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Game Notes: Griffins at IceHogs - March 23, 2024

Mar 23, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (30-18-7-4) at Rockford IceHogs (29-22-5-2)

Game Time: 8 p.m. at BMO Center

Griffins Game #60 * Road Game #29 * AHL Game #968

Season Series: 4-2-2-0 Home Series: 1-1-2-0 Road Series: 3-1-0-0
All-Time Series:
65-45-11-11 All-Time Home Series: 39-15-7-5 All-Time Road Series: 26-30-4-6

Griffins at IceHogs
Ninth of 12 meetings overall, fifth of six at the BMO Center…Dating back to the final meeting of the 2019-20 season, Grand Rapids now has points in 23 of the last 33 games (18-10-4-1, .621) against the IceHogs...The Griffins are 22-13-4-3 (.607) since the 2019-20 season against Rockford and have outscored the IceHogs 114-107. On the road since 2019-20, Grand Rapids is 12-9-0-0 (.571) against the IceHogs but has been outscored by Rockford 59-57...Grand Rapids is 4-3-2-1 in its last 10 games and 11-12-3-2 on the road...The IceHogs are 15-11-3-1 at home and 9-1-0-0 in their last 10...Rockford is on a three-game win streak...Rockford has shut out the Griffins in two of the eight meetings this season...Rockford’s power play is tied for 16th at 18.6%, while its penalty kill comes in at 82.9% (12th)...Rockford is tied for 24th in the league with 2.90 goals scored per game and tied for 14th with 3.03 goals against per contest...The Griffins’ power play is tied for 25th in the AHL at 16.9%, while their penalty kill ranks 17th at 81.6%...Rockford is tied for Grand Rapids’ third-most frequent opponent (Milwaukee 218, Chicago 198, Cleveland 133), as tonight’s game marks the 133rd meeting between the two franchises...Rockford’s Ethan Del Mastro ranks fourth among rookie defensemen with 34 points, tied for second with 27 assists and sixth with seven goals.

Last Time Out
The Griffins rebounded from their loss on Tuesday with a 4-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose at Canada Life Centre on Wednesday, which snapped a four-game road winless skid for the team. Sebastian Cossa backstopped the Griffins to victory, as his .970 save percentage (32-of-33) denied the Moose from scoring more than one goal and extended the rookie netminder's point streak to 14 games (9-0-5). Matt Luff's two points (1-1--2) pushed his point streak (2-3--5) to four contests, while it also put the veteran at nine points (4-5--9) in his last nine games. Dominik Shine extended his point streak to four games (2-4—6) and Radim Simek made his Griffins debut.

This Date in Griffins History
2003: A 3-1 win over Houston gives the Griffins 100 points for the third time in the last four seasons. The Aeros enjoy a 17-0 advantage in shots over the final 20 minutes, marking the Griffins’ first-ever period without a shot on goal.

Roster Shake Up

- March 8—D Radim Simek assigned by Detroit
- March 9—F Jonatan Berggren recalled by Detroit
- March 11—F Tim Gettinger re-signed to a one-year contract extension by Detroit
- March 14—F Austin Czarnik recalled by Detroit; F Trenton Bliss recalled from Toledo (ECHL) by Grand Rapids
- March 15—D Jared McIsaac reassigned from HC Ambri-Piotta (Swiss) to Providence (AHL) by Detroit; F Curtis Hall reassigned from Providence to Grand Rapids by Boston
- March 17—F Trenton Bliss reassigned to Toledo (ECHL) by Grand Rapids
- March 19—D Simon Edvinsson recalled by Detroit; G Carter Gylander signed to an ATO by Grand Rapids

Back to Our Old Self
After enduring a season-high five-game losing skid from March 2-12 (0-2-2-1), the Griffins returned to form last weekend with a sweep of the Iowa Wild. The Griffins saw their 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 is the second-longest run in the AHL this season. The Griffins’ active 16-game home point streak (11-0-3-2) is tied for the franchise record that was established from Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 2004 and is 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 is tied for the second longest in the AHL this season. The Griffins have secured at least a point in 30 of their last 36 contests (22-6-5-3). The Griffins are 21-5-4-3 since Christmas and have had a trio of winning streaks of five or more games in the same season for the first time since 2013-14. Grand Rapids has points in 22 of its last 26 games (17-4-3-2) inside Van Andel Arena and has points in 12 of its past 16 road appearances (9-4-2-1). The Griffins have been solid at home with a 19-6-4-2 mark, outscoring their opponents 96-71. Grand Rapids has battled on the road this season, earning points in 11 of its last 14 games to move to 11-12-3-2 away from home.

Records are Meant to be Broken
The Griffins have rewritten the record book in multiple categories this season. Most recently, Grand Rapids tied a franchise record with a point in its 16th straight home game, a record that was established more than 20 years ago, from Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 2004. The home point run is the second franchise-record streak that the Griffins have tied in the last two months, piggybacking their seven-game road winning streak from Dec. 27, 2023-Feb. 2, 2024. The Griffins also rattled of an 18-game point streak from Jan. 13-March 2 (13-0-3-2), which was one game shy of tying the franchise record of 19 contests (Feb. 4-March 20, 2015 15-0-3-1). Now 9-0-5 since Jan. 19, Sebastian Cossa is one game shy of tying Marc Lamothe’s franchise-record 15-game point streak of 9-0-4-2 (W-L-T-OTL) set from Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 2002. Finally, the Griffins have had a trio of winning streaks of five or more games in the same season for the first time since 2013-14.

Black Magic
As the regular season inches closer to its completion, the Griffins are in second place in the Central Division with a 30-18-7-4 record and 71 points with just 13 games remaining. The Griffins are 21 points above the playoff cutline and have a magic number of six points to clinch a playoff spot.

TeamPointsPCTGames LeftHome RoadOpp. Points %GR Magic # OverMagic # Over GR






x - Clinched Playoffs

Tower of Terror
Elmer Soderblom
, standing at 6-foot-8, is currently on a three-game point streak (2-1—3) with goals in back-to-back contests. The tallest player to ever compete for the Griffins also has four points (3-1—4) in his last five outings and six points (4-2—6) in his last 10 appearances. In 54 games this season, the Gothenburg, Sweden, native has 26 points (11-15—26), eight penalty minutes and a plus-two rating. Last campaign, the 22-year-old posted eight points (5-3—8) in 20 games with the Griffins on top of producing eight points (5-3—8) in 21 games with the Detroit Red Wings. Soderblom was selected with the 159th overall pick by Detroit in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Age is Wisdom
Veteran forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Joel L’Esperance and Dominik Shine have found a groove as of late. Aston-Reese registered two assists in two games from March 15-16 and now has eight points (4-4—8) in his last 12 games. L’Esperance found the back of the net in both games last weekend and has seven points (3-4—7) in his last 12 appearances. Finally, Shine recorded four points (2-2—4) in two games last weekend against Iowa and has seven points (3-4—7) in his last eight outings. Combined, the trio has amassed 417 points (210-207—417) in 830 AHL games throughout 18 campaigns.

No Need for Extra Bodies
Last season, the Griffins used a franchise-record 49 players, which included a franchise-record eight goaltenders. The 49 players last campaign beat out the previous record of 48 set during the 2021-22 season. However, it has been much different this season, as the Griffins have not had a single skater compete on a professional tryout. Grand Rapids has used just four goaltenders this season, with two of them suiting up for just one game (John Lethemon & Ville Husso). The team has also used just 30 skaters throughout the season, a drastic change from the 49 and 48 players used in the past two seasons, respectively.

Matty Ice
On Feb. 21, Matt Luff made his season debut after rehabbing an injury suffered in training camp that kept him sidelined for the first 45 games of the season. After being held scoreless in his first five outings, Luff is on an active four-game point streak from March 15-20 (2-3—5), and now has nine points (4-5—9) in his last nine contests. Last season, the 26-year-old posted 25 points (8-17—25) and six penalty minutes in 28 games with the Griffins on top of producing four points (2-2—4) in 19 outings with the Detroit Red Wings. The Windsor, Ontario, native has 154 points (61-93—154) in 211 career AHL outings from 2016-24.

