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Game Notes: Griffins vs. Senators - Jan. 26, 2024

Jan 26, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (17-15-4-1) vs. Belleville Senators (18-15-2-3)

Game Time: 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena

January 26, 2024  ·  3 Minutes

Game Day Preview - January 26 vs. Belleville Senators

Griffins Game #38 * Home Game #18 * AHL Game #610

Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Home Series: 0-0-0-0 Road Series: 1-1-0-0
All-Time Series:
3-2-0-2 All-Time Home Series: 1-0-0-2 All-Time Road Series: 2-2-0-0

Senators at Griffins
Third of four meetings overall, first of two at Van Andel Arena…This will be Belleville’s first trip to Grand Rapids since Jan. 18, 2020 when the Senators skated away with a 4-3 shootout victory...The two franchises met for the first time since Jan. 18, 2020 on Dec. 8, 2023, a 5-2 Belleville victory at CAA Arena...Belleville is 5-4-0-1 in its last 10 games and are on a four-game losing skid (0-3-0-1)…The Griffins are 7-2-1-0 in their last 10 games and are on a three-game winning streak….At home, Grand Rapids is 9-6-2-0 and the Senators are 8-9-1-1 on the road...Grand Rapids has points in 11 of its last 14 games (9-3-2-0), while Belleville has points in nine of its past 14 contests (7-5-0-1)...The Senators’ power play ranks 23rd at 16.8% and their penalty kill places 27th at 78.4%...Grand Rapids’ power play ranks sixth at 20.7%, while its penalty kill places 28th at 78.1%...Belleville’s Tyler Kleven is tied for ninth among rookie defensemen with 12 points...Senators’ Bokondji Imama ranks seventh in the AHL with 91 penalty minutes...Former Griffin Donovan Sebrango (2020-23) joined the Senators’ organization this past offseason via a trade that sent Alex DeBrincat to Detroit.

Last Time Out
The Griffins put together their third-straight third period comeback win with goals from Zach Aston-Reese, Jonatan Berggren and Austin Czarnik in a 3-1 victory over the Rockford IceHogs at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday. Czarnik's empty-net tally marked his 100th goal in the AHL. Sebastian Cossa amassed a .950 save percentage in the win, shutting down 22 of Rockford's 23 chances. The rookie goaltender has now won four of his last five contests while going 5-2-1 in his last eight. The win marked a three-game winning streak for Grand Rapids. Dominik Shine (2-2--4), Czarnik (2-3--5) and Berggren (2-2--4) all extended their point streaks to four games.

Roster Shake Up
- Jan. 22—D Brogan Rafferty reassigned by Detroit
- Jan. 23—D Brogan Rafferty recalled by Detroit
- Jan. 24—D Brogan Rafferty reassigned by Detroit
- Jan. 25—G Ville Husso assigned by Detroit on a conditioning loan; D Brogan Rafferty recalled by Detroit

This Date in Griffins History
2020: Former Griffin Martin Frk shatters the AHL record in the CCM Hardest Shot event with a blast clocked at 109.2 miles per hour. Frk’s shot also surpasses the National Hockey League mark of 108.8 set by Zdeno Chara in 2011.

Just Keep Swimming
The Griffins enjoyed a season-high five-game win streak from Dec. 27-Jan. 6 and are currently on a three-game win streak from Jan. 19-24. The Griffins are also on a season-best six-game road winning streak from Dec. 27-Jan. 20. Grand Rapids has secured at least a point in 11 of its last 14 contests (9-3-2-0) and sits in third place in the Central Division, three points ahead of fourth place Rockford. Since returning from the holiday break, the Griffins have outscored their opponents 39-24, scoring an average of 3.55 goals per game. Grand Rapids allowed just one goal in three consecutive games from Dec. 31-Jan. 6 and has allowed an average of 2.18 goals against since Dec. 27. Grand Rapids has points in eight of its last 12 games (7-4-1-0) inside Van Andel Arena and has points in seven of its past eight road appearances (6-1-1-0). The Griffins have been solid at home with an 9-6-2-0 mark, outscoring their opponents 49-39. Grand Rapids has started to find a rhythm on the road, earning six straight victories, and holds an 8-9-2-1 record away from home and is being outscored 71-60.

