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ALL GUTS, NO GLORY

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Down 4-1 in the first period and 5-3 after 40 minutes, the Grand Rapids Griffins rallied to steal a point in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Houston Aeros on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

Power play goals in the final period from Eric Manlow and Nick Martens enabled the Griffins to maintain sole possession of first place in the North Division with a 6-2-0-1 record. The Aeros, first in the Western Conference at 7-3-1-0, have handed Grand Rapids all three of its defeats. The Griffins will enjoy another full week of preparation before concluding their homestand with a two-game set against the Syracuse Crunch next Friday and Saturday.

Grand Rapids grabbed the advantage just 80 seconds into the game. Eric Himelfarb collected a rebound high in the right circle and found Tomas Kopecky, who slid the puck past Seamus Kotyk for his second goal in as many nights.

Houston responded with a four-goal explosion to take a 4-1 lead at the first break, starting with back-door power play goals by Roman Voloshenko at 7:15 and Erik Westrum at 9:32. The visitors followed up with a pair of breakaway tallies by Patrick O’Sullivan and Voloshenko just 25 seconds apart for the commanding three-goal cushion.

Grand Rapids began its rally early in the middle frame. Travis Richards took a pass from Jiri Hudler on the left side and skated deep before sending a pass out high to Kyle Quincey, whose rocket eluded Kotyk at the 3:47 mark. Hudler’s assist extended his AHL-high point streak to nine games, marking the second-longest run of his career and tying for the seventh-longest streak in Griffins history.

Quincey pulled Grand Rapids within one during a power play on a laser from the top of the left circle at 9:27, but Houston’s Bryan Lundbohm popped a shot home during a goal-mouth scramble only 49 seconds later to make it a 5-3 game. Quincey’s two-goal game marked the first for a Griffins defenseman since Niklas Kronwall’s feat on Nov. 24, 2004.

During a power play with 11:43 left in the third, Manlow pounced on the rebound of a Hudler shot to make it a one-goal margin, and the Griffins netted the equalizer during another advantage less than a minute later. Hudler hit Manlow with a pass low in the right corner, and the veteran threaded the puck through a crowded crease to Martens, who tapped it in for his first pro goal.

After a scoreless overtime, Westrum and O’Sullivan gave Houston a 2-0 advantage in the shootout, and the Griffins could only answer with a tally by Manlow. Kotyk and Jimmy Howard each finished with 28 saves.


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