AHL squads draw 20,000 fans for outdoor game at Comerica Park
Spencer Abbott and Greg McKegg scored shootout goals to lift the Toronto Marlies to a 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Monday in an AHL outdoor game in front of 20,337 at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.
Abbott had two assists during regulation, and McKegg had one. They were the only players to score in the five-round shootout.
Luke Glendening, who was playing in his fourth career outdoor game, scored twice for the Griffins.
”It’s special,” said Glendening, a Grand Rapids native and Michigan graduate. ”It’s in Detroit, and I come to Tigers games with my family and friends, so to be able to play here was fun.
”Obviously, we’re frustrated with the outcome, but to soak in the whole experience was special.”
Carter Ashton had a goal and an assist for the Marlies.
The game was part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival. preceding the NHL’s Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day.
”It was louder than I thought it was going to be,” Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said. ”The fans were into it for sure, and I’d be interested to be a Tiger and see what it’s like when it’s full because it was loud out there.
”It was a great atmosphere.”
Of the seven previous AHL outdoor games, five have gone to overtime.
Toronto forward Kenny Ryan, who is from nearby Franklin, Mich., scored the tying goal at 2:22 of the third period.
”I come to games a lot in the summer with friends and family,” Ryan said. ”It was a pretty cool experience sitting out there in the outfield, almost, just looking at all the people that came, everything that was going on.
”It was a really great experience.”
Light snow fell periodically throughout the game, and the game-time temperature was a chilly 22 degrees.
Outdoor games are generally tougher on the goalies, who don’t get a chance to warm up on the heated benches.
”It was definitely tough staying warm out there,” Griffins goalie Tom McCollum said. ”I was skating around as much as I could. I actually ended up switching to a heavier shirt after the first period. It seemed to help a little bit, but it’s one of those things you have to battle through.”
Marlies counterpart Drew Macintyre, who spent time in the Detroit organization, admitted to his own struggles, as well.
”After a while, you get comfortable in a game. Pucks tend to kind of stick to you,” Macintyre said. ”Every puck, it was a battle to kind of cradle the rebounds. The entire game, you feel like you just got into the game. Even when I got into the shootout, it was like the game just started.
”I hadn’t got into a rhythm. That was different.”
It was the largest home crowd for the Griffins, who usually play at the 10,834-seat Van Andel Arena. However, it wasn’t a record crowd for Grand Rapids, which played some games during its International Hockey League days at the 20,804-seat Palace — the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.