Calder Cup Champions - 2013 & 2017
AHL Affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings
Hero Image

Game Notes: Griffins at Wild - Jan. 5, 2024

Jan 05, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (12-13-3-1) at Iowa Wild (12-16-1-1)

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

Griffins Game #30 * Road Game #17 * AHL Game #479

Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Home Series: 0-0-0-0 Road Series: 0-0-0-0
All-Time Series:
43-23-5-3 All-Time Home Series: 21-10-4-2 All-Time Road Series: 22-13-1-1

Griffins at Wild
First of eight meetings overall, first of four at Wells Fargo Arena…The Griffins are 12-11-4-1 (.518) overall since the 2019-20 season against the Wild but have been outscored by Iowa 98-82...Grand Rapids is 5-7-1-1 (.429) on the road against Iowa since the 2019-20 season with a minus-15 scoring margin (56-41)...The Griffins have points in five of the last eight meetings (4-3-0-1, .563) against the Wild in Iowa...The Wild are 6-9-0-1 at home this season, while Grand Rapids is 4-9-2-1 on the road...Iowa is 3-7-0-0 in its last 10 outings and is on a three-game losing skid…The Griffins are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 and are on a season-high three-game winning streak overall and a two-game winning streak on the road...The Wild’s power play ranks 10th on the circuit at 20.5% and their penalty kill comes in at 77.1% (27th)...Iowa ranks 31st out of 32 teams with an average of 2.50 goals scored per game and is tied for 22nd with an average of 3.23 goals allowed per contest...Iowa’s netminder Jesper Wallstedt ranks seventh in the AHL with a 2.43 goals against average, sixth with 11 wins, tied for fifth with two shutouts, and tied for fourth with a .922 save percentage through 18 outings...Former Griffins head coach Ben Simon (2018-23) is now an assistant coach for the Wild.

Last Time Out
Albert Johansson's
two-goal night and Michael Hutchinson's 26-save performance helped the Griffins snap the Cleveland Monsters' seven-game win streak with a 5-1 victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena on New Year's Eve. Both Carter Mazur (four goals) and Joel L'Esperance (three goals) extended their goal streaks to four and three games, respectively. Austin Czarnik bagged three assists in the win, while Jonatan Berggren and Simon Edvinsson each recorded two helpers, with Edvinsson finishing the contest with a team-high plus-four rating. Grand Rapids' third consecutive win marked the team's longest streak of the campaign, which put the Griffins at 4-1-1-0 in their last six contests and into a tie for third place in the Central Division.

Roster Shake Up
- Dec. 29—G Michael Hutchinson assigned by Detroit; G John Lethemon reassigned to Toledo from Grand Rapids by Detroit
- Dec. 30—F Trenton Bliss recalled by Grand Rapids; F Trenton Bliss reassigned to Toledo by Grand Rapids; F Jonatan Berggren and F Austin Czarnik reassigned by Detroit
- Jan. 1—F Zach Aston-Reese recalled by Detroit
- Jan. 3—F Trenton Bliss recalled by Grand Rapids

This Date in Griffins History
2003: In a 4-1 win at Cincinnati, Michel Picard becomes just the 36th player in AHL history to record 250 goals.

Finding a Rhythm
After a lackluster start to the season, the Griffins have climbed into a tie for third place in the Central Division by winning a season-best three games in a row and earning points in five of their last six contests (4-1-1-0). On New Year’s Eve, the Griffins posted a dominating 5-1 victory over the second-best team in the AHL the Cleveland Monsters, who entered the game riding a seven-game win streak. Grand Rapids has won six of its last eight games (6-2-0-0) inside Van Andel Arena and has points in three of its past four road appearances (2-1-1-0). The Griffins have been stellar at home with an 8-4-1-0 mark, outscoring their opponents 42-30. Although it has been better in foreign territory as of late, earning consecutive victories, Grand Rapids still holds a 4-9-2-1 record away from home and is being outscored 62-43.

Future is Bright
Rookie Carter Mazur has lit the lamp in a team-high four straight games and has scored five goals in his last six contests after being held scoreless in his previous five outings. Since Dec. 15, Mazur has six points (5-1—6) in six outings. The Jackson, Michigan, product ranks fifth on the roster with 14 points (8-6—14) in 23 contests. On Nov. 15 against Chicago, Mazur tied his career high of three points (2-1—3) and later logged his second multi-point game of the season on Dec. 2 at Milwaukee (1-1—2). This past summer, the 21-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 20 points (11-9—20) in 29 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.

Clutch Hutch
For the first time this season, goaltender Michael Hutchinson has won two straight games, stopping a combined 48 of 52 shots (.923 save percentage). Hutchinson had a busy December that saw him sign an AHL contract with the Griffins on Dec. 16 before being signed by the Detroit Red Wings three days later. After inking a one-year, two-way contract with the Red Wings for the remainder of the current season on Dec. 19, Hutchinson made his NHL season debut on Dec. 23 at New Jersey, making 33 saves in a 3-2 defeat. Hutchinson became the first right-handed catching goalie to play for the Red Wings since Greg Millen in 1992 and just the 12th right-handed catching netminder to compete for Detroit. With the Griffins, the 33-year-old has a 7-7-1 record through 15 games with one shutout to go along with a 2.85 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.

Jumping for Joel
For the first 11 games of the campaign, Joel L’Esperance had just two points (0-2—2) and was without a goal. Since then, the prolific goal scorer has 10 points (9-1—10) in his last 16 games, including nine goals. L’Esperance has found the back of the net in three consecutive games and now leads the roster with nine goals in 27 appearances. In 2022-23, the sixth-year pro tied his career high of 49 points (25-24—49) and potted over 20 goals for the fourth straight season. During his 300th pro contest on Nov. 24 versus Manitoba, the Brighton, Michigan, native scored two goals and later bagged his 200th pro point with another tally on Dec. 27 at Rockford. Throughout parts of six AHL seasons, L’Esperance has 197 points (114-83—197) in 282 outings.

Come Out of the Gates Fast
Playing with the lead has been huge for the Griffins this season, as they are 6-1-1-0 when leading after the first period and 9-0-1-0 when leading after the second. In comparison, Grand Rapids is just 6-12-2-1 when trailing or tied after the opening frame and 3-13-2-1 when trailing or tied after the second. The Griffins’ largest comeback of the season came on Dec. 15 against Texas when they trailed by two goals early in the second period and went on to collect a 4-2 victory. The last time Grand Rapids trailed in the third period and came back to win was on Dec. 9 at Belleville (trailed 2-1, won 4-3 in overtime).

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 10-1-1-0 (.875). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 2-12-2-1 (.206). Grand Rapids has scored four or more goals in three straight games and in four of its last six outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 2-11-3-1 (.235) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 10-2-0-0 mark (.833) when allowing two goals or less. In their last seven appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals just three times.

Stay Out of the Sin Bin
The Griffins have struggled to kill off penalties as of late, as the team has allowed at least one power-play goal in a season-high five straight games. From Dec. 19-29, Grand Rapids allowed at least two power-play goals in four consecutive outings, all against Central Division rivals. Since Dec. 19, the Griffins are just 5-for-17 on the penalty kill (29.4%). The penalty kill unit has looked drastically different on the road, as it is at 68.4% on the road (32nd) compared to an 82.2% mark at home (15th). The Griffins rank last in the AHL with an overall penalty kill rate of 74.5%.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—3.09 GAA places eighth among rookie netminders, .897 save percentage ranks eighth among rookie goaltenders
Simon Edvinsson—Six goals are tied for seventh among defensemen, two power-play goals are tied for fifth among defensemen, two game-winners are tied for fifth among defensemen
Albert Johansson—Plus-12 rating is tied for eighth among defensemen
Carter Mazur—Two game-winners are tied for fourth among rookies, three power-play goals are tied for 10th among rookies
Antti Tuomisto—Two goals are tied for ninth among rookie defensemen, one game-winner is tied for first among rookie defensemen

Last Friday, Josiah Didier competed in his 400th AHL game in a 6-3 win over Chicago. On Dec. 27, Joel L’Esperance recorded his 200th point as a pro with a goal at Rockford.
Austin Czarnik—Two goals from 100 in the AHL
Tim Gettinger—One point from 150 as a pro, two points from 150 in the AHL
Taro Hirose—Three goals from 50 as a Griffin
Joel L’Esperance—One game from 100 as a Griffin, three points from 200 in the AHL
Nolan Stevens—Two goals from 50 as a pro

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins