Griffins munch Crunch, become champion bunch

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Grand Rapids Griffins Daniel Cleary (11) celebrates with teammates after beating the Syracuse Crunch, 4-3, in the 2017 Calder Cup Championship, Tuesday night, June 13, 2017.

Grand Rapids — Hockeytown West is probably still celebrating.

The Grand Rapids Griffins — the Red Wings’ minor league affiliate — won their second American Hockey League Calder Cup in five years Tuesday with an exciting 4-3 victory over Syracuse.

The Griffins won the best-of-seven series 4-2 — just as they did over Syracuse in 2013.

Martin Frk broke a 3-3 tie with his fifth goal of the playoffs at 12 minutes, 41 seconds.

BOX SCORE: Griffins 4, Crunch 3

Frk’s shot from just inside the blue line got past screened goalie Mike McKenna, sending the sellout crowd of 10,834 into pure joy.

“The electricity in the building, it was unreal,” Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. “On the bench coaching and watching the fans get involved … it was just an unbelievable night.”

The Griffins entered the third period trailing 3-2.

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Tyler Bertuzzi. who was named playoff MVP, continued his postseason magic with a tying goal at 3:50 of the third period.

Bertuzzi scored his ninth of the playoffs — and 23rd career playoff goal, most in Griffins franchise history — jamming a pass from Tomas Nosek (Nosek had three assists) into the side of the net.

“Just hard work,” said Bertuzzi of his playoff magic. “You want to win the championship. Every night you go out there and do what you have to do.”

To a man, the Griffins said they were confident they could rally one more time in these playoffs.

“We believed we were going to win,” said goalie Jared Coreau, who made 29 saves including several key ones in the final two minutes. “We have a group in here that’s more resilient than any team might be.

“There was no negativity as we went into the third period.”

Winning in front of the fanatical Grand Rapids home crowd was extra special.

“The first one was my first year here and it was amazing,” said captain Nathan Paetsch, of a championship, won on Syracuse ice in 2013. “Grand Rapids is my home now, it’s family, and to do it after they’ve adopted me and my family and my kids are older now, this is special.”

Yanni Gourde scored two Syracuse goals and Matt Taormina (Trenton) scored the other Crunch goal.

Matthew Ford (power play) and Mitch Callahan added Griffins goals.

“What a fun year,” said Nosek, who likely will graduate to the Red Wings next season. “These are great guys. I wish that every player can feel the moment after the buzzer and raise the Cup.

“It was unbelievable.”

Gourde scored his second goal — and ninth of the playoffs — at 18:10 of the second period, breaking a 2-2 tie.

Coreau made a stop on defenseman Dominik Masin’s shot from the slot, but the rebound went to Gourde alone at the side of the net.

Gourde patiently waited out Coreau and then fired into the back of the net, giving Syracuse a 3-2 lead.

The Griffins twice tied the game in the second period, only to see Syracuse regain the lead.

Ford tied the game 1-1 just 18 seconds into the second period with his eighth goal but the Crunch regained the lead 2-1 on Taormina’s fifth goal at 7:51.

After the Grand Rapids killed its fourth consecutive Crunch power play, Callahan tied it 2-2 at 11:50.

McKenna went to play the puck and passed directly to Ben Street, who passed to an open Callahan in front for his sixth goal.

“We’ve been very resilient all year,” Nelson said. “If we lost a game, we always bounced back the next night. We’ve been like that all season and in the playoffs.”

The Crunch had a 1-0 lead after one period thanks to a Griffins turnover.

Coreau went to play the puck behind his net but mishandled it, then threw a pass into the slot which Gourde intercepted.

Gourde took a few strides to his left, and with Coreau diving to get into position, Gourde fired the puck into a vacant net at 14:09.

But Coreau, like the entire Griffins team, proved resilient as the game went along.

“We’ve done it all season, we’ve got a great team here,” Coreau said.