This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS vs. Manitoba Moose // Fri., Nov. 25 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS vs. Manitoba Moose // Sat., Nov. 26 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. each night
Season Series: First and second of eight meetings overall, first and second of four at Van Andel Arena
All-Time Series: 67-37-1-1-9 Overall, 37-15-1-1-6 Home
NHL Affiliation: Winnipeg Jets
Noteworthy: Manitoba finished in second place in the Central Division a season ago with a record of 41-24-5-2 (0.618). The Griffins struggled against the Moose last year and finished with a 2-4-0-2 mark overall but garnered points in three of the four home contests against Manitoba (2-1-0-1).
Promotions: Teddy Bear Toss Game & Holiday Food Drive on Friday. Country Night & Holiday Food Drive on Saturday.
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Nov. 16 // GRIFFINS 1 vs. Rockford 5 // 6-7-1-0 (13 pts., 0.464, T4th Central)
Fri., Nov. 18 // GRIFFINS 6 at San Diego 5 // 7-7-1-0 (15 pts., 0.500, 4th Central)
Sat., Nov. 19 // GRIFFINS 1 at San Diego 6 // 7-8-1-0 (15 pts., 0.469, T5th Central)
Last Week’s Notes
Wednesday vs. Rockford (1-5 L) - In the 21st annual School Day Game, the Griffins suffered a 5-1 defeat to the IceHogs at Van Andel Arena. Joel L’Esperance recorded the lone tally for Grand Rapids, making him second in goals scored for the Griffins. Taro Hirose recorded a helper, placing him sixth in the AHL for assists with 11. Alternate captain Kyle Criscuolo notched his third apple of the season and his second in three games. The Griffins conceded seven penalties in the contest and have now been shorthanded 72 times this season, the most in the AHL. Recap | Highlights
Friday at San Diego (6-5 W) - Taro Hirose’s first hat trick as a pro led the Griffins to a 6-5 win over the Gulls at Pechanga Arena. The former Spartan had four points in the contest (3-1–4), as well as the game-winning goal with 1:29 left. Grand Rapids converted four of seven power-play opportunities in the contest, including its first three. The Griffins won in a team effort, as Joel L’Esperance (0-2–2), Austin Czarnik (1-1–2), Albert Johansson (0-2–2) and Jared McIsaac (0-2–2) all recorded two points. Recap | Highlights
Saturday at San Diego (1-6 L) - Glenn Gawdin’s hat trick propelled the Gulls to a 6-1 win over the Griffins at Pechanga Arena. Pontus Andreasson scored the lone goal of the contest for Grand Rapids as well as the fifth power-play tally of the weekend for the Griffins. Andreasson has lit the lamp in back-to-back games and has seven points (4-3–7) in his last six outings. With the loss, Grand Rapids split the season series against San Diego with a 2-2-0-0 record. Recap | Highlights
Bobbing for Apples: Taro Hirose collected his first pro hat trick on Nov. 18 at San Diego, which included a career-high four points (3-1—4). Hirose has been known for his passing abilities throughout four seasons with the Griffins. In fact, the former Michigan State Spartan has had at least 22 assists in each full AHL campaign in his career. This season has a similar pace, as Hirose has totaled a team-leading 12 helpers in 16 games, which is tied for ninth in the league and his nine power-play assists rank first in the AHL. Hirose saw his five-game point streak (1-5—6) come to an end on Nov. 5 but has points in 11 of the 16 contests this season.
Regaining Power: The Griffins’ power play has gotten off to a fast start this season, as the unit places fifth in the AHL with a conversion rate of 25.3%, which also leads the Central Division. Last week, Grand Rapids went 6-for-15 on the man-advantage (40%) and scored four times on the power play on Nov. 18 at San Diego, one shy of tying a franchise record. The Griffins have not scored on the power play in just five games this season.
Take the Over: The Griffins averaged just 2.75 goals a game during the 2021-22 season while giving up 3.16. However, this campaign has been much different, as Grand Rapids is averaging 3.19 goals while conceding 4.31. Eleven of their 16 games so far have had seven or more total goals scored, with six of those contests having eight or more tallies. The Griffins have not had a game that has seen fewer than five goals. The Griffins rank last on the circuit with 69 goals against while their 51 goals for are tied for 11th.
Grab the Confetti: The Griffins competed in their 2000th regular-season game (1050-738-27-71-119) last Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Cleveland. The team skated in its 1000th regular-season home contest (557-331-15-37-60) last Wednesday, Nov. 16 versus the Rockford IceHogs. The Griffins are also seven road wins away from 500 as a franchise (493-407-12-34-59).
Pontus Pilot: After a slow start that saw him tally one point (0-1—1) in the first seven games, Pontus Andreasson has been among the driving forces of the Griffins’ offense of late. Andreasson enjoyed a three-game point streak (2-3—5) from Nov. 9-12 and has nine points in the last eight outings (4-5—9), including goals in two straight from Nov. 18-19. The Munkedal, Sweden, native bagged his first goal in North America on Nov. 11 against Toronto to conclude a three-point contest (2-1—3). In 2021-22 in the Swedish Hockey League, Andreasson finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting when he totaled 38 points (18-20—38) in 52 games. The 24-year-old signed a one-year contract with Detroit this past offseason.
Hot Starts: It seems as though every franchise in the American Hockey League has had a promising start to the season. In fact, 26 of the 32 teams in the AHL are 0.500 or above entering the seventh week of play. In the Central Division, every team is above 0.500 except for the Griffins and the reigning Calder Cup champions, the Chicago Wolves (0.429). Every team in the Atlantic, eight of the 10 teams in the Pacific and five of the seven clubs in the North are above the 0.500 mark.
Criss Cross Applesauce: Rookie Cross Hanas had himself quite the start to his pro career, compiling 12 points (7-5—12) in 16 games. Hanas played the role of hero on Nov. 11 against Toronto with an overtime winner to cap off his season-high three-point night (1-2—3). Hanas leads the team with seven goals, which also is tied for second among rookies in the AHL, and his 12 points are tied for sixth on the circuit among first-year players.
Inching Closer to No. 200: Jonatan Berggren made his NHL debut with Detroit on Thursday, Nov. 10, becoming the 196th Griffins alumnus to compete in the NHL. On Sunday, Nov. 6, forward Austin Czarnik became the 195th Griffin to appear in the NHL when he made his Red Wings debut. Previously, Matt Luff became the 194th Griffin in the NHL when he made his season debut with Detroit on Thursday, Oct. 27 at the Boston Bruins.
AHL Leaderboard Tracker:
Austin Czarnik—Four power-play goals are tied for fifth
Simon Edvinsson—Seven assists are tied for eighth among rookies
Cross Hanas—Seven goals are tied for second among rookies, 12 points are tied for sixth among first-year players
Taro Hirose—Twelve assists are tied for ninth, nine power-play assists rank first
Joel L’Esperance—Four power-play goals are tied for fifth
Austin Czarnik recorded his 150th assist in the AHL on Nov. 19 at San Diego.
Taro Hirose—Five assists from 100 as a Griffin and in the AHL, five points from 150 as a pro
Joel L’Esperance—One point from 150 in the AHL, one game from 200 in the AHL
Photo by Jonathan Kozub/Manitoba