GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins will begin their chase for the 2007 Calder Cup by facing the Manitoba Moose in the best-of-seven North Division Semifinals.
Despite tonight’s 5-1 loss at Toronto, the Griffins (37-32-6-5) secured the fourth seed in the North Division playoffs thanks to Peoria’s 4-0 defeat at Milwaukee, qualifying for the postseason for the ninth time in their 11 seasons. Now, they’ll take on the division champion Moose (45-23-7-5) in a rematch of the thrilling 2006 North Division Finals, in which Grand Rapids staged the greatest comeback in its playoff history in Game 7 by rallying from a 4-1 deficit with four unanswered goals over the game’s final 20:01.
Manitoba will host Games 1 and 2 at the MTS Centre this Thursday, April 19 and Saturday, April 21, before the 2-3-2 format switches to Van Andel Arena for Games 3-5 on Monday, April 23, Wednesday, April 25 and Friday, April 27 (if necessary). The complete schedule is as follows:
2007 Calder Cup Playoffs – North Division Semifinals – Best-of-Seven
Game 1 - Thu., April 19 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
Game 2 - Sat., April 21 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
Game 3 - Mon., April 23 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (season ticket Game A)
Game 4 - Wed., April 25 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game B)
*Game 5 - Fri., April 27 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game C)
*Game 6 - Sun., April 29 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
*Game 7 - Tue., May 1 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
* If necessary All times Eastern and subject to change. All games on WOOD 1300 AM.
The Griffins, whose no. 4 seeding is their lowest since 1998, will both enter a playoff series as the lower seed and start a series on the road for the first time since the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Finals. They had been the favorite in each of their previous 10 playoff series.
Tickets for Games 3 and 4 in Grand Rapids, which are included in Griffins full season ticket packages (Games A and B), will go on sale to the general public on Monday at 10 a.m. Single-game playoff ticket prices are $26, $21, $18, $16, $14 and $6 (advance purchase only), reflecting a league-wide increase of $1 over regular season prices. Once on sale, playoff tickets may be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets PLUS locations (including Meijer stores), by phone at 800-585-3737, or through griffinshockey.com.
The Griffins earned a 2-3-0-3 record in eight meetings with the Moose during the regular season, with Manitoba winning each of the last six affairs by a single goal (including three shootout wins). However, discounting shootout goals, Grand Rapids actually out-scored the Moose by a 19-18 count. The Griffins finished the series with records of 2-1-0-1 at Van Andel Arena and 0-2-0-2 at the MTS Centre.
The clash between Grand Rapids and Manitoba presents several intriguing storylines:
• Former Griffins goalie Drew MacIntyre was thrust into the Moose’s no. 1 role due to a knee injury suffered by veteran Wade Flaherty during Manitoba’s 3-2 shootout win at Van Andel Arena on March 16. MacIntyre, who backstopped Grand Rapids to that memorable Game 7 win over the Moose in relief last spring, ranks as the Griffins’ all time playoff leader with a 1.62 goals against average and a 0.940 save percentage, and he placed among the AHL’s 2006-07 leaders with a 2.17 GAA (3rd) and a 0.922 save percentage (T3rd) for Manitoba;
• Grand Rapids and Manitoba completed a swap on Feb. 23, six days before the AHL’s roster deadline, with the Griffins receiving right wing Adam Keefe (16 GP, 0-3—3, +3, 97 PIM) in exchange for right wing Brendan Brooks (7 GP, 0-0—0, -3, 0 PIM);
• Griffins defenseman Derek Meech was born and raised in Winnipeg, while Moose right wing Mike Brown played for the University of Michigan from 2003-05;
• The rivalry between the Griffins and Moose dates back to Grand Rapids’ first campaign as a member of the IHL in 1996-97. They’ve clashed a total of 64 times during both the regular season and postseason, with the Griffins showing 36 wins, 27 losses and one tie;
• The Griffins did not face a Canadian playoff foe during their first nine seasons (12 series), but Manitoba will be their third opponent from north of the border in their last four postseason series.