This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose // Fri., Oct. 22 // 8 p.m. EDT // Canada Life Centre
GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose // Sun., Oct. 24 // 3 p.m. EDT // Canada Life Centre
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:35 p.m. Fri. and 2:35 p.m. Sun.
Season Series: First and second of eight meetings overall, first and second of four at Canada Life Centre
All-Time Series: 65-33-1-1-7 Overall, 30-19-0-0-2 Road
NHL Affiliation: Winnipeg Jets
Noteworthy: This game will mark the first time the two franchises will meet since Jan. 11, 2020 as they did not match up against each other during the 2020-21 campaign. Since the Moose rejoined the AHL in 2015-16, Grand Rapids is 21-9 against them and has outscored them 98-69.
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Oct. 15 // Rockford IceHogs 1 at GRIFFINS 6 // 1-0-0-0 (2 pts., 1.000, 1st Central Division)
Sat., Oct. 16 // GRIFFINS 3 at Milwaukee Admirals 7 // 1-1-0-0 (2 pts., 0.500, T3rd Central Division)
Last Week’s Notes
Friday vs. Rockford (6-1 W) – Six different Griffins lit the lamp and five enjoyed two-point nights as Grand Rapids recorded its largest-ever victory in a Van Andel Arena opener. Chase Pearson, Tyler Spezia and Dennis Yan all tallied a goal and an assist while both Riley Murphy and Kirill Tyutyayev added a pair of helpers. Turner Elson secured his 100th point as a Griffin on a goal off a feed from Jonatan Berggren. Calvin Pickard stood tall in net as he stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced. Grand Rapids’ special teams were on full display as the power play went 2-for-3 and the penalty kill went 3-for-3. Recap | Highlights
Saturday at Milwaukee (3-7 L) – Joe Veleno’s two-goal outing fell short as the Griffins allowed seven goals during the first meeting against the Admirals since the 2019-20 season. This marked the first time Grand Rapids has lost a road opener by more than two goals, one night after posting its largest margin of victory in a home opener. Seven tallies were also the most goals allowed by the Griffins in a road opener. The Grand Rapids power play added two more goals on the year as it went 2-for-7 in the contest. Victor Brattstrom made 24 saves during his North America debut. Hayden Verbeek skated in his 100th pro game while Dan Renouf appeared in his 300th. Recap | Highlights
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 48-goal, 81-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. The Pittsburgh, Pa. native has notched one goal in the opening two games this season.
Rarified Air: Brian Lashoff’s 515 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 tied No. 8-ranked Stan Smrke (Rochester 1957-67) on March 26, 2021 and is now two games behind No. 7 Pete Kapusta (Providence Reds 1946-55). Lashoff is still 140 games away from breaking the Griffins’ all-time record, held by Travis Richards with 655 games (1995-2006).
Hot Starts: Six different Griffins lit the lamp and five enjoyed two-point nights during the 6-1 victory on opening night against Rockford on Friday, Oct. 15. The five-goal margin is the largest-ever victory in a Van Andel Arena opener. Forwards Taro Hirose and Joe Veleno carried that momentum into last Saturday’s game against Milwaukee as both snagged two points. Veleno now has three goals in two games to start the season while Hirose has registered three points (0-3—3) in two outings. Fellow forward Chase Pearson joins the pair with three points (1-2—3) to begin his fourth season as a Griffin. Reigning AHL Defensemen of the Year Ryan Murphy paces the roster with four helpers, which ranks second on the circuit.
Hometown Hero: Holland, Mich. Native Luke Witkowski became the fourth West Michigander to play with the Griffins on Friday against Rockford. Witkowski joined East Grand Rapids native Luke Glendening, Kentwood local Mike Knuble and Muskegon legend Justin Abdelkader. Witkowski spent two years with Detroit from 2017-19 but never saw action in the AHL.
Oldies but Goodies: The Griffins roster features six veterans including forwards Riley Barber and Turner Elson, and defensemen Brian Lashoff, Ryan Murphy, Dan Renouf and Luke Witkowski. A player receives veteran status if he has competed in at least 260 games in the NHL, AHL or European elite leagues. Lashoff leads all veterans on the team with 651 career-games played in the NHL and AHL, including 515 with Grand Rapids, which ranks first among active players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and eighth all time in league history. Murphy has appeared in 477 outings, which ranks second on the roster while Elson places third with 398 contests.
European Influence: Grand Rapids and Detroit has a long tradition of possessing high-level European talent and this season is no different. Forward Jonatan Berggren and netminder Victor Brattstrom hail from Sweden while forward Kirill Tyutyayev comes to the state of Michigan from Russia. All three made their North America debut with the Griffins this past weekend. Berggren spent three seasons in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Skelleftea and logged 60 points (14-46—60) in 99 outings. Fellow forward Tyutyayev totaled 52 points (14-38—52) in 70 games between Gornyak Uchaly in the Supreme Hockey League (VHL) in Russia and Yunost Minsk in Belarus. Goaltender Brattstrom spent time in the SHL and Allsvenskan in Sweden as well as the Liiga in Finland. The fifth-year pro has amassed a 66-44-7 record while holding a 2.28 goals against average.
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. Grand Rapids’ home power play ranked third-to-last in the AHL, converting 13.1% of its chances. However, the road power play was deadly at 30%, which was the second-highest percentage in the league a year ago. This season has been no different through two games as the power play is converting on 40% of its opportunities, which ranks second in the AHL behind San Diego.
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.
Voice of the Griffins Returns: On Feb. 8, the beloved 22-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 is now complete and has returned to the booth this season alongside fellow veterans Larry Figurski and Lou Rabaut. Kaser is the newest member of the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame after he was awarded the Warren Reynolds Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 28, 2021. Everyone in Griffins Nation, the Griffins organization, the AHL, and the Michigan hockey community welcomes Bob back with open arms and are looking forward to hearing more of his historic soundbites this season.
Milestones Within Reach:
Turner Elson—Two games from 400 in the AHL
Taro Hirose—Two assists from 50 as a Griffin
Brian Lashoff—Three assists from 100 as a pro
Chase Pearson—One game from 100 as a Griffin and one point shy of 50 in a Grand Rapids uniform
Dan Renouf—Two games from 150 Griffins appearances
Dominik Shine—One point shy of 50 for his Griffins career
Ben Simon—One game from 300 as a head coach at any pro level
Luke Witkowski—Three points from 50 in the AHL
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 Friday evening 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 1,915 games between the IHL and AHL and has amassed a 1,011-696-27-64-117 regular season record (0.589), to go along with 17 playoff appearances, seven division titles and two Calder Cups (2017, 2013).
Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins