Athanasiou’s OT winner evens series for the Griffins

Andreas Athanasiou‘s goal at 5:05 of the first overtime sealed a 3-2 win for the Grand Rapids Griffins, evening up the Western Conference Finals at two apiece on Friday night inside Van Andel Arena.


After a scoreless first for the second straight game, Xavier Ouellet opened the game’s scoring at 5:48 of the second period. Picking up a pretty feed from Dylan Larkin, Ouellet tapped the puck high blocker side on Utica Comets netminder Jacob Markstrom to put his club up 1-0. Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan earned the secondary assist on the play, giving him assists in back-to-back games.


Playing in just his fourth professional game, Larkin now has two goals and two assists in the Calder Cup playoffs.


Alex Friesen responded for the Comets just under three minutes later, splitting through two Grand Rapids defensemen and beating Griffins goalie Tom McCollum to even the game at one. Sven Baertschi picked up the lone assist on the power play marker for his fifth point in three games.


The Comets took their first lead of the game at 16:12 of the second, courtesy of a Cory Conacher tally, his second goal in as many games. Cal O’Reilly and Alexandre Grenier grabbed the assists, setting up a nice passing sequence that Conacher eventually capitalized on.


Early in the third, Anthony Mantha snagged the equalizer for the Griffins, lifting home a pass from Athanasiou at 5:44 that would eventually force the first overtime period of the series. Brian Lashoff got the play started, registering his third assist of the postseason.


A commotion on the other end of the ice gave Athanasiou the perfect opportunity to break through the neutral zone, speeding past the Comets’ defense and making a nice move around Markstrom to give the Griffins the win and turning the Western Conference Finals into a brand new series.


Markstrom made 22 saves in the loss, while McCollum recovered nicely from his Game 3 performance, stopping 34-of-36.


Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
1-Utica Comets vs. 2-Grand Rapids Griffins

Game 1 – Sun., May 24 – UTICA 2, Grand Rapids 1
Game 2 – Mon., May 25 – Grand Rapids 4, UTICA 2
Game 3 – Thu., May 28 – Utica 4, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Game 4 – Fri., May 29 – GRAND RAPIDS 3, Utica 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Sun., May 31 – Utica at Grand Rapids, 5:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 2 – Grand Rapids at Utica, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 3 – Grand Rapids at Utica, 7:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern