10/04/2007 7:20 PM
And Away We Go: The Griffins will make their first visit to Cleveland in exactly 18 months and a day this Saturday to christen their 2007-08 season against the expansion Lake Erie Monsters. Grand Rapids, fresh off signing a five-year extension of its affiliation agreement with the Detroit Red Wings, enters its 12th season overall, its seventh in the AHL and its sixth as the Red Wings’ top development club.
Make No Mistake: The Monsters, who join the Quad City Flames and Rockford IceHogs as new AHL members this season, operate under the ownership umbrella of the NBA’s Cavaliers. They are affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche and play at Quicken Loans Arena, a building the Griffins have visited 38 times previously, most recently for a 6-5 loss on April 5, 2006. Grand Rapids first faced off against the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks from 1996-01, posting records of 17-14-0-0-4 overall and 7-8-0-0-2 on the road during the regular season, plus marks of 8-2 overall and 5-0 at the erstwhile Gund Arena en route two winning two Turner Cup playoff series. The Griffins fared even better against the AHL’s Barons from 2001-06, going 21-10-0-0-1 overall and 9-6-0-0-1 on the road to give them a cumulative record (reg. season plus playoffs) of 46-26-0-0-5 overall and 21-14-0-0-3 on the road against teams from Ohio’s largest metropolitan region.
A Long Time Coming: After beginning the season with three straight road games, the Griffins will finally make their Van Andel Arena debut against the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday, Oct 20, marking the latest date for a home opener in franchise history. Grand Rapids will kick off the “It’s Showtime!” entertainment series and try to extend its perfect streak of home-opening sellouts to 12 seasons. Tickets for all 40 regular season home games can be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets Plus locations (including Meijer stores), by phone through Star Tickets Plus at 800-585-3737, or via the web at griffinshockey.com. Full season tickets, five-, 10- and 20-game plans, and group ticket packages are available through the Griffins office at (800) 2-HOCKEY.
At the Helm: Griffins general manager Bob McNamara begins his 12th season with the club, Mike Stothers starts his first season as head coach, and assistant coach Jim Paek returns for his third season. Stothers, one of the few to win a Calder Cup as both a player and a coach, was named the seventh head coach in franchise history on July 18. He will attempt to become the fourth man to win his debut behind the Griffins’ bench (Dave Allison in 1996, Guy Charron in 1998 and Bruce Cassidy in 2000).
Graduation Celebration: Two players who ended the 2006-07 season with the Griffins are starting the 2007-08 campaign on the Detroit Red Wings’ roster. Former captain Matt Ellis and alternate captain Derek Meech have joined Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Niklas Kronwall and Brett Lebda in Hockeytown, as 30% of the Red Wings’ roster is now comprised of former Griffins. Two other members of last year’s squad – the Islanders’ Darryl Bootland and San Jose’s Brad Norton – have also caught on with NHL squads, who among them boast 23 former Griffins on their season-opening rolls.
Almost Like Being There: In conjunction with B2 Networks and the AHL, live video broadcasts of every Griffins game this season will once again be offered through a link at griffinshockey.com. Any fan with a high-speed internet connection will be able to watch the action for just $6 per game or $160 for the entire season while listening to Bob Kaser’s play-by-play from Newsradio WOOD 1300. For more information, visit b2livetv.com.
Detroit Exports: Sixteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 23-man roster, including forwards Carl Corazzini, Mark Cullen, Brett Engelhardt, Randall Gelech, Mark Hartigan, Igor Grigorenko, Evan McGrath, Ryan Oulahen, Mattias Ritola and Johan Ryno; defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Brad Ference, Jakub Kindl and Garrett Stafford; and goaltenders Adam Berkhoel and Jimmy Howard.
Signed and Sealed: Seven players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins, including forwards Neil Clark (PTO), Adam Keefe, Jamie Tardif and Mike Walsh, and defensemen Tom Galvin (PTO), Jon Insana and Cleve Kinley.
Mending Wings: Defenseman Kyle Quincey and rookie forward Darren Helm remain on Detroit’s injured reserve list but are rehabbing their injuries in Grand Rapids.
