Grand Rapids Griffins (1-1-0-0) at Manitoba Moose (1-2-0-0)
Game Time: 8 p.m. EDT at Canada Life Centre
Griffins Game #3 * Road Game #2 * AHL Game #37
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Home Series: 0-0-0-0 Road Series: 0-0-0-0
All-Time Series: 65-33-1-1-7 All-Time Home Series: 35-14-1-1-5 All-Time Road Series: 30-19-0-0-2
Griffins vs. Moose
First of eight meetings overall, first of four at Canada Life Centre…Since the Moose rejoined the AHL in 2015-16, Grand Rapids is 21-9 against them and has outscored them 98-69…On away ice in that span, the Griffins are 8-5-1-0 with a 42-31 scoring advantage…Grand Rapids has claimed seven of the last 10 meetings at Canada Life Centre…This is the first meeting between the two franchises since Grand Rapids defeated the Moose 6-2 at Van Andel Arena on Jan. 11, 2020 due to the clubs not facing each other in the 2020-21 campaign...The Griffins first game at Canada Life Centre since Nov. 3, 2019...This is the 107th meeting between the two teams, which is the fifth most encounters by any Grand Rapids opponent...Griffins’ second of three straight games away from West Michigan...Calvin Pickard lives in Winnipeg during the offseason and forward Jon Martin was born there.
Last Weekend’s Results
The Griffins began the 2021-22 campaign with a statement win over the Rockford IceHogs on Friday, Oct. 15. Six different players lit the lamp for Grand Rapids and five enjoyed two-point nights as the home team roared to its largest-ever victory in a Van Andel Arena opener, defeating the IceHogs 6-1 before a capacity crowd of 10,834. Chase Pearson, Tyler Spezia and Dennis Yan each tallied a goal and an assist while both reigning AHL Defenseman of the Year Ryan Murphy and rookie Kirill Tyutyayev picked up a pair of helpers. The opening-night win was the fifth in the last six home debuts. The roles were reversed on Saturday, Oct. 16 as the Griffins found themselves on the wrong side of a 7-3 score line against the host Milwaukee Admirals. Joe Veleno added two goals to his season count, which is up to three in the opening two games. Reigning Griffins point leader Riley Barber recorded his first goal of the season while Taro Hirose and Murphy each chipped in a pair of helpers. This was the first time Grand Rapids lost a road opener by more than two scores, and seven goals is the most its ever allowed in a road opener.
Brian Lashoff’s 515 games played for the Griffins ranks first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and 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 tied No. 8-ranked Stan Smrke (Rochester 1957-67) on March 26, 2021 and is now two games behind No. 7 Pete Kapusta (Providence Reds 1946-55). Lashoff is still 140 games away from breaking the Griffins’ all-time record, held by Travis Richards with 655 games (1995-2006).
Holland, Mich. native Luke Witkowski became the fourth West Michigander to ever play for the Griffins on Friday, Oct. 15 against Rockford. Witkowski joined East Grand Rapids native Luke Glendening, Kentwood local Mike Knuble and Muskegon legend Justin Abdelkader. Witkowski spent two years with Detroit from 2017-19 but never saw action in the AHL.
The Griffins’ roster features six rookies including defensemen Jared McIsaac and Wyatt Newpower, forwards Jonatan Berggren, Patrick Curry, and Kirill Tyutyayev, and goaltender Victor Brattstrom. Among those rookies, Newpower, Berggren, Tyutyayev and Brattstrom all made their Grand Rapids debuts last weekend. Newcomers to West Michigan that skated in their first game as a Griffin on Friday, Oct. 15 against Rockford included defensemen Ryan Murphy and Luke Witkowski, and forward Dennis Yan. The sixth-year pro Jon Martin is still awaiting his first time on the ice in a Griffins uniform.
Start Your Engines
Six different Griffins lit the lamp and five enjoyed two-point nights during the 6-1 victory on opening night against Rockford on Friday, Oct. 15. The five-goal margin was the largest-ever victory in a Van Andel Arena opener. Forwards Taro Hirose and Joe Veleno carried that momentum into last Saturday’s game against Milwaukee as both snagged two points. Veleno now has three goals in two games to start the season while Hirose has registered three points (0-3—3) in two outings. Fellow forward Chase Pearson joins the pair with three points (1-2—3) to begin his fourth season as a Griffin. Reigning AHL Defenseman of the Year Ryan Murphy paces the roster with four helpers, which ranks third on the circuit.
Goaltender Calvin Pickard earned just his second assist in his three-year career as a Griffin on Friday, Oct. 15 in Grand Rapids’ 6-1 rout of the Rockford IceHogs. Pickard’s last helper came on March 11, 2020 in a 4-1 win over Iowa. Dating back to the 2012-13 season, the Moncton, New Brunswick, native has collected seven assists throughout his AHL career. Pickard’s two assists are tied for 10th all time among Griffins netminders. Joey MacDonald (2002-07, 2010-12) leads all Griffins goalies with eight helpers in 210 games.
No Time to Dilly Dally
The Griffins are currently in the mist of a 32-game streak for consecutive road contests decided in regulation. The active streak began back on Dec. 29, 2019 and has reached 32 contests after last Saturday’s outing in Milwaukee was decided in 60 minutes. The previous record was 23 straight road games from March 1, 2009 through Dec. 13, 2009. Grand Rapids’ last game on away ice that went into overtime or a shootout was on Dec. 21, 2019 when Iowa defeated the Griffins 3-4 in OT.
Following a 2019-20 campaign in which they finished sixth in the AHL’s power play rankings at 20.9%, the Griffins exceeded that mark in 2020-21 with a power play conversion rate of 21.5%, the fifth best on the circuit. Grand Rapids’ home power play ranked third-to-last in the AHL, converting 13.1% of its chances. However, the road power play was deadly at 30%, which was the second-highest percentage in the league a year ago. This season has been no different through two games as the power play is converting on 40% of its opportunities, which ranks tied for second in the AHL with Charlotte just behind San Diego.
This Date in Griffins History
2016: On the strength of Tyler Bertuzzi’s three-point night (1-2—3), the Griffins handed defending champion Cleveland its first loss of the season and continued their best start in eight years (4-1) with a 3-2 win.
Grand Rapids and Detroit has a long tradition of possessing high-level European talent and this season is no different. Forward Jonatan Berggren and netminder Victor Brattstrom hail from Sweden while forward Kirill Tyutyayev comes to the state of Michigan from Russia. All three made their North America debut with the Griffins this past weekend. Berggren spent three seasons in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Skelleftea and logged 60 points (14-46—60) in 99 outings. Fellow forward Tyutyayev totaled 52 points (14-38—52) in 70 games between Gornyak Uchaly in the Supreme Hockey League (VHL) in Russia and Yunost Minsk in Belarus. Goaltender Brattstrom spent time in the SHL and Allsvenskan in Sweden as well as the Liiga in Finland. The fifth-year pro has amassed a 66-44-7 record while holding a 2.28 goals against average.
Return of Riley
Riley Barber led the Griffins in goals (20), points (34) and points per game (1.06) a season ago. His scoring pace equaled a 48-goal, 81-point clip in a regular 76-game AHL season. Barber also ranked second in the league for goals, just one shy of Cooper Marody (who played seven more games), and was named a Central Division AHL All-Star. Six game-winning goals tied a career best while his four-game goal streak from Feb. 26 through March 11 also matched a career high. The forward added seven multi-point outings out of 32, including a career-high four points (2-2—4) on May 7 against Chicago. Barber posted a nine-game point streak (8-5—13) 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. The Pittsburgh, Pa. native has notched one goal in the opening two games this season.
Oldies but Goodies
The Griffins’ roster features six veterans including forwards Riley Barber and Turner Elson, and defensemen Brian Lashoff, Ryan Murphy, Dan Renouf and Luke Witkowski. A player receives veteran status if he has competed in at least 260 games in the NHL, AHL or European elite leagues. Lashoff leads all veterans on the team with 651 career-games played in the NHL and AHL, including 515 with Grand Rapids, which ranks first among active players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and eighth all time in league history. Murphy has appeared in 477 outings, which ranks second on the roster, while Elson places third with 398 contests.
The Griffins on Tuesday signed center Josh Dickinson to a professional tryout. The fourth-year pro has spent the majority of his career in the Colorado Eagles organization, splitting time between the AHL club and the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. In 47 AHL games between Colorado and San Antonio since 2018, Dickinson has logged 14 points (2-12—14) and 16 penalty minutes. The Georgetown, Ontario, native has also appeared in 82 ECHL contests with Utah and the Indy Fuel, totaling 70 points (26-44—70) and 47 PIM.
AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Calvin Pickard—1.00 goals against average is tied for fourth
Ryan Murphy—Four points are tied for third and tied for first among defensemen, four assists rank third and first among blueliners, three power play assists and points are tied for first in the AHL
Joe Veleno—Three points are tied for 12th while three goals are tied for second and two power play goals are tied for first
Taro Hirose—Three points are tied for 12th, three assists are tied for fourth and three power play assists and points are tied for first
Chase Pearson—Three points are tied for 12th
Kirill Tyutyayev—Two points are tied for seventh among league rookies and two helpers are tied for fifth among the same group
Time to Celebrate
Although the 2021-22 season marks the franchise’s 26th campaign, the Griffins will celebrate as if it were the 25th season. The celebration was put on ice last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with fans returning to Van Andel Arena in full force, the upcoming season will include a variety of festivities and promotions to honor the franchise’s first quarter-century. The Griffins will welcome back up to 10,834 of their closest friends to Van Andel Arena for 38 home games, including 27 prime home dates (15 Fridays and 12 Saturdays).
Turner Elson—Two games from 400 in the AHL
Taro Hirose—Two assists from 50 as a Griffin
Brian Lashoff—Three assists from 100 as a pro
Chase Pearson—One game from 100 as a Griffin and one point shy of 50 in a Grand Rapids uniform
Dan Renouf—Two games from 150 Griffins appearances
Dominik Shine—One point shy of 50 for his Griffins career
Ben Simon—One game from 300 as a head coach at any pro level
Luke Witkowski—Three points from 50 in the AHL
2020-21 Season in Review
The Griffins skated in their 25th season a year ago and concluded the campaign with a 16-12-3-1 record, 36 points and a points percentage of 0.563. Grand Rapids finished the delayed, shortened and no-playoffs season in third place in the Central Division behind leaders Chicago and second-place Cleveland. The Griffins possessed the fifth-best powerplay in the league with a conversion rate of 21.5% while the penalty kill was working at a 74.8% clip. The team was outscored by its opponents 96-97 and ended the year 4-5-0-1 in its last 10 games. Forward Riley Barber paced the club in points (34) and goals (20) while fellow forward Taro Hirose led the roster with 23 assists. In net, Pat Nagle registered the lowest goals against average (2.78) and Kevin Boyle logged the best record (7-3-1).
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.
Voice of the Griffins Returns
On Feb. 8, the beloved 22-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 is now complete and has returned to the booth this season alongside fellow veterans Larry Figurski and Lou Rabaut. Kaser is the newest member of the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame after he was awarded the Warren Reynolds Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 28, 2021. Everyone in Griffins Nation, the Griffins organization, the AHL, and the Michigan hockey community welcomes Bob back with open arms and are looking forward to hearing more of his historic soundbites this season.
Photo by Mark Newman/Griffins