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Dec. 31, 2010 – Toronto Marlies 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2 SO

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies closed out 2010 by engaging in an old fashioned goaltenders’ duel sprinkled with a dose of controversy, as the Griffins eventually prevailed by a 2-1 shootout count in the 14th annual New Year’s Eve celebration at Van Andel Arena.

Joey MacDonald made a season-high 43 saves to best Toronto rookie Ben Scrivens’ 40 stops, enabling the Griffins to complete their dramatic comeback from a late 1-0 deficit and give the capacity crowd of 10,834 the chance to celebrate victory twice in a remarkable series of events.

After Francis Pare scored with just 1:37 left in regulation to put Grand Rapids on the board, the Griffins thought they had won the game on another Pare goal from close range with just a half second left in overtime, with the entire bench and even MacDonald joining in a pile-up celebration behind the Toronto goal. But the roar of the sold-out crowd was belatedly snuffed out by a linesman’s ruling that the puck came to Pare on a hand pass from Jamie Tardif.

Undaunted, MacDonald went on to stone three of four Marlies in the shootout, while Pare, Ilari Filppula and Cory Emmerton scored to give Grand Rapids the unforgettable victory. Emmerton’s game-clincher in the fourth round came in his return to the lineup after missing 12 straight games due to injury.

The Griffins (16-15-1-4), winners of five of their last six at home, will try to carry that momentum into 2011 on Saturday, when they host their inaugural New Year’s Day game against the Peoria Rivermen at 7 p.m.

The wide-open and entertaining contest featured no scoring and a combined 63 saves through the first 53 minutes. Among them, MacDonald made a brilliant right-pad stop on a Jeff Cowen redirection less than five minutes into the third to maintain the scoreless deadlock. But a neutral-zone giveaway later in the frame led to a 2-on-0 break for the Marlies, and Christian Hanson solved MacDonald on Toronto’s 34th shot to give the visitors the lead with just 6:56 remaining.

Pare had a golden opportunity to tie matters with 4:30 left, taking the puck along the end boards and quickly coming out in an attempt to stuff it inside the right post, but Scrivens somehow recovered from being out of position to dive across and keep the puck out of his net.

Pare would indeed tie the score on the Griffins’ 36th shot at the 18:23 mark. As Grand Rapids buzzed furiously around the Toronto net, Pare got several whacks at the puck from the left side, finally putting it through the scrum to deny Scrivens his first pro shutout and set up the wild finish.

Notes: Defensemen Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith each left the game due to injury and did not return…The capacity crowd marked the Griffins’ first New Year’s Eve sellout since 1998 and their fourth all time, as well as the 133rd sellout in franchise history…The special edition jerseys worn by the Griffins raised $14,450 for GVSU club roller hockey through a post-game auction, with Smith’s jersey garnering the high bid of $1,100…Tomas Tatar, who was recalled from Grand Rapids by Detroit earlier today, made his NHL debut in the Red Wings’ 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders, forcing the extra session with his first NHL goal at 10:18 of the third period. He logged 12:18 in ice time while becoming the 114th Griffins alumnus to skate in the NHL.

Three Stars: 1. GR MacDonald (W, 43 saves); 2. GR Pare (goal); 3. TOR Scrivens (SOL, 40 saves)

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