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Griffins fall on season-opener

by Randy Cleves / Detroit Red Wings

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Patrick Cehlin scored twice in his American Hockey League debut to rally the Milwaukee Admirals to a 3-2 victory over Grand Rapids on Friday, spoiling the night for the 10,834 fans at Van Andel Arena who comprised the Griffins’ 17th consecutive home-opening sellout.

After former Griffin Chris Mueller cut into the Griffins’ 2-0 lead by scoring in the final minute of the second period, Cehlin, who spent the past three seasons in the Swedish Elite League, lit the lamp twice in 4:06 early in the third to tilt this battle of reunited Midwest Division rivals to the visitors.

Grand Rapids will get another shot at its first victory under new head coach Jeff Blashill on Saturday, when the Hamilton Bulldogs pay a 7 p.m. visit to Van Andel Arena.

Joakim Andersson tallied the first goal of the season for the Griffins during a power play 9:49 into the game. From the right circle, Gustav Nyquist centered a pass to Tomas Tatar, whose redirection from the slot was denied by Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith. Andersson, however, was waiting at the right post to jam the rebound home, marking his 75th career point as a Griffin.

Milwaukee looked primed to even the score less than two minutes later when Daniel Bang was sprung on a break at the Grand Rapids blue line, but Jordan Pearce flashed his glove to rob Bang’s backhand attempt.

Landon Ferraro made it a 2-0 game with a shorthanded marker at 15:31 of the second. Winning a race to the puck at the Admirals’ line, he darted toward the net and lifted the puck over Smith’s glove for his first career shorthanded goal.

But Milwaukee struck for three goals within a span of 8:17 to go ahead 3-2. Mueller solved Pearce with just 43 seconds left in the period, breaking in alone and slipping the puck inside the right post. Cehlin then connected from close range at 3:28 of the third before scoring backdoor into a wide-open net during a power play at 7:34.

Penalty trouble began to plague the Griffins, who were assessed four consecutive penalties that gave Milwaukee 1:02 of a two-man advantage within 3:56 of 5-on-4 time. Grand Rapids worked hard to kill off the nearly five-minute power play, but was later unable to net the equalizer despite pulling Pearce for an extra attacker with more than a minute to play.

Pearce stopped 23-of-26 on the night while Smith earned the victory behind 19 saves.

Three Stars: 1. MIL Cehlin (two goals, PPG/GWG); 2. GR Andersson (PPG); 3. MIL Mueller (goal)

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