The Grand Rapids Griffins beat the Syracuse Crunch 5-2 to win the Calder Cup Finals 4-2 in the War Memorial on Friday night.
The Crunch won Games 4 and 5 on the road in Grand Rapids to bring the series back to Syracuse, but could not get the job done in Game 6 to force a Game 7. It was still the most successful season in franchise history.
The sellout, standing room only crowd at the War Memorial roared after Syracuse's Richard Panik notched a goal off a rebound less than three minutes into the game, a 1-0 lead they would hold for the rest of the first period.
Grand Rapids answered though, as Mitch Callahan scored on an assist from Triston Grant from behind the net, tying the game at one in the second period. Tomas Tatar, the MVP of the Calder Cup Finals, then scored on a powerplay, giving the Griffins a 2-1 lead in the second period.
The Crunch fought back, as Andrej Sustr evened the game at two early in the third period. But, it was not to be, as Brennan Evans scored the go-ahead goal through a sea of defenders with 10 minutes to play. Two empty-netters towards the end of the game sealed the victory for the Griffins their first ever Calder Cup Championship.
The Crunch players watched as the Griffins celebrated on Syracuse's home ice, a tough pill to swallow after this team's gutsy performance.
"It kills you, this is what we trained for all year," Crunch captain Mike Angelidis said. "To come up to this moment and fall short like this is tough, especially in front of our fans. We wanted to give our fans something they can remember, and it's tough not only for us but for our community and this city."
Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said this Crunch team was the closest-knit group of guys he has coached, and that their family-like atmosphere helped their confidence, even after falling down 3-0 in the series.
"To win four seems like a daunting task, and to make history sounded like a daunting thing to say when we're down 3-0," Zettler said. "We just needed to try to chip away at it one game at a time. We were going about it the right way, we just ran out of steam and ran into a good team. They played well."
Zettler as well as the players said this team's standard is a Calder Cup Championship, something they fell a few games short of this season.