Good Things Come in Threes
The Griffins have mounted three straight, third-period comebacks in their last three outings. Last weekend at Manitoba the Griffins swept the Moose after trailing by three goals each game, while Grand Rapids staged another comeback on Wednesday versus Rockford by scoring three goals in the final frame. The Griffins have outscored their opponents 47-33 in the third period this season and have also outshot their opponents 345-332 in the third.

Kasper The Friendly Ghost
Rookie Marco Kasper collected five points (3-2—5) in two games last weekend at the Manitoba Moose, helping the Griffins rally from a three-goal deficit on each night. The 19-year-old scored the game-winner in overtime on Friday and secured his first two-goal game in the AHL on Saturday before assisting on the game-winner with 12 seconds remaining. For his efforts, Kasper was named the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending on Jan. 21. The former eighth overall pick by Detroit in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft has accumulated 11 points (4-7—11) in his last 11 appearances. In total, the Klagenfurt, Austria, native has 18 penalty minutes and 19 points (6-13—19) in 37 games with the Griffins, which is tied for fourth on the roster. Kasper made his NHL debut with the Red Wings as an 18-year-old on April 2, 2023 at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

One-Two Punch
Goaltenders Sebastian Cossa and Michael Hutchinson have combined for points in nine out of the last 11 contests (8-2-1) and have allowed an average of 2.18 goals per game during the run. Cossa allowed just one tally in consecutive starts from Jan. 5-12 and has now won four of his last five contests, while going 5-2-1 in his last eight outings. Hutchinson collected a team-best three straight wins from Dec. 29-Jan. 6 and has points in five of his last six appearances (4-1-1) with a .918 save percentage. Through 19 games, Hutchinson shows a 9-8-2 record with one shutout to go along with a 2.78 GAA and a .900 save percentage. Cossa has suited up for 18 outings this season and has an 8-7-3 ledger with a 2.80 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Cossa ranks seventh among rookies in goals against average and sixth in save percentage. Combined, the netminding duo has a 2.79 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.

On The Come Up
The Griffins’ power play has been a strong unit this season, as it ranks sixth in the AHL with an overall conversion rate of 20.7% and the road power play is tied for first at 24.2%. Grand Rapids has scored on the power play in seven of its last 11 games (9-for-33, 27.3%). Tim Gettinger, Joel L’Esperance and Carter Mazur are all tied for the team lead with four power-play goals, while Jonatan Berggren paces the squad with seven power-play assists. After allowing a power-play goal in a season-high five straight games from Dec. 19-31 (7-for-17, 41.2%), the Griffins have allowed just two power-play tallies in their last eight outings (24-for-26, 92.3%). However, Grand Rapids still ranks 28th in the AHL with a penalty kill rate of 78.1%. At home, the Griffins’ penalty kill is tied for 12th in the league at 83.6%, while the road penalty kill ranks 31st on the circuit at 74.0%.

Oh, It’s You Again
At the midway point of the season, the Griffins rank third in the Central Division with a 17-15-4-1 record and 39 points, three points ahead of third place Rockford. In the final 35 games of the regular season, Grand Rapids will compete against the Central Division 28 times, with its only games outside of the division coming against Belleville (2) and Cleveland (5). The Griffins have done well against their division rivals, as they are 13-9-2-0 (.583) with a plus-10 scoring margin against the Central Division. Grand Rapids is undefeated this season against Chicago (3-0-0-0) and Iowa (2-0-0-0), while it has collected just one win against Texas (1-4-1-0). Rockford will be the Griffins’ most frequent opponent down the stretch, as there are still seven meetings between the two teams. Grand Rapids will also see a lot of Iowa (6) and Chicago (5) as the season progresses.

