Grand Rapids Griffins win Calder Cup

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Calder Cup belongs to the Calder City!

The first championship in the Griffins' 17 seasons, as well as the 27-year history of professional hockey in Grand Rapids, was secured on Tuesday with a 5-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

Tomas Tatar, who scored twice in the Game 6 clincher, won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player in the Calder Cup Playoffs after totaling 21 points -- including a league-best 16 goals -- in 24 games.

All of West Michigan is invited to join in the Griffins' championship rally on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Van Andel Arena. Doors open at 5, and the first 3,000 fans will receive a Griffins Calder Cup Champion t-shirt.

A tightly contested opening period that featured few scoring chances for either team saw the Crunch cash in once to take a lead into the intermission. At the 17:15 mark, Petr Mrazek moved to his right to make a save, but after he slid too far out of his crease, Brennan Evans tried in vain to keep a point-blank whack by Richard Panik out of the net.

The Griffins tied it 2:23 into the second period. Mitch Callahan took a pass from Landon Ferraro low in the left circle and, while being knocked to the ice, chipped the puck over Cedrick Desjardins and into the top of the net.

After Grand Rapids killed off back-to-back penalties to Jeff Hoggan and Evans, its own power play put the visitors ahead 2-1. The Griffins deftly passed the puck around the perimeter until Gustav Nyquist sent it on net from the top of the right circle. Desjardins managed to get his right pad on it, but Tatar was waiting to pop the rebound into the cage at 12:41.

A four-minute high-sticking penalty to Nathan Paetsch on Ondrej Palat with just 28 seconds left in the period presented the Crunch with a great opportunity to tie or take the lead, something they mostly squandered 1:09 into the first penalty when Brett Connolly tripped Ferraro early in the third.

Still, Syracuse soon knotted the score at two, when Andrej Sustr's one-timer from the point sailed past a screened Mrazek at the 5:14 mark, igniting the overflow crowd of 6,375.

The partisan throng was decidedly less enthusiastic 4:40 later, when Evans' wrist shot from the left point found its way through a sea of bodies and into the back of Desjardins' net, putting the Griffins ahead once again at 3-2. Mrazek then made that lead hold with a pair of spectacular saves with less than eight minutes showing on the clock.

Tatar and Joakim Andersson added empty-net goals in the final minute to seal the 5-2 victory.

Mrazek won his 15th game of the postseason by stopping 24 shots. Desjardins made 20 saves.

Notes: Today's game date marked the latest in the 77-year history of the AHL…Hoggan, Evans and Chad Billins each played in his 100th game of the season…The last Detroit Red Wings affiliate to win the Calder Cup was the 1991-92 Adirondack Red Wings.


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