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A VERY GOOD YEAR

Bring Four-Game Winning Streak, Three-Point Division Lead Into Week

This Week’s Games
Wed., Dec. 28 - Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WTKG 1230 AM/B2 Networks

Fri., Dec. 30 - Hamilton Bulldogs at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2

Sat., Dec. 31 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - Comcast Local/WOOD/B2

Last Week’s Results

Wed., Dec. 21 - GRIFFINS 5 at Milwaukee Admirals 0 - 20-10-0-2, 42 pts. (2nd, North Division)

Thu., Dec. 22 - Hershey Bears 4 at GRIFFINS 6 - 21-10-0-2, 44 pts. (2nd)

Fri., Dec. 23 - Cleveland Barons 1 at GRIFFINS 4 - 22-10-0-2, 46 pts. (2nd)


A Year to Remember: The Griffins will complete a five-game homestand and conclude a successful 2005 with three games at Van Andel Arena this week. Riding a four-game winning streak – their second-longest this season – the Griffins have reclaimed first place in the North Division and built a three-point lead over Manitoba. Grand Rapids currently owns a 45-32-1-3 record (0.580) for the calendar year.

Let’s Get This Party Started: This Saturday, Centennial Securities presents the Griffins’ annual New Year’s Eve Extravaganza, featuring West Michigan’s largest indoor fireworks show after the game. As part of the night’s festivities, the first 1,500 fans will receive a noisemaker to help ring in the New Year as it arrives in other parts of the world. World-renowned Red Panda Acrobat will perform during intermission, and fans can register on the concourse for a shot to win $10,000. The Griffins will debut the second special jersey of their 10th anniversary celebration, and a post-game skate and autograph session with Griffins players will also be held.

Cheap Holiday Fun: Wednesday’s game against Omaha and Friday’s contest with Hamilton are both Student Nights. All high school and college students who show their I.D. at the Van Andel Arena box office on game night will receive a lower bowl ticket for just $10. In addition, Friday’s game will feature the Subway Four-Pack (four tickets to the game, four coupons for Subway Fresh Meal Deals and parking for $44) and the Bud True Music Happy Hour. From 6-7 p.m. on the concourse, fans 21 and older can enjoy $2.25 drafts and live music by acoustic folk artist Mo Biggsley.

Welcome Back, Old Friend: Goaltender Jani Hurme, who led the Griffins to the 2000 IHL Turner Cup finals, now finds himself between the pipes of the Chicago Wolves, the team which beat Grand Rapids 4-2 in that championship series. After missing the last two seasons due to a back injury and life-threatening staph infection, Hurme is attempting a comeback on loan from the Atlanta Thrashers. The 30-year-old Finn, who played in the NHL with Ottawa and Florida from 2000-03, owns a 2-4-0 record with a 3.64 GAA and a 0.854 save percentage in six games with the Wolves. He’ll return to Van Andel Arena this Saturday for the first time since his Griffins team dropped Game 6 of the finals to Chicago on June 5, 2000. Hurme’s 2.18 GAA and 0.921 save percentage from that season place him fifth and fourth, respectively, among Grand Rapids’ career goaltending leaders.

Three-Peated Success: Following Friday’s win over Cleveland, the Griffins are 12-3-0-0 this season when playing three games in three nights, including a perfect 5-0 mark in the third contest.

Citius, Altius, Fortius: Six Griffins alumni have been selected by their native countries to play in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. Half of the 12 participating nations will have a former Griffin on their men’s ice hockey roster: Germany’s Michael Hackert, Kazakhstan’s Konstantin Shafranov, Latvia’s Aigars Cipruss, Slovakia’s Pavol Demitra, Sweden’s Niklas Kronwall and Switzerland’s Julien Vauclair. The schedule begins with a preliminary round (Feb. 15-21) in which each country will play five games. Quarterfinals on Feb. 22 and semifinals on Feb. 24 will lead up to the Bronze Medal Game on Feb. 25 and the Gold Medal Game on Feb. 26.

Feats of Clay: Griffins defenseman Clay Wilson on Monday was named the CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Dec. 25. Wilson, 22, lit the lamp in all three games last week and added an assist (4-1—5), posting the first three-game goal streak by a Griffins defenseman since Philippe Plante’s feat in February 2003. In Wednesday’s 5-0 win at Milwaukee, Wilson became the second Griffins blueliner this season to score two goals in a game (Kyle Quincey, Oct. 29 vs. HOU). One of those was shorthanded, making him the tenth different defenseman in franchise history to score while outmanned. In addition, he became the 11th Griffin – and just the second defenseman (Aris Brimanis in 1998-99) – to score both a power play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same game. Wilson notched another power play goal in Thursday’s 6-4 win over Hershey, then tallied his second game-winner of the week in dramatic fashion on Friday. With regulation time dwindling in a 1-1 game against Cleveland, he scored a 4-on-4 goal with 2:08 remaining to spark the Griffins to a 4-1 victory. Wilson becomes the third Griffin to be named AHL Player of the Week this season - following Jiri Hudler (Oct. 17) and Valtteri Filppula (Nov. 21) – and the first defenseman in the franchise’s 10-year history to earn his league’s player of the week award.

MacLean Deluxe: Donald MacLean’s hat trick and five points powered Grand Rapids to its 6-4 win over Hershey on Thursday. MacLean, who has tied Jiri Hudler for the team lead with 17 goals, became the second Griffin to net two hat tricks in the same season, equaling the feat of Kevin Miller (1999-00) exactly one month after his first three-goal effort (Nov. 22 at MTB). Kevin’s brother, Kip, was the last Griffin to tally five points in one game, notching a hat trick and two assists on April 7, 2005 at San Antonio.

You Always Remember Your First: In his first start since returning from the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard bagged his first pro shutout last Wednesday with 23 saves in a 5-0 road win over the Admirals. Howard, who set career shutout marks for both Maine (15) and Hockey East (9) during college, authored the Griffins’ first blanking of the season. Grand Rapids’ last shutout was Joey McDonald’s 22-save effort in a 5-0 win versus Cleveland on March 29; in the interim, the Griffins had gone 41 games without whitewashing an opponent. Howard earned three wins in three nights last week, joining Joey MacDonald (Feb. 25-27, 2005) as the only goalies in Griffins history to accomplish such a feat. He now owns a 7-2-1 record with a 2.52 GAA and a 0.912 save percentage.

Swallow the Whistle: Friday’s opening period against Cleveland was the first period played by the Griffins all season – out of 102 regulation frames – in which neither team incurred a penalty.

Milestones: Eric Manlow’s power play goal on Thursday was the 19th of his Griffins career, moving him past Kevin Miller into sole possession of fourth place on the franchise’s career list…After tallying his 600th pro assist and 900th pro point on Wednesday, Jeff Nelson scored his 300th pro goal on Thursday night…Tomas Kopecky – whose next game will be his 200th as a Griffin - appeared in his 200th AHL/pro game on Wednesday and notched his 50th AHL/pro assist versus the Admirals. He then recorded his 50th assist as a Griffin on Friday versus Cleveland…Donald MacLean scored his 150th AHL goal on Thursday…Valtteri Filppula registered his 50th pro assist on Wednesday…Jiri Hudler’s assist on Thursday was his 150th as a pro.

If at First You Don’t Succeed: Grand Rapids has scored first in four straight contests, something it accomplished in just 11 of its first 30 games this season. The Griffins are 12-1-0-2 when scoring the game’s opening goal, compared to 10-9-0-0 when falling behind 1-0.

Explosive Offense: Grand Rapids has scored an AHL-high 129 goals, its most ever through 34 games and 47 more than its 2004-05 edition – an increase of 57%. In addition, the Griffins have scored five or more goals 13 times, nearly doubling their total of seven from last season. If they can maintain their current pace, the Griffins – who scored only 200 goals last year – would accumulate 303 goals this season, smashing their record of 279 from 2000-01.

