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Game Notes: Griffins at Wild - Jan. 6, 2024

Jan 06, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (13-13-3-1) at Iowa Wild (12-17-1-1)

Game Time: 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena

Griffins Game #31 * Road Game #18 * AHL Game #493

Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Home Series: 0-0-0-0 Road Series: 1-0-0-0
All-Time Series:
44-23-5-3 All-Time Home Series: 21-10-4-2 All-Time Road Series: 23-13-1-1

Griffins at Wild
Second of eight meetings overall, second of four at Wells Fargo Arena…The Griffins are 13-11-4-1 (.534) overall since the 2019-20 season against the Wild but have been outscored by Iowa 99-86...Grand Rapids is 6-7-1-1 (.467) on the road against Iowa since the 2019-20 season with a minus-12 scoring margin (57-45)...The Griffins have points in six of the last nine meetings (5-3-0-1, .611) against the Wild in Iowa...The Wild are 6-10-0-1 at home this season, while Grand Rapids is 5-9-2-1 on the road...Iowa is 3-7-0-0 in its last 10 outings and is on a four-game losing skid…The Griffins are 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 and are on a season-high four-game winning streak overall and a three-game winning streak on the road...The Wild’s power play ranks 11th on the circuit at 19.8% and their penalty kill comes in at 75.7% (29th)...Iowa ranks 31st out of 32 teams with an average of 2.45 goals scored per game and 24th with an average of 3.26 goals allowed per contest...Iowa’s netminder Jesper Wallstedt ranks 13th in the AHL with a 2.52 goals against average, tied for sixth with 11 wins, tied for fifth with two shutouts, and tied for eighth with a .918 save percentage through 19 outings...Former Griffins head coach Ben Simon (2018-23) is now an assistant coach for the Wild.

Last Time Out
Sebastian Cossa's
28-save night helped push the Griffins' win streak to a season-high four games with a 4-1 victory over the Iowa Wild at Wells Fargo Arena. The rookie netminder recorded a .966 save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average in the win, both of which contributed to an overall .901 save percentage and a 2.95 goals against average. Tim Gettinger recorded his 150th point in the AHL and as a pro with a goal and an assist in the contest. Joel L'Esperance extended his goal streak to four games, as he scored his 10th goal of the season in his 100th game with Grand Rapids.

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
2006: Down 4-1 entering the third, the Griffins score five power play goals in the final 20 minutes to steal a 6-5 win at Houston. Grand Rapids ties a franchise record for goals in a period, and sets team marks for power play goals both in a period and in a game.

Finding a Rhythm
After a lackluster start to the season, the Griffins have climbed into third place in the Central Division by winning a season-best four games in a row and earning points in six of their last seven contests (5-1-1-0). 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 four of its past five road appearances (3-1-1-0). 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 three straight victories, Grand Rapids still holds a 5-9-2-1 record away from home and is being outscored 63-47.

Future is Bright
Rookie Carter Mazur lit the lamp in a team-high four straight games from Dec. 20-31 and has scored five goals in his last seven contests after being held scoreless in his previous five outings. Since Dec. 15, Mazur has six points (5-1—6) in seven outings. The Jackson, Michigan, product ranks fifth on the roster with 14 points (8-6—14) in 24 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 30 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 11 points (10-1—11) in his last 17 games, including 10 goals. L’Esperance has found the back of the net in a team-high four consecutive games and now leads the roster with 10 goals in 28 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 198 points (115-83—198) in 283 outings.

Come Out of the Gates Fast
Playing with the lead has been huge for the Griffins this season, as they are 7-1-1-0 when leading after the first period and 10-0-1-0 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 11-1-1-0 (.885). 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 four straight games and in five of its last sevem outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 2-11-3-1 (.235) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 11-2-0-0 mark (.846) when allowing two goals or less. In their last eight 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 allowed at least one power-play goal in a season-high five straight games from Dec. 19-31. 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 9-for-21 on the penalty kill (42.9%). The penalty kill unit has looked drastically different on the road, as it is at 70.5% on the road (32nd) compared to an 82.2% mark at home (16th). The Griffins rank 31st with an overall penalty kill rate of 75.5%.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—2.95 GAA places sixth among rookie netminders, .901 save percentage ranks seventh 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 ninth 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—Three goals are tied for sixth among rookie defensemen, two game-winners are tied for fourth among rookies

Tim Gettinger
recorded his 150th pro point and 150th AHL point last night at the Iowa Wild, while Joel L’Esperance scored a goal in his 100th game as a Griffin. Last Friday, Josiah Didier competed in his 400th AHL game in a 6-3 win over Chicago.
Austin Czarnik—Two goals from 100 in the AHL
Taro Hirose—Three goals from 50 as a Griffin
Joel L’Esperance—Two points from 200 in the AHL
Nolan Stevens—Two goals from 50 as a pro

Photo by Iowa Wild