Welcome Back: Eleven players from the Griffins’ 2006-07 edition are on their season-opening roster: forwards Adam Keefe, Evan McGrath, Ryan Oulahen, Jamie Tardif and Mike Walsh; defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Tom Galvin, Jon Insana, Jakub Kindl and Cleve Kinley; and goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Fresh Faces: Neil Clark (CHL Laredo), Jakub Kindl (OHL Kitchener), Cleve Kinley (HE U. Mass-Lowell), Mattias Ritola (Leksands, Sweden), Johan Ryno (Timra, Sweden) and Mike Walsh (ECHL Toledo) are all AHL rookies, joining newcomers Adam Berkhoel (ECHL Dayton), Carl Corazzini (AHL Norfolk), Mark Cullen (AHL Philadelphia), Brett Engelhardt (AHL Toronto), Brad Ference (AHL Omaha), Randall Gelech (AHL San Antonio), Igor Grigorenko (Lada Togliatti, Russia), Mark Hartigan (AHL Syracuse) and Garrett Stafford (AHL Worcester) on the Griffins’ roster.
Mano E Mano: Three and a half years ago, Griffins teammates Jimmy Howard and Adam Berkhoel manned opposing creases during the 2004 NCAA national championship game between Maine and Denver. Howard and the Black Bears allowed just one goal on 20 shots, but Frozen Four MVP Berkhoel countered with 24 saves for the Pioneers to post the first 1-0 shutout in NCAA championship game history.
Blessing in Disguise?: The Griffins return only two of their top 14 scorers from 2006-07 in defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (#9 at 5-24—29) and center Ryan Oulahen (#10 at 11-16—27). Moreover, they’ve lost 84% of their goal scoring, 81% of their assists, 82% of their point production and 87% of the power play goals from a year ago. However, Grand Rapids’ offense struggled in 2006-07, ranking 16th out of 27 teams in goal scoring (2.83 per game) and dead last in both power play goals and percentage (55, 12.5%).
Tell Me What It Takes: Nine players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level, most recently Mark Hartigan with the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. Others include head coach Mike Stothers (Calder Cup – 1984 Maine as player and 1998 Philadelphia as assistant coach), assistant coach Jim Paek (Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), Adam Berkhoel (NCAA – 2004 Denver), Mark Cullen (Calder Cup – 2003 Houston), Randall Gelech (CHL Memorial Cup – 2004 Kelowna), Jon Insana (UHL Colonial Cup – 2005 Muskegon), Adam Keefe (CHL Memorial Cup – 2003 Kitchener) and Evan McGrath (CHL Memorial Cup – 2003 Kitchener),
Do You Feel a Draft?: Thirteen of the Griffins’ 23 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, from Brad Ference (#10 overall by Vancouver in 1997) to Jonathan Ericsson (#291 by Detroit in 2002). The highest Red Wings selection currently on Grand Rapids’ roster is Jakub Kindl (#19 in 2005). Oddly, three of the six Griffins who’ve played in the NHL – Carl Corazzini, Mark Cullen and Mark Hartigan – were not drafted.
NHL Experience: Six Griffins have combined to play 393 games in the National Hockey League, including 27 contests last season: Brad Ference (250/5), Mark Hartigan (79/12), Mark Cullen (32/3), Carl Corazzini (19/7), Adam Berkhoel (9/0) and Jimmy Howard (4/0).
Veteran Roll Call: AHL clubs may dress up to five veteran skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL, IHL or European Elite leagues, plus another development player with 320 or fewer games played. The Griffins currently have five designated veterans in Mark Cullen, Carl Corazzini, Brad Ference, Mark Hartigan and Garrett Stafford.
One For the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 25.0 years, half a year younger than the 2006-07 squad. Mark Hartigan leads the way as the oldest player, with his 30th birthday approaching Oct. 15, while Mattias Ritola (20 years, six months) checks in as the youngest. Ten players are 26 or older, while the other 13 are 24 or younger.
Where Are They Now?: Eighteen players from last year’s playoff roster now find themselves in other locales, including Detroit (Matt Ellis, Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey-IR), the NY Islanders (Darryl Bootland), San Jose (Brad Norton-IR), AHL Lake Erie (Matt Hussey), AHL Manchester (Scott Parse), AHL Springfield (Ben Simon and Danny Syvret), AHL Syracuse (Dan Smith), ECHL Gwinnett (Jeff Campbell), OHL Kingston (Cory Emmerton), OHL Saginaw (Jan Mursak), Sweden’s Jonkoping (Jonas Johansson and Stefan Liv) and Switzerland’s Lausanne (Eric Himelfarb). In addition, Kip Miller retired and Tony Voce is currently unsigned.
Sat., Oct. 6 at Lake Erie Monsters – Quicken Loans Arena – 7:30 p.m.
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