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

Game Notes: Griffins vs. Wild - March 16, 2024

Mar 16, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (28-17-7-4) vs. Iowa Wild (20-32-3-2)

Game Time: 8 p.m. at Van Andel Arena

Griffins Game #57 * Home Game #31 * AHL Game #923

Season Series: 5-0-0-0 Home Series: 3-0-0-0 Road Series: 2-0-0-0
All-Time Series:
48-23-5-3 All-Time Home Series: 24-10-4-2 All-Time Road Series: 24-13-1-1

Wild at Griffins
Sixth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four at Van Andel Arena…The Griffins are 17-11-4-1 (.591) overall since the 2019-20 season against the Wild but have been outscored by Iowa 105-99...Grand Rapids is 10-4-3-0 (.676) at home against Iowa since the 2019-20 season with a plus-three scoring margin (50-47)...The Griffins have points in nine of the last 13 meetings (7-4-2-0, .615) against the Wild in Grand Rapids...The Wild are 9-16-3-1 on the road this season, while Grand Rapids is 18-6-4-2 at home...Iowa is 3-5-2-0 in its last 10 outings and has just one win in its last nine games (1-6-2-0)…The Griffins are 5-2-2-1 in their last 10 and are on a 15-game point streak at home (10-0-3-2)...The Wild’s power play ranks 27th on the circuit at 16.3% and their penalty kill comes in at 72.8% (32nd)...The Griffins are tied for 21st in the league with a power-play rate of 17.6%, while their penalty kill is tied for 18th at 81.4%...Iowa ranks 31st out of 32 teams with an average of 2.47 goals scored per game and 31st 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
Joel L'Esperance's
late game-winning goal and Michael Hutchinson's 14-save shutout pushed the Griffins to a 2-0 victory over the Iowa Wild at Van Andel Arena on Friday. Dan Watson earned his 300th professional win as a head coach. The Griffins extended their home point streak to 15 games, which tied Milwaukee for the longest in the AHL this season, is one game shy of a franchise record of 16 set more than 20 years ago and is Grand Rapids' longest since a 15-game streak from Nov. 11, 2015 to Jan. 17, 2016. The 14 shots conceded by the Griffins are the fewest given up in a game this season, as the previous number of fewest shots was 16 (last occurred Dec. 27 at Rockford). Taro Hirose registered two assists, which gave the veteran six points (2-4--6) in eight games played, while Matt Luff's helper put him at five points (2-3--5) in six contests played.

This Date in Griffins History
2002: A 1-1 draw at Utah makes the Griffins the first team to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs. Grand Rapids secures a postseason berth at the earliest date in franchise history and becomes the first team in its league to clinch for the third consecutive season.

Roster Shake Up
- March 8—D Radim Simek assigned by Detroit
- March 9—F Jonatan Berggren recalled by Detroit
- March 11—F Tim Gettinger re-signed to a one-year contract extension by Detroit
- March 14—F Austin Czarnik recalled by Detroit; F Trenton Bliss recalled from Toledo (ECHL) by Grand Rapids
- March 15—D Jared McIsaac reassigned from HC Ambri-Piotta (Swiss) to Providence (AHL) by Detroit; F Curtis Hall reassigned from Providence to Grand Rapids by Boston

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 just one game (John Lethemon & Ville Husso). The team has also used just 28 skaters throughout the season, a drastic change from the 49 and 48 players used in the past two seasons, respectively.

Let’s Not Get Too Down on Ourselves
The Griffins saw their 18-game point streak (13-0-3-2 from Jan. 13-March 2) come to an end last Monday 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. After last weekend’s games, the Griffins dropped five straight (0-2-2-1) from March 2-12, which tied for the season-high losing skid (Oct. 20-Nov. 1). The Griffins’ active 15-game home point streak (10-0-3-2) is tied for the longest run in the AHL this season, the team’s first since it earned a point in 15 straight games at Van Andel Arena from Nov. 11, 2015-Jan. 17, 2016 (14-0-1-0) and one game shy of tying the franchise record of 16 set from Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 2004 (13-0-3-0). 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. The Griffins have secured at least a point in 28 of their last 33 contests (20-5-5-3). The Griffins are 19-4-4-3 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. Grand Rapids has points in 21 of its last 24 games (16-4-3-2) inside Van Andel Arena and has points in 11 of its past 14 road appearances (8-3-2-1). The Griffins have been solid at home with an 18-6-4-2 mark, outscoring their opponents 91-69. Grand Rapids has battled on the road this season, earning points in 10 of its last 12 games to move to 10-11-3-2 away from home.

