Grand Rapids Griffins (8-5-2-0) at Cleveland Monsters (7-5-1-0)
Game Time: 7 p.m. at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Griffins Game #16 * Road Game #12 * AHL Game #218
Season Series: 3-0-0-0 Home Series: 1-0-0-0 Road Series: 2-0-0-0
All-Time Series: 57-31-5-10 All-Time Home Series: 32-16-1-2 All-Time Road Series: 25-15-4-8
Griffins at Monsters
Fourth of 10 meetings overall, third of five at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse…The Griffins are 3-0 versus the Monsters this season, including 2-0 in Cleveland...Against all other foes, the Monsters are 7-3 and the Griffins are 5-5-2-0…Pat Nagle has earned all three wins against the Monsters this season, sporting a 1.33 goals against average and a 0.947 save percentage in the series...Grand Rapids owns the AHL’s best road power play at 33.3% while Cleveland has the league’s 27th-ranked home penalty kill at 72.2%...Grand Rapids and Cleveland are Central Division foes for the first time since 2017-18, following the Monsters’ two-year foray into the North Division and Eastern Conference...These teams split a four-game series in 2019-20, with each winning and losing once on the other’s ice...Griffins head coach Ben Simon is a native of the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights.
Last Time Out
The Griffins won more than their share of games, plus the 2013 Calder Cup, when Petr Mrazek was between their pipes from 2012-15. On Thursday, they found out how the other half lived, as Mrazek made 43 saves on a conditioning stint from the Carolina Hurricanes to backstop the Chicago Wolves to a 5-2 victory at the Triphahn Center Ice Arena. Mrazek, whose last AHL game was on March 6, 2015, had never played for any AHL team except Grand Rapids (87 GP, 54-27-1, 2.21 GAA, 0.920%, 7 SO). With assists on Turner Elson’s goal 2:56 into the game, Tory Dello recorded his first pro point, and Mathias Brome logged his first AHL point in his debut after being assigned by Detroit earlier this week. A scoreless second period saw the Griffins outshoot Chicago by a 23-8 margin, as Grand Rapids tied its franchise record for shots in a road period achieved on three prior occasions, most recently during the second period of a 5-3 win at Texas on Jan. 31, 2019. The Griffins this season are now 0-4 at the Triphahn Center and 8-1-2-0 in all other buildings.
Sub on the Mic
In Bob Kaser’s absence, the Griffins are pleased to welcome Matt Melzak as tonight’s guest play-by-play broadcaster on AHLTV and Newsradio WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM. Making his AHL debut, Melzak is the voice of Grand Rapids’ ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, and as such will be the only member of the Walleye recalled to the Griffins this season. Thank you, Matt!
This Date in Griffins History
2016: The Griffins clinch their fourth straight playoff berth with a 5-2 win at Rochester, as Todd Nelson secures his fifth postseason trip in as many full seasons as an AHL head coach and first with Grand Rapids.
Get Your Groove Back
Despite suffering consecutive regulation losses for the first time since their first two games of the season (Feb. 5-11), the Griffins have still earned points in six of their last eight games (4-2-2-0) and 10 of their last 13 contests (8-3-2-0). They’ve also grabbed points in all four home games (2-0-2-0) this season.
Try This Again
The Griffins recently experienced their first two schedule disruptions of the season, as their home games on Friday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 23 were both postponed due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting Chicago. The contests have been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 13 and Monday, April 20, respectively.
“Let’s Play Two…More”
On March 25, the AHL announced two additions to the Griffins’ schedule, increasing the team’s number of regular season games to 32. In addition to their eight previously scheduled clashes, the Griffins will now face the Cleveland Monsters on Friday, April 9 at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, before hosting the Monsters on Tuesday, April 20 at Van Andel Arena. Both games will face off at 7 p.m. With the addition of the April 20 contest, the Griffins will have an eight-game homestand (April 10-28) that will be their longest since an eight-game stretch from Jan. 10-25, 2020 (5-1-0-2 record) and tie for the second-longest in franchise history. Grand Rapids staged nine straight games at Van Andel Arena from Oct. 26-Nov. 18, 2004 (4-4-1-0 record). Prior to this season, the Griffins’ high-water mark for regular season home games during April had been five, established in 2015.
Keep the Suitcase Packed
Given the recent postponements of those home games against Chicago plus the addition of the April 9 game at Cleveland, Grand Rapids is in the midst of playing six consecutive games on the road. By the time they return to Van Andel Arena next Saturday, April 10 to host Rockford, the Griffins to that point will have played 13 of their 17 games within unfriendly confines.
Another Rung Up The Ladder
Brian Lashoff’s 513 games played for the Griffins rank first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and tie for eighth in league history among one-team players. Of the players ahead of him on that list, the most recent – and, coincidentally, the record-holder – last played during the 1970-71 season (Bill Needham of the Cleveland Barons, 981 games played). Lashoff, who was unfit to play the last two games, tied No. 8-ranked Stan Smrke (Rochester 1957-67) on March 26 and is now four games behind No. 7 Pete Kapusta (Providence Reds 1946-55).
