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Red Wings prospect news: Mantha, Val-d’Or prevail; Griffins will open playoffs against Abbotsford

Saturday delivered mixed results for the Red Wings' prospects, including a difficult journey ahead (literally) for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

In playoff hockey, in the QMJHL, Anthony Mantha had an assist as his Val-d'Or Foreurs defeated the Halifax Mooseheads 4-2, taking a 2-games-to-none lead in the QMJHL semifinal.

Mantha now has 11 goals, 7 assists and 18 points in 12 playoff games played.

In the WHL, things did not go so well for the Kelowna Rockets. Mitchell Wheaton was held off the scoresheet and Marek Tvrdon registered an assist en route to the Rockets dropping a 5-3 decision to the Portland Winterhawks. The WHL's Western Conference Final is now tied at 1 game apiece.

Wheaton has 4 assists in 11 playoff games played, and Tvrdon has 5 goals, 7 assists and 12 points in 11 games played.

The Grand Rapids Griffins could've wrapped up the AHL's Midwest Division crown with a win over the Lake Erie Monsters, but Lake Erie had other ideas.

As such, the Griffins dropped a 4-3 shootout decision (despite 37 saves from Tom McCollum); because the Chicago Wolves defeated the Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago won the Midwest Division, and the Griffins will find themselves heading West to defend their Calder Cup Championship:

The fourth-seeded Grand Rapids Griffins will begin defense of their 2013 Calder Cup championship by playing the fifth-seeded Abbotsford Heat in the best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The Griffins, who concluded the regular season tonight with a 4-3 shootout loss at Lake Erie, will visit the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre on Friday and Saturday before returning to Van Andel Arena on Wednesday, April 30 for the first of as many as three straight home games. The complete schedule is as follows:

The Griffins' 4-3 loss to Lake Erie went like this, per the Griffins:

Grand Rapids didn’t go down easily in its final regular season game, but a Lake Erie Monsters shootout shot that bounced off Tom McCollum’s back into the net ended the Griffins’ hopes for the Midwest Division title in a 4-3 shootout loss Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Griffins (46-23-2-5) fell behind twice in the back-and-forth matchup before forcing an overtime period and eventually a shootout. J.T. Wyman scored on McCollum in the third round, and Adam Almquist responded with Grand Rapids’ only marker of the shootout, a fast snap from up the middle.

In the fourth round, McCollum made the initial save on Brett Clark’s attempt, but the puck hit the crossbar and rebounded off McCollum’s back into the net for the game-winning goal. McCollum finished the game with 37 saves in the loss, while Calvin Pickard stopped 35 of 38 shots.

Next up for the Griffins is the fifth-seeded Abbotsford Heat in the best-of-five Western Conference quarterfinals. Fourth-seeded Grand Rapids will begin its defense of the Calder Cup at 10 p.m. EDT on April 25 at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.

The opening frame of Saturday's match was scoreless, despite opportunistic scoring chances on both sides of the ice. During the Griffins’ second of two first-period power plays, Landon Ferraro had a pair of chances from the doorstep and point-blank range, but Pickard used acrobatic goaltending to keep the puck out of the net. At 7:35, Mike Sgarbossa found himself one-on-one with McCollum, but his shot banged off the pipes and the game remained 0-0.

At 5:18 of the second period, the deadlock was broken when Michael Heard snapped a wrist shot above McCollum’s glove on a two-on-one rush.

Soon after, Andreas Athanasiou scored his first professional goal in only his second professional game at 6:27. Teemu Pulkkinen found Almquist in the slot, and Almquist quickly passed to Athanasiou at the left post for the tying goal.

Athanasiou helped strike again just 53 seconds later. He rushed Pickard’s net and fought through the scrum for a shot, but the puck popped free to Andrej Nestrasil at the top of the crease. Nestrasil’s shot rolled along the goal line and made it just inside the net before rolling out. The play wasn’t initially ruled a goal, but the referees awarded Nestrasil his 15th goal of the campaign after a lengthy review.

Adding to an assist from Friday’s game, Athanasiou has racked up three points with the Griffins.

Lake Erie (32-33-1-10) knotted the game again with 1:11 left in the second period. From behind the net, Troy Bourke fed a rushing David van der Gulik for the tap-in.

Bourke redirected Daniel Maggio’s shot to put the Monsters on top 3:57 into the third period, but Ryan Sproul pulled the game back within reach with a tying tally at 6:46. From the blue line, Sproul sent a wrister into the top left corner of the net during four-on-four play.

The Griffins had a slight 3-2 edge in shots in the overtime period.

Three Stars: 1. LE Clark (game-winning shootout goal); 2. LE Heard (goal); 3. GR Athanasiou (goal, assist)

The Griffins posted a Flickr photo gallery from the game and a set of SendtoNews highlights (they auto-play), and the Monsters' website posted a recap, a photo gallery and a set of highlights (if you're interested in their coach's comments, rock on):

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WingedRider's avatar

3. GR Athanasiou (goal, assist)

Pretty impressive by Athanasiou (needs a nick name, Yikes). 3 points in 2 games since his arrival from the CHL.  So many prospects to dream about, great scouting and drafting!!

Hope the Red Wings keep stealing from the Bruins on Sunday!!!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 04/20/14 at 10:10 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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