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Game Notes: Griffins at Wild - April 19, 2024

Apr 19, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (36-22-8-4) at Iowa Wild (25-37-4-4)

Game Time: 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena

Griffins Game #71 * Road Game #36 * AHL Game #1,123

Season Series: 7-0-0-0 Home Series: 4-0-0-0 Road Series: 3-0-0-0
All-Time Series:
50-23-5-3 All-Time Home Series: 25-10-4-2 All-Time Road Series: 25-13-1-1

Griffins at Wild
Eighth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four at Wells Fargo Arena…Grand Rapids will try to finish undefeated against the Wild for just the second time (4-0-0-0, 2014-15) since Iowa joined the AHL in 2013-14...The Griffins are 19-11-4-1 (.614) overall since the 2019-20 season against the Wild but have been outscored by Iowa 109-107...Grand Rapids is 8-7-1-1 (.529) on the road against Iowa since the 2019-20 season with a minus-eight scoring margin (60-52)...The Griffins have points in six of the last eight meetings (5-2-0-1) against the Wild in Iowa...The Wild are 13-18-1-3 at home this season, while Grand Rapids is 14-15-4-2 on the road...Iowa is 3-4-1-2 in its last 10 outings and has one win in its last six games (1-3-0-2)…The Griffins are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 and have two wins in their last five games...The Wild’s power play is tied for 24th on the circuit at 17.2% and their penalty kill comes in at 74.3% (32nd)...The Griffins rank 28th in the league with a power-play rate of 16.9%, while their penalty kill places 18th at 81.2%...Iowa ranks 31st out of 32 teams with an average of 2.53 goals scored per game and 30th with an average of 3.46 goals allowed per contest...Former Griffins head coach Ben Simon (2018-23) is now an assistant coach for the Wild...Former Griffin Turner Elson is featured on Iowa’s roster after being acquired by the Minnesota Wild at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Last Time Out
Matt Luff's
two-goal game and Jonatan Berggren's shootout-winning tally pushed the Griffins past the Iowa Wild in a 3-2 shootout victory at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday. Sebastian Cossa owned a .931 save percentage (27-of-29), which helped him tie Jimmy Howard's record of 10 consecutive road contests from the 2005-06 campaign. The victory restored a three-point gap between the Griffins and the Rockford IceHogs for second place in the Central Division. Alongside his shootout winner, Berggren picked up two helpers to put him at 32 points (16-16--32) in his last 27 outings.

This Date in Griffins History
2013: The Griffins don the Midwest Division’s crown with a 3-1 victory over the Peoria Rivermen at Van Andel Arena, earning the sixth division title in their history and their fourth as members of the American Hockey League.

Roster Shake Up
-April 16—F Riley Sawchuk reassigned to Toledo (ECHL) by Grand Rapids
-April 17—D Shai Buium signed to an ATO by Grand Rapids; D Simon Edvinsson and F Zach Aston-Reese reassigned by Detroit
-April 18—F Austin Czarnik reassigned by Detroit

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’ve since posted a 27-9-5-3 mark (.705), solidifying their hold on second place in the Central Division and becoming the fourth of now 21 teams to secure a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Playoff Picture
As the regular season continues its final week, the Griffins have clinched a playoff berth and are in second place in the Central Division with a 36-22-8-4 record and 84 points with just two games remaining. They have secured a first-round bye and a berth in the Central Division Semifinals against the Rockford IceHogs. Home-ice advantage is still up for grabs, as the Griffins have a magic number of four over the IceHogs. The Griffins can clinch the two seed tonight with a regulation win and a Rockford loss of any kind or an overtime/shootout win and a Rockford regulation loss.

TeamPointsPCTGames LeftHomeRoadOpp. Points %GR Magic # OverMagic # Over GR

y - Clinched Division Title
x - Clinched Playoffs
e - Eliminated

Need to Get Back on Track
The Griffins have won just two of their last five games and have points in five of their last nine contests (4-4-1-0). Grand Rapids suffered its worst defeat of the season on Sunday, a 7-2 loss at the Chicago Wolves. The Griffins have secured at least a point in 37 of their last 47 contests (28-10-6-3). The Griffins are 27-9-5-3 (.705) 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. 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 is 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 is tied for the second longest in the AHL this season. Grand Rapids has points in 25 of its last 30 games (20-5-3-2) inside Van Andel Arena and has points in 16 of its past 23 road appearances (12-7-3-1). The Griffins have been stellar at home with a 22-7-4-2 mark, outscoring their opponents 109-79. Grand Rapids has battled on the road this season, earning points in 15 of its last 21 games to move to 14-15-4-2 away from home.

