GRAND RAPIDS, USA – For the second time in five seasons the Grand Rapids Griffins are the champions of the American Hockey League after defeating the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 in Game 6 of the Calder Cup playoffs on Tuesday night. Martin Frk scored the game winner at 12:41 of the third period and Tomas Nosek added three assists for the Red Wings affiliate.
Grand Rapids also beat the Syracuse Crunch in six games to win the Calder Cup in 2013.
Syracuse, the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate, pulled goaltender Mike McKenna with less than two minutes to play in the third, but was unable to find the equalizer.
Jared Coreau made 26 saves for the Griffins while Matthew Ford, Mitch Callahan and Tyler Bertuzzi had the other goals.
Syracuse got a pair of goals from Yanni Gourde while Matt Taormina added the other. McKenna made 22 saves in the loss. The Crunch led 3-2 after two periods and were a perfect 10-0 during the Calder Cup playoffs when leading after 40 minutes, but could not contain the Griffins in the final period.
Grand Rapids scored twice on seven third period shots to erase the deficit and improved to 3-0 on home ice, in the playoffs, when trailing after two periods.
“We believed we were going to win,” Coreau told The Detroit News. “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.”
Bertuzzi put home a Frk feed at the side of the net for his ninth goal and 19th point of the Calder Cup playoffs. The goal also gave Bertuzzi 23 career AHL playoff goals setting a new franchise record. Frk gave the Griffins their first lead of the game with 7:19 to play in the third beating a screened McKenna from the point for his fifth of the playoffs.
Bertuzzi, the nephew of former NHLer Tyler Bertuzzi and 2013 second-round pick of the Red Wings, was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP.
We knew we had a chance to make a run, Bertuzzi told NHL.com. "We did it and came together.
“You want to win the championship. Every night you go out there and do what you have to do.”
Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson becomes just the third person in AHL history to win Calder Cups as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach joining Bob Woods and Mike Stothers.
“The electricity in the building, it was unreal,” Nelson told The Detroit News. “On the bench coaching and watching the fans get involved... it was just an unbelievable night.”
The Griffins went 47-23-6 during the regular season finishing second in the Central Division. Grand Rapids then swept a best-of-five series against the Milwaukee Admirals before beating the Chicago Wolves in five games and the San Jose Barracuda in five games to earn a berth in the Calder Cup final.
NHL veteran Daniel Cleary, who appeared in nine Calder Cup playoff games with Grand Rapids, reportedly played in his final pro hockey game on Tuesday night. The 38-year-old picks up a Calder Cup to go along with his 2008 Stanley Cup.
“It’s awesome. I’m happy for the guys,” Cleary said per The Detroit News. “I’m happy for Bert – playoff MVP – he’s come a long way.
“We had a great mix of great veterans and good young players that contributed. We had a good cohesive team that all pulled for each other – nobody wanted go home – everybody wanted to win.”