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01/26/2013 8:30 PM -

Houston Aeros 5 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2

Jan. 26, 2013

– The Grand Rapids Griffins headed into the AHL all-star break with a 5-2 loss to the Houston Aeros on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

A second-straight capacity crowd of 10,834 witnessed Houston become the first team this season to sweep a two-game set from Grand Rapids, validating the visitors’ 1-0 win on Friday. Down by a goal after one period, the Aeros scored twice in the second and added three more in the third, holding the Griffins to just one goal over the final period despite the home team’s 20-8 shot advantage.

Grand Rapids, which remains atop the Midwest Division with a 24-14-2-2 record, will enjoy four days off for the AHL all-star festivities before resuming practice on Thursday. A trio of Griffins – goalie Petr Mrazek, defenseman Chad Billins and forward Gustav Nyquist – will participate in the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic, consisting of Sunday’s skills competition and Monday’s game in Providence, R.I.

After being shut out by Darcy Kuemper last night, the Griffins needed only 5:18 to solve the Houston netminder, as Billins one-timed a Tomas Tatar feed into the back of the net from the point.

While Grand Rapids controlled most of the early play in the Houston zone, its offense suffered a blow less than 12 minutes into the contest. Luke Glendening got into a scrap with Brett Bulmer and was subsequently assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down, leaving the Griffins a forward short for the rest of the night.

The game was then delayed for several minutes at the 14:11 mark for a video review following an apparent Mitch Callahan goal, but referee Geno Binda waived it off, ruling that the puck was batted into the net by Callahan’s glove.

Scoring chances proved few and far between for both teams until the Griffins were awarded 1:43 of a 5-on-3 advantage with 5:36 remaining in the second period, but the Aeros managed to escape the situation unscathed despite Grand Rapids possessing the puck in their end for most of the power play.

Houston tied the score with 2:46 left in the frame, as Chay Genoway fired a blast from the point that Nick Palmieri redirected into the top of the net. Shortly after, consecutive Griffins penalties gave the Aeros their own two-man advantage, and it took just 25 seconds for Houston to capitalize. Charlie Coyle scooped the puck just past the outstretched glove of a sprawled Mrazek and inside the right post from the bottom of the circle at 19:10.

Up 2-1 through 40 minutes, the Aeros struck twice in the first three minutes of the final frame to take a commanding three-goal lead. Coyle notched his second goal in less than two minutes of elapsed time, ripping a centering pass past Mrazek from the slot 53 seconds in, before David McIntyre lifted a backhand over the goalie from the doorstep exactly two minutes later.

Griffins coach Jeff Blashill used an unorthodox strategy to try to cut into his team’s deficit and awaken his offense, calling a timeout during a power play with 11:34 remaining and pulling Mrazek to give his skaters a 6-on-4 advantage. It paid dividends less than a minute later, when Riley Sheahan snuck a shot into the top right corner from close range at the 9:18 mark.

Mrazek again headed to the bench during an even-strength situation with less than four minutes remaining, creating a 6-on-5 for Grand Rapids, but this time Johan Larsson scored into the vacated cage to seal the Griffins’ fate.

Kuemper improved to 4-0 lifetime at Van Andel Arena behind a 33-save effort, while Mrazek stopped 22 of 26 shots in defeat.

Notes: The Griffins recorded sellouts in consecutive home games for the first time in nearly four years. They sold out four straight at Van Andel Arena from March 15-April 10, 2009...The Detroit Red Wings-patterned red jerseys worn by the Griffins were auctioned to the public after the game, with Nyquist's No. 13 sweater garnering a bid of $3,000, a record for a Griffins jersey auction.

Three Stars: 1. HOU Coyle (two goals); 2. HOU Genoway (two assists); 3. HOU Kuemper (W, 33 saves)

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