Grand Rapids Griffins (0-2-0-0) at Cleveland Monsters (0-1-0-0)
Game Time: 4 p.m. at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Griffins Game #3 * Road Game #3 * AHL Game #34
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Home Series: 0-0-0-0 Road Series: 0-0-0-0
All-Time Series: 54-31-5-10 All-Time Home Series: 31-16-1-2 All-Time Road Series: 23-15-4-8
Griffins at Monsters
First of eight meetings overall, first of four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse…Grand Rapids and Cleveland meet as Central Division foes for the first time since 2017-18, following the Monsters’ two-year foray into the North Division and Eastern Conference...These two teams have clashed 100 times during the regular season in a rivalry that dates to the 2007-08 season...They split a four-game series in 2019-20, with each team winning and losing once on the other’s ice...The Griffins’ four-game road stretch to kick off the 2020-21 campaign is their second-longest ever to start a season (five straight in 2009-10)...Griffins head coach Ben Simon is a native of the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights.
Just Like Aaron Said, R-E-L-A-X
The Griffins, who have dropped a pair of two-goal decisions at Chicago to start the season, have gone winless in their first two games three other times since the 2012-13 campaign, a span during which they’ve never missed the playoffs. That 2012-13 team started 0-1-0-1/0-2-0-1 en route to winning the Calder Cup, the 2015-16 squad went 0-2/0-4 before going on to lose in the second round of the playoffs to eventual champ Lake Erie, and the 2018-19 team lost its first two contests and later fell to Cup finalist Chicago in the opening round.
Crisco Fries ‘Em
Kyle Criscuolo has started hot in his return to a Griffins uniform, as the 2017 Calder Cup champion lit the lamp during a power play in each of the team’s first two games at Chicago to account for two-thirds of his team’s goal-scoring thus far. Each goal came off an assist from newly acquired right wing Riley Barber.
Lots of Debuts
Thursday’s 4-2 loss at Chicago marked the pro debut for forward Max Humitz and defenseman Donovan Sebrango, a third-round selection (63rd overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Rookie forward Patrick Curry made his AHL and Griffins debut after playing eight games with Detva in Slovakia earlier this season, and goalie Kevin Boyle saw his first action as a Griffin after posting a 62-38-10 record in 117 AHL games with San Diego from 2016-20.
We Miss You, Bob!
On Monday, 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. He is expected to miss the better part of this 30-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.
Sub on the Mic
In Bob Kaser’s absence, the Griffins are pleased to welcome Joey Battaino as today’s guest play-by-play broadcaster on AHLTV and WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM. Battaino has served as the voice of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit since 2015. Thank you, Joey!
Ready for our Closeup
All 15 Grand Rapids Griffins regular season games at Van Andel Arena during the 2020-21 regular season will be televised live to fans across West Michigan on WXSP-TV, thanks to a broadcast agreement finalized earlier this week. WXSP becomes the exclusive live in-market television partner for the Griffins. While the Voice of the Griffins, Bob Kaser, continues his recovery from heart surgery, WOOD TV8 sports anchor Larry Figurski – a veteran of 21 seasons as a Griffins color analyst – will handle the play-by-play duties alongside commentators Lou Rabaut, also a longtime analyst on Griffins broadcasts, and Mike Knuble, the former NHL star and current Griffins assistant coach.
It’s Been Such a Long Time
On Feb. 5 in Chicago, the Griffins took to the ice against an opponent for the first time in 331 days, dating to their 4-1 home win over Iowa on March 11, 2020. Their home opener next Saturday against Cleveland will mark 346 days since they played a game at Van Andel Arena.
February has historically been very kind to the Griffins, as they’ve posted a winning record for the month 10 years running, going a combined 68-32-5-6 (0.662) from 2011 to 2020. They are 0-2-0-0 so far this February.
Milestones Achieved and Within Reach
On Thursday in Chicago, Evgeny Svechnikov’s assist on Kyle Criscuolo’s power play goal gave him 100 points (38-62—100) in 184 games as a Griffin, while Dennis Cholowski’s goal marked his 50th point (13-37—50) in 146 pro games with Grand Rapids and Detroit. Other milestones on the horizon include:
Griffins—Six wins for 1,000 regular season victories in franchise history
Riley Barber – Three games played for 300 as a pro
Kyle Criscuolo – Two goals from 50 for his AHL/pro career
Turner Elson – Two points for 150 in the AHL
Brian Lashoff – Four assists for 100 as a pro
Dominik Shine – Six points from 50 for his Griffins/AHL/pro career
Dominic Turgeon – Seven points from 100 for his Griffins/AHL/pro career
This Date in Griffins History
2004: With a 4-0 win over Manitoba at Van Andel Arena, the Griffins set a franchise record of 11 consecutive home games without a loss (8-0-3-0). Joey MacDonald makes 22 saves for his second straight shutout at home.
Changing of the Guard
The Griffins last week named Brian Lashoff as the 17th captain in franchise history, while Kyle Criscuolo, Turner Elson, Dylan McIlrath (currently on Detroit’s taxi squad) and Dominic Turgeon were selected as alternate captains. Lashoff, 30, begins his 12th season in a Griffins uniform, having made his debut as 18-year-old on March 29, 2009 at Philadelphia. One of three players to be a part of Grand Rapids’ 2017 and 2013 Calder Cup championship teams, he played his 500th regular season game with the Griffins on March 11, 2020 against Iowa, joining Travis Richards (655) as the only players to hit that milestone out of the 526 who suited up for Grand Rapids over its first 24 seasons. Lashoff’s 502 games rank first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and rank ninth in league history among one-team players. Of the eight 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). Next for Lashoff to eclipse are the 513 games that Stan Smrke played for the Rochester Americans from 1957-67. Over those 502 games, Lashoff has contributed 107 points (25-82—107) and 263 penalty minutes, to go with 20 points (5-15—20) and 34 PIM in 75 Calder Cup Playoff games, the second-most in Griffins history behind former captain Nathan Paetsch’s 78. Lashoff’s resume also includes 136 games and 15 points scored (2-13—15) over parts of seven seasons (2012-15; 2016-20) with the Detroit Red Wings, along with a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship earned by helping the United States defeat host Canada for just its second tournament championship ever. The Albany, N.Y., native had previously served the Griffins as an alternate captain for six seasons (2012-13; 2015-20), and now he wears the “C” for the first time since his final junior season with Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League.
Are You Experienced?
Seventeen members of the Griffins’ current 23-man roster saw action in at least one game with the club last season — from Notre Dame product Tory Dello, who made his pro debut in the final game before the shutdown, to Dominic Turgeon, who appeared in each of the team’s 63 contests — while Kyle Criscuolo has returned to Grand Rapids after having helped the Griffins win the Calder Cup as a rookie in 2016-17. Brand new to the team are goaltender Kevin Boyle (AHL San Diego), defenseman Donovan Sebrango (OHL Kitchener), and forwards Riley Barber (AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), Max Humitz (WCHA Lake Superior State) and Patrick Curry (H-East Boston U.).
It Is So, Joe!
Defenseman Joe Hicketts is the Griffins’ top returning scorer from a season ago, when his 27 points (2-25—27) tied for third on the squad with current Red Wing Taro Hirose (5-22—27) and free agent Matthew Ford (10-17—27). Only Chris Terry (21-30—51), now with the KHL’s Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL), and Matt Puempel (17-22—39), who has reunited with 2019-20 Griffin Joe Veleno in Sweden with Malmo, tallied more points.
Pick Up Where You Left Off
Pat Nagle finished 2019-20 by going 6-3 with a 2.33 GAA and a 0.925 save percentage in his last 10 appearances, and he allowed two goals or less in five of his last nine starts. The former Ferris State Bulldog appeared in 20 games for Grand Rapids last season after totaling only eight games in the AHL – including three with the Griffins – during his first eight pro seasons. If Nagle had enough minutes to qualify (about 64 shy), his 2.32 overall season GAA would have ranked eighth in the AHL.
At the Helm
Ben Simon begins his sixth season with Grand Rapids and his third as head coach. He served the first three seasons as an assistant under Todd Nelson, now an assistant coach with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. The 42-year-old Simon guided the Griffins to a 29-27-3-4 record in 2019-20, putting the team in position for what would have been an eighth straight postseason berth before the final 13 games and playoffs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His club achieved that franchise-record seventh consecutive playoff appearance during the 2018-19 season by posting a 38-27-7-4 mark (0.572), and he played an integral role in helping the club win its second Calder Cup in 2017. During Simon’s first six seasons as a coach in Grand Rapids, the Griffins have compiled cumulative records of 200-134-14-21 (0.589) in the regular season and 24-14 (0.632) in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Griffins in General
Grand Rapids is in the franchise’s 25th overall season of play, 20th as a member of the American Hockey League and 19th as the primary affiliate of the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings…Grand Rapids is 994-685-27-61-116 (0.582) in the regular season since 1996-97 to go along with 17 playoff appearances, seven division titles and two Calder Cups (2017, 2013)…Grand Rapids has qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs a franchise-record seven consecutive times — and was in position to do so for an eighth straight season when the COVID shutdown hit in last March — and advanced to at least the second round in five of those postseasons.
Photo by Sam Iannamico/Griffins