Griffins oust Bulldogs, move to North Division Finals


Ville Leino had four points (1-3-4) and rookie Justin Abdelkader snapped a 1-1 tie 4:18 into the second period as Grand Rapids eliminated Hamilton with a 4-1 road win over the Bulldogs on Sunday in Game 6 of the teams’ opening-round series. The Griffins advance to battle regular-season champion Manitoba in the North Division Finals.

The night started well for Hamilton when Greg Stewart scored just nine seconds after the opening face-off, with assists going to J.T. Wyman and Yannick Weber.

But Griffins captain Darren Haydar responded on the power play at the 5:25 mark, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs and making it a 1-1 game heading into the first intermission. Abdelkader then broke the deadlock with a shot through a screen for his league-leading sixth goal of the postseason.

Cory Emmerton provided insurance for Grand Rapids at 13:45 of the third period when he picked up a bouncing puck in the right circle and fired it past Bulldogs goaltender Marc Denis. Leino, who already had three assists to his credit, sealed the victory with an empty-net tally in the closing minute.

Grand Rapids goaltender Jimmy Howard earned the win with 21 saves on 22 shots, helping the Griffins to their first postseason series triumph since 2006.

The Griffins split their four-game season series with upcoming foe Manitoba, with each team winning once at home and once on the road, and the squads are destined for their third playoff clash in the last four years.

North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 1 – Fri., May 1 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – Mon., May 4 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 6 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 8 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30 

*if necessary… All times Eastern