Calder Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Quarterfinals – Game 3 – Grand Rapids Leads Series, 2-1
Houston Aeros 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4
May 1, 2013
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Griffins fans had waited almost four years to see a home playoff game and the Midwest Division champions did not disappoint on Wednesday, overcoming a plucky effort by Houston’s backup goalie to earn a 4-2 win over the Aeros at Van Andel Arena and a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals.
With the score tied 2-2 in the waning minutes of the third, Adam Almquist took a cross-ice pass from Francis Pare, faked a shot to open some room and worked into the slot, firing the puck under Mike Condon’s pads while falling to the ice. That goal at 16:22 ignited the 4,683 faithful and, along with Luke Glendening’s empty-netter with 14 seconds left, put the Griffins within one win of advancing to the conference semifinals.
Grand Rapids will host Game 4 of the series on Friday at 7 p.m. and, if necessary, Game 5 on Saturday at 7 p.m.
With goalie Darcy Kuemper and his brilliant playoff numbers (1.51 GAA, 0.957%) recalled to Minnesota earlier today due to an injury to Wild starter Niklas Backstrom, the Aeros’ netminding chores fell to Condon, who appeared in just two regular season games with Houston after finishing his collegiate career at Princeton in March.
The rookie was up to the challenge during the first period, stopping all 13 Grand Rapids shots before the Aeros scored with just 8.5 seconds left. A blocked puck bounced out to the high slot, where Erik Haula took a whack at it and sent it past the glove of Petr Mrazek.
The Griffins answered during a power play 5:30 into the second. From the left circle, Nathan Paetsch fed the puck into the slot for Jeff Hoggan, who redirected it across the line before Condon could get across to stop it.
Teemu Pulkkinen scored his first North American goal on a backdoor play at 12:42, potting a slick pass by Triston Grant out of the left corner. But the Griffins’ 2-1 lead lasted only 80 seconds, as Justin Fontaine stole the puck from Landon Ferraro along the right wall and quickly found David McIntyre for a snap shot from the right circle that slid beneath Mrazek.
Mrazek, who has surrendered only two goals to Houston in each of the three games thus far, made 25 saves, while Condon finished his impressive playoff debut with 35 stops.
Notes: Tickets for the potential Game 5 this Saturday at Van Andel Arena (season ticket Game C) will go on sale to the public tomorrow at 10 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.
Three Stars: 1. GR Almquist (game-winning goal); 2. GR Pulkkinen (goal); 3. GR Mrazek (W, 25 saves)