Calder Cup Champions - 2013 & 2017
AHL Affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings
Hero Image

Game Notes: Griffins vs. IceHogs - April 27, 2024

Apr 27, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins at Rockford IceHogs

Game Time: 8 p.m. at BMO Center

Griffins Playoff Game #1 * Road Playoff Game #1 * AHL Game #M1

Regular-Season Series: 6-4-2-0 Regular-Season Home Series: 2-2-2-0 Regular-Season Road Series: 4-2-0-0
All-Time Regular-Season Series:
67-47-11-11 All-Time Regular-Season Home Series: 40-16-7-5 All-Time Regular-Season Road Series: 27-31-4-6

Playoff Series: 0-0 Playoff Home Series: 0-0 Playoff Road Series: 0-0
All-Time Playoff Series:
4-1 All-Time Playoff Home Series: 2-0 All-Time Playoff Road Series: 2-1

Setting the Stage
The Griffins clinched their 18th playoff berth in 28 seasons with a 37-23-8-4 record and 86 points, claiming the second spot in the Central Division, seventh in the Western Conference and 13th overall in the AHL. Grand Rapids will face the third-seeded Rockford IceHogs (39-26-5-2, 85 pts.), who have reached the Central Division Semifinals for the third consecutive season. The Griffins finished the regular-season series against the IceHogs with a 6-4-2-0 record, including 2-2-2-0 at Van Andel Arena and 4-2-0-0 at the BMO Center. After going 1-2-0-0 in the first three meetings, Grand Rapids went on a seven-game point streak (5-0-2-0) against Rockford from Jan. 13-April 5 before dropping the final two meetings. The Griffins and IceHogs have met just once before in the Calder Cup Playoffs, as Grand Rapids defeated Rockford 4-1 in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals. The Griffins are 2-0 at home and 2-1 on the road against Rockford in the postseason. Grand Rapids possesses a 98-82 ledger in the postseason and 20-15 series record, which includes games in the IHL’s Turner Cup Playoffs from 1996-01. The Griffins have a 6-5 mark in a best-of-five series. This will be Rockford’s ninth Calder Cup Playoff appearance in 15 seasons. The IceHogs are 24-30 in postseason games and have a 6-8 series record. Last season, Rockford defeated Iowa 2-0 in the first round before being bested 3-0 by Texas in the Central Division Semifinals. The IceHogs’ best finish came in 2018 when they reached the Western Conference Finals before being defeated 4-2 by the Texas Stars.

This Date in Griffins Playoff History

2000: The Griffins win their first-ever home playoff game and Jani Hurme earns the team’s first playoff shutout with 19 saves in a 2-0 win over the Lumberjacks, evening the series at one.

Take Me Back
The Griffins and IceHogs have met in the playoffs only once before, with Grand Rapids besting Rockford 4-1 in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals by virtue of going 2-0 at Van Andel Arena and 2-1 at what was formerly the BMO Harris Bank Center. The Griffins scored five goals in three of their wins during the series, which was dominated by Teemu Pulkkinen’s scoring prowess (7-2—9 in 5 GP) and Tom McCollum’s netminding (2.20 GAA, .925%) and served as a sensational coming-out party for Tyler Bertuzzi. The rookie from OHL Guelph, who joined Grand Rapids with two games remaining in the regular season, tallied four goals and six points in the series. In Game 4 in Rockford, he scored his second goal of the night 13 seconds into overtime to lift the Griffins to a 2-1 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead. The fastest playoff overtime goal in franchise history gave Bertuzzi five goals and three game-winners in just seven playoff games and jumpstarted his postseason legend that would culminate in winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as AHL Playoff MVP in 2017.

A Cut Above
There have been 10 different Calder Cup champions since 2011, with Grand Rapids being the only team to earn multiple championships (2013 and 2017) during that time. The other winners were Hershey (2023), Chicago (2022), Charlotte (2019), Toronto (2018), Lake Erie (2016), Manchester (2015), Texas (2014), Norfolk (2012) and Binghamton (2011).

The Promised Land
On March 27, the Griffins clinched their 18th playoff berth in 28 seasons with a 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Monsters at Van Andel Arena. The Griffins return to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2019, ending a drought that included two postseasons (2020 and 2021) that were canceled due to COVID-19. This marked the team’s earliest clinching date since 2017, when the AHL’s eventual Calder Cup champions secured their spot on March 26. Clinching a spot with 25 days remaining in the regular season also marked the earliest the Griffins have clinched relative to the date of their finale since 2006, when the AHL’s regular-season champions locked up their berth with 34 days to play. Exactly three months prior to clinching, the sixth-place Griffins were tied for the fourth-lowest points percentage in the AHL, bringing a 9-13-3-1 record (.423) into their first game after the Christmas break. They then went 28-10-5-3 mark (.696) from Dec. 27-April 21, which was the fifth-best mark in the league and solidified their hold on second place in the Central Division.