Sea Bass Fishing
Sebastian Cossa
was named the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week on Feb. 26 when he posted a 2-0-0 record with one shutout to go along with a 1.00 GAA and a .970 save percentage from Feb. 21-25. On Feb. 21, the 21-year-old collected his first AHL shutout with 28 saves in a 1-0 victory over the Texas Stars, lifting Grand Rapids past Texas into second place in the Central Division and becoming just the third Griffins rookie to record a shutout over the last nine seasons. Cossa went on to stop 37 shots on Feb. 25, including 14 in the third period, to help the Griffins snap Milwaukee’s 19-game winning streak and extend Grand Rapids’ point streak to 15 games (11-0-2-2). Cossa won a team-high four straight games from Jan. 19-Feb. 2 and is currently on a 14-game point streak (9-0-5) from Jan. 19-March 20. Cossa’s point streak is one game shy of tying Marc Lamothe’s franchise-record 15-game point streak of 9-0-4-2 (W-L-T-OTL) set from Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 2002. Since returning from the holiday break on Dec. 27, Cossa has an 11-1-5 ledger with a 2.02 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. The former 15th overall pick by the Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft has allowed more than two goals just five times in his past 17 games. Through 30 contests, Cossa is 15-7-8 with one shutout to go along with a 2.53 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. Cossa ranks sixth among rookie goaltenders in goals against average and sixth in save percentage.

Thou Shall Not Pass
The Griffins’ defense has been much improved since the holiday break, allowing an average of 2.45 goals per game from Dec. 27-March 20. Prior to the holiday break, Grand Rapids allowed 3.31 goals per game from Oct. 13-Dec. 20. The Griffins have allowed a total of 167 goals through 59 games this season, which ranks second in the Central Division and eighth in the AHL. Grand Rapids is also ninth on the circuit with 2.83 goals against per game, which is second in the division trailing only Milwaukee (2.69). Netminders Sebastian Cossa (2.53) and Michael Hutchinson (2.77) each possess a goals against average below 3.00. Defensemen Wyatt Newpower (+10), Antti Tuomisto (+7), Albert Johansson (+6), Simon Edvinsson (+5), Radim Simek (+5), William Wallinder (+3), Eemil Viro (+3) and Brogan Rafferty (+2) all have a positive plus-minus rating.

Clutch Hutch
Veteran goaltender Michael Hutchinson has been solid for the Griffins this year, posting a 14-11-3 mark with two shutouts in 29 games to go along with a 2.77 goals against average and an .896 save percentage. The 33-year-old enjoyed a seven-game point streak from Jan. 13-March 1 (5-0-2). Since returning from the holiday break on Dec. 27, Hutchinson has accumulated a 9-4-2 record with one shutout, an .898 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average. The Barrie, Ontario, native has an all-time AHL record of 120-82-23 with a 2.60 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Hutchinson has also appeared in 154 NHL contests, showing a 2.94 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

It’s Taco Time
Taro Hirose
enjoyed a three-game assist streak from March 12-16 (0-4—4), which was one game shy of tying his season-high assist mark set from Nov. 17-27 (0-5—5). Hirose, who is in his fifth season as a Griffin, also has six points (1-5—6) in his last eight outings. The Calgary, Alberta, native has logged a total of 30 points (7-23—30) in 43 appearances this season, after having missed 12 straight games from Dec. 29-Jan. 27 due to rehabbing an injury. The 27-year-old is one point away from tying Tomas Tatar for sixth place on the Griffins’ all-time points list and his 147 assists rank third in franchise history.

Crunch Time
The Griffins have excelled during the third period of games this season, as they have outscored their opponents 73-47 in the final frame and outshot their opponents 552-528. Grand Rapids has six wins when trailing after the second period, which is tied for third in the AHL. The Griffins also have a 35-24 shot advantage in overtime this campaign. However, Grand Rapids is just 5-11 in games decided past regulation (3-7 in OT, 2-4 in SO). The Griffins’ 18 losses in regulation this season are the third-fewest in the AHL, while their seven overtime defeats are tied for the fifth most and the four shootout losses are tied for the third most.

Oh, It’s You Again
The Griffins are in second place in the Central Division with a 30-18-7-4 record and 71 points, 21 points clear of a playoff spot. In the final 13 games of the regular season, Grand Rapids will compete against the Central Division 12 times, with its only game outside of the division coming against Cleveland. The Griffins have done well against their division rivals, as they are 24-11-3-2 (.663) with a plus-20 scoring margin against the Central Division. Grand Rapids is undefeated this season against Iowa (6-0-0-0). Chicago and Rockford will be the Griffins’ most frequent opponents down the stretch, as there are still four meetings remaining against each franchise.

Like Father, Like Son
Recently acquired center Curtis Hall is the son of former Griffins center Mike Hall, who played seven games for Grand Rapids during the 2000-01 campaign, scoring one goal. They are the third father-son duo to have played for the Griffins, joining Chris (2008-09) and Jake (2018-19) Chelios, and Derek (1999-01; 2002-04) and D.J. (2021-22) King. Family ties have been a common theme throughout the franchise’s history, as five sets of brothers have suited up for the Griffins: Sheldon (2001-03) and Wade (2001-02) Brookbank; Valtteri (2005-07) and Ilari (2010-11) Filppula; Kevin (1999-00; 03-04), Kelly (1999-00) and Kip (2000-02; 04-05; 06-07) Miller, along with cousin Drew (2016-17); Todd (1996-98; 99-00; 01-02) and Jeff (1996-97; 03-04; 05-06) Nelson; and Givani (2016-17; 18-21; 22-23) and Gemel (2021-22) Smith.

Pucks on Net
The Griffins have done well when outshooting their opponents this season with a 16-3-4-4 (.741) record compared to a 13-14-3-0 (.483) mark when they are being outshot. Grand Rapids is 18-5-3-4 (.717) when producing at least 30 shots and 17-9-5-2 (.621) when it keeps its opponents between 20-29 shots. The Griffins rank 17th in the AHL with 29.5 shots per game, while they concede the sixth fewest in the league at 28.2. The Griffins are averaging 28.9 shots per game in their last eight outings, while giving up an average of 27.1.

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 21-1-2-0 (.917). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 9-17-5-4 (.386). Grand Rapids has reached the four-goal mark in six of its last 13 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 7-15-7-3 (.375) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 23-3-0-1 mark (.870) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 13 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals six times.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—2.53 GAA places sixth among rookie netminders, .913 save percentage ranks sixth among rookie goaltenders
Simon Edvinsson—Eight goals are tied for 12th among defensemen, three game-winners are tied for fourth among defensemen
Carter Mazur—Six power-play goals are tied for sixth among rookies, 15 goals are tied for 11th among rookies
Antti Tuomisto—Four goals are tied for 12th among rookie defensemen, one power-play goal is tied for ninth among rookie defensemen, two game-winners are tied for second among rookie defensemen, plus-seven rating ranks 12th among rookie defensemen
William Wallinder—Three goals are tied for 16th among rookie defensemen, plus-three rating is tied for 18th among rookie defensemen

Elmer Soderblom
bagged his 50th goal as a pro on Tuesday at Manitoba. Last Saturday, Albert Johansson skated in his 250th pro game, Joel L’Esperance competed in his 300th AHL outing and Elmer Soderblom suited up for his 200th pro contest. Last Friday, Dan Watson collected his 300th win as a head coach and Zach Aston-Reese recorded his 150th pro point.
Taro Hirose—One point from tying Tomas Tatar (196) for sixth place on the team’s all-time points list, two goals from 50 as a Griffin, three assists from 150 as a Griffin, five points from 200 as a Griffin
Marco Kasper—Three assists from 50 as a pro

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins