Calder Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Quarterfinals – Game 2 – Series Tied, 1-1
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3 at Houston Aeros 2
April 28, 2013
HOUSTON – After doing what they set out to do during their trip to Texas – win at least one of the two games at the Toyota Center – the Grand Rapids Griffins are coming home on even terms with the Houston Aeros, with the series’ final three games set for Van Andel Arena.
Tomas Jurco scored twice while fellow rookie Petr Mrazek made 19 saves to spark a 3-2 win over the Aeros on Sunday, tying the best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals at one game apiece. But it was a full-team effort, particularly over a dominant first 40 minutes, that enabled Grand Rapids to overcome another strong performance by Houston netminder Darcy Kuemper, who followed up Friday’s 36-save shutout by stopping 31 of 34 tonight.
The Griffins will now host Game 3 this Wednesday, May 1 and Game 4 on Friday, May 3. Both games are at 7 p.m., as is a potential Game 5 that, if necessary, will also be played in Grand Rapids on Saturday, May 4.
The Griffins came out firing after being blanked 3-0 in Game 1, controlling the early play in the Houston zone and solving Kuemper just 4:16 into the game. Riley Sheahan drove down the slot and dropped a pass for Tomas Tatar, who ripped a shot inside the right post for the first playoff goal of his North American career.
Defensively, Grand Rapids limited Houston to just five shots during the period despite having to kill off a pair of penalties. In the closing minutes of the frame, Mrazek stood his ground during a scramble around his net before Kuemper’s glove robbed Brennan Evans on a wide-open chance from the left circle, and the Griffins skated to the locker room with the 1-0 lead.
During a Griffins power play early in the second, Landon Ferraro gathered a puck off the end boards at the left post and attempted to quickly stuff it into a yawning net, but defenseman Steven Kampfer dove back and made enough contact with Ferraro’s stick to thwart a golden scoring opportunity.
Grand Rapids continued to apply the pressure, though, and eventually broke through for its second goal midway through the period. With just one second remaining in a power play, Nathan Paetsch’s shot from the left circle caromed off Jurco at the top of the crease and past Kuemper at the 11:02 mark, increasing the Griffins’ shot margin to 23-7.
After a feisty end to the period that saw roughing altercations between Evans and Dan DaSilva and then Jan Mursak and Paul Mara with 34 seconds remaining, the Griffins entered the final 20 minutes with leads of 2-0 on the scoreboard and 30-11 in shots.
Jurco gave the Griffins some crucial breathing room by scoring on a wraparound at 14:06 of the third, before Justin Fontaine scored his third goal of the series and broke Mrazek’s shutout bid by scoring on a rebound during a power play with 4:27 remaining. Mrazek kept his focus, though, as he bailed out a rare defensive mistake by his teammates and somehow denied a 2-on-1 shorthanded chance by the Aeros with just over two minutes showing on the clock.
Kuemper went to the bench for an extra attacker in the final minute, and it paid dividends when a Brian Connelly shot from the left point glanced off Paetsch and eluded Mrazek’s grasp with just 12.1 ticks left, pulling the Aeros within one. But the Griffins withstood a draw in their end with under six seconds remaining, thanks to a faceoff win by Luke Glendening and Paetsch pinning the puck against the end boards as time expired.
Notes: Tickets for Game 4 of the series this Friday at Van Andel Arena (home Game B) will go on sale to the public tomorrow at 11 a.m. Tickets 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 griffinshockey.com…With the Aeros moving to Des Moines next season to become the Iowa Wild, this marked the Griffins’ final visit to Houston, a city they’ve played in since their inaugural IHL season in 1996-97. In 51 games at both the Toyota Center and the Compaq Center, the Griffins posted records of 19-18-4-2-3 during the regular season and 2-3 during the playoffs.
Three Stars: 1. GR Jurco (two goals); 2. GR Tatar (goal); 3. HOU Fontaine (power play goal, assist)