Griffins strike late to take Game 1

Photo: Sam Iannamico

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. ( Nosek scored his second goal of the night with 13.9 seconds remaining and Grand Rapids eked out a 3-2 win over Syracuse in Game 1 of the 2017 Calder Cup Finals on Friday night.

Game 2 is back at Van Andel Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, AHL Live).

Nosek’s decisive goal, his fourth game-winner of the postseason, came on the Griffins’ sixth power play of the contest after the Crunch were whistled for having too many men on the ice at 19:31. Syracuse had successfully killed off the first five advantages by the AHL’s top-ranked power play unit.

Grand Rapids opened the series scoring 4:56 into the first period as Nosek cleaned up the rebound of a Mitch Callahan shot. It marked the fifth time this postseason that the Griffins have grabbed a 1-0 lead within the first five minutes of a game.

The Griffins went to the power play a few minutes later, but it was the Crunch who capitalized and tied the game at 9:25. Cory Conacher chased down a bouncing puck and fed Kevin Lynch for Syracuse’s fifth shorthanded goal of the playoffs to make it 1-1. The assist was Conacher’s 11th point in the last four games.

Syracuse grabbed its first lead of the series just 54 seconds into the second period. With the teams skating four-on-four, Yanni Gourde found Joel Vermin, whose snap shot from the top of the left-wing circle made it 2-1.

Grand Rapids pulled back even with 2:48 left in the middle frame. After a battle behind the Crunch net, the puck came to captain Nathan Paetsch alone in the slot and he beat Mike McKenna with a wrister for his second goal of the postseason.

Jared Coreau (12-2) stopped 22 of 24 shots on the night, allowing two goals or fewer for the 10th time in 14 playoff starts. McKenna (11-6) made 33 saves in the loss.

NOTES: Attendance was 8,857… Grand Rapids improved to 8-0 on home ice this postseason; Syracuse fell to 2-6 on the road… In AHL history, teams that win Game 1 of the Finals have gone on to win the championship 61 of 80 times (76.3 percent).

2017 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Syracuse Crunch | Finals Infographic
Game 1 – Fri., June 2 – GRAND RAPIDS 3, Syracuse 2
Game 2 – Sat., June 3 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 3 – Wed., June 7 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., June 9 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 10 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 13 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 14 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern