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HEAT COOL-OFF GRIFFINS IN SHOOTOUT

Oct. 8, 2010 - Abbotsford Heat 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2 SO

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Abbotsford Heat overcame deficits of 2-1 in the final two minutes of regulation and 1-0 in the shootout on Friday to spoil the Grand Rapids Griffins’ season opener at Van Andel Arena, taking a 3-2 win before Grand Rapids’ 15th consecutive home-opening sellout crowd of 10,834.

The Griffins held a 2-1 lead from late in the first period until the waning minutes of regulation, when a disputed cross-checking call against veteran defenseman Derek Meech gave Abbotsford a power play that it converted with 1:19 remaining. After a five-minute overtime, the Heat prevailed in the shootout by a 3-1 count to claim the victory.

Grand Rapids, which earned at least one point in its season opener for the eighth consecutive year (5-0-2-1), will look to push its point streak in road openers (9-0-2-0) to 12 seasons on Sunday in a 5:05 p.m. EDT tilt against the Rockford IceHogs.

Defenseman Brendan Smith, a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2007, scored his first goal just 3:09 into his pro career. The 2010 Hobey Baker Award finalist from the University of Wisconsin took a feed from Ilari Filppula and beat Leland Irving with a wrist shot from between the circles.

Abbotsford pulled even at the 10:56 mark of the period. Joey MacDonald thought he had the puck covered at his left post for a whistle, but the Heat kept whacking away until Carter Bancks’ poke put the puck just over the goal line.

The Griffins did their own net-crashing to regain the lead on a power play goal by Jamie Johnson with 2:51 remaining in the frame, as he stormed the crease to slip the puck under a sprawled Irving. Filppula earned an assist for his second point of the night.

Following a scoreless second period, the Griffins had several chances to extend their advantage in the third, but Irving made a huge pad save on Tomas Tatar with 7:30 left plus several other big stops to keep the Heat within striking distance. The Griffins penalty with 1:56 remaining gave Abbotsford a last-gasp chance that it would not squander, as Matt Keith took a pass from Jon Rheault out of the right corner and blasted a one-timer past MacDonald.

In the shootout, a Chris Minard slap shot briefly gave the Griffins a 1-0 advantage, but three straight goals by Rheault, Kris Chucko and Staffan Kronwall, combined with three consecutive stops by Irving, gave the Heat the win.

MacDonald turned aside 26 shots in his first game as a Griffin since Jan. 13, 2007, while Irving countered with 36 saves in the winning effort.

Three Stars: 1. ABB Irving (W, 36 saves); 2. GR MacDonald (SOL, 26 saves); 3. GR Smith (goal)
 

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