This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals // Wed., Nov. 24 // 8 p.m. EST // Panther Arena
Listen: 96.1 The Game at 7:35 p.m.
Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Road. Third of 12 meetings overall, second of six at Panther Arena
All-Time Series: 103-69-7-7-8 Overall, 48-36-5-5-5 Road
NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators
Noteworthy: Grand Rapids’ 103 victories over Milwaukee are the most against any opponent in franchise history. Furthermore, the Griffins have faced the Admirals more than any club in the AHL, competing in 194 games dating back to the 2001-02 campaign when both teams joined the AHL from the International Hockey League. Last season was the first year that the Griffins and Admirals did not play each other due to Milwaukee opting out of the shortened season.
GRIFFINS vs. Chicago Wolves // Fri., Nov. 26 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS at Chicago Wolves // Sun., Nov. 28 // 4 p.m. EST // Allstate Arena
Season Series: 0-2-1-0 Overall, 0-2-1-0 Home, 0-0-0-0 Road. Fourth and fifth of 12 meetings overall, fourth of six at Van Andel Arena, first of six at Allstate Arena
All-Time Series: 90-73-2-7-3 Overall, 44-34-2-5-2 Home, 46-39-0-2-1 Road
NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes
Noteworthy: The Griffins are winless in their past four games against Chicago, having been outscored 18-4. Despite being 11-22-1-1 against the Wolves in the past five seasons, Grand Rapids still holds a 90-73-2-7-3 overall record against Chicago.
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Nov. 17 // GRIFFINS 1 vs. Chicago Wolves 2 (OT) // 5-5-1-1 (13 pts., 0.500, 4th Central Division)
Fri., Nov. 19 // GRIFFINS 5 at Texas Stars 4 (OT) // 6-5-1-1 (14 pts., 0.538, 4th Central Division)
Sat., Nov. 20 // GRIFFINS 3 at Texas Stars 4 (OT) // 6-5-2-1 (15 pts., 0.536, 4th Central Division)
Last Week’s Notes
Wednesday vs. Chicago (1-2 OTL) – Calvin Pickard’s season-high 46 saves were not enough to propel the Griffins past the Wolves during the 20th Annual School Day Game presented by the Army National Guard. A series of firsts saw the Griffins earn their only goal of the game when Brett McKenzie bagged his first AHL goal during his Grand Rapids debut while Wyatt Newpower and Jon Martin each recorded his first assist as a Griffin. Chicago’s Andrew Poturalski registered the game-winner in overtime to give the Wolves a 2-1 victory. Recap | Highlights
Friday at Texas (5-4 OTW) – The Griffins won on the road for the third straight time when they came away with an overtime victory over the Texas Stars. This marked Grand Rapids’ first win at Texas since March 23, 2019 due to the two teams not competing in the 2020-21 campaign. Dominik Shine bagged his first goal of the season on an assist from Brett McKenzie, who extended his point streak (1-2—3) to two games. Captain Brian Lashoff also recorded his first tally of the season. Taro Hirose and Tyler Spezia each recorded a goal in the contest while Turner Elson’s fifth goal of the season gave the Griffins the overtime victory. The win was also Calvin Pickard’s fifth in his last six starts and Jon Martin registered his 50th assist as a pro. Recap | Highlights
Saturday at Texas (3-4 OTL) – For the third time in a week, the Griffins headed into overtime but fell short against the Stars, halting their three-game road win streak. Jonatan Berggren recorded his first two-goal outing of his AHL career while Kyle Criscuolo (1-1—2) earned his first two-point game of the season. Jon Martin (0-3—3) and Turner Elson (1-1—2) each extended their point streak to three and two games, respectively. Grand Rapids totaled a season-high 34 shots, including a period-best 17 attempts in the first frame. The Griffins went 0-for-4 on the power play and have converted on just one of their last 21 opportunities with the man advantage. Recap | Highlights
Streaks: After a 2-4-0-1 start to the season, the Griffins have posted a 4-1-2-0 record in the past seven games. In addition, Grand Rapids is currently enjoying a five-game road point streak with a 3-0-1-1 ledger. The previous three contests have all been decided in overtime, which is the first time since Jan. 15-20, 2016. In those three games, the Griffins are 2-0-1-0. If Wednesday’s outing at Milwaukee is determined in overtime, it would be the first time in franchise history that four consecutive contests were settled in the extra period.
Not Your Average Joe: Center Joe Veleno was recalled by Detroit on Nov. 15 for the second time this season. The Kirkland, Quebec, native skated in four games for the Red Wings from Oct. 30-Nov. 6, totaling two points (1-1—2), four penalty minutes and a plus-two rating. On Nov. 18, Veleno notched his second NHL goal of the season with a tally at Vegas. The former first-round draft choice has suited up for 13 games in the NHL and has amassed four points (3-1—4) and eight penalty minutes. Veleno has appeared in seven contests with Grand Rapids this season and registered three goals. The center logged a season-high two goals on Oct. 16 at Milwaukee in a 7-3 defeat.
