This Week’s Games
Thu., March 28 - GRIFFINS at San Antonio Rampage - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., March 29 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:05 p.m. - WTKG 1230 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 30 - GRIFFINS at Texas Stars - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Tue., March 19 - GRIFFINS 1 at Peoria Rivermen 4 - 36-21-3-2, 77 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Fri., March 22 - Lake Erie Monsters 4 at GRIFFINS 3 SO - 36-21-3-3, 78 pts. (1st)
Sat., March 23 - GRIFFINS 5 at Lake Erie Monsters 4 OT - 37-21-3-3, 80 pts. (1st)
Out on a High Note: The Griffins began last week with a rematch against Peoria on Tuesday, having fallen to the Rivermen 3-2 in overtime last Sunday. The team’s bad luck against the Rivermen continued, as the 4-1 loss marked the sixth straight time that the Griffins have lost to Peoria. Grand Rapids returned home on Friday to begin a home-and-home set against the Lake Erie Monsters, but it ultimately dropped a 4-3 shootout decision after initially storming out to a 2-0 first-period lead. On Saturday in Cleveland, it was the Monsters who roared out to a 3-0 start, but the Griffins answered back before the end of the second period, and it was a hat trick capped off by an overtime winner by Adam Almquist that helped the team end a four-game winless skid with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory.
Southern Hospitality: The Griffins will continue their season-high seven-game road trip this week with their eighth three-in-three of the season. After returning to Grand Rapids for a few days following Saturday’s 5-4 overtime win at Lake Erie, the Griffins will fly out to Texas to take on the San Antonio Rampage on Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT, the Houston Aeros on Friday at 8:05 p.m. EDT and the Texas Stars on Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT. This week marks the start of four consecutive games against South Division opponents, as Grand Rapids will take on the Aeros again next Tuesday before ending their road trip with back-to-back games against the North Division’s Abbotsford Heat.
The Trip Continues: The Griffins are in the middle of a stretch of 10 of 11 games (March 16-April 6) on the road, as last Friday’s contest versus Lake Erie is their only home game in that stretch. The team began a season-high seven-game road trip the following night against the Monsters, but returned to Grand Rapids following the game. After practicing at home for two days, the Griffins departed on Wednesday to continue season’s longest trip, and they won’t return home for two full weeks. The first part of the trek sees the Griffins play three games in three days – at San Antonio on Thursday, Houston on Friday and Texas on Saturday.
Swede Dreams: No defensemen in franchise history had recorded a hat trick in the Griffins’ first 15-and-a-half seasons until Logan Pyett notched three on Feb. 27, 2011 at Hamilton. Just over two full years later, the team has now had three defensemen hit the milestone, with the last two coming just 27 days apart. After Chad Billins recorded three on Feb. 24 versus San Antonio, Adam Almquist notched one last Saturday at Lake Erie. Almquist also became the third player in franchise history to complete a hat trick by scoring in overtime, joining Donald MacLean (Jan. 14, 2006 vs. Milwaukee) and Jiri Hudler (Oct. 24, 2004 at San Antonio). Almquist, who had a season-high four points (3-1—4) on the night, also made history with the overtime goal, as it was the second-latest ever scored in a Griffins regular season game (for or against), coming with just 10 seconds left in the extra session. Todd White holds the franchise record, after scoring with one second left in overtime on Dec. 15, 2000 at Cleveland.
Monster Comeback: Saturday’s win at Lake Erie marked the second time this season the Griffins have won despite trailing by three goals, and both come-from-behind victories came on the road against the Monsters. On Nov. 16, David van der Gulik, Andrew Agozzino and Mitchell Heard scored to give Lake Erie a 3-0 by 10:29 of the second period, but the Griffins pulled within one by the end of the frame. Max Nicastro, Triston Grant and Gustav Nyquist scored for the Griffins, while van der Gulik tallied his second of the night in between those goals to make it 4-3 heading into the third. Grand Rapids took the lead in the third period after Tomas Jurco scored a pair of goals in nine seconds, which still stands as the quickest two goals by the Griffins this season. Bryan Lerg tied the game up in the final 70 seconds of the game, but Nyquist notched his second of the night in overtime to seal the 6-5 win. On Saturday, Luke Walker, Mike Sgarbossa and Bill Thomas put Lake Erie out to an early first-period lead, but Adam Almquist, Louis-Marc Aubry and Mitch Callahan evened it before the end of the second. Van der Gulik and Almquist exchanged goals in the third, before Almquist’s third of the night sent the Griffins to another dramatic victory at Quicken Loans Arena with just 10 seconds remaining in overtime.
Sweden’s Finest: The Red Wings on Monday reassigned center Calle Jarnkrok from Brynas (Sweden) to the Griffins. Detroit’s second choice (51st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Jarnkrok skated in 53 games for Brynas of the Swedish Eliteserien this season, leading the team and tying for eighth in the league with 42 points (13-29—42). A native of Gavle, Sweden, the 21-year-old has appeared in 185 games with Brynas since 2009, registering 118 points (44-74—118) and 40 penalty minutes. In 2011-12, he helped his club capture the SEL championship by tying for fourth in the league in postseason scoring with 16 points (4-12—16) in 16 games. The 6-foot, 176-pound center has also represented his country on the international stage several times, including at the 2011 World Junior Championship, where he earned a silver medal, and at the 2012 World Championship.
Shootout Ace: The Griffins fell 4-3 in a shootout to Lake Erie on Friday, but the good news, in addition to picking up one point in the standings, was that defenseman Chad Billins continued his perfection in the skills competition, scoring the team’s lone goal to improve to four-for-four on the season. Only four other players in the league – Alex Biega (Rochester), Stanislav Galiev (Hershey), Blair Jones (Abbotsford) and Jamie Oleksiak (Texas) – boasted a 100% shootout percentage (minimum of two shots), but Billins leads that group with his four shootout goals. In Griffins history, only two players have finished a season with a perfect shootout percentage (minimum of three shots): Todd Robinson and Dave Roberts, who each went four-for-four in 2004-05 and 2000-01, respectively.
Sharp Shooters: Grand Rapids boasts the second-most potent offense in the AHL, averaging 3.22 goals-per-game, which trails only Syracuse (3.35). Although they’ve seen much of that offense come from Gustav Nyquist, who is still tied for the league lead with 60 points (23-37—60) in 58 games despite missing five of the team’s last six games while with the parent Red Wings, the Griffins have benefitted from a balanced attack. They have seven players with more than 30 points – Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Landon Ferraro, Francis Pare, Riley Sheahan, Jeff Hoggan and Chad Billins – which ties with Portland, Rochester and Syracuse for the most 30-point players in the AHL. Additionally, the team has 14 players who have eclipsed 20 points, adding Nathan Paetsch, Joakim Andersson, Adam Almquist, Tomas Jurco, Mitch Callahan, Luke Glendening and Brendan Smith to that mix, which is the second most in the league behind Connecticut’s 15.
Road to April: After departing for Texas on Wednesday, the Griffins will play six road games in a two-week span before returning to Grand Rapids for their next home game (April 10 versus Chicago). With less than a month to play in the regular season, the Griffins can edge closer to clinching a playoff spot if they can continue their success on the road. The team’s 0.600 winning percentage away from home ranks as the fourth-best in the league, behind Syracuse (0.727), Texas (0.688) and Charlotte (0.676). Despite having played 30 road games, which ties for the fewest in the league, the team is also tied for fourth with 17 victories and sits second with a 3.53 goals-per-game average and fifth with a 19.7 percent power play efficiency on the road.
Top of the Pack: Grand Rapids currently holds a nine-point lead in the Midwest Division, which is the second-largest division lead in the AHL behind the Northeast Division, where Springfield leads Connecticut by 11 points. However, the 13 points that separate the first-place Griffins from the fifth-place Peoria Rivermen make the Midwest Division the tightest in the league. The Griffins (80 points) have been able to hang on to their division lead after earning points in eight of their last 10 games (6-2-1-1) and currently hold an 11-point lead over Chicago, who had been on the Griffins’ heels for much of the season. However, after the Wolves’ recent run of three wins in their last 11 (3-7-0-1) and a seven-game point streak (6-0-1-0) by Milwaukee, the Admirals (71 points) have jumped into second place and sit on top of a group that is separated by just four points. Chicago is now tied with Rockford at 69 points, and Peoria is still alive with 67 points, sitting two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Motown Update: The Red Wings have improved to fifth in the Western Conference after a three-game winning streak, and several players who have skated for the Griffins this season have helped to make a difference…Joakim Andersson has seven points (3-4—7) in 23 games and sits fifth on the team with a plus-six rating…Brian Lashoff has four points (1-3—4) in 28 contests and averages 17:52 in ice time…Brendan Smith has three assists, a plus-three rating and an average ice time of 18:38 in 22 contests…Gustav Nyquist has two points (1-1—2) in eight games this season...Detroit will conclude a five-game road trip in San Jose on Thursday before hosting Chicago on Sunday.
League Leaders: Despite missing five of the Griffins’ last six games, Gustav Nyquist shared the AHL lead with 60 points (23-37—60), matching Jeff Taffe (Hershey) and T.J. Hensick (Peoria); however, Nyquist has played in fewer games (58) than Taffe (62) and Hensick (66)…Landon Ferraro has led the AHL with six shorthanded points (3-3—6) for much of the season, but now shares the lead with Binghamton rookie Jean-Gabriel Pageau (2-4—6)…Petr Mrazek ranks among the league’s top goaltenders with a 2.33 goals against average (14th), a 0.916 save percentage (17th) and 21 wins (8th)…Triston Grant’s team-leading 161 penalty minutes rank 11th in the league…Riley Sheahan is tied for 13th among AHL rookies with 35 points (16-19—35) in 62 contests…Chad Billins ranks 17th among rookies and 12th among defensemen with 33 points (7-26—33) in 64 games. He’s also the only player in the league to have a perfect four-for-four conversion in shootouts.
Milestone Tracker: Tom McCollum’s win on Saturday at Lake Erie was his 42nd in a Griffins uniform, breaking a tie with Ian Gordon and giving him sole possession of sixth place all time…Jan Mursak skated in his 200th game as a Griffin on Tuesday at Peoria…Brennan Evans skated in his 700th AHL/pro contest on Saturday at Lake Erie…Francis Pare reached a pair of milestones last week with his 350th game as a Griffin (Tuesday) and his 131st assist (Saturday), which moved him past Derek King and into fourth place all time, two assists shy of Kip Miller’s 133. Pare’s next goal will be his 100th as a Griffin…Triston Grant is two games shy of 500 in the AHL…Nathan Paetsch is one assist shy of 100 in the AHL and one point away from 200 as a pro…Brett Skinner is one point away from 200 as a pro…Three wins for the Griffins will bring the franchise to 700 in their 17-year history.
Walleye Watch: Despite losing their last two games, the Toledo Walleye clinched the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot on Sunday, sitting with a 35-26-5-4 record with two games to play. Despite their eighth place standing, the Walleye could finish as high as fourth place, as only three points separate fourth-place Elmira from seventh-place South Carolina…Willie Coetzee leads the team with 63 points (28-35—63) in 62 games, showing 28 points (12-16—28) in his last 20 games…Pointless in back-to-back games for the first time in his ECHL career, Trevor Parkes continues to flourish on Toledo with 25 points (12-13—25) in 17 games…Jordan Pearce sports a 15-11-2-1 record, a 2.65 goals against average and a 0.903 save percentage in 30 games…Toledo concludes its regular season on the road, visiting Fort Wayne on Wednesday and Wheeling on Friday.
Thu., March 28 at San Antonio Rampage (27-29-1-6) – AT&T Center – 8 p.m. EDT
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 34-19-1-3-0 Overall, 17-10-0-1-0 Road. Season Series: 1-2-0-0 Overall. 0-1-0-0 Road. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in San Antonio. NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers. Head Coach: Chuck Weber (2nd season). Notes: A trio of players are tied for San Antonio’s scoring lead: Greg Rallo (22-16—38), Jon Rheault (17-21—38) and Zach Hamill (16-22—38)…Rallo, Quinton Howeden, Drew Shore, Colby Robak and Eric Selleck are all currently with the parent Panthers…San Antonio netminder Jacob Markstrom is tied for 11th in the league with a 0.920 save percentage…The Rampage have struggled on the power play, sitting 24th in the AHL at 14.6 percent…San Antonio is 29th in the AHL in shots, averaging 27.02 per game, and 28th in shots against, averaging 32.95...Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan skated in 130 games with the Rampage from 2008-10, recording 68 points (35-33--68) and 108 penalty minutes.
Fri., March 29 at Houston Aeros (33-22-5-5) – Toyota Center – 8:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: WTKG 1230 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through wtkg.com. All-Time Series: 38-34-6-3-7 Overall, 17-18-4-2-3 Road. Season Series: 2-2-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fifth of six meetings overall, second of three in Houston. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: John Torchetti (2nd season). Notes: Justin Fontaine leads Houston with 45 points (18-27—45) in 53 games…Aeros goaltender Matt Hackett is fifth in the league in minutes (2674:02) and 11th in wins (19)…Houston forward Jason Zucker is seventh among rookies with 42 points (20-22—42) in 48 games and Johan Larsson is tied for 11th in the same category with 36 points (15-21—36)…Aeros defenseman Brian Connelly is tied for 14th among defensemen with 31 points (5-26—31)…Houston averages the third-fewest penalty minutes in the league behind Charlotte and Texas at 13.09…The Aeros team goals against average of 2.63 is the eighth-best in the league…Houston’s Mikael Granlund has an AHL-best 11-game point streak that dates back to Dec. 26, as he spent 19 games with the parent Minnesota Wild before rejoining Houston on March 12…Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan won a Calder Cup with Houston in 2003 and recorded 47 points (27-20—47) in 142 games with the Aeros from 2002-04.
Sat., March 30 at Texas Stars (38-17-5-6) – Cedar Park Center – 8 p.m. EDT
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 10-6-1-2 Overall, 5-3-1-0 Road. Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two in Texas. NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars. Head Coach: Willie Desjardins (1st season). Notes: Texas currently leads the league with 87 points…Matt Fraser leads the Stars with 45 points (32-13—45) in 61 games and is tied for first in the AHL with 32 goals…Texas netminder Cristopher Nilstorp is second among rookies and 10th in the AHL with a 2.27 goals against average…Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak is sixth among rookie defenseman and tied for 17th among all defensemen with 30 points (6-24—30) in 50 games…The Stars average the second-fewest penalty minutes in the league behind Charlotte at 12.75 minutes…Texas’ power play ranks fourth in the league at 20.7 percent…The Stars average 3.05 goals per game, which ranks eighth in the AHL…Former Griffin Mike Hedden has 25 points (10-15—25) in 51 games for Texas this season.