Mrazek, Sproul heroes in marathon win

2013-14 AHL All-Rookie defenseman Ryan Sproul scored with 33.4 seconds remaining in the second overtime period, giving the Grand Rapids Griffins a 2-1 victory over the Abbotsford Heat as they begin defense of their 2013 Calder Cup championship.

Sproul’s shot from the right-wing half boards hit a body in front and pinballed past Joni Ortio to end the game at 11:01 p.m. PDT (2:01 a.m. EDT).

It was the fourth overtime game of a thrilling Friday night in the AHL, and the longest playoff game since Hamilton defeated Manitoba six seconds into triple overtime on May 9, 2011.

Grand Rapids, which did not play past regulation once during its 2013 championship run, got 55 saves from Petr Mrazek on the night. Mrazek stopped all 43 shots he faced over the final four periods, including 21 in sudden-death overtime.

Brett Olson opened the scoring for the Heat at 11:44 of the first period, and Abbotsford’s lead held until Mattias Backman scored the first goal of his North American pro career for Grand Rapids with 7:23 remaining in regulation.

Ortio ended the night with 39 saves on 41 shots.

The teams go right back at it in Game 2 Saturday night in Abbotsford.

Western Conference Quarterfinals – Series “H” (best-of-5)
4-Grand Rapids Griffins vs. 5-Abbotsford Heat
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 25 – Grand Rapids 2, ABBOTSFORD 1 (2OT)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 26 – Grand Rapids at Abbotsford, 10:00
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 30 – Abbotsford at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 2 – Abbotsford at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 –Sat., May 3 – Abbotsford at Grand Rapids, 7:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern