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05/05/2006 11:24 AM -

Furniture City vs. Winterpeg: The Griffins will attempt to take the second step in their quest for the Calder Cup by facing the Manitoba Moose in the best-of-seven North Division Finals. Top-seeded Grand Rapids defeated the fourth-seeded Toronto Marlies four games to one in the division semifinals, while the third-seeded Moose were the only lower-seeded club to make it past the AHL’s first round, taking down the second-seeded Syracuse Crunch four games to two. The Griffins will host Games 1 and 2 at Van Andel Arena this Friday and Saturday, before the series shifts to the MTS Centre for Games 3-5.

2006 Calder Cup Playoffs – North Division Finals – Best-of-Seven
Game 1 - Fri., May 5 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game C)
Game 2 - Sat., May 6 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game D)

Game 3 - Tue., May 9 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
Game 4 - Thu., May 11 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
*Game 5 - Sat., May 13 - GRIFFINS at Moose - 8:30 p.m.
*Game 6 - Mon., May 15 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game E)
*Game 7 - Tue., May 16 - Moose at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. (Game F)

* If necessary. All times Eastern and subject to change. All games on WOOD 1300 AM.

Get Your Tickets: Tickets for all four potential home playoff games during the North Division Finals are on sale. Single-game prices are $26, $21, $18, $16, $14 and $6 (advance purchase only). Playoff tickets may be purchased at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets Plus locations (800-585-3737), or by clicking here.

What's Next?: The winner of this series will advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the champion of the West Division, either #1 Milwaukee (4-3 winner over #4 Iowa) or #2 Houston (4-0 victor over #3 Peoria). During the regular season, the Griffins were 6-2 against the Admirals and 1-2-0-1 versus the Aeros, while the Moose finished 2-2 against each club.

A Word to the Wise: This marks the second straight postseason in which the Moose will battle the AHL’s regular season champions in the North Division Finals. In 2005, after finishing 14 points behind Rochester (112-98) in the regular season, Manitoba took out the top-ranked Amerks four games to one in round two. This season, the Moose finished 15 points behind Grand Rapids (115-100), which claimed the 2005-06 Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy.

The Coaches: Greg Ireland won an AHL regular season title in his first full season as the Griffins’ head coach, leading them to franchise records of 55 wins and 115 points. His career winning percentage of 0.674 (72-33-2-5) is the best in franchise history. While taking part in his first Calder Cup playoff as a head coach, Ireland is no stranger to the postseason. He was an assistant on the Griffins team that lost to Chicago in the 2004 West Division Semifinals, he joined the 2002-03 Hamilton Bulldogs as an assistant coach during their run to the Calder Cup Finals, and he guided the 2001-02 ECHL Dayton Bombers to the Kelly Cup Finals…Manitoba’s Alain Vigneault logged his first season with the Moose, steering them to their first 100-point campaign in the AHL. Most recently the head coach for Prince Edward Island of the QMJHL (2003-05), he spent over three seasons (1997-2001) as the second-youngest bench boss in Montreal Canadiens history, leading the Habs to a 109-113-39-5 record. Vigneault also served as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators for parts of four seasons (1992-96).

