Griffins Chill Heat 5-3
Newbury leads Griffins rally to take home opener...
By Jason Kasiorek
The Grand Rapids Griffins showed off a surprising resiliency in rallying from a 2-0 hole to win their home opener 5-3. Evan McGrath, Jeremy Williams, Mattias Ritola, Kris Newbury and Jan Mursak scored for the Griffins. Netminder Daniel Larsson recovered from a shaky start to make 25 saves for his first win of the season. NHL veteran Michael Nylander potted three assists in the first game of his two week conditioning stint.
The heat got on the board midway through the first, taking advantage of a Griffins miscue. Evan McGrath lost his stick in the corner and went back for it, leaving an odd man battle in front. Watt took advantage of that to slide the puck past an obstructed Larsson who tried in vain to get a leg on it. Rissmiller had a chance to tie the game at one with a great shorthanded rush, but couldn't convert. Backlund made it 2-0, sneaking a shot past Larsson that clinked in off the post. Late in the period Evan McGrath ripped a riser from the slot that went in over Irving. A minute and a half later, Williams tied the score on the powerplay, taking a backdoor feed from Nylander and slamming it home. Shots on Goal: GR 17 - Abb 10.
A scrum early in the second degenerated into a bout between Crosty and Watt with the Griffins Blueliner putting a beating on Watt. Jaffrey took advantage of the ensuing power play to regain the lead, roofing a bad angle shot over a down and out Larsson. Janik got smoked along the boards and was slow to get up. The Griffins had some great chances in the period, but could not cash in. Late in the third, Ritola took a Newbury pass and made a great move in front, blowing a shot past a down and out Irving. Shots on Goal: GR 11 - Abb 8.
The Griffins had a great chance to take the lead in the third, with a 4 minute powerplay. But back to back penalties to Tatar and Williams negated the advantage. Tatar came out of the box and Kindl hit him with a lead pass, but the speedy rookie fired it over the net. Ritola created a turnover with a big hit, setting up a great scoring chance. Chucko elbowed Delmore head first into the boards, leaving the veteran rearguard down for quite some time. Grand Rapids got a five minute powerplay and took advantage of it. Newbury redirected a Ritola shot glove side past Irving to give Grand Rapids the lead with just over a minute left. Mursak added an empty netter on an unselfish play by Nylander to seal the deal with 4.8 seconds left on the clock. Shots on goal: GR 11 - Abb 10. For the Game: GR 39 - Abb 28.
Axelsson - Nylander - Tardif
Ritola - Newbury - Mursak
Tatar - Rissmiller - Williams
Emmerton - McGrath - Vigilante
Kindl - Delmore
Kolosov - Janik
Crosty - Pyett
Lemieux - Back
Axelsson/Williams - Nylander - Tardif
Williams/Janik - Delmore
Tatar/Ritola - Rissmiller/Newbury - Mursak
Kindl - Pyett
Rissmiller - Newbury
Kolosov - Janik
Emmerton - Tardif
Crosty - Pyett
Good first game, the Griffins had a lot of energy, and late in the game played some good defense.
Jakub Kindl had a so so game with no real glaring errors, but he had more blocked shots from the point than I could keep count of.
Emmerton started slow but really came on line as the game went on. He had a couple of nice hits, and showed off some surprising speed in beating an Abbotsford player for an icing call.
McGrath was very noticeable, hustling and digging all night.
Newbury was all over the ice blocking passes, stealing pucks and generally being a nuisance to the other team. I always remember that about him with the Marlies, but sure appreciate what he brings to the ice now that he is here.
Axelsson left the game early, more info to come.
Mursak had a strong game playing physical and going to the net.
Ritola was a bit sluggish at the beginning, but seemed to perk up after his goal.
Delmore looked very good, especially on the powerplay, moving the puck well.
Tomas Tatar was working hard and showing off his impressive skill set. He didn't have much to show for it, but the puck really seems to follow him.
Kolsov looks much more relaxed and fluid than last season. The hulking blueliner has come a long way.