GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In his Grand Rapids Griffins debut on Wednesday, former University of Michigan captain and East Grand Rapids High School star Luke Glendening – now the only Greater Grand Rapids native to ever play for the Griffins – scored the game’s first goal on his first shot during his first shift, sparking the home squad to an eventual 4-2 victory over the Rochester Americans.
And, to cap things off, he was named the game’s First Star.
Glendening, whose goal 2:49 into the game snapped a Grand Rapids scoreless streak of 123:39 that dated to the final minute of a 4-2 win over Rockford on Dec. 9, showed the same nose for the net that he has exhibited this season in Toledo, where he leads the ECHL’s Walleye with 14 goals. He joined in a scramble around the Rochester cage and jammed the puck past Connor Knapp at the left post.
The Griffins (14-9-1-1) then withstood two rallies by the Americans (12-10-2-1) to earn a crucial victory that keeps them in a tie with Rockford for first place in the Midwest Division. They’ll play the second game of a season-high seven game home stand this Friday when the North Division and Western Conference-leading Abbotsford Heat visit Van Andel Arena at 7 p.m.
Rochester’s Phil Varone countered Glendening’s early goal with a backdoor tally during a power play at 8:17 of the first, but the Griffins retook the lead at the 10:59 mark. Jeff Hoggan stole the puck just inside the Rochester line, quickly skated into the left circle and ripped a shot past Knapp from the dot.
The Amerks made it 2-for-2 on the power play and 2-2 on the scoreboard 5:55 into the second period, as T.J. Brennan took a pass in the slot and sent a wrister into the top right corner. Grand Rapids, though, grabbed its third lead of the night at 12:20 when Joakim Andersson skated across the top of Knapp’s crease to redirect Chad Billins’ shot from the left point.
Francis Pare scored an insurance goal into an empty net with 52 seconds remaining in the third, becoming just the second player in Griffins history to reach 90 goals (Michel Picard, 158).
Petr Mrazek made 19 saves to snap a personal two-game skid and improve to 8-3-0, while Knapp finished with 28 stops in defeat.
THREE STARS: 1. GR Glendening (goal); 2. GR Andersson (game-winning goal); 3. RCH Brennan (power play goal)