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, 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 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 SpeziaToledo Walleye2019 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

Showing Out in the Show
Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin each recorded his 500th NHL point last week, joining a very distinguished group of Griffins alumni to reach that milestone. Nyquist (784 GP, 198—305—503) accomplished the feat on Tuesday, April 9 with an assist in Nashville’s 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg, while Larkin (652 GP, 212-294—506) joined the club on Thursday, April 11 with his first point – an assist on Lucas Raymond’s second goal of the opening period – of a three-point night in Detroit’s 6-5 overtime loss at Pittsburgh. Larkin and Nyquist now rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in NHL points among all players to ever wear a Griffins uniform, and third and fourth among Griffins who made their NHL debuts after playing for Grand Rapids.

PlayerGPGAPTSAmong All GriffinsAmong Griffins who went on to the NHLAmong players who made NHL debut after GR
Jason Spezza1,248363632995111
Chris Chelios1,65118576394822--

Pavol Demitra

Michael Nylander9202094706794----
Derek King8302613516125----
Mike Knuble1,06827827054864--
Valtteri Filppula1,056197333530752
Dylan Larkin652212294506863
Gustav Nyquist784198305503974
Tomas Tatar8522202594791085

Sea Bass Fishing
Sebastian Cossa
enjoyed a franchise-record 19-game point streak from Jan. 19-April 5 (13-0-6), beating Marc Lamothe’s previous record of 15-games (9-0-4-2 (W-L-T-OTL)) set from Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 2002. Cossa’s 13-game home point streak (9-0-4, Jan. 24-April 5) tied the franchise record, which is also held by Jared Coreau (2015-16), Daniel Larsson (2008-09) and Mike Fountain (bridging the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons). Cossa is also on a 10-game road point streak (8-0-2) from Dec. 27-April 17, which ties Jimmy Howard (2005-06) for the longest point streak on the road in franchise history. Since returning from the holiday break on Dec. 27, Cossa has a 17-2-6 ledger with a 2.01 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Prior to the holiday break, Cossa possessed a 4-6-3 record with a 3.18 goals against average and a .897 save percentage. The former 15th overall pick by the Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft has allowed more than two goals just seven times in his past 25 games. Through 38 contests, Cossa is 21-8-9 with two shutouts to go along with a 2.41 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Cossa ranks fourth among rookie goaltenders in goals against average and fifth in save percentage.

Johnny Bravo
Jonatan Berggren
logged his first AHL hat trick on April 3 during a four-point night (3-1—4) against the Chicago Wolves. Berggren enjoyed a team-best nine-game point streak (8-7—15) from Feb. 24-April 5 and has 32 points (16-16—32) in his last 27 games from Jan. 13-April 17. Berggren also has 38 points (17-21—38) in his last 32 outings and 41 points (19-22—41) in his last 35 contests from Dec. 15– April 17. Berggren’s 1.10 points per game rank fourth among skaters who have played at least 30 games. The 23-year-old leads the roster in points (24-32—56), assists (32) and goals (24) through 51 appearances this season. The Enkoping, Sweden, product became the seventh-fastest player to reach 100 points as a Griffin, doing so in just his 106th game on Jan. 26 against Belleville. Berggren has a combined 127 points (49-78—127) in 128 career AHL appearances from 2021-24, collecting an assist during his 100th game as a Griffin on Jan. 10 against Milwaukee. During his rookie season with the Griffins in 2021-22, Berggren broke Grand Rapids’ rookie single-season scoring record with 64 points (21-43—64) in 70 games, five more points than the previous record held by Teemu Pulkkinen (2013-14).

Records are Meant to be Broken
Showing a 13-0-6 mark from Jan. 19-April 5, Sebastian Cossa set a franchise record for the longest point streak by a goaltender at 19 outings, beating Marc Lamothe’s previous record of 15 games (9-0-4-2 (W-L-T-OTL)) set from Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 2002. Cossa’s 13-game point streak at home (9-0-4, Jan. 24-April 5) also tied a franchise record. Cossa is also on an active 10-game road point streak (8-0-2) from Dec. 27-April 17, which ties Jimmy Howard (2005-06) for the longest point streak on the road in franchise history. On Nov. 10 in his 365th game as a Griffin, Dominik Shine passed Mitch Callahan for third on the team’s all-time games played list. Taro Hirose took sole possession of sixth place on the team’s all-time points list (197) on March 27 and is now four points from overtaking Derek King (203, 1999-01; 2002-04) for fifth place. Grand Rapids set a franchise record with a point in 19 straight home games, breaking a 16-game 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 three months, piggybacking their seven-game road winning streak from Dec. 27, 2023-Feb. 2, 2024. The Griffins also rattled off 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). 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.

Here Comes the Buium
When Shai Buium makes his Grand Rapids debut, he’ll become the third two-time NCAA champion (Denver 2022 and 2024) to play for the Griffins, joining Blaine Lacher (Lake Superior State 1992 and 1994) and fellow alum Brett Skinner (Denver 2004 and 2005). Amazingly, of the 11 all-time Griffins whom the Pioneers have produced, seven won a national championship at the school: Buium, Skinner, current Griffins Carter Mazur and Antti Tuomisto – both teammates of Buium in 2022 – along with 2017 champions Blake Hillman and Jarid Lukosevicius, and 2004 titlist Adam Berkhoel.

It’s Taco Time
Taro Hirose
became the third-fastest player to reach 200 points as a Griffin when he did so in his 243rd game on April 5 against the Rockford IceHogs, also scoring his 50th goal as a Griffin. Hirose, who is in his fifth season as a Griffin, has 11 points (3-8—11) in his last 17 outings. The Calgary, Alberta, native has logged a total of 35 points (9-26—35) in 52 appearances this season, after having missed 12 straight games from Dec. 29-Jan. 27 due to rehabbing an injury. On March 27, the 27-year-old passed Tomas Tatar (196) for sixth place on the Griffins’ all-time points list with 200, and his 150 assists rank third in franchise history. Hirose is now four points from claiming sole possession of fifth place on the team’s all-time points list, as Derek King (203) currently holds the position.

Rookie Carter Mazur enjoyed a three-game point streak from April 3-6 (1-3—4). Since March 1, the Jackson, Michigan, product has 12 points (4-8—12) in 16 outings. Mazur ranks second on the roster with 36 points (16-20—36) in 58 contests, while also ranking second on the team in goals (16). His 16 goals are tied for 16th among AHL rookies and his six power-play tallies are tied for 11th among first-year players. This past summer, the 22-year-old made his Team USA debut at the World Championship and accumulated four points (1-3—4) in 10 contests. The former third-round selection (70th overall) by the Red Wings has a total of 42 points (19-23—42) in 64 games throughout his pro career. Prior to turning pro, Mazur spent two seasons at the University of Denver (2021-23) and amassed 75 points (36-39—75) in 81 games, winning a national title in 2022 and earning a spot on the NCAA Second All-American Team in 2023.

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. Luff enjoyed a seven-game point streak from March 15-29 (4-5—9), and now has 18 points (10-8—18) in his last 19 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 163 points (67-96—163) in 221 career AHL outings from 2016-24.

Future is Bright
Rookies Marco Kasper and Amadeus Lombardi continue to excel during their rookie campaigns. Kasper, the former 8th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, has four points in his last seven games and nine points in his last 14 outings (4-5—9). The 20-year-old is tied for third on the roster with 35 points (14-21—35) in 69 contests. Lombardi, the 113th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, has five helpers in his last seven appearances and eight points in his last 14 games (0-8—8). The 20-year-old has shown 26 points (5-21—26) in 68 games during his rookie season.