The Stories: The clash between Grand Rapids and Manitoba presents numerous storylines:
• Grand Rapids led the AHL in offense this season by averaging 4.04 goals per game, while Manitoba’s defense tied for second on the circuit, allowing only 2.71 goals per contest. The Moose continued their defensive dominance in their division semifinal series against Syracuse. With Wade Flaherty in net, Manitoba allowed just 10 goals to the Crunch, tying for the fewest ever in a six-game AHL series;
• Paced by Wade Flaherty’s AHL-high six shutouts, the Moose tied Peoria for the league lead with eight whitewashes during the regular season. The Griffins’ league-leading offense (323 goals) suffered only one shutout, on Dec. 14 at Toronto, tying Hartford and Manitoba for the fewest times blanked;
• Griffins defenseman Derek Meech is a native of Winnipeg, while backup netminder Alfie Michaud is from nearby Selkirk;
• A pair of opposing, veteran defensemen previously plied their trade for the other team. Grand Rapids’ Bryan Helmer spent parts of two seasons (2001-03) with Manitoba while in the Vancouver organization, totaling 55 points (13-42—55) in 94 games. The Moose’s Jason Doig, meanwhile, played with the Griffins during the 2001-02 campaign, contributing 18 points (1-17—18) in 57 appearances. In addition, Griffins blueliner Greg Amadio made a one-game AHL debut with Manitoba on Dec. 28, 2004, before joining Grand Rapids on Jan. 29, 2005;
• While the Griffins never trailed in the series during their 4-1 triumph over Toronto, the Moose fell behind 2-0 to Syracuse before rattling off four straight wins. As a result, Manitoba became the 17th team in AHL history to win a best-of-seven series after falling behind two games to none;
• Grand Rapids is 3-0 this year and 19-13 all time on the road during the playoffs, while Manitoba is 3-0 at home this year and 9-2 at the MTS Centre over the last two postseasons. Including the regular season, the Griffins are 28-14-0-1 away from Van Andel Arena this season;
• The Griffins just claimed their first playoff series win since sweeping Chicago 4-0 in the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals. The Moose are trying to reach the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season, after being swept by the Wolves in 2005;
• After not facing a single Canadian playoff over their first nine seasons and 12 postseason series, Grand Rapids will entertain its second consecutive opponent from north of the border.

Series Notes: The Griffins won the season series against the Moose with a 5-2-0-1 mark, but only one of their victories came during regulation…Five of the eight meetings were decided in either overtime or a shootout; Grand Rapids claimed three shootout wins and one overtime victory, while Manitoba earned one shootout win…Grand Rapids edged Manitoba in series scoring by a 27-26 count, but the Moose actually held a 25-24 advantage when discounting shootout goals…Manitoba out-scored the Griffins 10-5 in the first period…Grand Rapids’ league-leading power play was held to just three power play goals in eight meetings with the Moose (3-43, 7.0%). Meanwhile, Manitoba converted 14.9 percent of its chances in the series (7-47)…All-Rookie goalie Jimmy Howard was 3-1-0 with a 2.84 GAA and a 0.896 save percentage against the Moose, while Second-Team All-Star Wade Flaherty went 3-0-3 with a 2.37 GAA and a 0.933 save percentage versus the Griffins...Donald MacLean (4-3—7), Eric Manlow (5-1—6) and Kyle Quincey (0-6—6) led the Griffins in points, goals and assists, respectively, against the Moose this season…Jesse Schultz (4-4—8), Jason Jaffray (1-7—8) and Lee Goren (5-1—6) paced Manitoba’s offense…Grand Rapids’ 3-2 win over Manitoba on March 15 featured a Griffins-record and AHL season-high 14 shootout rounds…The Griffins, who have never faced Manitoba in the playoffs, own all-time regular season marks of 30-14-1-0-4 overall (W-L-T-OTL-SOL) and 15-8-0-0-0 on the road against the Moose.

2005-06 Griffins vs. Moose

Griffins Records: 5-2-0-1 Overall, 2-1-0-1 in Grand Rapids, 3-1-0-0 in Winnipeg
Moose Records: 3-1-1-3 Overall, 2-0-0-2 in Grand Rapids, 1-1-1-1 in Winnipeg

Nov. 15 – Griffins 5, Moose 4 SO – Van Andel Arena
In their fifth annual matinee game, the Griffins rallied from a 4-2 third-period deficit for the win. Bryan Helmer tied the game with 1:40 left, and Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula scored in the final two shootout rounds to secure the victory. Joey MacDonald, who made his season debut for Grand Rapids following back surgery, was the beneficiary of the Griffins’ whopping 54-22 shot margin.

Nov. 22 – Griffins 4, Moose 2 – MTS Centre
Donald MacLean netted his first hat trick in five years – and the first of five he would bag for the Griffins in 2005-06 – to lead Grand Rapids to the win.