Young Guns
Rookie forwards Marco Kasper and Carter Mazur have had promising starts to their professional careers. Mazur has eight points in his last eight games (4-4—8) and ranks second on the team with 31 points (15-16—31) in 49 contests. The Jackson, Michigan, native’s 15 goals are tied for eighth among first-year players in the AHL and his six power-play goals are tied for sixth. Mazur has three multi-point outings in his last seven games and now has 13 points (5-8—13) in his last 18 games from Jan. 26-March 15. Mazur was taken with the 70th overall pick by Detroit in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and competed for Team USA at the 2023 World Championship this past summer. Kasper, who was named the AHL Player of the Week on Jan. 22, has three goals and four points in his last eight outings and is tied for fifth on the roster with 26 points (10-16—26) in 55 outings. Since Jan. 19, the 19-year-old has 12 points (7-5—12) in 21 appearances. Kasper was selected with the eighth overall pick by Detroit in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and made his NHL debut as an 18-year-old last season.

New Kid on the Block
Last Friday at the NHL Trade Deadline, the Detroit Red Wings acquired defenseman Radim Simek and a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for left wing Klim Kostin. Simek was then assigned to the Griffins later that afternoon. Simek, who was the captain of the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, has 16 points (4-12—16), 29 penalty minutes and a plus-four rating in 40 games this season. The 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman has spent just three campaigns in the AHL with the Barracuda (2017-18, 2019-20, 2023-24), amassing 45 points (11-34—45), 49 penalty minutes and a plus-12 rating in 109 contests. Simek has spent five campaigns in the NHL with San Jose from 2018-23 and has suited up for 209 contests with 29 points (7-22—29) and 74 penalty minutes.

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. After being held scoreless in his first five outings, Luff went on to record a point in three straight games from March 2-8 and now has five points (2-3—5) in his last six 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 150 points (59-91—150) in 208 career AHL outings from 2016-24.

Sea Bass Fishing
Sebastian Cossa
was named the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week on Feb. 26 when he posted a 2-0-0 record with one shutout to go along with a 1.00 GAA and a .970 save percentage from Feb. 21-25. On Feb. 21, the 21-year-old collected his first AHL shutout with 28 saves in a 1-0 victory over the Texas Stars, lifting Grand Rapids past Texas into second place in the Central Division and becoming just the third Griffins rookie to record a shutout over the last nine seasons. Cossa went on to stop 37 shots on Feb. 25, including 14 in the third period, to help the Griffins snap Milwaukee’s 19-game winning streak and extend Grand Rapids’ point streak to 15 games (11-0-2-2). Cossa won a team-high four straight games from Jan. 19-Feb. 2 and is currently on a 12-game point streak (7-0-5) from Jan. 19-March 12. Since returning from the holiday break on Dec. 27, Cossa has a 9-1-5 ledger with a 2.09 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. The former 15th overall pick by the Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft has allowed more than two goals just five times in his past 15 games. Through 28 contests, Cossa is 13-7-8 with one shutout to go along with a 2.60 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Cossa ranks eighth among rookie goaltenders in goals against average and seventh in save percentage.

Clutch Hutch
Veteran goaltender Michael Hutchinson has been solid for the Griffins this year, posting a 14-10-3 mark with two shutouts in 28 games to go along with a 2.69 goals against average and a .900 save percentage. The 33-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 9-3-2 record with one shutout, a .905 save percentage and a 2.44 goals against average. The Barrie, Ontario, native has an all-time AHL record of 120-81-23 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Hutchinson has also appeared in 154 NHL contests, showing a 2.94 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Crunch Time
The Griffins have excelled during the third period of games this season, as they have outscored their opponents 69-47 in the final frame and outshot their opponents 533-491. Grand Rapids has six wins when trailing after the second period, which is tied for third in the AHL. The Griffins also have a 35-24 shot advantage in overtime this campaign. However, Grand Rapids is just 5-11 in games decided past regulation (3-7 in OT, 2-4 in SO).

