power-play goal.

IceHogs extended their lead to 3-1 early in the second period before the Stars drew to within a goal late in the game. With less than three minutes to play, and goaltender Landon Bow on the bench for an extra attacker, Joel L’Esperance scored from the right circle. The IceHogs ended any idea of the comeback with an empty-netter in the final minute.

The Stars took the short trip east to Chicago for a set of back-to-back games at the Wolves, starting on Saturday night. They dropped a tough 2-1 decision in spite of outshooting the Wolves 42-27.

L’Esperance scored the lone Texas goal of the evening from the right point while on a first-period power play. The Wolves drew even with a second-period goal before scoring the game-winner with less than two minutes to play.

They returned the favor on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 victory even though Chicago finished with a 32-19 advantage in shots on goal.

Mersch, who grew up in nearby Park Ridge, IL, converted on one of the Stars’ four first-period power plays to give his team a 1-0 lead. Nicholas Caamano doubled the lead by taking advantage of a turnover and scoring on a shorthanded breakaway.

Early in the second period, Adam Mascherin made a great pass, from below the goal line, to find Brad McClure in front of the net where he scored his fourth goal of the season. From there, Jake Oettinger took over making 32 saves on the day, including 12 in the third period.

Player of the Week

Oettinger has been playing very good since getting the last two weeks of November off to regroup following a rough start to the season. He gave up a pair of goals on 59 shots in his pair of games in Chicago for a .963 SV%. He has not allowed more than three goals in any of six starts in December. He gave four or more goals in five of his eight starts of the season.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 27 @ Rampage; Saturday, Dec. 28 vs Rampage

The post AHL Central News: Top Three Create Space appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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