04/15/2009 11:15 AM
#2 HAMILTON BULLDOGS vs.
#3 GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS
2009 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs * North Division Semifinals * Best of Seven
* If necessary. All times Eastern and subject to change. All games on Newsradio WOOD 1300.
Let’s Get It Started: After qualifying for the playoffs for the 10th time in their 13 seasons, the third-seeded Griffins (43-25-6-6, 98 pts.) will take on the second-seeded Hamilton Bulldogs (49-27-4-0, 102 pts.) in the best-of-seven North Division Semifinals, the teams’ first-ever playoff meeting. Hamilton finished four points ahead of Grand Rapids by winning its last five regular season games, including three victories over the Griffins, who closed out the campaign on a 1-6 note. Both teams return to the postseason for the first time since 2007, when the Bulldogs won the Calder Cup and the Griffins lost to Manitoba in seven games in the North Division Semifinals.
Get Your Tickets: Tickets for Games 3 and 4 at Van Andel Arena on Monday, April 20 and Wednesday, April 22 are currently on sale through The Zone, all Star Tickets outlets (800-585-3737) and online through griffinshockey.com. Fans can purchase a “Playoff 4-Pack” that includes four lower-bowl tickets to any home game during the Hamilton series, plus a limited-edition Darren McCarty figurine, for either $48 (Nets and Corners) or $68 (center ice Club section). In addition, the “Hat Trick Pack” offers one upper-bowl ticket to each of the three home games against the Bulldogs, plus any non-Reebok hat from The Zone, for just $29, a savings of up to $33. Fans who order the “Hat Trick Pack” by this Sunday, April 19 will also receive a coupon for 50% off any one regular priced item at The Zone (excluding jerseys). To purchase either ticket package, call the Griffins at (800) 2-HOCKEY or visit griffinshockey.com.
Playoff Promotions: The first 1,500 fans at Games 3 and 4 next Monday and Wednesday will receive a poster celebrating the Griffins’ first 100 NHL alumni, courtesy of Grand Valley State University. Game 5 (if necessary) on Friday, April 24 will feature the ever-popular Dollar Beers, Dollar Dogs promotion, with $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts available from 6-8 p.m. while supplies last.
For the Record: In their eight-year rivalry, the Griffins show a regular season record of 20-23-1-0-2 (W-L-T-OTL-SOL) against the Bulldogs, including marks of 11-9-1-0-2 at Van Andel Arena and 9-14-0-0-0 at Copps Coliseum.
Unfamiliar Role: After enjoying home-ice advantage as the higher seed in 10 consecutive playoff series from 2001-2006, the Griffins will play their second straight series as the underdog. In the 2007 North Division Semifinals, fourth-seeded Grand Rapids built a 3-2 lead over division champion Manitoba heading back to Games 6 and 7 at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, but the Moose claimed a pair of home-ice wins to advance.
Points of Pride: The Griffins finished the regular season in third in the North Division, fourth in the Western Conference and eighth in the AHL. Each marked the team’s highest respective finish since Grand Rapids won the AHL’s regular season title in 2005-06…The Griffins’ 98 points were the fifth-highest total in their 13 seasons, while their 25 home wins were the fourth-most in franchise history.
Longing for a Familiar Pillow: At the conclusion of Game 2 in Hamilton this Saturday, the Griffins will have played 11 of their last 12 games on the road, a stretch unprecedented in franchise history.
Playoff Facts and Figures: Grand Rapids has won six of 12 best-of-seven playoff series in its history and seven of 16 total playoff series…In their postseason history, the Griffins are a perfect 3-0 in seven-game series when winning Game 1 and 3-6 when dropping the opener…Grand Rapids’ record in Game 1 of all series is 6-10, including 3-9 in best-of-sevens…The Griffins have lost Game 1 of their last three playoff series, a deficit they rallied from against Manitoba in seven games during the 2006 North Division Finals…The Griffins went 3-4 during the 2007 playoffs (2-1 at home, 1-3 on the road), giving them an all-time mark of 41-41 during the postseason (19-22 at home, 22-19 on the road)…None of the Griffins’ top 56 all-time playoff scorers are currently with the club. Jakub Kindl, Jan Mursak and Ryan Oulahen each show a pair of assists to tie for 57th.