Nov. 23 – Griffins 3, Moose 2 SO – MTS Centre
In a goaltending duel between Jimmy Howard and Wade Flaherty, the Griffins twice rallied from a goal down to earn the shootout victory. After Darryl Bootland knotted the score with 4:12 remaining, Howard stoned all four Moose attempts in the shootout. Meanwhile, Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula scored in rounds three and five to ice Grand Rapids’ third straight win over Manitoba.

Feb. 14 – Moose 5, Griffins 3 – Van Andel Arena
The Moose broke the Griffins’ nine-game point streak (8-0-0-1) with a 5-3 win. Grand Rapids, which enjoyed a 24-9 shot advantage through 40 minutes, scored twice in the second to tie the score at 2-2, but the Moose added three in the third, including an empty netter, to stifle the Griffins’ rally. Joey MacDonald saw his bid for a team record-tying eighth straight win fall by the wayside.

Feb. 18 – Moose 3, Griffins 2 SO – Van Andel Arena
Another goaltending battle between the North Division’s top two teams saw the Moose win at Van Andel Arena for the second time in five nights. Joey MacDonald’s 36-save effort was trumped by the performance of Wade Flaherty, who stopped 42 shots during play and the Griffins’ last four shootout attempts before a sellout crowd. Donald MacLean scored to extend his team-record point streak to 19 games, the longest run in the AHL this season, but the Griffins let an early 2-0 lead slip away.

March 15 – Griffins 3, Moose 2 SO – Van Andel Arena
Eric Manlow ended a Griffins-record 14-round shootout, the longest in the AHL this season. Jimmy Howard earned first star honors, stopping 32-of-34 shots during play and 11-of-14 attempts in the shootout, which saw both teams score in the first, seventh and eighth rounds.

March 31 – Griffins 5, Moose 4 – MTS Centre
The Griffins claimed both the North Division and Western Conference regular season titles with a 5-4 overtime victory at Manitoba, finishing March with a 12-1 record. Bryan Helmer's goal at 3:37 of the extra session extended Grand Rapids' franchise-record winning streak to 11 games. The Griffins tied a team record for shots in a period during the third, out-gunning the Moose 23-7 to help overcome a 3-2 deficit after 40 minutes.

April 1 – Moose 4, Griffins 2 – MTS Centre
Despite being out-shot 29-16, the Moose earned a 4-2 win to break Grand Rapids’ franchise-record 11-game winning streak. Lee Goren led the way for Manitoba with two goals and Wade Flaherty made 27 saves.

Tale of the Tape: Here’s how the two rivals stacked up in key categories during the regular season (*led league):
Grand Rapids Manitoba
• Overall Record 55-20-1-4, 115 pts. (1st North, 1st AHL) 44-24-7-5, 100 pts. (3rd North, T9th AHL)
• Home Record 30-6-1-3, 64 pts. (T1st) 24-12-2-2, 52 pts. (T9th)
• Road Record 25-14-0-1, 51 pts. (T4th) 20-12-5-3, 48 pts. (T6th)
• Power Play: 120-for-550, 21.8% (1st) 89-for-518, 17.2% (15th)
• Penalty Killing: 467-for-562, 83.1% (12th) 407-for-483, 84.3% (6th)
• Penalty Minutes: 23.60 avg. (14th) 23.88 avg. (13th)
• Goals For: 4.04 avg. (1st) 3.04 avg. (17th)
• Goals Against: 3.09 avg. (15th) 2.71 avg. (T2nd)
• Shots For: 33.99 avg. (4th) 28.51 avg. (24th)
• Shots Against: 29.30 avg. (9th) 28.89 avg. (6th)
Team Leaders
• Games Played: Bryan Helmer/Eric Manlow (*80) Craig Darby/Jesse Schultz (*80)
• Goals: Donald MacLean (*56) Schultz (37)
• Assists: Jiri Hudler (60) Darby (36)
• Points: Hudler (96) Schultz (67)
• Plus/Minus: Nate DiCasmirro (+27) Nathan McIver (+18)
• Penalty Minutes: Darryl Bootland (390) Adam Keefe (158)
• Power Play Goals: MacLean (21) Lee Goren/Schultz (11)
• Shorthanded Goals: Matt Ellis/Clay Wilson (3) Mike Brown (5)
• Game-Winning Goals: MacLean (*9) Schultz (6)
• Wins: Jimmy Howard (27) Wade Flaherty (26)
• Shutouts: Howard/Joey MacDonald (2) Flaherty (*6)
• Goals Against Avg.: Howard (2.58) Flaherty (2.40)
• Save Percentage: Howard (0.910) Flaherty (0.919)

