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Hog It Up

This Week’s Games

GRIFFINS vs. Rockford IceHogs // Fri., Dec. 3 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS vs. Rockford IceHogs // Sat., Dec. 4 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena

Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. on Friday, 96.1 The Game at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday
Watch: AHLTV
Season Series: 2-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Home. Third and fourth of eight meetings overall, second and third of four at Van Andel Arena
All-Time Series: 54-36-9-11 Overall, 34-11-5-5 Home
NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks
Noteworthy: Dating back to the final meeting of the 2019-20 season, Grand Rapids now has points in 10 of the last 11 meetings (7-1-2-1) against Rockford. The Griffins are 15-3-4-3 against the IceHogs in the past five years on home ice, outscoring them 76-50.

GRIFFINS at Cleveland Monsters // Mon., Dec. 6 // 7 p.m. // Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLTV
Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
All-Time Series: 61-34-5-10 Overall, 26-17-4-8 Road
NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets
Noteworthy: Cleveland returned to the North Division after spending the 2020-21 season in the Central Division. Grand Rapids went 6-2 against the Monsters last year and possess a 7-3 record against Cleveland in the past 10 meetings.

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Nov. 24 // GRIFFINS 6 at Milwaukee Admirals 3 // 7-5-2-1 (17 pts., 0.567, 4th Central Division)
Fri., Nov. 26 // GRIFFINS 3 vs. Chicago Wolves 5 // 7-6-2-1 (17 pts., 0.531, 4th Central Division)
Sun., Nov. 28 // GRIFFINS 1 at Chicago Wolves 3 // 7-7-2-1 (17 pts., 0.500, 4th Central Division)

Last Week’s Notes
Wednesday at Milwaukee (6-3 W) – The Griffins extended their road point streak to six games (4-0-1-1) with a 6-3 victory in Milwaukee. Kyle Criscuolo (1-2—3), Jonatan Berggren (1-1—2) and Dominik Shine (2-0—2) each recorded multi-point games. Calvin Pickard notched his seventh win of the season and led the team to points for the eighth straight decision (6-0-2-0). Tyler Spezia bagged his 50th assist as a pro and Brett McKenzie skated in his 150th game as a pro. Recap | Highlights

Friday vs. Chicago (3-5 L) – The Wolves scored five unanswered goals in the third period, including three in the final 1:36, to take a stunning 5-3 victory over the Griffins. Jared McIsaac picked up his first two goals as a pro and Kyle Criscuolo amassed three points (1-2—3) for the second consecutive contest. Criscuolo’s three-game goal streak tied Jonatan Berggren (Oct. 30-Nov. 5) for the longest on the team this season. Calvin Pickard made his fifth straight start and ninth consecutive appearance, both personal highs as a Griffin. Recap | Highlights

Sunday at Chicago (1-3 L) – Grand Rapids failed to get its first win of the season in five tries against the Wolves and have been held winless in the past six meetings against Chicago, dating back to last season. The defeat snapped the Griffins’ six-game road point streak (4-0-1-1). Kyle Criscuolo extended his point streak (3-6—9) to four games while defenseman Ryan Murphy tallied the lone goal for Grand Rapids. Calvin Pickard made his sixth straight start and has appeared in 12 out of the 17 games this year, marking his 50th game as a Griffin and 250th in the AHL. Matt Berry made his Griffins debut after being signed to a PTO earlier that morning. Recap | Highlights

Huffin’ and Puffin’: So far this season, the Griffins are 0-4-1-0 (0.100) against the Central Division-leading Chicago Wolves and 7-3-1-1 (0.667) against the rest of the AHL.

Cris-COOL-o: After being sidelined in the season’s first four games due to an injury, center Kyle Criscuolo has made up for his lost time with 12 points (5-7—12) in just as many outings. The Harvard University graduate logged a two-game point streak (1-1—2) from Oct. 30-31 and surpassed that mark with an active four-game point streak (3-6—9) from Nov. 20-28. He posted back-to-back three-point (1-2—3) nights last week against Milwaukee and Chicago. Criscuolo’s three-game goal streak (Nov. 20-26) tied Jonatan Berggren (Oct. 30-Nov. 5) for the longest on the team this season. The sixth-year pro is tied for third on the roster with 12 points. On Monday, Criscuolo was recalled by Detroit.

High-Flying Hirose: After leading the Griffins in assists a year ago with 23, Taro Hirose has picked off right where he left off as he has bagged 13 helpers in the opening 17 games, which is a team high and tied for fifth in the league. Eight assists have come on the power play, which is tied for third in the AHL. Hirose saw his six-game point streak (2-7—9) from Oct. 30-Nov. 13 come to an end on Nov. 17 against Chicago. Hirose’s 17 points (4-13—17) this season pace the Griffins and are tied for ninth on the circuit.

