Controversial Goal Leads to Griffins Loss 4-2|
Janmark, Athanasiou and Backman make AHL debuts in loss...
By Jason Kasiorek
April 18th, 2014
Friday night was a mixed bag for the Grand Rapids Griffins, playing their regular season home finale with a division title on the line. After dominating most of the game they ended up losing on a play that could be called controversial at best as Nathan Paetsch was dumped from behind, allowing an odd man rush and a free pop at Petr Mrazek. But on the plus side, several players made their AHL debut for the Griffins, and played to rave reviews. Mattias Janmark and Andreas Athanasiou were very noticeable up front, while Mattias Backman played a poised game on the blueline. Andrej Nestrasil (15) and Teemu Pulkkinen (31) scored for the Griffins in a losing effort.
Grand Rapids had a nice ceremony prior to the game to recognize coach Blashill for receiving the Louis A.R. Pieri trophy as AHL coach of the year. In a classy move, he had his coaching staff come out with him for the ceremony. Janmark, making his AHL debut, had a great play on his first shift to set up Pulkkinen on the doorstep. The Griffins coming out with a lot of jump and energy. Nice chance on the rush by Nestrasil and Ferraro had a go with the rebound. Grand Rapids relentless at both ends, with Lake Erie unable to gain possession or string two passes together. Big scrum in front of the Monsters net after the whistle with Parkes in the middle of it. Lake Erie finally got their first shot on goal of the game with 1:36 remaining in the period. Dominant period by the Griffins. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - LE 1.
Mrazek way out of the net covering the puck and Desbiens made contact with him. Tootoo pulled him right out of the pile and pummeled him. The Monsters got a little life thanks to two straight Griffins penalties, but were unable to get the puck by Mrazek. Later in the period, Lake Erie caught a break when Agozzino's shot hit Jensen in front and changed direction, eluding Mrazek for a 1-0 lead. Ferraro had a couple of pops on Aittokallio from the edge of the paint, but couldn't lift the puck over his leg. Nestrasil set up Almquist for a blast right before the buzzer. Shots on Goal: GR 8 - LE 11.
Early in the third, LE extended the lead to two when Wyman in close banged a shot past Mrazek. A few minutes later, Nestrasil blazed up the wing, picked up the puck and snuck a rocket past Aittokallio low, glove-side for his 15th. Athanasiou found a seam and turned on the burners to blow by a pair of Monsters for a great chance. Lake Erie got tied up deep, and the Griffins rushed the puck 4-on-2. Emmerton fed Pulkkinen and he blistered a slapshot past Aittokallio five-hole to knot the game at two. Evans and Sgarbossa pushing and shoving behind the play, and Sgarbossa goes off for a misconduct. Janmark shook off a check and had a great scoring chances close. Van der Gulik made contact with Mrazek setting up a big Griffins powerplay with just over 5 minutes remaining. Athanasiou flew up the middle , taking the puck to net and was taken down with no call. Paetsch at the point was taken down from behind, allowing a pass to drift by and Lake Erie was off to the races. Van der Gulik out of the box hit Smith in front and he chipped it in over Mrazek. The crowd and the bench appeared to be stunned with the non-call and that the play stood. Mrazek to the bench for the extra skater, but Nestrasil turned the puck over for an empty netter to make it 4-2. Shots on Goal: GR 9 - LE 12. For the Game: GR 27 - LE 24.
Parkes - Campbell - Nastasiuk
Pulkkinen - #38 Janmark - Emmerton
Ferraro - Nestrasil - #47 Athanasiou
Hoggan - McIntyre - Tootoo
Evans - Jensen
Paetsch - Almquist
Ouellet - #46 Backman
#3 Marchenko - Ankle Injury - out for season
#15 Callahan - Broken Jaw/Facial Injuries - out indefinitely
#23 Grant - Veteran
Pulkkinen - Emmerton - #38 Janmark
Jensen - Almquist
#47 Athanasiou - Nestrasil - Ferraro
#46 Backman - Paetsch
Campbell - Emmerton
Evans - Ouellet
McIntyre - Ferraro
Paetsch - Almquist
While the Griffins had their chances and should have been in a better position to win, the officiating in the third was abysmal. I try hard not to focus on that end of things, but there were three non-calls in a row, preceding the Monsters third goal, that were pretty blatant.
On to the new guys! First off let me say that Janmark stood out from the first time he stepped on the ice. He looks confident, skilled and poised. He was very good on the backcheck and very responsible in all three zones. He looked bigger than I expected, and didn't mind the high traffic areas. He just looked like an impact player, reminiscent of Jurco at first blush. The knock against him in the scouting reports was his skating, and that did not look like an issue on the smaller North American ice. Very exciting prospect to watch.
Athanasiou did not have a lot of opportunities to use his world class speed, but when he did, he blew the door off the defenders trying to catch him. He was very shifty, spinning around to avoid hits, but still retaining possession of the puck. He had a couple of nice chances, and was around the net a lot.
Backman played a quiet game (a plus for a defenseman), but was most noticeable moving the puck on the cycle and on the powerplay. He looked very calm and patient and his passes were on the tape.
Xavier Ouellet really stood out tonight. His confidence level looked to be at an all time high since returning from Detroit as he carried the puck up ice at every chance and made some jaw-dropping plays weaving in and out of people with the puck at speed to move it out of the zone. He really was playing at a different level than his already strong rookie season.