Grand Rapids Griffins (9-6-3-0) vs. Cleveland Monsters (11-5-1-0)
Game Time: 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena
Griffins Game #19 * Home Game #7 * AHL Game #483
Season Series: 3-1-0-0 Home Series: 1-0-0-0 Road Series: 2-1-0-0
All-Time Series: 57-32-5-10 All-Time Home Series: 32-16-1-2 All-Time Road Series: 25-16-4-8
Griffins vs. Monsters
Fifth of 10 meetings overall, second of five at Van Andel Arena…The Griffins have earned points in all six home games this season (3-0-3-0), including a 2-1 overtime win against Cleveland in their Feb. 20 home opener, as four of their six home games have been decided in OT...The Monsters enter on a six-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 12, rocketing up to second place in the Central Division standings...Cleveland’s goal-scoring and power play both rank second in the AHL (4.06 goals per game/28.6% PP)...Tonight’s game pits the league’s top home penalty kill (GR, 94.7%) against its most potent road power play (CLE, 34.4%)...Against all other foes this season, the Monsters are 10-3 and the Griffins are 6-5-3-0…Pat Nagle has earned all three wins and played all four games against the Monsters this season, sporting a 2.01 goals against average and a 0.922 save percentage in the series...Grand Rapids and Cleveland are Central Division foes for the first time since 2017-18, following the Monsters’ two-year foray into the North Division and Eastern Conference...These teams split a four-game series in 2019-20, with each winning and losing once on the other’s ice...Griffins head coach Ben Simon is a native of the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights.
After playing just 16 games overall and only four times at home during the first 70 days of this season – owing to both a light early schedule and six postponements since March 16 – the Griffins last Friday began a stretch which has them scheduled to play their final 16 games and 12 home contests over a span of only 30 days. They are also in the midst of a seven-game homestand and a stretch of four home games in six nights.
Last Time Out
Brandon Duhaime’s goal 1:56 into overtime on Saturday gave the Iowa Wild a 4-3 victory over the Griffins at Van Andel Arena. Just 2:47 into the game, Joe Hicketts found Kyle Criscuolo darting through the slot for a redirection that evaded Dereck Baribeau, but the Wild’s Matt Bartkowski and Mitch McLain tallied 56 seconds apart to grab a 2-1 advantage before intermission. Iowa pushed its lead to 3-1 at 4:14 of the third when Connor Dewar popped a rebound under the crossbar, but Grand Rapids answered 1:07 later, as Turner Elson stole the puck in the Iowa end and fed it to Givani Smith at the right post for a shot into a wide-open cage. Riley Barber notched his 13th goal of the season during a power play at 13:39 to force overtime, connecting with a laser from the right circle into the far corner. In overtime, after a Griffins scoring chance was thwarted, Duhaime picked up the puck behind his own net and skated up ice, eventually spearheading a 2-on-1 before sending a wrist shot past Kaden Fulcher from the top of the left circle. Grand Rapids concluded the season series against Iowa with a 2-1-1-0 record.
This Date in Griffins History
2001: Grand Rapids opens the playoffs with a 5-1 win over the Cleveland Lumberjacks in the IHL Eastern Conference Semifinals, marking the first time ever that the Griffins win their first home game of the postseason.
That’s a First
The Griffins last Friday began a seven-game April homestand that surpasses their most regular season home games ever during the month. Prior to this season, their high-water mark for regular season games at Van Andel Arena during April had been five, established in 2015.
A Long Time Coming
On Saturday, goalie Kaden Fulcher made his AHL debut and played his first game in more than 15 months, due to an injury that ended his 2019-20 season, the pandemic, and bouncing between the Griffins and Detroit's taxi squad this season. His last game had been on Jan. 4, 2020, when he made 24 saves for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye in a 5-2 home loss to Indy. Fulcher made 25 saves in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Iowa, including 12 during the third period to help the Griffins rally from a two-goal deficit and earn a point. He was reassigned to Detroit’s taxi squad this morning, and in turn Kevin Boyle was reassigned to the Griffins from the taxi squad.
All Hands on Deck
The depleted Griffins enlisted forwards Dominik Shine and Tyler Spezia to play defense during both weekend games against Iowa, helping Grand Rapids earn three out of four points, and they skated one short in their forward ranks on Saturday.