Thou Shall Not Pass
The Griffins’ defense has been much improved since the holiday break, allowing an average of 2.43 goals per game from Dec. 27-March 15. 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 159 goals through 56 games this season, which ranks second in the Central Division and eighth in the AHL. Grand Rapids also ranks 10th on the circuit with 2.84 goals against per game, which is second in the division trailing only Milwaukee (2.69). Netminders Sebastian Cossa (2.60) and Michael Hutchinson (2.69) each possess a goals against average below 3.00. Defensemen Wyatt Newpower (+10), Albert Johansson (+5), Antti Tuomisto (+4), Radim Simek (+4), Simon Edvinsson (+4), William Wallinder (+4), Eemil Viro (+2), Josiah Didier (+1) and Brogan Rafferty (+1) all have a positive plus-minus rating.

Johnny Bravo
Jonatan Berggren
is on an active six-game point streak (3-5—8) from Feb. 24-March 4 and has 22 points (11-11—22) in his last 19 games from Jan. 13-March 4. Berggren also has 28 points (12-16—28) in his last 24 outings and 31 points (14-17—31) in his last 27 contests from Dec. 15-March 4. The 23-year-old leads the roster in points (19-27—46), assists (27) and goals (19) through 43 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 117 points (44-73—117) in 120 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). Berggren was recalled by Detroit last Saturday.

Oh, It’s You Again
The Griffins are in second place in the Central Division with a 28-17-7-4 record and 67 points, 19 points clear of a playoff spot. In the final 16 games of the regular season, Grand Rapids will compete against the Central Division 15 times, with its only game outside of the division coming against Cleveland. The Griffins have done well against their division rivals, as they are 22-10-3-2 (.662) with a plus-18 scoring margin against the Central Division. Grand Rapids is undefeated this season against Iowa (5-0-0-0). Chicago and Rockford will be the Griffins’ most frequent opponents down the stretch, as there are still four meetings remaining against each franchise.

Pucks on Net
The Griffins have done well when outshooting their opponents this season with a 15-3-4-4 (.731) record compared to a 12-13-3-0 (.482) mark when they are being outshot. Grand Rapids is 17-5-3-4 (.707) when producing at least 30 shots and 16-8-5-2 (.629) when it keeps its opponents between 20-29 shots. The Griffins rank 17th in the AHL with 29.9 shots per game, while they concede the sixth fewest in the league at 28.2. The Griffins are averaging 33.1 shots per game in their last 15 outings, while giving up an average of 27.9.

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 19-1-2-0 (.909). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 9-16-5-4 (.396). Grand Rapids has surpassed the four-goal mark in 14 of its last 33 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 7-14-7-3 (.387) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 21-3-0-1 mark (.860) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 33 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals 17 times.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—2.60 GAA places eighth among rookie netminders, .910 save percentage ranks seventh among rookie goaltenders
Simon Edvinsson—Eight goals are tied for 12th among defensemen, three game-winners are tied for fourth among defensemen
Carter Mazur—Six power-play goals are tied for sixth among rookies, 15 goals are tied for eighth among rookies
Antti Tuomisto—Four goals are tied for 10th among rookie defensemen, one power-play goal is tied for eighth among rookie defensemen, two game-winners are tied for second among rookie defensemen, plus-four rating is tied for 14th among rookie defensemen
William Wallinder—Three goals are tied for 15th among rookie defensemen, plus-four rating is tied for 14th among rookie defensemen

Last night, Dan Watson collected his 300th win as a head coach and Zach Aston-Reese recorded his 150th pro point. On Tuesday, Matt Luff bagged his 150th point in the AHL. Albert Johansson suited up for his 100th game as a Griffin last Saturday.
Taro Hirose—Two goals from 50 as a Griffin
Albert Johansson—One game from 250 as a pro
Joel L’Esperance—One game from 300 in the AHL
Elmer Soderblom—One goal from 50 as a pro, one game from 200 as a pro
Tyler Spezia—One assist from 50 as a Griffin

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins