A sold-out crowd hoping to celebrate a championship on Friday evening at Van Andel Arena will have to wait another day.
With their backs against the wall and their season on the line, the Syracuse Crunch pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals, spoiling the party for Grand Rapids hockey fans.
The Griffins still lead the seres 3-1, and get another crack at wrapping up their first championship in Game 5 tonight.
Richard Panik's goal with 3:08 left in the second period held up as the game-winner for the Crunch, who avoided being swept out of the Finals after winning 11 of 12 games through the first three rounds.
After surviving an early Syracuse power play, Grand Rapids broke in front on a goal by Joakim Andersson 3:37 into the contest.
The Crunch killed off overlapping penalties midway through the opening period, including 59 seconds of 5-on-3 time, to hold the Griffins lead at 2-1 through 20 minutes.
Syracuse's penalty killers kept the Crunch in the game with two more successful kills in the second period, then Ondrej Palat fired a rocket from the left-wing circle past Mrazek at 14:01 to tie the game at 2-2.
On the next shift, Cedrick Desjardins robbed Andersson from point-blank range to keep the score tied, and at 16:52 the Crunch grabbed their first lead of the night as Panik redirected a point shot from Mark Barberio past Mrazek.
Syracuse got a golden opportunity to extend the lead when Griffins forward Gustav Nyquist was assessed a spearing major and game misconduct with 21.5 seconds left in the second period, but the Crunch could not extend their lead.
A Grand Rapids power play with 4:33 to play in regulation gave the Griffins another chance to pull even, but Desjardins and the Crunch held their ground.
The Griffins thought they had tied the game with 17.4 seconds left, but a video review confirmed that the puck did not cross the goal line.
Desjardins (12-4) stopped 26 shots in the win for Syracuse, ending a three-game losing streak. Mrazek (14-8) finished with 21 saves for the Griffins.
NOTES: Since 1993, teams are now 11-4 in games with a chance to clinch the Calder Cup championship on home ice... Grand Rapids fell to 3-7 in its AHL history with a chance to close out a playoff series on home ice... Of the 23 teams to trail a best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals series 0-3, the Crunch are the seventh to avoid being swept; only one (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 2008 vs. Chicago) has pushed the series to a Game 6... Syracuse was 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 5; Grand Rapids was 0-for-5... Attendance was 10,834.