Champs: Grand Rapids Griffins win Calder Cup

Griffins rally in third to beat Syracuse Crunch at Van Andel Arena

Calder Cup Finals, Game 6, Van Andel Arena, Syracuse Crunch, Grand Rapids Griffins
The Grand Rapids Griffins celebrate after winning the Calder Cup at Van Andel Arena on June 13, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Griffins are Calder Cup champions again.

The Griffins rallied in the third period to beat the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals in front of a raucous sold-out crowd at Van Andel Arena.

“Unbelievable,” a breathless and obviously thrilled forward Eric Tangradi said of the victory. “This is the best American League city I’ve ever played in. These people are amazing. The adrenaline that we fed off of, this team — yeah, we won this cup, but this city won this cup. Unbelievable. I can’t even explain it.”

The Griffins got off to a rocky start and weren’t ahead until there were less than eight minutes left in the third period. Tyler Bertuzzi scored to tie it up with 16:10 remaining and the crowd went wild. Martin Frk scored the game winner with 7:19 remaining.

Bertuzzi was named MVP. He has 23 career postseason goals — the most in Griffins franchise history.

The Griffins entered the game with a 3-2 lead in the series. They won Games 1 and 2 at home. In Syracuse, they lost Game 3, won Game 4 and lost Game 5.

Then the series moved back to Van Andel Arena, and that was the difference the Griffins needed. They were undefeated on home ice — a perfect 10-0 — in this postseason.

“We just had a confident swagger. We knew if we played the right way nobody could beat us,” Tangradi said.

“A lot of people worked their butts off to get here. We finished it off the right way,” head coach Todd Nelson said after the big win. “I can’t say enough about the players we have. They’re hard-working, good character guys.”

He went on to thank all the coaches, trainers and coaching staff.

“We came together as a group real early in the season. Great character guys. We have four first-year players who were captains on their respective teams last year. Our leadership group was unreal in that room. And our closeness as a team got us over that hump tonight,” he said.

He added that it was great to be able to win the cup at home.

Twenty-one years ago, Nelson was the first player ever signed by the Griffins. Now, he’s the first head coach to win a Calder Cup championship at Van Andel Arena.

“It’s unreal. It feels great. I don’t think I’m going to lose this feeling for quite a while,” Nelson said.

This is the Griffins’ second Calder Cup in five years. They last won it in 2013. They beat the Crunch then, too, but did it in Syracuse.

GRIFFINS FANS: ‘WE COULDN’T ASK FOR MORE’

Van Andel Arena was rocking during the game, packed to capacity with about 11,000 fans.

“Grand Rapids is Hockeytown West. That’s what we are. We love it,” season ticket holder Jeff Fielder told 24 Hour News 8.

The game was a slugfest that kept fans on the edge of their seats throughout. When the final horn sounded, the arena erupted into thunderous cheers.

“You know, actually, the Griffins have done a lot for his city just over the time period that they’ve been here — but what a great victory,” fan Daniel Irrer said after the game.

He also game a tip of the hat to the tens of thousands of rowdy fans around him: “This crowd tonight — were they on fire or what?”

“It sounds wonderful,” fan Jodie Anderson said about the Griffins’ new championship title. “What a great ending. We couldn’t ask for more.”

–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean

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