Thou Shall Not Pass
The Griffins’ defense has been much improved since the holiday break, allowing an average of 2.52 goals per game from Dec. 27-April 17. 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 197 goals through 70 games this season, which ranks second in the Central Division and ninth in the AHL. Grand Rapids is also ninth on the circuit with 2.81 goals against per game, which is second in the division trailing only Milwaukee (2.69, 4th). Netminders Sebastian Cossa (2.41) and Michael Hutchinson (2.89) each possess a goals against average below 3.00. Defensemen Albert Johansson (+6), Josiah Didier (+6), Wyatt Newpower (+6), Antti Tuomisto (+5), Simon Edvinsson (+5), Eemil Viro (+5), Radim Simek (+5) and Brogan Rafferty (+3) all have a positive plus-minus rating.

Clutch Hutch
Veteran goaltender Michael Hutchinson has been solid for the Griffins this year, posting a 14-14-3 mark with two shutouts in 32 games to go along with a 2.89 goals against average and an .892 save percentage. The 34-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 9-7-2 record with one shutout, an .890 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average. The Barrie, Ontario, native has an all-time AHL record of 120-85-23 with a 2.62 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.

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 one game each (John Lethemon & Ville Husso). The team has also used just 31 skaters throughout the season, a drastic change from the 49 and 48 players used in the past two seasons, respectively.

Crunch Time
The Griffins have excelled during the third period of games this season, as they have outscored their opponents 83-58 in the final frame and outshot their opponents 650-614. Grand Rapids has seven wins when trailing after the second period, which is tied for third in the AHL. The Griffins also have a 41-31 shot advantage in overtime this campaign. However, Grand Rapids is just 7-12 in games decided past regulation (4-8 in OT, 3-4 in SO). The Griffins’ 22 regulation losses this season are tied for the fourth fewest in the AHL, while their eight overtime defeats are tied for the fourth most and four shootout losses are tied for the sixth most.

Oh, It’s You Again
Each of Grand Rapids’ remaining two games will be against the Central Division. The Griffins have done well against their division rivals, as they are 29-15-4-2 (.640) with a plus-16 scoring margin against the Central Division. Grand Rapids is undefeated this season against Iowa (7-0-0-0). The Griffins will face Iowa and Milwaukee to close out the regular season.

Pucks on Net
The Griffins have done well when outshooting their opponents this season with a 21-4-5-4 (.750) record compared to a 14-17-3-0 (.456) mark when they are being outshot. Grand Rapids is 22-5-4-4 (.743) when producing at least 30 shots and 27-12-6-2 (.660) when it keeps its opponents under 30 shots. The Griffins rank 19th in the AHL with 29.3 shots per game, while they concede the sixth fewest in the league at 27.8. The Griffins are averaging 28.4 shots per game in their last 10 outings, while giving up an average of 25.2.

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 24-1-2-0 (.926). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 12-21-6-4 (.395). Grand Rapids has reached the four-goal mark in nine of its last 24 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 9-18-7-3 (.378) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 27-4-1-1 mark (.848) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 24 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals 11 times.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Jonatan Berggren
—1.10 points per game rank fourth among skaters who have played at least 30 games
Sebastian Cossa—2.41 GAA ranks fourth among rookie netminders and seventh among qualified goalies, .914 save percentage ranks fifth among rookie goaltenders and 13th among qualified goalies
Simon Edvinsson—Three game-winners are tied for fourth among defensemen
Marco Kasper—148 shots rank 13th among rookies
Carter Mazur—Six power-play goals are tied for 11th among rookies, 16 goals are tied for 16th among rookies
Antti Tuomisto—Five goals are tied for 11th among rookie defensemen, one power-play goal is tied for 10th among rookie defensemen, two game-winners are tied for second among rookie defensemen, plus-five rating is tied for 14th among rookie defensemen

On Wednesday, Brogan Rafferty collected his 150th pro point with an assist at Iowa. William Wallinder competed in his 250th pro game on April 13 at Chicago and Macro Kasper skated in his 200th game as a professional on April 12 against Rockford.
Jonatan Berggren—One goal from 50 as a Griffin
Sebastian Cossa—Two wins from 50 as a pro
Taro Hirose—Four points from claiming fifth place on the team’s all-time points list
Matt Luff—Four assists from 100 in the AHL
Wyatt Newpower—Two games from 150 as a Griffin
Brogan Rafferty—One point from 150 in the AHL

Photo by Iowa Wild