The Abbotsford Heat kept their season – and franchise – alive with a dramatic 2-1 road win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday evening.
The Heat came in trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five series, but staged a third-period rally to force a Game 4 on Friday at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins, the defending Calder Cup champions, hadn’t lost in regulation all season when leading after two periods, and they carried a 1-0 cushion into the final frame on Wednesday.
But Corey Locke tipped in Chris Breen’s point shot early in the period to tie it up, and Markus Granlund scored a highlight-reel goal on the power play with 1:02 remaining to lift the Heat to victory.
“We talked with each other that we had to keep pushing, and goals were coming,” Granlund told The News, explaining his team’s mentality heading into the do-or-die third period.
“We’ve got to keep pushing on Friday.”
A hour before game time on Wednesday, media reports out of Glens Falls, N.Y. indicated that an agreement to move the Heat to that city was imminent.
Sources: Glens Falls to get Calgary’s AHL team. Contract being finalized now. Announcement will follow next week.
— Mark Mulholland (@MulhollandWNYT) April 30, 2014
The City of Abbotsford had announced on April 15 that they would pay $5.5 million to the Calgary Flames to buy out the last five years of a 10-year supply fee contract for their AHL affiliate to play in Abbotsford, and Glens Falls has been rumoured as the most likely destination for the team.
The Heat have insisted that the franchise’s future isn’t a distraction, but in any event, they dropped their first two games of the playoffs at home – 2-1 in double-OT last Friday, and 7-2 on Saturday.
In Game 3, the Griffins picked up where they left off, out-shooting the Heat 14-7 in the opening frame. But Abby goalie Joni Ortio kept his team in it, most notably, stoning Cory Emmerton on a shorthanded breakaway.
But late in the frame, the hosts broke the ice.
With Max Reinhart banished to the penalty box for an offensive-zone tripping penalty, Riley Sheahan collected the rebound off Mattias Backman’s point shot and slipped a slick feed to Tomas Jurco, who rifled a glove-side shot past Ortio from point-blank range.
Both Sheahan and Jurco had rejoined the Griffins on Sunday, reassigned by the NHL parent Detroit Red Wings after they were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Boston Bruins.
The Heat gained some traction in the second period, out-shooting the Griffins 10-6, but weren’t able to get anything past Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek, who has been outstanding throughout the series.
They finally broke through at 5:52 of the third, when Breen hammered a slap shot that Locke redirected past Mrazek. Breen initially got credit for the goal, but a scoring change was made post-game.
The Heat caught a break when Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan took a high-sticking penalty in the neutral zone with 1:20 to go in regulation.
Granlund took advantage with a terrific individual effort on the ensuing power play. Chad Billins fed the puck ahead to the Heat’s rookie phenom, and he split the defence while absorbing a slash, and still managed to lift a backhander past Mrazek against the grain.
“It was a great pass by Billins, and I had a breakaway,” Granlund said. “Great goal and great win.”
Game 4 goes Friday, and Game 5 (if necessary) would be Saturday, also in Grand Rapids (4 p.m. Pacific time both nights).