Calvin’s University: Goaltender Calvin Pickard is off to a fast start, as he has allowed two goals or less in seven of his 11 appearances this season and has led the team to points in seven straight decisions (5-0-2-0). Pickard recorded his first shutout of the season and fourth as a Griffin on Nov. 12 against Manitoba, moving him into a tie for 10th place in franchise history with Jani Hurme, Martin Prusek, and Eddie Pasquale. The 10-year pro currently ranks 10th in the AHL with a 2.24 goals against average while his 0.931 save percentage is tied for fifth. Pickard played in just nine games in North America a season ago due to being assigned to Detroit’s taxi squad for much of the year. The Moncton, New Brunswick, native also spent some time with Vienna in the ICEHL last season, logging six games and a 1.96 goals against average.
High-Flying Hirose: After leading the Griffins in assists a year ago with 23, Taro Hirose has picked off right where he left off as he has bagged 12 helpers in the opening 14 games, which is a team high and tied for second in the league. Seven assists have come on the power play, which is tied for third in the AHL. Hirose saw his six-game point streak (2-7—9) from Oct. 30-Nov. 13 come to an end on Nov. 17 against Chicago. Hirose’s 15 points (3- 12—15) this season pace the Griffins and are tied for eighth in the league.
Jonny On The Spot: Rookie Jonatan Berggren saw his six-game point streak (3-4—7 from Oct. 30-Nov. 13) come to a close on Nov. 17 against Chicago. The Uppsala, Sweden, native bagged his first AHL goal and two-point (1-1—2) night on Oct. 30, which began a three-game goal scoring streak for the right winger. The forward recorded his first two-goal night in the AHL on Nov. 20 at Texas. The former second-round draft choice notched his 50th pro assist on Nov. 12 against Manitoba and is tied for eighth among league rookies with five goals while his 10 points (5-5—10) are tied for 13th among first-year players. Berggren’s five goals are also tied for the team lead with Riley Barber and Turner Elson.
AHL Leaderboard Tracker:
Riley Barber—Four power play goals are tied for first
Jonatan Berggren—Five goals are tied for eighth among league rookies, 10 points (5-5—10) are tied for 13th among first-year players
Taro Hirose—15 points (3-12—15) are tied for eighth, 12 assists are tied for second, seven power play assists are tied for third
Ryan Murphy—Two goals are tied for 14th among blueliners
Wyatt Newpower—30 penalty minutes are first among rookies and tied for sixth among league defensemen
Calvin Pickard—2.24 goals against average ranks 10th, 0.931 save percentage is tied for fifth
Dominik Shine—Leads the league in penalty minutes with 56
Luke Witkowski—34 penalty minutes are third among league blueliners
Milestones: Jon Martin picked up his 50th assist as a pro on Nov. 19 at Texas. Other upcoming milestones include:
Riley Barber—Five points from 50 as a Griffin
Turner Elson—Five assists from 100 in the AHL, five goals from 50 as a Griffin
Brian Lashoff—Three assists from 100 as a pro
Brett McKenzie—One game from 150 as a pro, three goals from 50 as a pro
Tyler Spezia—One assist from 50 as a pro, two games from 150 as a pro
Luke Witkowski—Three points from 50 in the AHL, one assist from 50 as a pro
Under New Leadership: Pat Verbeek takes over as the new general manager of the Griffins, a position previously held by Ryan Martin. In addition to his new role in Grand Rapids, Verbeek retains his assistant general manager position with the Red Wings working under Detroit GM Steve Yzerman. Verbeek oversees all aspects of hockey operations for the AHL franchise, including player personnel decisions, player development, contract negotiations and player movement.
Simon Says: Ben Simon, 43, begins his fourth season as Grand Rapids’ head coach. A year ago, he guided the Griffins to a 16-12-3-1 record (36 points, 0.563) and a third-place finish in the Central Division. Simon has only coached in one full AHL season as head boss, as his second and third campaigns were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During his inaugural year at the helm in 2018-19, he became the eighth head coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to the postseason during his first full season behind the bench. Simon served as an assistant coach in Grand Rapids from 2015-18 under Todd Nelson and helped the franchise win its second Calder Cup in 2017. He is the fourth former Griffins assistant to then become the head coach. Appearing in 21 games and scoring nine points (4-5—9) with the Griffins in 2006-07 as part of an 11-year professional playing career, Simon is the third former Griffins player to serve as Grand Rapids’ head coach, joining Nelson and Danton Cole (2002-05).
Griffins in General: The Grand Rapids Griffins began the franchise’s 26th overall season of play, 21st as a member of the American Hockey League and 20th as the primary affiliate of the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 15, 2021 when they defeated the Rockford IceHogs, 6-1. This marked the first time the Griffins began their season at Van Andel Arena since 2017. Grand Rapids has competed in 1,917 games between the IHL and AHL and has amassed a 1,011-697-27-64-118 regular season record (0.575), to go along with 17 playoff appearances, seven division titles and two Calder Cups (2017, 2013).
Photo by Mark Newman/Griffins