This Week’s Games
Fri., Dec. 14 - Peoria Rivermen at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., Dec. 16 - GRIFFINS at Toronto Marlies - 3 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 5 - Peoria Rivermen 3 at GRIFFINS 2 - 11-7-1-1, 24 pts. (2nd, Midwest Division)
Fri., Dec. 7 - GRIFFINS 3 at Chicago Wolves 0 - 12-7-1-1, 26 pts. (2nd)
Sun., Dec. 9 - Rockford IceHogs 2 at GRIFFINS 4 - 13-7-1-1, 28 pts. (1st)
Back on Top: The Griffins entered last week one point behind Rockford for first place in the Midwest Division after the IceHogs had rattled off four straight wins. Grand Rapids had a chance to reclaim the throne it held for most of November (Nov. 10-Dec. 2) with a Wednesday contest versus Peoria, but the Rivermen struck twice in the second period and held the Griffins to just one goal – a shorthanded tally by Riley Sheahan – and took a 2-1 victory away from Van Andel Arena. The Griffins came back strong on Friday night at Chicago, outshooting the Wolves 37-20 en route to a 3-0 shutout victory – the team’s sixth straight win on the road (Nov. 3-Dec. 7). Adam Almquist, Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar all scored for Grand Rapids, while Tom McCollum notched a 20-save shutout on his 23rd birthday. Entering Sunday’s contest still trailing Rockford by a point, their first-place showdown with the IceHogs lived up to its billing, as the Griffins skated away with a 4-2 win in a tightly-contested and penalty-filled contest to move back into first place.
Calm Before the Storm: After Sunday’s 4-2 win over Rockford put the Griffins back atop the Midwest Division, the team will have a few days off to prepare for their busiest stretch of the month. Grand Rapids is off until Friday, when it will host Peoria at 7 p.m. to kick off a stretch of five games in nine days (Dec. 14-22). The Griffins will then travel to Toronto to take on the Marlies on Sunday at 3 p.m., where they will look to tie their franchise-record seven-game road winning streak, before kicking off a season-high seven-game homestand next week. The club will host Rochester next Wednesday, Abbotsford next Friday and Chicago next Saturday before beginning the holiday break.
Road Warriors: The Griffins improved their road record to 8-2 with a 3-0 shutout of the Chicago Wolves last Friday, extending their AHL-best road winning streak to six games. The Griffins’ 0.800 winning percentage on the road is the second-best mark in the AHL, trailing only Springfield (8-1-1-0, 0.850), while the six-game streak is the second-longest in the AHL this season, behind a nine-game run by Syracuse (Oct. 19-Nov. 25). Grand Rapids will have a chance to tie its franchise-record seven-game road winning streak (Oct. 16-Dec. 3, 2004) on Dec. 16 at Toronto, the team’s only remaining road game in 2012. The Griffins are in the midst of a run of 13 of 15 games (Nov. 25-Jan. 4) at Van Andel Arena. Additionally, the team was 5-1 on the road in November, matching its most road wins during a month since going 5-0 in October 2007.
Rivalry Renewed: Sunday’s battle with Rockford for first place in the Midwest Division resulted in a 4-2 win for the Griffins and a slew of firsts when it came to penalty minutes. Grand Rapids, which entered the night averaging the fifth-fewest penalty minutes (14.19) in the AHL, recorded 77 penalty minutes in a game that featured 132 total penalty minutes, including three fights, six misconducts and eight roughing penalties. The Griffins, whose penalty minute average now ranks 18th in the AHL (17.05), had a previous season high of 25 penalty minutes, which came against Texas on Dec. 1. The team’s total ranks as the fifth-highest in the AHL this season (Rockford has the highest with 88 penalty minutes on Nov. 3 vs. Lake Erie) and was the highest for the Griffins since a franchise-record 112 on Nov. 24, 2010 at Toronto. Grand Rapids and Rockford will meet five more times this season, including the final meeting of 2012 at Van Andel Arena on New Year’s Eve.
Home for the Holidays: The Griffins are in the midst of their busiest home month of the season, with a season-high 10 home games during December as part of a stretch of 13 of 15 games at Van Andel Arena (Nov. 24-Jan. 4). Grand Rapids finished a four-game homestand versus Peoria last Wednesday and, following Sunday’s game at Toronto, will begin a season-high seven-game homestand (Dec. 19-Jan. 4). Additionally, it marks the first time since December 2010 that the Griffins have 10 home games scheduled in one month, when they posted a 6-3-1-0 record. The Griffins are 3-1 in December so far.
Friday Promos: Friday’s game versus Peoria features all the usual popular Friday promotions. Fans can enjoy $1 hot dogs and $1 domestic drafts from 6-8 p.m., while supplies last, and also take advantage of College Night specials. College students can purchase an upper bowl ticket for $13 (or $11 in advance at The Zone) and stop by the McFadden’s concourse table to receive a free pass to the post-game party at McFadden’s. Every Friday night is also a Griffins WGRD D-Zone night, where fans can have $1 beers and $1 hot dogs served directly to their seats, and Free Ride Friday, permitting any fan to enjoy complimentary fare on the Rapid busses by showing their ticket to that night’s game. Call (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com/dzone to order D-Zone tickets, and visit ridetherapid.org for information on bus schedules, routes and maps.
Deep Crease: Grand Rapids has been one of the hottest teams in the AHL over the past six weeks, posting a 12-4 record since falling to 1-3-1-1 after a 6-4 loss to Charlotte on Oct. 26. A large part of the Griffins’ success belongs to the goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum. Mrazek is 7-2 with the Griffins this year, which included a franchise-record 6-0 start to his AHL career, and ranks 11th in the AHL with a 2.42 goals against average, 20th with a 0.912 save percentage and T16th with seven wins. McCollum, who recorded his second AHL shutout on his 23rd birthday with a 3-0 win over Chicago last Friday, has a 4-1 record in his past five starts, alongside a 1.81 GAA and a 0.932 save percentage. McCollum is tied for 15th in the AHL with a 2.47 GAA, making Grand Rapids one of just three teams in the league to have two goalies among the top 20 in GAA. Abbotsford’s duo of Barry Brust (1st, 1.12) and Danny Taylor (2nd, 1.69) and Albany’s tandem of Jeff Frazee (6th, 2.22) and Keith Kinkaid (8th, 2.30) are the others. As a team, the Griffins have the ninth-best goals against average in the AHL at 2.82.
Milestone Man: Francis Pare continues to move up the Griffins’ all-time leaderboard in several categories. With Sunday’s game versus Rockford, Pare passed former teammate Jamie Tardif (316) in games played with 317 and now sits third in franchise history. He is 47 games behind second-place Michel Picard but isn’t even halfway to reaching Travis Richards’ 655 games played. The fifth-year pro also ranks among Griffins leaders with 89 goals (2nd), 120 assists (5th), 209 points (3rd), 12 game-winning goals (T5th) and 747 shots (5th).
Shorthanded Specialist: Second-year Griffins forward Landon Ferraro has enjoyed a great start to the season, ranking third on the team with 17 points (8-9—17) in 22 games, which nearly equals his rookie-season totals of 20 points (9-11—20) in 56 games. The Trail, British Columbia, native has excelled while shorthanded, notching his AHL-best fourth shorthanded point of the season with an empty net insurance goal on Sunday versus Rockford. Ferraro has factored in all but one of the Griffins’ five shorthanded tallies, which rank second in the league. He is one of 11 players in the league with multiple shorthanded goals this season (along with teammate Riley Sheahan), trailing only Binghamton’s Derek Grant, who has three.
Divisional Dominance: In addition to leading the Midwest Division in points, the Griffins have posted one of the best intra-division records in the AHL this season at 8-3-1-0, for a winning percentage of 0.708 that ties for third in the AHL. Only Springfield (4-1-0-1, 0.750) and Worcester (9-3-1-1, 0.714) have a better mark than Grand Rapids, which will conclude a run of four straight divisional games this Friday versus Peoria. The Griffins will see a lot more of the Western Conference’s other two divisions following Friday’s game, as only two games during the team’s season-high seven-game homestand will come against the Midwest (Dec. 22 vs. Chicago and Dec. 31 vs. Rockford). Grand Rapids is 2-1-0-1 against the North Division and 3-3 against the South Division.
League Leaders: The Griffins have several players who rank among the AHL’s statistical leaders this season. Tomas Tatar has taken over the team scoring lead and is tied for 13th in the AHL with 21 points (11-10—21) in 22 games. He’s followed closely by Gustav Nyquist, who is tied for 19th in the league with 20 points (8-12—20). Tatar’s 11 goals tie for 10th in the league, and his five power play tallies tie for sixth. Chad Billins is tied for 11th in the AHL with 15 assists, for eighth among league defensemen with 16 points (1-15—16), for 11th among all rookie scorers, and for seventh in the league with eight power play helpers. Landon Ferraro and Riley Sheahan are tied for second in the league with two shorthanded goals, and Ferraro is alone atop the league with four shorthanded points. Both Griffins goaltenders rank among the league’s best in goals against average, with Petr Mrazek sitting 11th with a 2.42 GAA and Tom McCollum tying for 15th with a 2.47 GAA. Mrazek’s seven wins are tied for 16th in the AHL, and he has the third-best winning percentage (0.778) of goalies with more than four games played, trailing Springfield’s Curtis McElhinney (0.882) and Abbotsford’s Barry Brust (0.875).
Milestones: Francis Pare surpassed Jamie Tardif (316) in games played on Sunday versus Rockford, now ranking third all time at 317…Tomas Tatar is currently tied with Kip Miller (75) in goals and can move to fourth in Griffins history with his next tally. He is also three goals away from tying Tardif at 78…After scoring in back-to-back games (Dec. 7-9), Joakim Andersson is three goals shy of 50 as a pro…Triston Grant surpassed 1,300 penalty minutes in the AHL last Friday at Chicago…Tom McCollum became the fourth Griffins goalie to play 5,000 minutes for the team in his shutout 3-0 victory at Chicago last Friday and surpassed Daniel Larsson (4992:07) in the process. McCollum can also tie his former teammate in games played (93) with his next appearance and in saves (2,224) with eight more stops.
Walleye Watch: The Toledo Walleye have fallen out of first place in the North Division after dropping three straight games, but several players with Griffins connections have helped the team in a few recent high-scoring affairs. Willie Coetzee, Andrej Nestrasil and Luke Glendening currently claim the top three spots on the team in scoring. Coetzee leads the bunch with 21 points (10-11—21) in 24 games, notching three points (2-1—3) in the team’s two games last weekend. Nestrasil, who is second with 20 points (7-13—20), is riding a five-game point streak and has points in seven of the team’s last eight games, with nine points (2-7—9) in that stretch. Glendening, a native of East Grand Rapids, continues to light the lamp nearly every game, currently tying for fifth in the ECHL with 14 goals. He has racked up eight goals in his past 11 games and boasts a team-best plus-10 rating. Jordan Pearce ranks among the league’s top goalies with a 2.71 goals against average (14th) and a 0.900 save percentage (T19th).
Fri., Dec. 14 vs. Peoria Rivermen (8-11-2-2) – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 20-23-2-2 Overall, 7-13-2-1 Home. Season Series: 2-1-0-0 Overall, 0-1-0-0 Home. Fourth of 10 meetings overall, second of five in Grand Rapids. NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues. Head Coach: Dave Allison (1st season). Notes: T.J. Hensick leads Peoria in scoring with 21 points (5-16—21) in 23 games…Rookie Jaden Schwartz is one of the hottest Rivermen of late, having racked up five points (3-2—5) in a four-game point streak, with points in seven of his last eight games overall…Rivermen goaltender Jake Allen is tied for second in the AHL with 10 losses but ranks fourth with 486 saves…Peoria started a five-game road trip with a 2-1 win last Wednesday versus Grand Rapids and will end it this Friday at Van Andel Arena…The Rivermen average the fourth-fewest penalty minutes in the AHL at 13.96…Seven of Peoria’s eight wins have come against the Midwest Division (7-5-1-0)…The Rivermen have struggled on the power play, ranking 25th in the AHL at 12.5 percent…Peoria head coach Dave Allison was the first-ever Griffins head coach, sporting a 70-55-19 record from 1996-98…Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans spent the past two seasons with Peoria, registering 21 points (5-16—21) and 238 penalty minutes.
Sun., Dec. 14 at Toronto Marlies (13-9-0-1) – Ricoh Coliseum – 3 p.m.
TV: Rogers TV (Toronto) at 3 p.m. Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 2:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 27-21-2-1 Overall, 12-12-1-1 Road. Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Overall, 1-0-0-0 Road. Second of four meetings overall, second of two in Toronto. NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach: Dallas Eakins (5th season). Notes: Toronto forward Keith Aucoin is the AHL’s active leading scorer and will become the 11th player in league history to reach 800 points with his next point. He leads the Marlies with 22 points (3-19—22) in 23 games to give him 799 career points (226-573—799)…The Marlies have two of the AHL’s highest-scoring defensemen in Mike Kostka, who ranks second among blueliners with 20 points (3-17—20), and Jake Gardiner, who is seventh with 17 points (9-8—17)…Toronto has posted a 7-2-0-1 record at Ricoh Coliseum this season, which ties it for the fewest home losses in the AHL…The Marlies are 24th in the AHL with a 81 percent penalty kill record…Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans had eight points (1-7—8) and 199 penalty minutes with Toronto in 2009-10…Toronto assistant coach Derek King is the Griffins’ fifth all-time leading scorer, having racked up 203 points (73-130—203) in 264 games from 1999-01 and 2002-04.