By Michael Caples –
It took a little longer than some would have liked, but Grand Rapids finally got the job done.
The Griffins are the American Hockey League champions for the first time in franchise history.
Brennan Evans’ shot from the point at the halfway point of the third period turned out to be the difference-maker in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Final, as Grand Rapids rebounded from back-to-back losses to secure their first professional hockey championship in the city’s history.
Mitch Callahan, Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar – who was named postseason MVP – also scored for the Griffins in their Cup-clinching victory.
Petr Mrazek stopped 24 of the 26 shots to record his 15th win of the postseason. Mrazek, a rookie, played in every playoff game for the Griffins this spring.
Callahan scored the Griffins’ first goal of the contest during the second period, catching a pass by putting his stick through a defender’s legs, pulling it back to his body, and roofing a shot past Syracuse goaltender Cedrick Desjardins. The goal – Callahan’s sixth of the playoffs – tied the game at one.
Tatar gave the Griffins their first lead of the night 10 minutes later, burying a rebound just above the Syracuse crease. Gustav Nyquist and Landon Ferraro picked up assists on Tatar’s 15th of the postseason.
After the Crunch tied the game five minutes into the third period, Evans sent a shot towards the Syracuse goal that made it through a crowd and past Desjardins for the go-ahead goal.
Tatar and Andersson added empty-net goals to jumpstart the party in the closing moments of Game 6.
Sault Ste. Marie native Jeff Blashill, in his first season as head coach of the Griffins, guided Grand Rapids to a 15-9 record in the playoffs after a 42-26-4-4 record in the regular season.
Stay tuned for MiHockey coverage from Syracuse…