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ROAD THREE-IN-THREE AND THEN THE HOLIDAY

This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS at Chicago Wolves // Thu., Dec. 21 // Noon EST // Allstate Arena
Listen: ESPN 96.1 FM at 11:35 a.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Road, 2-2-0-0 Overall. Fifth of eight meetings overall, second of four at Allstate Arena
All-Time Series: 41-29-0-2-0 Road, 81-53-2-6-2 Overall
NHL Affiliation: Vegas Golden Knights
Noteworthy: Under third-year head coach Todd Nelson, the Griffins are 16-5-1-0 (0.750) in their last 22 regular season games against Chicago, including an 8-2-0-0 (0.800) mark in their last 10 at Allstate Arena.

GRIFFINS at Iowa Wild // Fri., Dec. 22 // 8 p.m. EST // Wells Fargo Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com   
Season Series: 0-2-0-0 Road, 1-2-0-0 Overall. Fourth of 10 meetings overall, third of five at Wells Fargo Arena
All-Time Series: 12-5-0-0 Road, 24-8-0-1 Overall
NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild
Noteworthy: Grand Rapids rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in a shootout in the last meeting between the teams on Dec. 13 at Van Andel Arena.

GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs // Sat., Dec. 23 // 7 p.m. EST // BMO Harris Bank Center
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m.
Watch: AHLLive.com
Season Series: 0-2-0-2 Road, 0-3-0-2 Overall. Sixth of 10 meetings overall, fifth of five at the BMO Harris Bank Center
All-Time Series: 13-19-2-5 Road, 36-29-3-7 Overall
NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks
Noteworthy: Eric Tangradi is averaging a team-best 1.00 points per game against the IceHogs this season.

Last Week’s Results
Wed., Dec. 13    Iowa Wild 3 at GRIFFINS 4 SO    10-13-0-3 (23 points, 6th Central)
Fri., Dec. 15    Chicago Wolves 6 at GRIFFINS 3    10-14-0-3 (23 points, 7th)
Sat., Dec. 16    Milwaukee Admirals 2 at GRIFFINS 1 OT    10-14-1-3 (24 points, 7th)


Opening Faceoff: The defending Calder Cup champion Griffins earned three out of a possible six points last week and place seventh in the Central Division with a 10-14-1-3 (0.429) record. Grand Rapids hits the road for three games in three nights this week before breaking for the holiday.

Follow the Leaders:
Points: Matt Puempel (9-12—21)
Goals: Matthew Ford (10)
Assists: Puempel, Ben Street (12)
PIM: Dylan McIlrath (53)
Plus-Minus: Turner Elson (+6)
Goaltender Wins: Jared Coreau (7)
Goals Against Average: Coreau (3.06)
Save Percentage: Coreau (0.897)

Last Week’s Notes: Grand Rapids rallied from a 3-0 hole in the second period on Wednesday against Iowa to win 4-3 in a shootout…The three-goal comeback was the Griffins’ largest since scoring five goals in the third period on Nov. 25, 2016 vs. Cleveland to erase a three-goal deficit...Brian Lashoff recorded his second goal of the season...Ben Street scored Grand Rapids’ second and third goals, his fourth multi-goal game as a member of the Griffins...Street was the only scorer in the shootout, as the Griffins earned their first shootout victory of the season on their fourth try...All time, Grand Rapids is 97-104 in shootouts...Grand Rapids recorded a season-high 44 shots in the victory…Captain Matthew Ford accounted for two goals and an assist on Friday, his first three-point outing since Feb. 15, 2017…Colin Campbell recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick behind a goal, an assist and a fight (17 total PIM)...Campbell is the second Griffin with a Gordie Howe hat trick this season (Turner Elson)...Grand Rapids and Chicago combined for four goals in the final 2:13 of the second period...Entering the third period tied, Chicago scored three times in the final frame...The Griffins totaled a season high 34 PIM against the Wolves…Grand Rapids lost in overtime on Saturday against Milwaukee, the Griffins’ first defeat in OT since Dec. 6, 2016.

Model Year: Captain Matthew Ford potted his team-leading 10th goal of the season in last Saturday’s loss. His six power play tallies tie for fifth in the AHL. The 10th-year pro is on a three-game point streak and has notched six points (3-3—6) during that span, the fourth different Griffin this season to amass six or more points over a three-game stretch (Turner Elson, Oct. 6-13; Colin Campbell, Oct. 6-13; Matt Puempel, Oct. 27-Nov. 1). Ford leads all Griffins scorers with eight points (5-3—8) in eight December games and his five goals in the month tie for the seventh most in the league. 

Holiday Hustle: The Griffins play a total of four three-in-threes this season and three of those come in the month of December. Grand Rapids’ holiday break is bookended by two three-games-in-three-nights stretches (Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 29-31).

Missing Pieces: The Griffins have played without four of their top six scorers recently. Matt Puempel, the team’s leading scorer (9-12—21), and Matt Lorito (7-10—17) have been out with injury for the last four games while Turner Elson (8-6—14) has been sidelined for the last six contests due to illness and Eric Tangradi (7-11—18) missed last Saturday’s game due to injury. As announced by the AHL on Monday, Matthew Ford (10-8—18) has been suspended for Thursday’s game at Chicago as a consequence of a slew-footing incident in the game against Milwaukee last Saturday.

Matinee Games: Thursday’s game at Chicago marks the Griffins’ third and final weekday matinee contest of the season. Both of Grand Rapids’ two previous weekday early start games of the year came against San Antonio, as the Griffins beat the Rampage 7-4 in the team’s 17th annual matinee game at Van Andel Arena on Nov. 8 and defeated their Texan counterparts in the rematch at the AT&T Center by a 6-3 decision on Nov. 14. Grand Rapids is 16-8-2-1 (0.648) all time in matinee games, including a 5-3-2-0 mark on the road.

Fooled You Once, Fooled You Twice…: Thursday’s game at Chicago marks the third straight season the Wolves have hosted the Griffins for a matinee affair. In the two previous renditions at Allstate Arena, Grand Rapids has outscored Chicago 12-1, including a 7-1 victory on Dec. 15, 2016 and a 5-0 triumph on Feb. 23, 2016.

‘Tis the Season: Under third-year head coach Todd Nelson, the Griffins are 21-8-2-2 in the month of December, including an 11-2-1-2 mark at Van Andel Arena and 10-6-1-0 on the road.

Repeat Opponents: Starting Dec. 2 at Chicago and concluding Feb. 7 vs. Manitoba, the Griffins play 28 straight games against Central Division foes. Under third-year head coach Todd Nelson, the Griffins are 83-46-3-6 (0.634) against the Central and hold a +84 scoring margin in those 138 games.

Christmas Eve Eve: Grand Rapids’ game at Rockford on Saturday will mark only the fifth time in team history the team has played on Dec. 23 (2005-06, 2004-05, 1999-00, 1998-99). Christmas has come early for the Griffins in the past as they post a 2-1-0-1 record when playing two days before the holiday.

Chicago Notes: Grand Rapids has won four straight regular season matchups between the teams at Allstate Arena…The Griffins won Dec. 2 at Chicago behind goals from five different scorers…The Wolves have won five straight overall games, including a 6-3 win at Van Andel Arena last Friday…Matt Lorito (4-1—5) and Matt Puempel (1-4—5) tie for the team lead in scoring against Chicago this season, although both missed last Friday’s meeting due to injury…Lorito banked his first pro hat trick in the first matchup of the season on Oct. 27…Kasimir Kaskisuo recorded 33 saves and the Wolves shut out the Griffins on Nov. 3 in West Michigan, snapping Grand Rapids’ four-game winning streak against Chicago on home ice…Jared Coreau has started all four games against Chicago this season, showing a 3.03 GAA and a 0.902 save percentage.