Super Sub: Following Jimmy Howard’s recall by the Red Wings last week, Drew MacIntyre stepped in and stopped 74 of the 77 shots he faced to lead the Griffins to victories in Games 4 and 5 against Toronto, closing out the series. MacIntyre, who went 8-4 for Grand Rapids with a 2.91 GAA and a 0.897 save percentage during the regular season, ranks second among AHL playoff netminders with a 1.28 GAA and a 0.961 save percentage, both of which are the best marks of any goalie in Griffins playoff history. Following his Game 5 victory in Toronto, he drove all night to Wheeling, W.Va., to rejoin the ECHL’s Toledo Storm and play his third game in as many nights. MacIntyre made 27 saves on Saturday to lead the Storm to a 3-1 victory in a must-win Game 4, and he’s expected to be between the pipes in Toledo tonight for the decisive Game 5. He is now 4-0 in the ECHL playoffs, ranking second and third on that circuit, respectively, with a 1.75 GAA and a 0.929 save percentage.

Worth Noting: After collecting seven points (2-5—7) in the series against the Marlies, Jiri Hudler is tied with Kip Miller for ninth on Grand Rapids’ career playoff scoring list, showing 13 points (3-10—13) in just nine postseason contests…The Griffins have played nine best-of-seven series in their playoff history, winning five of them…With a triple-overtime victory in Game 1 against Toronto and a double-OT win in Game 5, Grand Rapids is now 8-1 in overtime decisions this season, including a perfect 3-0 mark on the road. All time in the playoffs, the Griffins are 4-1 in road games decided in overtime…By closing out the Marlies in Game 5, Grand Rapids improved to 5-2 all time on the road when presented the chance to eliminate its opponent…The Griffins have won six of 13 playoff series in their history, five of which – including the last four – have been clinched on the road…With his first-round defeat, Toronto’s Jean-Sebastien Aubin fell to 2-7 all time in the playoffs against Grand Rapids. He had finished the regular season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, going undefeated in regulation with a 9-0-2 record.

For the Record: More than 20 Griffins franchise playoff records were set or tied during the first-round triumph over the Toronto Marlies, including:

Most Road Overtime Wins, Season 1, 2006, 2003, 2000, 1997
Most Goals, Loss 3, 8 times – MR: 4/22/06 vs. TOR (3-6, G2-NDS)
Fewest Goals, Win 2, 7 times – MR: 4/28/06 at TOR (2-1 2OT, G5-NDS)
Most Goals Against, Home Game 6, 4/22/06 vs. TOR (3-6, G2-NDS)
Most Goals Against, Win 5, 4/21/06 vs. TOR (6-5, G1-NDS)
Most Goals Against, Home Period 3, 4/21/06 vs. TOR, 2nd period (G1-NDS); 4/15/02 vs. CHI, 1st period (G2-WCQ); 6/1/00 vs. CHI, 2nd period (G4-TCF)
Most Power Play Goals Against, Game 3, 4/22/06 vs. TOR (G2-NDS); 4/18/98 at CIN (G2-ECQ); 4/17/98 at CIN (G1-ECQ)
Most Power Play Opportunities, Game 10, 4/24/06 at TOR (G3-NDS); 4/21/06 vs. TOR (G1-NDS); 4/21/01 vs. CLE (G2-ECS)
Most Shots, Game 63, 4/21/06 vs. TOR (G1-NDS)
Most Shots, Home Game 63, 4/21/06 vs. TOR (G1-NDS)
Most Shots, Road Game 45, 4/28/06 at TOR (G5-NDS)
Most Shots, Period 20, 4/24/06 at TOR, 1st period (G3-NDS); 4/27/00 vs. CLE, 2nd period (G2-ECS)
Most Shots, Road Period 20, 4/24/06 at TOR, 1st period (G3-NDS)
Most Shots Against, Period 19, 4/24/06 at TOR, 3rd period (G3-NDS); 4/21/97 at ORL, 1st period (G2-ECQ)
Most Shots Against, Road Period 19, 4/24/06 at TOR, 3rd period (G3-NDS); 4/21/97 at ORL, 1st period (G2-ECQ)
Most Opponent Saves, Game 57, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, 4/21/06 vs. TOR (G1-NDS)
Most Opponent Saves, Home Game 57, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, 4/21/06 vs. TOR (G1-NDS)
Most Opponent Saves, Road Game 43, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, 4/28/06 at TOR (G5-NDS)
Most Saves, Period 18, Jimmy Howard, 4/24/06 at TOR, 3rd period (G3-NDS); Mike Fountain, 4/25/01 at CLE, 3rd period (G4-ECS); Pokey Reddick, 4/21/97 at ORL, 1st period (G2-ECQ)
Most Saves, Road Period 18, Jimmy Howard, 4/24/06 at TOR, 3rd period (G3-NDS); Mike Fountain, 4/25/01 at CLE, 3rd period (G4-ECS); Pokey Reddick, 4/21/97 at ORL, 1st period (G2-ECQ)
Most Opponent Saves, Period 19, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, 4/28/06 at TOR, 1st overtime (G5- NDS); Ian Gordon, 4/27/00 vs. CLE, 2nd period (G2-ECS)
Most Opponent Saves, Road Period 19, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, 4/28/06 at TOR, 1st overtime (G5-NDS)

Playoff Roster: 26 players currently make up the Griffins’ roster for the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs: goaltenders Jimmy Howard, Joey MacDonald, Drew MacIntyre and Alfie Michaud; defensemen Greg Amadio, Bryan Helmer, Jakub Kindl, Brett Lebda, Nick Martens, Derek Meech, Kyle Quincey, Travis Richards, Terry Virtue and Clay Wilson; and forwards Darryl Bootland, Nate DiCasmirro, Matt Ellis, Valtteri Filppula, Eric Himelfarb, Jiri Hudler, Ryan Keller, Tomas Kopecky, Eric Manlow, Donald MacLean, Kent McDonell and Ryan Oulahen.

Experience is a Virtue: Seven players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level, including assistant coach Jim Paek (NHL Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), Greg Amadio (CHL President’s Cup – 2003 Memphis), Bryan Helmer (AHL Calder Cup – 1995 Albany), Donald MacLean (CHL Memorial Cup – 1997 Hull), Derek Meech (CHL Memorial Cup – 2001 Red Deer), Terry Virtue (AHL Calder Cup – 1999 Providence, 2000 Hartford) and Clay Wilson (UHL Colonial Cup – 2005 Muskegon). Virtue, one of only 17 players in AHL history to win championships in consecutive seasons with two different teams, is tied for 10th on the league’s all-time list with 95 playoff appearances. He needs two games to tie Bob Solinger for ninth.

Hardware Haul: The Griffins’ record-setting regular season netted them the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (regular season points champion), the Norman R. (Bud) Poile Trophy (Western Conference regular season champion) and the Sam Pollock Trophy (North Division champion). Their regular season title was their first in five AHL seasons; they also won the IHL’s regular season crown (Fred A. Huber Trophy) in 2000-01, their fifth – and final – campaign in that league. Meanwhile, the division crown was their fifth in the last seven years; since 1999, Grand Rapids has earned the most division titles, wins (334) and points (722) of any team at the triple-A level. Besides the Calder Cup, the only grail still up for grabs is the Robert W. Clarke Trophy (Western Conference playoff champion).

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