League Leaders: Jiri Hudler stands near the top of the AHL with 17 goals (T6th), 24 assists (T4th) and 41 points (3rd)…Eric Manlow ranks among the leaders with 22 assists (T9th), 34 points (T8th) and nine power play goals (T6th)…Valtteri Filppula (30 points, T13th) and Donald MacLean (17 goals, T6th) are also among the most potent scorers…Drew MacIntyre is 12th with a 2.53 GAA…Darryl Bootland’s 162 penalty minutes place third on the circuit.

Who’s Hot?: Eric Manlow has points in three of the last five games (3-3—6)…Donald MacLean’s four-game point streak (5-4—9) coincides with the Griffins’ four-game winning streak…Kent McDonell has points in each of the last five games he’s played (3-3—6)…Nate DiCasmirro has points in four of his last six outings (1-4—5)…Valtteri Filppula has points in 14 of his last 17 games with the Griffins (8-15—23)…Kyle Quincey (0-4—4) and Matt Ellis (1-2—3) have points in three of five games.

Start Slow, Finish Strong: The Griffins have been outscored 42-30 in opening periods this season before gaining control, holding scoring advantages of 40-37 in the second period and 55-30 in the third.

This Week in Griffins History: Dec. 27: Nathan Robinson’s second goal of the game, 10 seconds into the third frame, sets a franchise record for fastest goal to start a period and helps the Griffins claim a 4-1 win at Cincinnati (2003). Dec. 28: Petr Schastlivy, tied for the AHL lead with 22 goals, is recalled to the Ottawa Senators and suffers a season-ending knee injury the following night at Pittsburgh (2001). Dec. 29: Karel Rachunek nets the game-winner in a 2-1 decision over Michigan (1999). Dec. 30: Derek King sets a franchise record by scoring points in his 12th consecutive game. He notches both goals in a 2-1 triumph over Milwaukee (2000). Dec. 31: Despite a 1-0 loss to Utah, the Griffins finish the calendar year with a 48-23-8-0 record (0.658), the best mark of the AHL’s 28 teams (2003).

Scouting Report


Wed., Dec. 28 vs. Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights (13-13-1-7) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.

Radio: WTKG 1230 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 2-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Third of four meetings overall, second and final in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames. Head Coach: Ryan McGill (1st season). Knight Moves: Omaha has dropped both meetings with the Griffins during its inaugural season, including a 3-1 decision in Grand Rapids on Oct. 22 and a 4-3 shootout loss in Nebraska on Dec. 1…The Knights have one win in their last eight outings (1-4-1-2)…Omaha boasts two of the AHL’s top netminders in Curtis McElhinney (2.21 GAA, 0.918%) and Brent Krahn (2.65 GAA, 0.912%).

Fri., Dec. 30 vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (12-20-0-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: 3-1-0-1 Overall, 1-0-0-1 Home. Sixth of eight meetings overall, third of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 11-6-1-0-1 Overall, 5-2-1-0-1 Home. NHL Affiliations: Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers. Head Coach: Don Lever (1st season). Dog Days: Grand Rapids has earned points in four of five meetings with Hamilton this season and in seven of the Dogs’ nine all-time visits to Van Andel Arena…The Bulldogs have lost three of their last four and are just 5-13-0-1 since their 7-7-0-1 start…In three games versus Hamilton, Griffins goalie Drew MacIntyre is 2-0-0 with a 0.77 GAA and a 0.971 save percentage.

Sat., Dec. 31 vs. Chicago Wolves (10-12-2-5) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast Local (ch. 23) at 7 p.m. Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:59 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through griffinshockey.com. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 36-23-2-1-2 Overall, 17-10-2-0-2 Home. NHL Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers. Head Coach: John Anderson (9th season). Hungry Like the Wolf: The Griffins and Wolves, who staged 10 meetings in each of the last two seasons and 12 in 2001-02, will meet only four times this year, their fewest regular season clashes since 1999-00 (three)…Former Griffin Kip Miller (2000-02;04-05) tied for fourth on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 136 points (50-86—136), has 16 points (4-12—16) in 21 games with the Wolves…Chicago sits in sixth place in the West Division, putting its streak of 11 consecutive playoff appearances in early jeopardy…The Wolves are 1-2-1-2 in their last six games.


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