Taming the Wolves: Under third-year head coach Todd Nelson, the Griffins are 16-5-1-0 (0.750) in their last 22 regular season games against Chicago, including an 8-2-0-0 (0.800) mark in their last 10 at Allstate Arena.

Chicago Connections: Wolves first-year head coach Rocky Thompson served on Todd Nelson’s staff as an assistant with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons from 2010-14...In those four seasons, the Barons posted a 161-105-10-32 (0.591) record and advanced to the postseason every year, including a trip to the 2013 Western Conference Finals...Thompson was elevated to an assistant with the parent Edmonton Oilers for the 2014-15 campaign, a season that saw Nelson take over the NHL club on an interim basis in Dec. 2014…Former Griffin Teemu Pulkkinen leads the Wolves with 24 points (9-15—24) in 28 games…A 2013 Calder Cup champion with Grand Rapids, Pulkkinen skated in 119 games with the Griffins from 2012-15 and scored 121 points (65-56—121) while being named a First Team AHL All-Star selection in 2014-15…He appeared in 40 postseason contests and ranks among the franchise’s all-time playoff leaders with 34 points (T3rd), 22 goals (2nd) and nine power play goals (1st)…Nelson served as an assistant coach for the Wolves for two seasons (2006-08) and won the 2008 Calder Cup in his final season with Chicago…Assistant coach Ben Simon appeared in 196 games with the Wolves from 2001-03 and 2004-05 and was a part of Chicago’s first Calder Cup title in 2002...Third-year defenseman Robbie Russo is from Chicagoland’s Westmont…Russo and T.J. Tynan were teammates at Notre Dame from 2011-14…Second-year pro Mackenzie MacEachern, a native of Troy, Mich., played three seasons at Michigan State (2013-16) and tallied 68 points (33-35—68) in 108 games…Scooter Vaughan played at Michigan from 2007-11 and recorded 39 points (16-23—39) in 137 games.

Iowa Notes: Grand Rapids earned its first win of the season against Iowa on Dec. 13 by rallying from a 3-0 second period deficit and winning 4-3 in a shootout…The Griffins hold a +30 shot margin against the Wild, outshooting Iowa in all three meetings, including a combined 85 shots in the matchups on Dec. 10 and 13…Eight of the last 11 games between the teams have been decided by one goal…Iowa has points in four straight games against Grand Rapids (2-0-0-2)…Iowa is celebrating its fifth season as an AHL franchise.

Iowa Connections: Former Griffin Landon Ferraro has nine points (3-6—9) in 20 games with Iowa and one goal in two games with Minnesota this season…A second-round draft selection by Detroit in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Ferraro tallied 140 points (75-65—140) in 270 games with the Griffins over parts of five seasons (2009-10; 2011-15) and ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders with 75 goals (T6th), seven shorthanded goals (T2nd) and 12 game-winning goals (T6th)…He added 19 points (6-13—19) in 33 playoff games and helped Grand Rapids win the 2013 Calder Cup…Derek Lalonde is in his second season at the helm of the Wild after spending the previous two years as head coach of the Toledo Walleye, the ECHL affiliate of the Red Wings and Griffins…Wild rookie Gerald Mayhew skated four seasons with the Ferris State Bulldogs (WCHA) and tallied 119 points (52-67—119) in 150 games from 2013-17…A native of Wyandotte, Mich., Mayhew led the Bulldogs with 35 points (17-18—35) as a senior…Wild forward Mario Lucia and Robbie Russo were teammates at Notre Dame from 2012-15 and were a part of the Irish’s 2013 CCHA Championship…Ryan Malone and Dylan McIlrath were teammates with Hartford and the New York Rangers during the 2014-15 campaign…Kurtis Gabriel and Zach Nastasiuk played together with the Owen Sound Attack from 2011-14…Second-year pro Matt Caito skated in 13 games as a rookie with the Griffins last season, tallying two points (1-1—2) and six PIM.
 
