GRAND RAPIDS — One more win and the Grand Rapids Griffins can claim their first championship.
The Griffins used a pair of third-period goals to beat the Syracuse Crunch 4-2 Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.
“It (Game 3) was a lot like the other games so far this series,” Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said. “We maybe made one more play than they (Syracuse) did in the end.”
The Crunch, who won the Calder Cup last season, got on the board first on a play that saw Griffins defenseman Adam Almquist hurt on a big check into the boards. Richard Panik got his sixth goal of the playoffs on the play, wristing a shot past Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek while Almquist was lying face down in the corner. It was the only goal of the first period.
Blashill didn’t have a status update on Almquist after the game.
“I saw our team come out and play really well,” Syracuse coach Julien BriseBois said. “I thought we played a heck of a first period.”
Grand Rapids got that back two minutes into the second period with their first shot of the period. Tomas Tatar got the puck behind the net and wrapped it around and behind Syracuse goalie Cedrick Desjardins. Almost three minutes later Luke Glendenning put in a rebound of Danny DeKeyser’s shot for his sixth goal of the playoffs to give the Griffins a 2-1 lead.
But Mrazek let in a bad goal, as Dan Sexton wristed a shot from the left point and with no one between he and Mrazek, Mrazek took a late blocker wave and it found the top corner of the net.
The tie was broken with 4:49 left in the third period. Jan Mursak stole the puck in the Crunch zone and ripped a shot past Desjardins for the game-winner. Jeff Hoggan added an unassisted insurance goal when he crashed the net with the puck and poked it by Desjardins for his fifth goal of the playoffs.
“I thought in the third (period) we did a good job of managing the puck and got it behind them (Syracuse),” Blashill said. “They are a team that thrives on turnovers and we did a good job of that.”
“I thought they (Grand Rapids) took advantage of our mistakes and it ended up in the back of our net,” BriseBois said.
Game 4 is set for Friday night at Van Andel. The game is already sold out, according to the Griffins.
“What I said to them (Grand Rapids) is real similar to what I told them after Game 2,” Blashill said. “After Game 2 I said, ‘That’s two. Period.’ We have to win four to win the series and series aren’t won with three games. We’re going to have to come with our very best effort in Game 4 to try to win the series.”
BriseBois isn’t going to allow the Crunch to give up.
“What I know — and I’ve said this a thousand times — is we have a lot of character in that (locker) room,” he said. “I am 100 percent confident these guys have a lot of fight left in them. I think you saw it (Wednesday night.)”