The Grand Rapids Griffins won their second championship in five seasons. They defeated the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals at Van Andel Arena. The Griffins didn’t get their first, and subsequently only, lead in the game until the 12:41 mark of the third period. Winger Martin Frk scored the game winner, which was also his fifth goal of the playoffs. The win marked the first time that a hockey championship has been won in the city of Grand Rapids in the 67 years since a team first called the city home.
Tyler Bertuzzi was honored with the Calder Cup MVP award. He amassed two goals and four assists over the six game series. He also scored the second goal for Grand Rapids during the second period. That goal also gave him 23 career playoff goals with the Griffins, establishing a new franchise record. The Griffins were lead to their title by coach Todd Nelson; the first ever player signed to be part of the franchise.
Grand Rapids Griffins Win Second Calder Cup in Five Seasons
For the second time in five seasons, the Griffins and Crunch met in the Finals. Only five players from the previous series were members of the teams this time. Griffins captain Nathan Paetsch, Mitch Callahan, and Brian Lashoff were the only holdovers for Grand Rapids; while Cory Conacher and Matt Taormina were the Syracuse players who were a part of both teams.
Both Game 1 and Game 2 went in favor of the Griffins, winning by scores of 3-2 and 6-5 respectively. Game 1 was tied until there were just 13 seconds remaining in the game when Tomas Nosek scored his second of the game and gave Grand Rapids a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 was even more tightly contested, as it took not one, but two overtimes to determine a winner. Ben Street was able to beat Mike McKenna and send the series to Syracuse with the Griffins holding a commanding 2-0 lead.
Syracuse would win two of the three games they hosted at Onondaga County War Memorial Arena. They were undefeated at home in the playoffs, before this series. The only win that the Griffins were able to secure in Syracuse was a 3-2 win in Game 4. Dan Renouf scored his first two goals of the postseason, the second of which was the game-winner. The teams combined to go 0-for-12 in that game on the power play. Grand Rapids was 0-for-16 over their three games away from Van Andel Arena. Game 5 was the most decisive victory of the series for either team as the Crunch blitzed the Griffins for five goals in the first period, and chased goalie Jared Coreau who had played every minute of the playoffs up until that point.
Game 6 was a game of catch-up for the Griffins for a majority of the game. Syracuse opened the scoring when Yanni Gourde deposited his eighth goal of the playoffs at the 14:09 mark of the opening stanza. Grand Rapids would answer each of Syracuse’s goals with one of the own until Martin Frk scored the clincher with just 7:19 remaining in the game. Jared Coreau wasn’t great, but stepped up when it mattered most and got his 15th win of the post-season. He recorded 29 saves on 32 shots. He made many big saves in the final moments. There was a mad scramble in the crease as Syracuse attempted to send the game to overtime.
Bertuzzi Wins Calder Cup MVP
Tyler Bertuzzi was awarded the Calder Cup MVP. He scored 10 goals and added nine assists over the Griffins 19 playoff games. Although he ranked third on the team in postseason scoring, his impact was certainly felt in all aspects of the game. He lead all players with 50 PIM and a 23.7% shooting percentage. He also scored his 23rd playoff goal, which set a new franchise record. The previous record of 22 was set by Teemu Pulkkinen. Bertuzzi figures to challenge for a spot on the Red Wings roster come the fall.
Cory Conacher leads all players in scoring during playoffs
Although on the losing end of the series, Syracuse Crunch forward Cory Conacher lead all players in points throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs totaling 12 goals and 28 points, both of which lead the league. This was the fourth time that Conacher has been in the Calder Cup Finals. He won the title with the Norfolk Admirals in 2012, and lost as a member of the Crunch in 2013 and 2017, and as a member of the Utica Comets in 2015.