Prior History
The Griffins and IceHogs will renew a rivalry that dates back to the 2007-08 season when Rockford joined the AHL. Since the 2007-08 campaign, the teams have met a combined 136 times in the regular season, with the Griffins possessing a 67-47-11-11 record. The Griffins’ 136 meetings against Rockford are the third most of any opponent Grand Rapids has faced behind Milwaukee (219) and Chicago (202), and Grand Rapids’ 67 wins are the fifth-most against any opponent.

Made the Nice List
Before the Christmas break, the Griffins were tied for the fourth-lowest points percentage in the AHL with a 9-13-3-1 record (.423). Grand Rapids then went on a tear to finish the season, as it held the fifth-highest points percentage in the AHL since Dec. 27 with a 28-10-5-3 mark (.696). The Griffins, who sat in sixth place at the holiday break, quickly catapulted themselves into second place in the Central Division, which was their best finish since the 2017-18 season.

TeamRecord Since Dec. 27Points %AHL Ranking
Coachella Valley32-6-4-5.7771st
Grand Rapids28-10-5-3.6965th

Hard to Kill
During the Griffins’ franchise-record run of seven straight playoff appearances from 2013-2019, they won two Calder Cups (2013 and 2017), twice lost to the eventual champion (Texas 2014, Lake Erie 2016), and twice lost to the cup runner-up (Utica 2015, Chicago 2019). During their 13 previous AHL playoff runs, they won those pair of cups, lost to the eventual champion on four occasions, and also lost to the other finalist four times. Including their first five seasons as members of the International Hockey League, the Griffins have qualified for the postseason on 17 prior occasions, winning it all twice, losing six times to the eventual champ, and losing four times to the runner-up.

First Time for Everything
Dominik Shine
, among Grand Rapids’ all-time regular season leaders in games played (422, 3rd), goals (61, T18th), points (138, T20th) and penalty minutes (477, 8th), is the only current Griffin who has played a postseason game with the franchise. He is looking for his first series win, as he totaled 10 playoff games as a member of the 2018 and 2019 teams that each lost in the Central Division Semifinals. Two other longtime Griffins will see their first playoff action with the team, including Taro Hirose (248 games played, 151 assists (3rd), 201 points (6th)) and Tyler Spezia (240 games played).

Regular-Season Series Notes
Grand Rapids finished the regular-season series against Rockford with a 6-4-2-0 record, including 2-2-2-0 at Van Andel Arena and 4-2-0-0 at the BMO Center...After going 1-2-0-0 in the first three meetings, the Griffins went on a seven-game point streak (5-0-2-0) against Rockford from Jan. 13-April 5 before dropping the final two games...The Griffins were held scoreless five times during the regular season, three of which came against the IceHogs…Five of the 12 meetings were decided by just one goal...Zach Aston-Reese led Grand Rapids against Rockford with seven points (3-4—7) and four assists in 11 games, while Brett Seney paced the IceHogs against the Griffins with 13 points (5-8—13), five goals and eight assists in 12 appearances...Aston-Reese and Carter Mazur led the Griffins with three goals each against Rockford...Leading each team in net were Sebastian Cossa, who went 5-2-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .920 SV% in eight games, and Rockford’s Jaxson Stauber, who showed a 3-0-0 mark with a 1.63 GAA and a .930 SV% in three contests...Cossa enjoyed a 24-save shutout of Rockford on April 5...Rookie Antti Tuomisto collected his first AHL assist against Rockford on Dec. 27...Joel L’Esperance recorded his 200th pro point on Dec. 27 at Rockford and his 200th AHL point on Jan. 13 versus the IceHogs...Taro Hirose registered his 50th goal and 200th point as a Griffin on April 5 against Rockford...Hunter Johannes made his pro debut against the IceHogs on April 5...Austin Czarnik potted his 100th AHL goal on Jan. 24 against Rockford...Captain Josiah Didier appeared in his 450th pro game on April 5 against Rockford...Simon Edvinsson skated in his 100th game as a Griffin against Rockford on March 2…Marco Kasper suited up for his 200th pro game on April 12 versus the IceHogs.

Bench Boss
First-year head coach Dan Watson will make his Calder Cup Playoffs debut. He is the ninth head coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to the postseason during his first full season behind the bench, joining Dave Allison (1996-97), Bruce Cassidy (2000-01), Danton Cole (2002-03), Greg Ireland (2005-06) Curt Fraser (2008-09), Jeff Blashill (2012-13), Todd Nelson (2015-16) and Ben Simon (2018-19). Watson has never missed the playoffs during his seven seasons as a head coach. With the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, Watson went 51-34 (.600) over five postseasons, reaching the Kelly Cup Finals twice (2019 and 2022) and leading Toledo to four Western Conference Finals berths (2017, 2019, 2022 and 2023).

From Friend to Foe
The Griffins and IceHogs share a few connections on championship winning teams. In 2023, assistant coach Steph Julien helped lead Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship with Rockford’s Colton Dach and Ethan Del Mastro. Carter Mazur and Drew Commesso competed together for Team USA at the 2023 World Championship last summer. In 2022, Sebastian Cossa and Del Mastro won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. Cossa also won the 2022 WHL Title with the Edmonton Oil Kings alongside IceHogs’ Jalen Luypen. Mazur, Antti Tuomisto, Shai Buium and Rockford’s Cole Guttmann captured the 2022 NCAA Title with the University of Denver.

Been There, Done That
Josiah Didier
(2019 Charlotte) and assistant coach Brian Lashoff (2013 and 2017 Grand Rapids) are the Griffins’ previous Calder Cup champions. Brogan Rafferty (2023), Joel L’Esperance (2018) and Michael Hutchinson (2014) all have made a Calder Cup Finals appearance. David Gust is the lone IceHog to capture the Calder Cup, doing so in 2022 with the Chicago Wolves. Rockford’s Zach Sanford won the 2019 Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

Night Time
Rockford assistant coach Jared Nightingale is a familiar name, as he competed for Michigan State University from 2002-06 and for the Griffins in 2014-15. Nightingale also played under Dan Watson’s Toledo Walleye squad from 2014-17, serving as captain for all three seasons. Jared’s brother Adam Nightingale is currently the head coach of Michigan State.

What a Season it was
The Griffins secured at least a point in 38 of their final 49 regular-season contests (29-11-6-3), which included a 28-10-5-3 (.696) mark since Dec. 27, the fifth-best record in the AHL. The Griffins enjoyed a franchise-record 19-game home point streak (14-0-3-2) from Jan. 13-April 5, beating out the previous mark of 16 games that was established from Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 2004, that was the longest such streak in the AHL since the Providence Bruins went 18-0-3-2 over 23 games in 2015-16. The Griffins saw their overall 18-game point streak (13-0-3-2 from Jan. 13-March 2) come to an end on March 4 in Cleveland, which was one game shy of tying the franchise record of 19 contests (Feb. 4-March 20, 2015 15-0-3-1) and was the second-longest run in the AHL this season. Grand Rapids’ nine-game road point streak (8-0-0-1) from Dec. 27-Feb. 17 was their longest since an 11-game run (9-0-1-1) from Jan. 29-March 12, 2015 and was tied for the second longest in the AHL this season. The Griffins finished the regular season with a 23-7-4-2 record (52 pts.) at Van Andel Arena, an increase of 11 wins and 21 points over their 2022-23 showing (12-17-4-3, 31 pts.). It marked their most wins and points on home ice since the 2016-17 campaign, when the eventual Calder Cup champions went 25-11-0-2 (52 pts.) in front of their faithful. Grand Rapids went 2-9-2-1 (.250) in its first 14 games on the road, before earning a point in 15 of its final 22 road outings (12-7-2-1, .614) to finish 14-16-4-2 away from home.

Lord Stanley
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun with 13 of the 16 teams having a Griffins alum among their player or hockey operations ranks.

BostonChris Kelly (Assistant Coach)
ColoradoJared Bednar (Head Coach)
DallasJim Nill (GM)
EdmontonMattias Janmark, Calvin Pickard, Chris Cichocki (Pro Scout), Jeff Salajko (Goaltending Scout)
FloridaBrett Peterson (Assistant GM)
NashvilleGustav Nyquist, Doug Janik (Pro Scout)
NY RangersRyan Martin (Assistant GM)
Tampa BayLuke Glendening, Stacy Roest (Assistant GM), Jeff Blashill (Assistant Coach)
TorontoTyler Bertuzzi, Calle Jarnkrok-IR
VancouverFilip Hronek, Mikael Samuelsson (Player Development)
VegasAnthony Mantha, Bruce Cassidy (Head Coach), Chris Davidson-Adams (Head Equipment Manager)
WashingtonNick Jensen, Dylan McIlrath 
WinnipegBrad Shaw (Assistant Athletic Therapist)

The Champs are Here
The Griffins’ roster is comprised of numerous coaches and players who have either reached a playoff final or won a title for their respective pro, college, junior or national team(s). Most recently, Shai Buium won the 2024 NCAA title with Denver, Steph Julien claimed the 2023 World Junior Championship as an assistant coach for Team Canada, and Brogan Rafferty reached the 2023 Calder Cup Finals with Coachella Valley.

Shai BuiumUniv. of Denver2024 and 2022 NCAA Title
Steph Julien (AC)Team Canada2023 World Junior Championship Gold Medal
Brogan RaffertyCoachella Valley Firebirds2023 Calder Cup Finalist
Dan Watson (HC)Toledo Walleye2022 and 2019 Kelly Cup Finalist
Sebastian CossaEdmonton Oil Kings, Team Canada2022 WHL Title, 2022 World Junior Championship Gold Medal
Antti TuomistoUniv. of Denver2022 NCAA Title
William WallinderRogle BK2022 Champions Hockey League Title
Albert JohanssonFarjestad BK, Team Sweden2022 SHL Title, 2019 World U18 Championship Gold Medal
Carter MazurUniv. of Denver2022 NCAA Title
Marco KasperRogle BK2022 Champions Hockey League Title
Elmer SoderblomFrolunda HC, Team Sweden2020 Champions Hockey League Title, 2019 World U18 Championship Gold Medal
Josiah DidierCharlotte Checkers, Univ. of Denver2019 Calder Cup Champion, 2014 NCHC Title
Tyler Spezia

Toledo Walleye

2019 Kelly Cup Finalist
Joel L'EsperanceTexas Stars2018 Calder Cup Finalist
Brian Lashoff (AC)Grand Rapids Griffins2017 and 2013 Calder Cup Champion 
Zach Aston-ReeseNortheastern Univ.2016 Hockey East Title
Austin CzarnikUniv. of Miami (OH), Team USA2015 NCHC Title, 2010 World U18 Championship Gold Medal
Michael HutchinsonSt. John's IceCaps2014 Calder Cup Finalist

Tale of the Tape
Here’s how the two rivals stacked up in key categories during the regular season:

Grand RapidsRockford
Overall Record37-23-8-4, 86 pts. (2nd Central, 13th AHL)39-26-5-2, 85 pts. (3rd Central, T14th AHL)
Home Record23-7-4-2, 52 pts. (3rd)19-13-3-1, 42 pts. (T14th)
Road Record14-16-4-2, 34 pts. (23rd)20-13-2-1, 43 pts. (T10th)
Power Play42-for-244, 17.2% (T25th)51-for-273, 18.7% (13th)
Penalty Killing200-for-248, 80.6% (20th)205-for-244, 84.0% (7th)
Penalty Minutes10.60 avg. (28th)12.00 avg. (20th)
Goals For2.89 avg. (25th)2.99 avg. (T21st)
Goals Against2.81 avg. (T7th)2.89 avg. (T11th)
Shots For29.44 avg. (18th)27.13 avg. (30th)
Shots Against27.71 avg. (6th)28.68 avg. (11th)
Team LeadersGrand RapidsRockford
Games Played:Marco Kasper (71)Michal Teply (72)


Jonatan Berggren (24)Brett Seney (23)
Assists:Berggren (32)Seney (40)
Points:Berggren (56)Seney (63)
Plus/Minus:Kasper (+9)Cole Guttman (+20)
Penalty Minutes: Dominik Shine (73)Brandon Baddock (111)
Power-Play Goals: Joel L’Esperance, Carter Mazur (6)Seney (11)
Shorthanded Goals:Shine, Josiah Didier (1)Zach Sanford (2)
Game-Winning Goals:Berggren, L’Esperance, Zach Aston-Reese (4)Seney (5)
Wins: Sebastian Cossa (22)Jaxson Stauber, Drew Commesso (18)
Shutouts:Cossa, Michael Hutchinson (2)Stauber, Commesso (2)
Goals Against Avg.:Cossa (2.41)Commesso (2.65)
Save Percentage:Cossa (.913)Commesso (.906)

2023-24 Griffins vs. IceHogs Head-to-Head

Grand RapidsRockford

Overall Record:

Home Record:2-2-2-02-3-0-1
Road Record:4-2-0-04-2-0-0
Power Play: 6-for-34, 17.6%6-for-38, 15.8%
Penalty Kill:31-for-37, 83.8%28-for-34, 82.4%
Goals For:27, 2.25 avg.28, 2.33 avg.
Shots For:306, 25.5 avg.303, 25.3 avg.

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins