Calder Cup Champions - 2013 & 2017
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Road Snacks

Oct 31, 2023
Written By: Andrew Streitel

This Week’s Games

GRIFFINS at Cleveland Monsters // Wed., Nov. 1 // 7 p.m. // Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m.

Watch: AHLTV

Season Series: 0-0-1-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Away. Second of eight meetings overall, first of four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

All-Time Series: 71-38-7-11 Overall, 31-20-4-8 Away

NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets

Noteworthy: Last Friday, Cleveland skated out of Van Andel Arena with a 3-2 overtime victory. Powell, Ohio, native Carson Meyer notched two goals and Brendan Gaunce scored the game-winner on a power play during overtime.

GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals // Sat., Nov. 4 // 7 p.m. EDT // Panther Arena

Listen: 96.1 The Game at 6:45 p.m. EDT

Watch: AHLTV (Free Viewing)

Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four at Panther Arena

All-Time Series: 109-80-7-8-8 Overall, 51-42-5-5-5 Away

NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators

Noteworthy: Goaltender Yaroslav Askarov returns to the Admirals for his second season after placing fifth among rookie goaltenders in 2022-23 with a 2.69 GAA and tying for second with a .911 save percentage. Currently, Askarov ranks third in the AHL with a 1.50 GAA and is tied for 11th with a .931 save percentage.

A Tale of Two Cities: Through six games this season, the Griffins have looked vastly different when playing in Grand Rapids compared to road cities. At home, the Griffins are on an active three-game point streak with a 2-0-1-0 record and have outscored their opponents 10-7. However, on the road, Grand Rapids is 0-3-0-0 and has been outscored 11-4. The Griffins’ power play has also faltered on the road, showing a 0-for-3 mark compared to the 3-for-10 ledger at home. The road penalty kill has been the lone bright spot for Grand Rapids, as it is 8 for 9.

Shoot Your Shot: After allowing an average of 39.75 shots in their first four games, the Griffins allowed an average of just 26.5 shots in their last two outings. However, the Griffins still rank 31st league with an average of 35.3 shots allowed per game. Grand Rapids has also struggled to put pucks on net, as it places 31st out of 32 teams at 24.3 shots per game. The first period has been the killer, as the Griffins have been outshot 85-43 in the opening frame. Grand Rapids’ 43 shots in the first are tied for 29th in the league, while the 85 shots against place fourth-to-last, leading only Springfield (86, 8 GP), Abbotsford (87, 8 GP) and Henderson (90, 8 GP).

Thou Shalt Not Pass: Goaltenders Sebastian Cossa (.931) and Michael Hutchinson (.917) have had strong starts to the campaign, as both show a save percentage well above .900. Hutchinson has also registered a 3.04 GAA, while Cossa possesses a 2.38 GAA. Cossa ranks fifth among rookie netminders in GAA and second in save percentage. Combined, the goaltenders have a 2.71 GAA and a 0.924 save percentage.

The Climb: Dominik Shine became just the third player in franchise history to reach eight seasons of service, while Tyler Spezia became the eighth player to compete in his sixth campaign. Shine is tied with Francis Pare for fifth with 363 career games played for the Griffins and stands 10th with 408 penalty minutes. Taro Hirose also continues to climb the Griffins’ all-time leaderboard, as he is currently ranked 10th in points (172) and sixth in assists (128).

New Coach, Who Dis: Dan Watson was named the 12th head coach in franchise history this past offseason after serving six seasons as head coach of the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. A season ago, Watson guided Toledo to a 45-19-5-3 (.681) record before going 9-4 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs to reach the Western Conference Finals. The 44-year-old has been with the Red Wings organization for the past 14 seasons, holding multiple roles with the Walleye since the team’s inception. Watson has never missed the playoffs as head coach, reaching the Kelly Cup Finals twice (2019, 2022) and leading Toledo to three division titles (2016-17, 2017-18, 2021-22), three 100-point seasons (2016-17, 2017-18, 2021-22), two regular-season championships (2016-17, 2021-22), and four Western Conference Finals berths (2017, 2019, 2022, 2023). In 2016-17, he garnered the John Brophy Award as the ECHL’s Coach of the Year in his first year as head coach, when the Walleye won the Central Division behind a franchise-record 51 wins (51-17-2-2, .736) and reached the Western Conference Finals. As a head coach, the Glencoe, Ontario, native possesses a 272-112-22-13 (.691) ledger during the regular season and a 51-34 (.600) mark over only five playoff campaigns. Watson leaves Toledo as the franchise’s winningest head coach and the fastest coach in ECHL history to reach 100 wins.

New Faces in the Crowd: In addition to new head coach Dan Watson, assistant coaches Brian Lashoff and Steph Julien, and goaltending development coach Roope Koistinen (ROH-peh KOI-stih-NIHN) each begin his first year on the staff. Lashoff starts his first season as a coach after spending all or part of 14 seasons on the Griffins’ blue line, including the last three as the team’s captain. Lashoff ranks second on the Griffins’ all-time games played list with 629, behind only Travis Richards’ 655 and his games played rank third in league history among one-team players. Julien was the head coach of the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the past eight seasons. In 2022-23, Julien was named the QMJHL Coach of the Year as well as the QMJHL General Manager of the Year. Koistinen comes to North America for the first time after being with Karpat’s youth programs in Finland since the 2014-15 campaign. The Griffins’ support staff also features many new faces. Austin Frank was named the head athletic trainer, Katie Berglund as the assistant athletic trainer, Zack Harvey as the team’s physical therapist, and Kyle Hornkohl as the assistant equipment manager.

Milestones: On Oct. 28, Taro Hirose and Tyler Spezia competed in their 200th game as a Griffin and Brogan Rafferty skated in his 200th AHL game. Also on Oct. 28, Dominik Shine tied Francis Pare for fifth on the Griffins’ all-time games played list with 363.
Zach Aston-Reese—Four points from 50 in the AHL
Jonatan Berggren
—One assist from 50 as a Griffin and in the AHL
Taro Hirose
—Two goals from 50 as a pro
Jared McIsaac
—Two points from 50 as a pro and as a Griffin
Dominik Shine—One game from tying Michel Picard (364) for fourth on the Griffins’ all-time games played list
Tyler Spezia
—One goal from 50 as a pro
Eemil Viro—One game from 200 as a pro
William Wallinder—Two assists from 50 as a pro

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins