Grand Rapids Griffins (9-6-2-0) vs. Iowa Wild (10-10-4-0)
Game Time: 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena
Griffins Game #18 * Home Game #6 * AHL Game #272
Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Home Series: 1-0-0-0 Road Series: 1-1-0-0
All-Time Series: 35-15-3-2 All-Time Home Series: 17-6-2-2 All-Time Road Series: 18-9-1-0
Griffins vs. Wild
Fourth of four meetings overall, second of two at Van Andel Arena…A 13-day layoff and a month between home games proved to be worth the wait last night for the Griffins, who allowed four unanswered tallies to Iowa in the third period but counterpunched with a pair of late goals to seize a 5-4 victory at Van Andel Arena, snapping the Griffins’ three-game skid and the Wild’s eight-game point streak...It marked the Griffins’ first win after trailing in the third period since a 3-2 victory at Chicago on Feb. 20, 2020...Grand Rapids had not won since a 5-2 triumph in Iowa on March 26...The suspension and eventual cancelation of the 2019-20 season prevented a potential first-round playoff meeting between the Wild and Griffins, as they finished second and third, respectively, in the Central Division standings…Iowa proved to be Grand Rapids’ final opponent in 2019-20, with the Griffins defeating the Wild 4-1 at home on March 11…2019-20 will remain the only season that the Griffins posted a losing record at Wells Fargo Arena, as they went 0-2-1-0...The Griffins went 2-0-1-0 against the Wild at home last season.
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 night began a stretch which has them scheduled to play their final 16 games and 12 home contests over a span of only 30 days. Their win over Iowa began a seven-game homestand and a stretch of four home games in six nights.
A Long Time Coming
Prior to last night, the Griffins had not played since a 4-2 setback at Cleveland on Saturday, April 3, and they haven’t played at home since a 2-1 overtime loss to Rockford on March 16. Grand Rapids improved to 3-0-2-0 at Van Andel Arena this season.
Last Time Out
Last night, Grand Rapids built a 3-0 cushion early in the third before the Wild scored three times in 36 seconds then took a 4-3 lead on Matt Boldy’s goal with 5:19 remaining. But Taro Hirose forged a deadlock at 17:12 and Dominic Turgeon netted the game-winner from the left side at 19:18. Jarid Lukosevicius’ first goal of the year gave Grand Rapids the lead 10:51 into the game, and the Griffins scored twice in the first four minutes of the eight-goal third to jump ahead 3-0. Kyle Criscuolo tipped in Dylan McIlrath’s shot from the right point at 2:50, before Albin Grewe tallied his first goal in North America with a snipe from the top of the circles at 3:55. The most dangerous lead in hockey proved to be exactly that, as Iowa got goals from Gerry Mayhew at 9:32, Brandon Duhaime at 9:46 and – after a Grand Rapids timeout – Mason Shaw at 10:08 to knot the score. Boldy’s unassisted tally on Kevin Boyle then gave the Wild a shocking 4-3 lead. Unbowed, Hirose potted a feed from Criscuolo from low in the left circle with less than three minutes remaining for the tying goal, leaving Turgeon to finish the Wild 2:06 later off a Givani Smith pass, completing the late rally. Forwards Dominik Shine and Tyler Spezia played the entire game on defense for the Griffins, who dressed only four regular defensemen due to a depleted corps.
This Date in Griffins History
2002: Center Jason Spezza, the Ottawa Senators' first selection (second overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, makes his pro debut with the Griffins in their 2-1 loss at Chicago in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Try This Again
Thursday marked the third attempt by the Griffins and Wolves to play AHL Game #157. Postponed from its original March 19 date due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting Chicago, it was subsequently bumped from its April 13 rescheduled date due to protocols affecting Grand Rapids, before being postponed Thursday morning due to protocols affecting Chicago. The game has been rescheduled for Thursday, April 29, making it the final contest of this homestand. The Griffins’ games scheduled for last Friday in Cleveland and Saturday at home against Rockford also fell victim but have been re-slated for May 11 and May 3, respectively.
That’s a First
The Griffins last night 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.