Life of Riley
Riley Barber, who registered a season-high three points (1-2—3) in last Friday’s 5-2 win at Iowa, has goals in three of the last four games and points in 12 of 15 games this season. He posted a nine-game point streak from Feb. 5-March 11 that was the longest ever to start a player's Griffins career as well as the longest from the start of a Griffins season. Barber is tied for second in the AHL with 11 goals while his 18 points are tied for 10th. He also is tied for first with eight power play points.
While his three-game goal and point streaks (four goals) were snapped last Saturday in Iowa, Chase Pearson has recorded points in six of the last nine games (4-4—8)…Taro Hirose notched his second three-point game of the season in last Friday’s win over the Wild (Feb. 28 at CHI) before contributing an assist on Thursday in Chicago...Joe Hicketts’ three assists against Iowa last Friday were the most by a Griffin since Hirose tallied three on Jan. 24, 2020 versus San Diego. He added two more in last Saturday’s loss. His nine assists on the season tie for seventh among AHL defensemen...Turner Elson has points in three of the last four games (1-3—4)…Tyler Spezia’s second two-goal game of the season last Saturday matched Riley Barber for the most by a Griffin this season...Dominic Turgeon’s three-game point streak (1-3—4) was snapped by the Wolves on Thursday...Kevin Boyle on Thursday lost in regulation for the first time since his Griffins debut on Feb. 11, as he had gone 4-0-1 over his previous five decisions.
Following a 2019-20 campaign in which they finished sixth in the AHL’s power play rankings at 20.9%, the Griffins are off to an even better start this season, currently sitting second in the league at 25.9% and first on the road at 33.3%. Grand Rapids converted four of seven opportunities in last weekend’s two-game set in Iowa and has now scored at least one power play goal in nine of its 15 games.
Welcome to the Club
The Red Wings on Monday reassigned left wing Mathias Brome and defenseman Dennis Cholowski to Grand Rapids from their taxi squad and reassigned left wing Givani Smith to their taxi squad from the Griffins. The 26-year-old Brome, who registered an assist in his AHL debut in Chicago on Thursday, has registered one goal and eight penalty minutes in 24 appearances with the Red Wings during his first season in North America. He skated in 52 games for Orebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League in 2019-20, where he led the team in assists and points with an SHL career-high 43 points (17-26-43), a plus-10 rating and 22 penalty minutes. The 6-foot, 183-pound winger also finished among SHL league leaders in goals (T7th), assists (7th) and points (6th) in his third season in the league. A native of Orby, Sweden, Brome spent his first two SHL seasons with Mora IK after helping the club earn a promotion in 2016-17 out of the second-tier Allsvenskan, in which he led the team with 49 points (18-31-49) and led the league with a plus-23 rating. In 156 total SHL games between Mora and Orebro, Brome has produced 99 points (41-58-99) and 58 penalty minutes and added six points (5-1-6) and 24 penalty minutes in 10 postseason games.
March Like a Lion
The Griffins posted their 13th straight winning record during the month of March (4-1-2-0), improving to 92-49-9-8 (0.636) in March since 2009. Despite traditionally playing the majority of their games away from Van Andel Arena during March, they’ve managed at least a 0.500 road record for the month during each of those 13 years, going a combined 57-30-5-6 (0.638).
The Griffins lead the AHL in shots per game (35.73) and are ninth in goals per game (3.27). They’ve racked up at least 40 shots in five of their last eight outings, including a season-high 49 on March 3 in Rockford.
The Griffins, who have allowed just one goal in regulation in seven of their last 13 games and surrendered two on another pair of occasions, rank sixth in the AHL in goals allowed per game (2.80)…The Griffins have been outshot in only three of their first 15 games, and only once have they allowed 30 or more shots, a total that they have reached on 12 occasions — including 10 of the last 11 outings. Grand Rapids ranks second in the AHL in shots allowed per game (24.33).
Dominic Turgeon’s assist last Saturday in Iowa marked the 100th point of his Griffins/AHL/pro career. Upcoming player milestones include:
Brian Lashoff – Three assists for 100 as a pro
Gustav Lindstrom - One point for 50 as a pro
Dominik Shine – Three points from 50 for his Griffins/AHL/pro career
It’s a Start
The roar of a Griffins crowd was partially restored on March 13 when the team began welcoming 750 fans per home game, pursuant to the most recent order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Griffins 2021-22 season ticket members are being given the first opportunity to purchase tickets to home games during the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Other fans can sign up for Griffins Nation, the team’s official email newsletter, to receive priority access to 2020-21 tickets whenever limited seats are made available for sale throughout the season.
We Miss You, Bob!
On Feb. 8, the beloved 21-year Voice of the Griffins, Bob Kaser, underwent successful heart surgery at the Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids to repair several blocked arteries. Released from the hospital on Feb. 14, his recovery at home is going well but he is expected to miss most of this 32-game shortened season. Everyone in Griffins Nation, the Griffins organization, the AHL, and the Michigan hockey community wishes Bob all the best in his recovery and a quick return to health. We can’t wait until he is back in the booth.
Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Monsters