Johnny Bravo
Jonatan Berggren
has 10 points (3-7—10) in his last nine outings, which included a four-game assist streak from Dec. 31-Jan. 10 and a four-game point streak from Jan. 13-24. Berggren also has 13 points (5-8—13) in his last 12 games from Dec. 15-Jan. 24 and eads the roster with 28 points (10-18—28) in 28 games this season. The Enkoping, Sweden, product enjoyed a six-game point streak in the AHL (4-5—8) from Nov. 18-Dec. 5, which included a three-game goal run from Nov. 18-26 and a team-best five-game assist streak from Nov. 24-Dec. 5. The 23-year-old has a combined 99 points (35-64—99) in 105 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). The prospect has appeared in 76 games with the Red Wings throughout two seasons and has 33 points (17-16—33), including five points (2-3—5) in nine contests this campaign. Berggren was selected to participate in the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Tech CU alongside fellow country man Simon Edvinsson.

The Last Czar
Since returning to the Griffins from Detroit on Dec. 30, Austin Czarnik has accumulated 10 points (2-8—10) in nine games. Czarnik is currently on a four-game point streak (2-3—5) from Jan. 13-24. The 31-year-old has made the most of his time in Grand Rapids, showing 17 points (5-12—17) in 18 appearances. Czarnik posted three assists on Dec. 31 against the Cleveland Monsters and logged five assists in three games from Dec. 9-Jan. 5. The Washington Township, Michigan, native signed a two-year deal with the Red Wings on July 7, 2022 and has since gone on to register 54 points (19-35—54) in 61 career games with the Griffins. Czarnik has 279 points (100-179—279) in 288 AHL games from 2014-18 and 2019-24, scoring his 100th AHL goal on Jan. 24 against Rockford. He has also suited up for 18 games with Detroit this season and has one assist, six penalty minutes and a minus-three rating. In total, Czarnik has 51 points (18-33—51) in 189 career NHL outings.

Come Out of the Gates Fast
Despite mounting three, third-period comebacks in their last three outings, playing with the lead has been huge for the Griffins this season, as they are 8-2-1-0 when leading after the first period, 11-1-1-0 when leading after the second, and 12-7-1-1 when scoring first. In comparison, Grand Rapids is just 9-13-3-1 when trailing or tied after the opening frame and 6-14-3-1 when trailing or tied after the second. The Griffins’ largest comeback of the season came last Saturday against Manitoba when they trailed by three goals with 6:59 remaining in the second period and went on to collect a 4-3 victory. The last time Grand Rapids trailed in the third period and came back to win was Wednesday against Rockford (trailed 1-0, won 3-1).

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 14-1-1-0 (.906). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 3-14-3-1 (.238). Grand Rapids has surpassed the four-goal mark in eight of its last 14 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 4-12-4-1 (.310) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 13-3-0-0 mark (.813) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 15 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals just seven times and allowed just one goal in three straight contests from Dec. 31-Jan. 6.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—2.80 GAA places seventh among rookie netminders, .905 save percentage ranks sixth among rookie goaltenders
Simon Edvinsson—Six goals are tied for 12th among defensemen, two power-play goals are tied for 11th among defensemen, two game-winners are tied for fifth among defensemen
Carter Mazur—10 goals are tied for 14th among rookies, two game-winners are tied for eighth among rookies, four power-play goals are tied for 10th among rookies
Antti Tuomisto—Three goals are tied for ninth among rookie defensemen, two game-winners are tied for fifth among defensemen

Austin Czarnik
captured his 100th goal in the AHL on Wednesday against Rockford. On Jan. 19, Zach Aston-Reese skated in his 400th game as a professional. Last Saturday, Dominik Shine passed Ed Patterson (457) for eighth on the team’s all-time penalty minutes list.
Jonatan Berggren—One point from 100 as a Griffin and in the AHL
Taro Hirose—Three goals from 50 as a Griffin
Tyler Spezia—One game from 300 as a pro
Nolan Stevens—Two goals from 50 as a pro

Photo by Belleville Senators