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Griffins advance to the AHL finals

by Kyle Kujawa / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings prospect Tomas Tatar shares an exhilarating moment with Griffins teammate Chad Billins (14) after Grand Rapids posted a 5-4 win over Oklahoma City in Wednesday's Game 7. (Photo by Michael Corn/Grand Rapids Griffins)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins will play for the Calder Cup for the first time in franchise history after defeating the Oklahoma City Barons four games to three in the Western Conference finals, capped off by tonight's wild 5-4 victory in Game 7 at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins, winners of the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference playoff champions, will now face the Syracuse Crunch in the best-of-seven Calder Cup finals. Games 1 and 2 will be played this Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 at the Onondaga County War Memorial, before the series switches to Van Andel Arena on Wednesday, June 12 for the first of as many as three straight games.

This will mark the first-ever playoff meeting between Grand Rapids and Syracuse, each of which will make its Calder Cup finals debut. The third-seeded Griffins reached the finals by beating No. 6 Houston (3-2), No. 2 Toronto (4-2) and No. 5 Oklahoma City (4-3), while fellow third-seed Syracuse defeated the same seeds in sequence: No. 6 Portland (3-0), No. 2 Springfield (4-0) and No. 5 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (4-1).

The Griffins, who have reached a league final once before, falling in six games to Chicago in the 2000 IHL Turner Cup finals, have won three consecutive playoff series for the first time in their history. Now in their 12th AHL season and 17th campaign overall, they came up short in their two previous AHL conference finals appearances in 2006 and 2003.

In their 19th season, the Crunch are also further in the playoffs than they've ever been, with their only other conference finals berth coming in 1996. However, 10 members of Syracuse's roster were part of the 2011-12 Norfolk Admirals squad that tore through the AHL on its way to the championship. The Admirals finished the 2012 postseason with 10 consecutive wins and won 43 of their final 46 games over the last four months of the year. Including the Crunch's 7-0 start to this year's playoffs, that core group of former Admirals won 17 straight playoff games and swept four consecutive series before dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, a 4-2 defeat that stands as its only loss of this postseason.

Syracuse won the East Division with 97 points (43-22-6-5), while Grand Rapids conquered the Midwest Division with 92 points (42-26-4-4). The two franchises have not met since the 2008-09 regular season, with the Griffins owning all-time series marks of 14-6-0-2 overall and 8-2-0-1 at home against the Crunch.

The complete schedule is as follows:

Game 1 Saturday Griffins @ Syracuse 7 p.m.
game 2 Sunday Griffins @ Syracuse 6 p.m.
game 3 June 12 Syracuse vs. Griffins 7 p.m.
game 4 June 14 Syracuse vs. Griffins 7 p.m.
*game 5 June 15 Syracuse vs. Griffins 7 p.m.
*Game 6 June 18 Griffins @ Syracuse 7 p.m.
*Game 7 June 20 Griffins @ Syracuse 7 p.m.

* If necessary All times Eastern Time and subject to change. All games on Newsradio WOOD 106.9 FM & 1300 AM.

Tickets for Games 3 and 4 and the potential Game 5 at Van Andel Arena will go on sale to the public Thursday at 10 a.m. They may be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets locations, by phone at (800) 585-3737, or through All three games will feature $2 beers and $2 hot dogs from 6-8 p.m.

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