Who’s Next?: The winner of this series will advance to the North Division Finals to face either AHL regular season champion Manitoba (50-23-1-6) or fourth-seeded Toronto (39-29-5-7). During the regular season, Grand Rapids went 2-2-0-0 against the Moose and 5-2-1-0 versus the Marlies, while Hamilton compiled marks of 4-3-1-0 against Manitoba and 7-3-2-0 versus Toronto.
The Coaches: Curt Fraser led the Griffins back to the playoffs during his first season behind the team’s bench, posting his seventh 40-win campaign in as many seasons as a head coach at the Triple-A level (IHL Milwaukee 1992-94 and IHL Orlando 1995-99). Fraser led the Solar Bears to the Turner Cup Finals in both 1996 – as an expansion team – and 1999, and he orchestrated a first-round playoff triumph over Grand Rapids in 1997, ending the Griffins’ inaugural season. His Orlando teams won eight of 12 playoff series and posted a 17-4 record in elimination games, while his 1998-99 club became the first team in IHL history to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series, defeating Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fraser’s last playoff experience came as an assistant coach with the 2003-04 New York Islanders, who lost 4-1 to eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals…Hamilton’s Ron Wilson was named interim head coach of the Bulldogs on March 9 following the promotion of Don Lever to an assistant’s position with the parent Montreal Canadiens. Wilson, who guided the Bulldogs to a 10-3-2-0 record after his appointment, has won two Calder Cups as an assistant coach, with Hamilton in 2007 and Saint John in 2001.
The Stories: The clash between Grand Rapids and Hamilton presents numerous storylines:
Regular Season Series Notes: Mattias Ritola (3-4—7) and Hamilton’s David Desharnais (5-2—7) led all players in scoring during the six-game season series, with Desharnais’ five goals also pacing the pack…In the Bulldogs’ 6-3 win on April 3, Brock Trotter lit the lamp just nine seconds into the game to set a record for the fastest goal ever scored against the Griffins at the start of a period. Also in that contest, Desharnais tied a Grand Rapids record (1998-99) by becoming the sixth opposing player to score a hat trick this season…Jimmy Howard logged all the regular-season minutes against the Bulldogs, going 2-4 with a 3.70 GAA and a 0.894 save percentage…Hamilton’s Cedrick Desjardins was 3-2 with a 2.66 GAA and a 0.904 save percentage in five games against the Griffins…Grand Rapids is 3-11 in its last 14 trips to Copps Coliseum, dating back to the 2005-06 season…The Bulldogs’ 3-2 win at Van Andel Arena on April 10 marked the only time this season that the Griffins lost in regulation when leading after two periods (32-1-3-3), and it was the only meeting of the six between Hamilton and Grand Rapids this season that was decided by one goal…The Bulldogs out-scored the Griffins 23-18 during the season series…Both teams were proficient on the power play, with Grand Rapids going 8-for-30 (26.7%) and tallying in five of the six games, and Hamilton going 6-for-28 (21.4%) with a trio of two-goal efforts…Hamilton’s 49 shots on April 3 and 40 penalty minutes on Oct. 25 were both the most by a Griffins opponent this season, while Grand Rapids’ 34 PIM on April 10 against the Bulldogs marked its season high.
2008-09 Griffins vs. Bulldogs
Griffins Records: 2-4-0-0 Overall, 1-2-0-0 in Grand Rapids, 1-2-0-0 in Hamilton
Oct. 25 – Griffins 6, Bulldogs 4 – Van Andel Arena
Dec. 6 – Bulldogs 5, Griffins 2 – Van Andel Arena
Jan. 14 – Griffins 3, Bulldogs 1 – Copps Coliseum
April 3 – Bulldogs 6, Griffins 3 – Copps Coliseum
April 4 – Bulldogs 4, Griffins 2 – Copps Coliseum
April 10 – Bulldogs 3, Griffins 2 – Van Andel Arena
Tale of the Tape: Here’s how the two rivals stacked up in key categories during the regular season:
Tell Me What It Takes: Twelve players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level. Aaron Downey (Calder Cup – 1999 Providence), Darren Helm and Darren McCarty (first three Stanley Cups in 2002, 1998 and 1997 with Detroit) had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup as members of the 2008 Detroit Red Wings, while Justin Abdelkader (NCAA Championship – 2007 Michigan State, USHL Clark Cup – 2005 Cedar Rapids), Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl and Mattias Ritola served as “black aces” for the team during its championship run. Meanwhile, Darren Haydar led the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup last spring, giving him his second AHL title (2004 Milwaukee). Other cup winners include assistant coach Jim Paek (Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), Francis Lemieux (Calder Cup – 2007 Hamilton) and Evan McGrath (CHL Memorial Cup – 2003 Kitchener).
Playoff Roster: Thirty two players make up the Griffins’ roster for the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs: goaltenders Jimmy Howard, Daniel Larsson and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (currently with Detroit), Tom Galvin, Jason Jozsa, Jakub Kindl, Sergei Kolosov, Brian Lashoff, Brett Peterson, Logan Pyett and Garrett Stafford; and forwards Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson, Dick Axelsson, Dan Charleston, Aaron Downey, Cory Emmerton, Aaron Gagnon, Darren Haydar, Darren Helm (currently with Detroit), Ville Leino (currently with Detroit), Francis Lemieux, Darren McCarty, Evan McGrath, Jan Mursak, Ryan Oulahen (season-ending injury), Francis Pare, Brent Raedeke, Mattias Ritola, Jamie Tardif and Zack Torquato.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Griffins right wing Darren Haydar captained the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup last season and won his first AHL championship with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004. He is already the AHL’s all-time playoff leader with 55 goals and 124 points, and he needs just two assists to tie Willie Marshall (71 assists) for first place. In addition, Haydar’s 95 career Calder Cup Playoff games tie for 13th.
It’s Been Awhile: Only eight players from the Griffins’ playoff roster participated in the team’s last postseason series, a 4-3 loss to the Manitoba Moose in the 2007 North Division Semifinals: goaltender Jimmy Howard (3-4, 1.93 GAA, 0.927% in 7 GP); defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (0-0—0 in 7 GP) and Jakub Kindl (0-2—2 in 7 GP); and forwards Cory Emmerton (0-0—0 in 2 GP), Evan McGrath (0-0—0 in 7 GP), Jan Mursak (0-2—2 in 7 GP), Ryan Oulahen (0-2—2 in 7 GP) and Jamie Tardif (0-0—0 in 2 GP).
Experience Counts: Jimmy Howard is the Griffins’ career leader among goaltenders with 20 playoff appearances, showing an 8-11 record with a 2.91 GAA and a 0.899 save percentage. He was spectacular in his most recent postseason action, Grand Rapids’ 4-3 loss to Manitoba in the 2007 North Division Semifinals, posting a 1.93 GAA and a 0.927 save percentage.
Banner Year for Attendance: The Griffins’ capacity crowd (10,834) for their April 10 home finale gave them four consecutive sellouts (six total this season) for the first time in more than 10 years (Dec. 31, 1998-Jan. 29, 1999) and a season-ending attendance of 297,905 (7,448 avg.), their highest since drawing 328,919 during the 2000-01 season. Grand Rapids enjoyed three straight seasons of increased attendance for the first time in franchise history and finished with its largest percentage increase ever from one season to the next (8.0%, or exactly 22,000 more fans than last season). The Griffins finished third in the AHL in attendance, their highest ranking in eight seasons of league membership.
Random Fact: Four of the last five winners of the AHL’s Les Cunningham Award (regular season MVP) have ties to the Griffins: 2008-09 Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux (2001-02 Griffins), 2006-07 Chicago’s Darren Haydar, 2005-06 Grand Rapids’ Donald MacLean, and 2004-05 Binghamton’s Jason Spezza (2001-02 Griffins).
Simply the Best: Nine Griffins ranked among the AHL's individual leaders during the regular season:
Take Me to Your Leaders: Following this year’s performances, many Griffins rank among the franchise’s all-time top 10 statistical leaders (regular season):
Honor Roll: Six Griffins received significant individual honors from the AHL this season:
Mr Consistency: Darren Haydar became the 11th player in Griffins history to score 31 goals, the eighth to tally 49 assists and the ninth to record 80 points through remarkably consistent performances. Haydar, whose team-high 10-game point streak from Feb. 20-March 13 tied for the seventh-longest in franchise history, registered points in 55 of his 79 appearances (70%) this season, including 19 multi-point efforts.
Youth Not Wasted on the Young: Justin Abdelkader and Francis Pare each finished with 24 goals, breaking Kevyn Adams’ 12-year-old record (22 in 1996-97) for goals by a Griffins rookie. Abdelkader’s 52 points (24-28—52) were the second-most all time by a Grand Rapids rookie (55 by Glen Metropolit in 1997-98), while Pare’s 0.171 shooting percentage was the highest ever for a first-year Griffin. Abdelkader, Pare (24-24—48) and Cory Emmerton (10-25—35) became the most prolific trio of Griffins rookies ever, ranking second, third and 10th in single-season scoring among all first-year players in franchise history.
Twice as Nice: Daniel Larsson (22 wins, five shutouts) and Jimmy Howard (21 wins, four shutouts) became the first Griffins goaltending duo to finish with either 20 victories apiece or four shutouts apiece since 2003-04 (Joey MacDonald 22/6, Marc Lamothe 21/4). Together, Larsson and Howard fell one shy of the team record of 10 shutouts set by that 2003-04 tandem.
You Can Only Hope to Contain Them: While the Griffins were technically shut out by Quad City’s Matt Keetley in a 1-0 shootout win over the Flames on Jan. 24, this marked the first regular season in franchise history that Grand Rapids never finished a game with a zero on its side of the scoreboard.
Special Improvements: The Griffins’ special teams made dramatic improvements from 2007-08 to 2008-09. Last season, both their power play (16.4%) and penalty kill (82.5%) ranked 18th out of 29 AHL teams, while this season, they rocketed to fourth on the power play (19.7%) and third in penalty killing (85.7%). Grand Rapids finished with its best power play percentage since 2005-06 (21.8%) and its best penalty killing rate since 2003-04 (87.0%).
Give Peace a Chance: The Griffins was the only team in the AHL this season with fewer than 1,000 penalty minutes (963), and their opponents also finished with the league’s lowest figure (1,031). Grand Rapids posted the fewest penalty minutes in franchise history (1,287, 2002-03), while Aaron Downey’s 126 PIM were the lowest figure ever for a Griffins penalty minute leader (149 by Kyle Quincey, 2007-08).
Low on Iron(men): Ryan Oulahen had been the only Griffin to appear in each game this season prior to suffering a dislocated hip on March 27 in Norfolk. As a result, this was the team’s first season since 2000-01 and its first AHL campaign to not have any Griffin play in every regular season game.
Will April Showers Bring May (or June) Flowers?: The Griffins finished April with a 1-4 record overall and a 1-3 mark on the road, continuing a seven-year run of difficulty during the regular season’s final weeks. Due perhaps in part to a schedule which has seen them play 29 road games to only 14 home games over the last seven Aprils, the Griffins have posted a cumulative 15-27-0-1 record (0.360) overall and an 8-21 mark (0.276) away from Van Andel Arena down the stretch.
Getting Their Feet Wet: Five different players have made their AHL debuts with the Griffins since March 29: goaltender Jordan Pearce from Notre Dame (0-1-0, 5.11 GAA, 0.868%), defenseman Brian Lashoff from OHL Kingston (1-4—5 in 6 GP), and forwards Joakim Andersson from Sweden’s Frolunda (0-1—1 in 1 GP), Dan Charleston from Nebraska-Omaha (0-0—0 in 3 GP) and Brent Raedeke from WHL Edmonton (0-0—0 in 2 GP). In addition, center Zack Torquato from OHL Erie saw his first action of the season on April 5 after playing 11 games for Grand Rapids late last season.
In the Show: With the advancement of seven current or former Griffins to the NHL this season, Grand Rapids has now sent 102 players on to the NHL during its 13 seasons of play. Forty Griffins alumni logged ice time with a record 21 different NHL teams this year, combining to play 1,669 games while accumulating 211 goals, 412 assists, 623 points, 63 wins and three shutouts.
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