This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS vs. Manitoba Moose // Fri., Nov. 12 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS vs. Manitoba Moose // Sat., Nov. 13 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
Season Series: 0-1-0-1 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Home. Third and fourth of eight meetings overall, first and second of four at Van Andel Arena
All-Time Series: 65-34-1-1-8 Overall, 35-14-1-1-5 Home
NHL Affiliation: Winnipeg Jets
Noteworthy: Since the Moose rejoined the AHL in 2015-16, Grand Rapids is 21-10-0-1 against them, including 12-4 at Van Andel Arena, and has outscored Manitoba 100-73. The Griffins are winless in their opening two games against the Moose for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Nov. 5 // GRIFFINS 6 at Iowa Wild 5 OT // 3-4-0-1 (7 pts., 0.438, 4th Central Division)
Sat., Nov. 6 // GRIFFINS 2 at Rockford IceHogs 1 // 4-4-0-1 (9pts., 0.500, 4th Central Division)
Last Week’s Notes
Friday at Iowa (6-5 OTW) – Jonatan Berggren tallied the game-winning overtime goal in a 6-5 victory over the Wild. Riley Barber, Turner Elson and Hayden Verbeek all recorded a goal and an assist in the contest. Chase Pearson (0-3—3) and Taro Hirose (1-2—3) each bagged three-point nights. Goaltender Calvin Pickard registered his second straight victory in a 28-save effort. Grand Rapids matched up against former Griffins Joe Hicketts (2016-21), Dominic Turgeon (2016-21) and Ryan Kuffner (2019-20). Recap | Highlights
Saturday at Rockford (2-1 W) – Calvin Pickard allowed just one goal for the fourth time in six starts en route to his third consecutive victory. Tyler Spezia got things going for the Griffins with a shorthanded tally. Just 10 seconds later, Taro Hirose extended his point streak to four games when he scored the game-winning goal. Jonatan Berggren and Riley Barber each recorded an assist in the game, which pushed their point streaks to four. Recap | Highlights
Like Father, Like Son: Grand Rapids defenseman D.J. King is the son of former Griffins player Derek King (1999-01; 2002-04) and when D.J. made his AHL debut on Nov. 6 against Rockford, they joined Chris (2008-09) and Jake (2018-19) Chelios as the second father-son duo to have played for Grand Rapids. D.J. just missed out on playing against his dad, as Derek was promoted to interim head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks the morning of game day against Rockford. Derek is the Griffins’ all-time leading playoff scorer (16-25—41) and ranks fifth in regular season points (73-130—203). Family ties have been a common theme throughout the franchise’s history, as four sets of brothers have suited up for the Griffins: Sheldon (2001-03) and Wade (2001-02) Brookbank; Valtteri (2005-07) and Ilari (2010-11) Filppula; Kevin (1999-00; 03-04), Kelly (1999-00) and Kip (2000-02; 04-05; 06-07) Miller, along with cousin Drew (2016-17); and Todd (1996-98; 99-00; 01-02) and Jeff (1996-97; 03-04; 05-06) Nelson.
Fit for a King: Former Rockford IceHogs coach Derek King was named interim head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, joining 11 other former Griffins players or coaches currently behind an NHL bench. He is one of four Griffins alumni serving as a head coach in the NHL.
|Anaheim||Mike Stothers||Assistant Coach||2007-08 Head Coach|
|Bruce Cassidy||Head Coach||2000-02 Head Coach|
|Boston||Chris Kelly||Assistant Coach||2001-02|
|Buffalo||Matt Ellis||Assistant Coach||2003-07|
|Calgary||Cail MacLean||Assistant Coach||2000-01|
|Chicago||Derek King||Interim Head Coach||1999-01 / 2002-04 Player / Assistant Coach|
|Colorado||Jared Bednar||Head Coach||1998-99|
|Columbus||Manny Legace||Goaltending Coach||2005-06|
|Dallas||Todd Nelson||Assistant Coach||1996-98; 99-00; 01-02 / 2002-03 Assistant Coach / 2015-18 Head Coach|
|Detroit||Jeff Blashill||Head Coach||2012-15 Head Coach|
|Detroit||Jeff Salajko||Goaltending Coach||2013-16 Goaltending Coach|
|NY Islanders||John Gruden||Assistant Coach||1999-02|
Calvin’s University: Goaltender Calvin Pickard is off to a fast start as he has allowed just one goal in four of his six appearances and has won three straight games. The 10-year pro currently ranks 12th in the AHL with a 1.99 goals against average while his 0.936 save percentage is tied for ninth. Twelve goals allowed through his first six games is Pickard’s best start since the 2015-16 season when he let in 11 tallies. 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.
Return of Riley: Riley Barber led the Griffins in goals (20), points (34) and points per game (1.06) a season ago. His scoring pace equaled a 47-goal, 80-point clip in a regular 76-game AHL season. Barber also ranked second in the league for goals, just one shy of Cooper Marody (who played seven more games), and was named a Central Division AHL All-Star. Six game-winning goals tied a career best while his four-game goal streak from Feb. 26 through March 11 also matched a career high. The forward added seven multi-point outings out of 32, including a career-high four points (2-2—4) on May 7 against Chicago. Barber posted a nine-game point streak (8-5—13) 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. Although it was a slow start to this year, Barber is now in the midst of a four-game point streak (3-4—7). His nine points (4-5—9) this season are tied for second on the roster.
High-Flying Hirose: After leading the Griffins in assists a year ago with 23, Taro Hirose is off to a great start as he has bagged nine helpers in just as many games, which is a team high and tied for fourth in the league. Seven assists have come on the power play, which is second in the AHL. Hirose is currently enjoying a four-game point streak (2-5—7) dating back to Oct. 30.
Powerful Play: Following a 2019-20 campaign in which they finished sixth in the AHL’s power play rankings at 20.9%, the Griffins exceeded that mark in 2020-21 with a power play conversion rate of 21.5%, the fifth best on the circuit. This season has been no different through nine games as the power play is converting on 24.2% of its opportunities, which ranks eighth in the league.
Rarified Air: Brian Lashoff’s 521 games played for the Griffins ranks first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and seventh 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 overtook Pete Kapusta (Providence Reds 1946-55) for the No. 7 spot on Oct. 27 against Chicago and is now 10 games behind No. 6 Roger DeJordy (Hershey Bears 1962-70). Lashoff is still 134 games away from breaking the Griffins’ all-time games played record, held by Travis Richards with 655 games (1995-2006).
Milestones Within Reach:
Turner Elson – Six assists from 100 in the AHL
Brian Lashoff – Three assists from 100 as a pro
Luke Witkowski – Three points from 50 in the AHL, one game from 400 as a pro, one assist from 50 as a pro
Tyler Spezia – Three assists from 50 as a pro
Jonatan Berggren – One assist from 50 as a pro
Jon Martin – Two assists 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 Jonathan Kozub/Moose