Life of Riley
Riley Barber has goals in five of the last seven outings, along with points in four straight games (3-1—4) and 15 of 18 contests this season. His 13 goals on the season stand fourth in the league, amazing considering that his 18 games played are 10 fewer than each of the three players above him on the list. Barber’s 21 points (13-8—21) tie for 13th in the league while his 10 power play points tie for third. He posted a nine-game point streak from Feb. 5-March 11 that was the longest ever to start a player's Griffins career as well as the longest from the start of a Griffins season.
Reassigned to the Griffins from Detroit’s taxi squad last Tuesday, Taro Hirose notched the game-tying goal with 2:48 remaining on Friday in the Griffins’ eventual 5-4 comeback win over Iowa. Now second on the team in scoring with 16 points (4-12—16) in 15 games, he has points in four straight games (1-3—4) and in five of the last six outings (3-4—7)...Givani Smith, reassigned by the Red Wings to the Griffins from their taxi squad last Wednesday, has points in six straight games with Grand Rapids (6-2—8)...Turner Elson has points in four of the last five games (1-3—4)...Kyle Criscuolo is riding his third two-game goal streak of the campaign.
Brian Lashoff’s 513 games played for the Griffins rank first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and tie for eighth in league history among one-team players. Of the players ahead of him on that list, the most recent – and, coincidentally, the record-holder – last played during the 1970-71 season (Bill Needham of the Cleveland Barons, 981 games played). Lashoff, who has been unfit to play the last five games, tied No. 8-ranked Stan Smrke (Rochester 1957-67) on March 26 and is now four games behind No. 7 Pete Kapusta (Providence Reds 1946-55).
Following a 2019-20 campaign in which they finished sixth in the AHL’s power play rankings at 20.9%, the Griffins are off to an even better start this season, currently sitting fifth in the league at 24.3% and fourth on the road at 31.1%. Their home power play, however, ranks 26th, having converted 12.0% of its chances.
The Griffins lead the AHL in shots per game (34.89) and are ninth in goals per game (3.28). They’ve racked up at least 40 shots in five of their last 11 outings.
For the Defense
After holding their opposition to two goals or less in five straight contests (March 11-26) and nine times over a stretch of 11 games, the Griffins have surrendered at least four goals in each of the last five games. Still, Grand Rapids is tied for 10th in the league by allowing 3.00 goals per game…The Griffins have been outshot in only three of their first 18 games, and only twice have they allowed 30 or more shots, a total that they have reached on 14 occasions — including 12 of the last 14 outings. Grand Rapids ranks third in the AHL in shots allowed per game (25.22).
Several player milestones were achieved in Friday’s win over Iowa, including Riley Barber’s 300th AHL game, Turner Elson’s 400th pro game, and Dominic Turgeon’s 300th pro game. Then on Saturday, Joe Hicketts notched his 100th pro assist. Other milestones on the horizon include:
Turner Elson—Eight points from 100 for his Griffins career, three assists for 100 as a pro
Joe Hicketts—Seven goals for 300 as a pro, five assists from 100 for his Griffins/AHL career
Brian Lashoff – Three assists for 100 as a pro
Dylan McIlrath—10 penalty minutes for 1,000 as a pro
Dominik Shine – Three points from 50 for his Griffins/AHL/pro career
Dominic Turgeon—Eight games from 300 for his Griffins/AHL career
It’s a Start
The roar of a Griffins crowd was partially restored on March 13 when the team began welcoming 750 fans per home game, pursuant to the most recent order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Griffins 2021-22 season ticket members are being given the first opportunity to purchase tickets to home games during the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Other fans can sign up for Griffins Nation, the team’s official email newsletter, to receive priority access to 2020-21 tickets whenever limited seats are made available for sale throughout the season. On occasion, single-game tickets may also be purchased online at griffinshockey.com.
We Miss You, Bob!
On Feb. 8, the beloved 21-year Voice of the Griffins, Bob Kaser, underwent successful heart surgery at the Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids to repair several blocked arteries. Released from the hospital on Feb. 14, his recovery at home continues to go well. Everyone in Griffins Nation, the Griffins organization, the AHL, and the Michigan hockey community wishes Bob all the best in his recovery and a quick return to health. We can’t wait until he is back in the booth.
Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins