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01/11/2012 9:09 PM -


Jan. 11, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Lifeless and thoroughly outplayed through two periods on Wednesday, the Houston Aeros awoke in the third to twice tie the score before eventually stealing two points with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.

After nursing a 1-0 lead entering the final period, the Griffins went ahead 2-1 on Landon Ferraro’s goal with 3:48 remaining, but the Aeros’ Jed Ortmeyer answered less than two minutes later. Houston ultimately outscored Grand Rapids 2-1 in the skills competition to claim its first shootout win of the season following seven fruitless tries.

Despite the setback, the Griffins (15-13-4-3) extended their season-high point streaks to seven games both overall (3-0-3-1) and at home (4-0-2-1), earning a point for the 14th time in their last 16 games (8-2-3-3) and climbing into a tie with Hamilton for third place in the North Division. They’ll return to action on Friday when they host the Texas Stars at 7 p.m.

The Griffins dominated play early, racking up eight shots on Darcy Kuemper before Houston finally fired its first on Joey MacDonald 9:42 into the contest. Chris Conner, playing his first game with Grand Rapids since Nov. 29, used a nifty move to put the Griffins on the board soon after, as he took a Gustav Nyquist pass at the Aeros’ line, sped wide around a defender down the left side and darted towards the crease before slipping a backhand between Kuemper’s pads at the 12:06 mark. 

Grand Rapids eventually increased its shot margin to 13-1 before the Aeros logged their second attempt during a power play with just 2:33 remaining in the period, which ended with the Griffins showing a 14-4 advantage.

That cushion grew to 21-6 midway through the second and 29-10 through 40 minutes, yet the Aeros – co-owners of the AHL’s fewest regulation losses (8) and second in the league with a plus-14 scoring margin in the third period – found themselves down by only that lone goal entering the final frame.

After managing to hang around in a game it had no business being in, Houston (20-8-2-7) came alive in the third and netted the equalizer just 3:02 in, as Jon DiSalvatore solved MacDonald from the right circle.

The Griffins were able to take a breath at the 16:12 mark when Ferraro slammed home Conner’s centering pass from the left circle, but late mistakes opened the door again for the Aeros. Garnet Exelby was sent to the penalty box for boarding at 16:50, and during the ensuing Houston power play, a turnover by the Griffins inside their zone resulted in a scramble around MacDonald’s net and eventually the goal by Ortmeyer, who forced overtime by scoring from the left side with 1:58 remaining.

Following a third period in which they were out-shot 15-6, the Griffins had several scoring opportunities and the only shot of overtime until MacDonald made a sliding stop on Marco Scandella at the right post just before the buzzer, pushing the game to a shootout.

Nyquist scored on the Griffins’ first shootout attempt for a 1-0 lead, but Houston’s Kris Foucault and DiSalvatore succeeded in rounds three and five to complete the visitors’ comeback.

Kuemper was awarded well-deserved First Star honors on the strength of his 34 saves, while MacDonald turned away 24 shots.

Notes: Jan Mursak concluded his conditioning stint with the Griffins tonight and was recalled by Detroit after the game. He recorded one assist in six appearances…Tonight’s game marked just the second this season in which cornerstones MacDonald, Conner, Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Fabian Brunnstrom and Joakim Andersson were all in the Griffins’ lineup. On the prior occasion, Grand Rapids earned a 3-0 home win over Lake Erie on Nov. 2…Due to the recall of standout goalie Matt Hackett to the parent Minnesota Wild earlier today, the Aeros signed former Lansing Community College netminder Jared Everhardt to serve as Kuemper’s understudy for the night.

Three Stars: 1. HOU Kuemper (W, 34 saves); 2. GR Conner (goal, assist); 3. GR MacDonald (SOL, 24 saves)

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