Calvin’s University: Goaltender Calvin Pickard is off to a fast start, as he has allowed two goals or less in seven of his 14 appearances this season. Pickard recorded his first shutout of the season and fourth as a Griffin on Nov. 12 against Manitoba, moving him into a tie for 10th place in franchise history with Jani Hurme, Martin Prusek, and Eddie Pasquale. The 10-year pro currently is tied for 12th in the AHL with a 2.48 goals against average while his 0.926 save percentage places fourth. Pickard played in just nine games in North America a season ago due to being assigned to Detroit’s taxi squad for much of the year. The Moncton, New Brunswick, native also spent some time with Vienna in the ICEHL last season, logging six games and a 1.96 goals against average.

Jonny on the Spot: Rookie Jonatan Berggren saw his six-game point streak (3-4—7 from Oct. 30-Nov. 13) come to a close on Nov. 17 against Chicago. The Uppsala, Sweden, native bagged his first AHL goal and two-point (1-1—2) night on Oct. 30, which began a three-game goal scoring streak for the right winger. The forward recorded his first two-goal night in the AHL on Nov. 20 at Texas. The former second-round draft choice notched his 50th pro assist on Nov. 12 against Manitoba and is tied for eighth among league rookies with six goals while his 12 points (6-6—12) are tied for 10th among first-year players. Berggren’s six goals pace the team as the forward has tallied three goals in the past four contests.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker:
Riley Barber
—Four power play goals are tied for first
Jonatan Berggren—Six goals are tied for eighth among league rookies, 12 points (6-6—12) are tied for 10th among first-year players
Taro Hirose—17 points (4-13—17) are tied for ninth, 13 assists are tied for fifth, eight power play assists are tied for third
Ryan Murphy—Three goals are tied for 10th among blueliners
Wyatt Newpower—30 penalty minutes are second among rookies and ninth among league defensemen
Calvin Pickard—2.48 goals against average is tied for 12th, 0.926 save percentage ranks fourth
Dominik Shine—56 penalty minutes places second
Luke Witkowski—39 penalty minutes are third among league blueliners

Milestones: Tyler Spezia skated in his 150th game as a pro on Nov. 26 against Chicago. Calvin Pickard appeared in his 50th game as a Griffin and 250th in the AHL on Nov. 28 at Chicago. Kyle Criscuolo recorded his 150th point as a pro on Nov. 28 at the Wolves. Other upcoming milestones include:
Riley Barber—Three points from 50 as a Griffin, one game from 50 as a Griffin
Matt Berry—One game from 250 as a pro
Turner Elson—Four assists from 100 in the AHL, five goals from 50 as a Griffin
Brian Lashoff—Three assists from 100 as a pro
Brett McKenzie—Three goals from 50 as a pro
Ryan Murphy—One game from 250 in the AHL
Donovan Sebrango—Two games from 50 as a Griffin
Luke Witkowski—Three points from 50 in the AHL, one assist from 50 as a pro

Under New Leadership: Pat Verbeek takes over as the new general manager of the Griffins, a position previously held by Ryan Martin. In addition to his new role in Grand Rapids, Verbeek retains his assistant general manager position with the Red Wings working under Detroit GM Steve Yzerman. Verbeek oversees all aspects of hockey operations for the AHL franchise, including player personnel decisions, player development, contract negotiations and player movement.

Simon Says: Ben Simon, 43, begins his fourth season as Grand Rapids’ head coach. A year ago, he guided the Griffins to a 16-12-3-1 record (36 points, 0.563) and a third-place finish in the Central Division. Simon has only coached in one full AHL season as head boss, as his second and third campaigns were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During his inaugural year at the helm in 2018-19, he became the eighth head coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to the postseason during his first full season behind the bench. Simon served as an assistant coach in Grand Rapids from 2015-18 under Todd Nelson and helped the franchise win its second Calder Cup in 2017. He is the fourth former Griffins assistant to then become the head coach. Appearing in 21 games and scoring nine points (4-5—9) with the Griffins in 2006-07 as part of an 11-year professional playing career, Simon is the third former Griffins player to serve as Grand Rapids’ head coach, joining Nelson and Danton Cole (2002-05).

Griffins in General: The Grand Rapids Griffins began the franchise’s 26th overall season of play, 21st as a member of the American Hockey League and 20th as the primary affiliate of the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 15, 2021 when they defeated the Rockford IceHogs, 6-1. This marked the first time the Griffins began their season at Van Andel Arena since 2017. Grand Rapids has competed in 1,917 games between the IHL and AHL and has amassed a 1,011-697-27-64-118 regular season record (0.575), to go along with 17 playoff appearances, seven division titles and two Calder Cups (2017, 2013).

Photo by Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs

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