Guest Writer: Jenae
The Griffins had me worried coming into game four at the Van Andel Arena. Game three had reminded me that the Calder is not going to be easily won. Turn overs, sloppy passing and penalties all contributed to the feeling that “Hey, we could honestly lose this game.” When your team wins…you get used to it. Game four started earlier than game time on Friday the 26th. Our friends at the Van started the game night off right with a fish fry in front of the arena complete with dunk tank to soak our favorite news anchors. We take our puns seriously here in Grand Rapids. No doubt the Grand Rapids Griffins wanted to forget how they played in game three as much as the fans did (regardless of a win) and come back to the team they know they are. As soon as game four started, I knew our Griffins were back.
Peeve of the Game
Costly calls are always accompanied by adversity. By the third period both teams had enough bad blood between them to fill the arena and the fans along with them. There’s nothing like feeling your team is avenging your personal feelings in the game, even when we realize we ended up with some 20 minutes of penalty minutes as a result of one brawl. The beginning of the game proved to be a trial after a penalty shot that put the Barracuda on the board first. It’s worse when the opposing team scores after the crowd puts so much sting behind their boo-ing and jeering. The opposing team scores and you half wish McIlrath would give them a good punch. Even with the penalty shot, the Barracuda failed to get on the board again until another penalty in the third period bringing their deficit back to just two goals. Yet, even with these two goals resulting from penalties, the Griffins killed two two-man advantages after San Jose pulled their goalie with just over five minutes left of the period.
Play of the Game
After a penalty shot awarded to the Barracuda and scored by Blackwell, we were all hungry for a tie to the game. Our tie and definitive lead came a period later with a score by Tyler Bertuzzi. I sit in section 207. From 207 you can see a lot, but sometimes not the intricacies of each play. It wasn’t until the detailed playback I saw what I deem my play of the game. Goals, unless unassisted, come from intentional plays by the team. Bertuzzi’s game shifting goal was spurred on from teammates Kyle Criscuolo and Eric Tangradi. Tangradi shot the puck to the net and Criscuolo controlled it in front of the net on San Jose’s Grosenick’s glove side. Criscuolo then passes to Tyler Bertuzzi on Grosenick’s blocker side for the goal. This subtle play catapulted the Griffins to gain another 5 goals in the game scored by Tangradi, Nosek, Frk, Street and Svechnikov.
Player of the Game
With a team like this season’s Grand Rapids Griffins it is nearly impossible to choose one player of the game. It takes the full 60+ minutes of a game to hear the stars of the game and yet another countless hours of considering all the details to pick your own player of the game. Game four’s player of the game for me was Tomas Nosek. Nosek is the player of the game and also the most improved from game three to game four. It is a rarity for Tomas Nosek to miss a beat, but game three seemed to have nearly beaten him. Great hockey players do not stay down for long, however, and Nosek is a great hockey player. Sporting a +1, one assist, one goal and three shots, Nosek was a formidable opponent to the Barracuda. He is everywhere on the ice, making plays and defending his teammates to get those penalty minutes. The Czech Republic native has 7 goals and 5 assists in the playoffs and has accumulated 12 points.
There’s not much to complain about in game four of the Western Conference Finals and there is so much to brag about. This season of Griffins is the deepest and most talented crew I remember seeing. Comprised of well-rounded players and a top notch coach in Todd Nelson, the Grand Rapids Griffins are proving their worth with every series won.
Beat. The. Fish.