Life of Riley
Riley Barber has goals in four of the last six outings, along with points in three straight games (2-1—3) and 14 of 17 contests this season. His 12 goals on the season tie him third in the league, amazing considering that his 17 games played are either eight or 10 fewer than every other player in the top five of the AHL’s goal-scoring race. Barber’s 20 points (12-8—20) tie for 15th in the league while his nine power play points tie for sixth. 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 on Tuesday, Taro Hirose notched the game-tying goal with 2:48 remaining last night in the Griffins’ eventual 5-4 win. Now second on the team in scoring with 15 points (4-11—15) in 14 games, he has points in three straight games (1-2—3) and in four of the last five outings (3-3—6)...Detroit on Wednesday reassigned Givani Smith to the Griffins from their taxi squad. After getting the primary assist on Dominic Turgeon’s game-winner last night, he has nine points (4-5—9) in 12 games with Grand Rapids and four points (1-3—4) in 15 games for the Red Wings...Turner Elson has points in three of the last four games (1-2—3).
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 four 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).
Speaking of the Captain
They say all’s well that ends well. An eventful Saturday before the NHL Trade Deadline saw Brian Lashoff moved from Detroit to Columbus and then finally to Tampa Bay as part of a three-team deal, before he was ultimately reassigned to Grand Rapids by the Lightning. The swap began with Columbus trading defenseman David Savard to Detroit for Lashoff, before the Red Wings sent Savard to Tampa Bay for the Lightning’s fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Columbus then rounded out the bizarre bazaar by trading Lashoff to the Lightning for Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2021 and third-round pick in 2022.
Ready for Action
The Griffins welcomed a pair of fresh faces to their roster this week in center Hayden Verbeek and defenseman Jared McIsaac…On Sunday, Detroit assigned Verbeek after acquiring him and Ottawa's fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Jon Merrill. The 23-year-old has appeared in seven games this season for the AHL's Laval Rocket, contributing three points (1-2--3) and a plus-four rating. He began this season with HC Banska Bystrica in the top Slovakian professional league, scoring two goals in four games before returning to North America. The 5-foot-10, 183-pound forward has skated in 61 AHL games with Laval over his three professional seasons, registering 10 points (5-5--10) and 19 penalty minutes. Verbeek has also skated in 25 career ECHL games between the Maine Mariners and Adirondack Thunder, logging 22 points (5-17--22), a plus-seven rating and six penalty minutes. Originally signed by Montreal as an undrafted free agent on March 25, 2018, Verbeek spent parts of five seasons with the Ontario Hockey League's Soo Greyhounds from 2013-18, logging 136 points (59-77--136), a plus-50 rating and 114 penalty minutes in 250 games. He also logged 20 points (7-13--20), a plus-13 rating and 37 penalty minutes in 45 career OHL postseason games. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Verbeek is the nephew of former Detroit forward (1999-01) and current Red Wings assistant general manager Pat Verbeek…The 21-year-old McIsaac, the Red Wings’ fourth pick (second round, 36th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, was assigned by Detroit on Monday after being activated from injured reserve. He underwent surgery for a shoulder injury in late October. McIsaac began his professional hockey career last fall after being loaned to HPK in Finland's SM-Liiga. He wrapped up his major-junior career in 2019-20, splitting time with the Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and totaling 19 points (4-15--19) in 28 games. The Truro, Nova Scotia, native also captured a gold medal with Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, contributing four points (1-3--4) in seven games.
The Red Wings this morning reassigned Kevin Boyle to their taxi squad from the Griffins, while sending Kaden Fulcher to their AHL affiliate.
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 24.2% and fourth on the road at 31.1%. Their home power play, however, ranks 27th, having converted 9.5% of its chances.
The Griffins lead the AHL in shots per game (35.18) and are 10th in goals per game (3.29). They’ve racked up at least 40 shots in five of their last 10 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 four games. Still, Grand Rapids is ninth in the league by allowing just 2.94 goals per game…The Griffins have been outshot in only three of their first 17 games, and only twice have they allowed 30 or more shots, a total that they have reached on 13 occasions — including 11 of the last 13 outings. Grand Rapids ranks second in the AHL in shots allowed per game (25.00).
Several player milestones were achieved in Friday’s win over Iowa, including Joe Hicketts’ 100th pro assist, Riley Barber’s 300th AHL game, Turner Elson’s 400th pro game, and Dominic Turgeon’s 300th pro game. Milestones on the horizon include:
Turner Elson—Nine points from 100 for his Griffins career, four 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—12 penalty minutes for 1,000 as a pro
Dominik Shine – Three points from 50 for his Griffins/AHL/pro career
Dominic Turgeon—Nine 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