This Week’s Games
Wed., Feb. 26 GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals 8 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Feb. 28 GRIFFINS at Abbotsford Heat 10 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., March 1 GRIFFINS at Abbotsford Heat 10 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Feb. 21 Oklahoma City Barons 4 at GRIFFINS 2 30-17-2-3, 65 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Feb. 22 Oklahoma City Barons 3 at GRIFFINS 4 31-17-2-3, 67 pts. (1st)
Sun., Feb. 23 Milwaukee Admirals 0 at GRIFFINS 1 SO 32-17-2-3, 69 pts. (1st)
Regaining Momentum: In their first home three-in-three since Feb. 10-12, 2012 and just their ninth ever, the Griffins won two of three games over the course of last weekend. Heading into the three-game set, the Griffins posted an 8-8-1-1 record since the beginning of 2014, contrasting a 22-8-1-2 record at the conclusion of 2013. On Friday, Grand Rapids fell to the Oklahoma City Barons, 4-2, on the annual “Salute to Heroes Night” to extend the Griffins’ now-broken winless streak at Van Andel Arena to six games (0-5-0-1), their longest since a seven-game drought that concluded in December 2010. Friday’s crowd was the fourth sellout crowd of the season and second in the last five home games, as well as the third crowd of 10,000-plus in the last five. Turning the tides on Saturday, the Griffins bounced back in a rematch with the Barons with a 4-3 victory. Mitch Callahan scored a pair of power play goals and Cory Emmerton notched the game-winning tally, while Adam Almquist earned his fourth three-assist performance of the season. Petr Mrazek earned the victory between the pipes, finishing with 36 saves and earning the 35th Griffins victory of his career, tying Pokey Reddick for eighth on the franchise’s all-time list. On Sunday, the Griffins closed out their three-in-three in a thrilling fashion with a 1-0 shootout victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. After Mrazek and Milwaukee’s Scott Darling posted identical 29-save shutouts through the conclusion of overtime, rookie Martin Frk converted his first pro shootout attempt to kick off the Griffins’ 4-for-5 performance in the skills competition, and defenseman Brennan Evans closed things out in round five on the first shootout try of his 11-year career.
Hitting the Bricks: This week, the Griffins will depart for three games away from Van Andel Arena before returning to Grand Rapids for a three-game home stretch next week, including the annual Purple Game on March 7. The Griffins post a 14-7-2-1 road record and look to capitalize on Milwaukee’s four-game home losing streak when they visit the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Wednesday at 8 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, Grand Rapids will face the Abbotsford Heat at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre at 10 p.m. The Heat currently tie with the Texas Stars for first place in both the West Division and Western Conference with 71 pts., just two points ahead of Grand Rapids.
Division Battle: With only 15 points separating first from fifth, the smallest point spread of any division in the league, the Midwest has become a tight race heading into the regular season’s stretch run. Still, Grand Rapids (32-17-2-3, 69 pts.) holds on to the division lead by a single point over the Chicago Wolves (31-17-4-2, 68 pts.) after earning four points last week. The Rockford IceHogs (28-21-4-3, 63 pts.) rank third and are currently on a nine-game point streak. The Milwaukee Admirals (23-18-6-6, 58 pts.) have recently slipped into fourth place, losing their last four games, and the Iowa Wild (22-20-6-4, 54 pts.) rank fifth. Grand Rapids has given up the fewest goals in the division (135) while tying with Rockford for the most goals tallied (171).
Evans’ 11-Year Wait: Now in his 11th professional season, defenseman Brennan Evans has earned numerous accolades in his second campaign with Grand Rapids. On Sunday, Evans was called on as the fifth shooter in a skills competition against the Milwaukee Admirals after regulation and overtime play resulted in a 0-0 knot. After both teams notched three markers through four rounds, Petr Mrazek turned away Milwaukee’s Simon Moser in the final round to set the stage for Evans’ first career shootout attempt, which he connected on to win the game. With 14 points (4-10—14) to his name, Evans has accumulated a career-high four goals this season and consistently performs as a heavy-hitter on the blueline, earning a team-high 99 penalty minutes.
Special Teams Influence: Grand Rapids’ special teams worked overtime last weekend, as the team had a total of 16 penalty killing attempts. The Griffins were able to kill off 14 of those attempts (87.5%), yielding only two goals to the Oklahoma City Barons in Friday’s 4-2 loss at Van Andel Arena. In the same night, the Griffins converted on one of two power plays courtesy of a goal by Calle Jarnkrok to open the evening’s scoring. On Saturday, Mitch Callahan capitalized on two of the Griffins’ eight power plays to secure a 4-3 victory in a rematch with the Barons. On Sunday, both the Griffins and Milwaukee Admirals killed off all five penalties they faced. Overall, Grand Rapids own a 19.6% power play record, good enough for 10th in the league, and an 86.5% penalty killing record (4th).
Goaltender Bender: On Jan. 28, goaltender Petr Mrazek returned to the Griffins from the Detroit Red Wings to provide further depth between the pipes for Grand Rapids. In combination with Tom McCollum, the pair has achieved a high level of success both individually and for their team this season. McCollum (2.29 GAA, 10th) and Mrazek (2.21 GAA, 5th) both rank among the league’s top 10 goaltenders. Since his return from the Wings, Mrazek has posted a 3-3 record, and he earned his second AHL shutout of the season last Sunday in a 1-0 shootout victory over the Milwaukee Admirals with 29 saves. Mrazek’s first shutout of the season also came against the Admirals, in a 5-0 victory at Van Andel Arena on Nov. 20. Overall, Mrazek posts a 13-5-1 AHL record this season along with a 0.923 save percentage. McCollum has earned a 19-10-2 record and an equal 0.923 save percentage.
Callahan Strikes Again: Third-year pro Mitch Callahan (21-8—29) continued his offensive spree last weekend with an impressive two-goal performance in a 4-3 edging of the Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday. Callahan, who has seen an increased role on the power play this season, earned both of the tallies with the extra skater. Already surpassing his 2011-13 goal total (17), Callahan tied his previous two-season point total (17-12—29) with his two goals on Saturday. A native of Whittier, Calif., Callahan ties with defenseman Brennan Evans for the highest rating on the team at plus-16, and his 154 shots are the most of any Griffin. Callahan is one of three Grand Rapids skaters, along with Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen, to have appeared in all 54 games this season.
Team Leaders: Despite not having tallied a point in four games, his second-such drought this season (Nov. 16-23), right wing Teemu Pulkkinen (19-23—42) leads the Griffins in scoring and registers a plus-14 rating through 54 games. Defenseman Adam Almquist (2-35—37), who ranks second among league defensemen in assists, ranks second on the team, followed by right wing Tomas Jurco (13-19—32), who was recalled by Detroit on Feb. 22, and center Cory Emmerton (12-20—32). Brennan Evans (99) leads the team in penalty minutes and is just one infraction away from crossing the 100-minute threshold. Mitch Callahan (154) and Pulkkinen (153) have consistently rifled off the most shots for the team, reflected in Callahan’s team-high goal count (21) following a two-goal performance last Saturday.
Milestones Achieved: Center Cory Emmerton tied Gustav Nyquist for 10th place on the Griffins’ all-time scoring list at 143 points with his game-winning goal on Saturday versus the Oklahoma City Barons, and he will become the eighth player in franchise history to reach 100 assists as a Griffin if he tallies three more helpers this season. Goaltender Tom McCollum became the third goalie to appear in 150 games as a Griffin with his appearance between the pipes on Friday versus the Barons, following in the footsteps of Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard. With Petr Mrazek’s 4-3 winning performance over the Barons on Saturday, he earned sole possession of eighth all-time on the Griffins with 35. Center Landon Ferraro needs seven more points to become the 28th player to reach 100 points as a Griffin.
Attendance Report: Last Saturday’s sellout was the Griffins’ fourth of the season and second in the last six home games, as well as their third crowd of 10,000-plus in the last five. With an average attendance of 7,881 for the season, the Griffins have garnered the third-highest attendance average behind the Hershey Bears (9,439) and the Lake Erie Monsters (8,086). The Griffins need 54,894 fans (6,862 avg.) over their final eight home games to achieve an average attendance increase for the fourth straight year and the seventh time in the last eight seasons, as well as the team’s highest average in 13 seasons of AHL membership.
Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (16-31-3-0) extended their losing streak to eight games last Saturday via a 4-3 loss to the Orlando Solar Bears on the road. With only 1:44 remaining in the match, Orlando’s Taylor Matson put away the game-winning goal past the Walleye’s Mac Carruth. Trevor Parkes, who is currently with the Griffins, continues to rank first on the team in scoring, while forward Travis Novak (10-20—30) ranks second and Alden Hirschfeld (9-20—29) ranks third. Both Novak and Hirschfeld have joined the Griffins this season on professional tryouts. Toledo (36 pts.) ranks fifth in the North Division, 21 points behind the fourth-place Evansville IceMen.
Wed., Feb. 26 at Milwaukee Admirals (23-18-6-6) – BMO Harris Bradley Center – 8 p.m.
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: 64-49-7-5-7 Overall, 27-26-5-4-5 Road. Season Series: 5-3-0-0 Overall, 1-2-0-0 Road. Ninth of 10 meetings overall, fourth of five in Milwaukee. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Dean Evason (2nd season). Notes: Grand Rapids took its fifth win of the 10-game season series with a 1-0 shootout victory on Sunday…Milwaukee ranks fourth in the Midwest Division, eighth in the Western Conference and 17th overall…Rookie forward Colton Sissons has had a huge impact in the league this season, including participating in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic earlier this month. Among rookies, Sissons ties for 10th in scoring (19-15—34), ties for fourth in goals (19), ties for second in shorthanded goals (2) and ties for first for game-winning goals (5). He also ties for first on the team in scoring with rookie left wing Miikka Salomaki (12-22—34)…Milwaukee left wing Michael Liambas (167) has tallied the most penalty minutes of any Admiral this season…Admirals goaltender Marek Mazanec ties for 14th among league goaltenders with a 2.43 goals against average, along with a 9-6-3 record and 0.918 save percentage…Jordin Tootoo was a member of the Admirals from 2004-06, when he tallied 49 points (23-26—49) in 100 games.
Fri., Feb. 28 at Abbotsford Heat (33-17-4-1) – Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre – 10 p.m.
Sat., March 1 at Abbotsford Heat – Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre – 10 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 9:40 p.m. each night. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 8-7-1-2 Overall, 3-4-0-1 Road. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two in Abbotsford. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Troy G. Ward (3rd season). Notes: Abbotsford ties for first in the West Division and Western Conference with the Texas Stars (71 pts.) and ties for second overall in the AHL with the Stars and Springfield Falcons…Former Griffins defenseman and Calder Cup Champion Chad Billins (9-27—36) is a member of the Heat this season, and he ranks sixth among AHL defensemen in scoring, one spot behind Adam Almquist (2-35—37, 5th). Billins competed for the AHL All-Star Team earlier this month, his second consecutive season being named to the All-Star squad…Heat netminder Joni Ortio has had a storybook rookie season, ranking sixth among AHL goaltenders with a 2.22 goals against average, just one spot behind Grand Rapids’ Petr Mrazek (2.21 GAA). Ortio posts a 20-6-0 record behind a 0.926 save percentage, and he led Abbotsford to a 3-2 victory over the Griffins the last time the teams met on Jan. 18. Ortio is currently with the Calgary Flames…Center Markus Granlund (23-21—44) leads the team in scoring, followed by forward Ben Street (21-21—42) and center Max Reinhart (13-28—41)…Abbotsford owns one of the best power play records in the league (22.3%, 3rd), but struggles with penalty killing (78.9%, 27th)…The Griffins lost their first four visits to Abbotsford from 2009-11, but have points in each of their last four trips to B.C. (3-0-0-1).