Getting Wild: Over the course of its history, Grand Rapids has shown great success playing on the road against AHL teams from Iowa, combining to post a 16-7-0-1 record (0.688) versus the Iowa Chops (1-0), Iowa Stars (3-2-0-1) and Iowa Wild (12-5).

Rockford Notes: Grand Rapids will make its fifth and final trip of the season to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Saturday…Grand Rapids is 0-2-0-2 at Rockford this year with three losses coming by one goal…The IceHogs still have four games remaining at Van Andel Arena…The Griffins are winless in their last five overall visits to Rockford (0-3-0-2)…Eric Tangradi leads the Griffins with five points (3-2—5) in five games versus the ‘Hogs this season…Rockford is led in the season series by four players with five points apiece…Rockford is 18-for-21 (85.7%) on the penalty kill against Grand Rapids, facing the rest of the league the IceHogs are 74-for-94 (78.7%)…Rockford is a perfect 10-0 when leading after two periods…After the IceHogs joined the AHL in 2007-08, Grand Rapids posted a 2-7-2-2 record (0.308) in its first 13 games at Rockford through 2011-12...Since the start of the 2012-13 season, the Griffins are 11-12-0-3 (0.481) in 26 games at Rockford...In that same time frame, Grand Rapids is 17-4-1-1 (0.783) in 23 regular-season games against Rockford at Van Andel Arena.

Rockford Connections: Former Griffin and 2013 Calder Cup champion Tomas Jurco has 18 points (9-9—18) in 27 games with Rockford, including three points (2-1—3) in five games against Grand Rapids...Jurco played in 113 games with the Griffins over parts of four seasons (2012-14, 2015-17) and tallied 71 points (33-38—71)…Jordin Tootoo was assigned by the Blackhawks on Nov. 30...Tootoo skated in 51 games with the Griffins during the 2013-14 season, scoring 18 points (6-12—18) and adding 104 PIM…Rookie Matheson Iacopelli is a native of Brownstown, Mich., and played two seasons (2013-15) with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks before competing two seasons (2015-17) for Western Michigan University…Tanner Kero is from Hancock, Mich., and played four seasons (2011-15) at Michigan Tech University…Former Griffins Derek King and Sheldon Brookbank serve as assistant coaches on Jeremy Colliton’s staff...King, who played in Grand Rapids from 1999-01 and 2002-04, is the franchise’s all-time leading playoff scorer (16-25—41) and ranks fifth in regular season points (73-130—203)...Brookbank skated in 75 games with the Griffins from 2001-03, scoring 14 points (2-12—14) and adding 160 PIM.  
 
Milestones: Several Griffins reached career benchmarks recently, including Corey Elkins (200th AHL game on Dec. 15 vs. CHI), Joe Hicketts (appeared in 100th AHL game on Dec. 16 vs. MIL), Dan Renouf (100th AHL game on Dec. 15 vs. CHI and 100th game as a pro on Dec. 13 vs. IA) and Evgeny Svechnikov (100th game as a pro on Dec. 13), while several others are approaching milestones, including Elkins (98 pro goals), Turner Elson (197 AHL games and 96 pro points), Matthew Ford (399 pro points), Svechnikov (97 AHL games) and Dominic Turgeon (99 AHL games).

Goalie Leaders: Eighth-year Griffin Tom McCollum and fifth-year Griffin Jared Coreau both rank in the top five in several categories in Grand Rapids’ all-time goaltending record book.

Games Played Minutes Wins Saves
1. Tom McCollum (238) 1. Tom McCollum (13423:36) 1. Joey MacDonald (109) 1. Tom McCollum (5974)
2. Joey MacDonald (210) 2. Joey MacDonald (11784:31) 2. Tom McCollum (106) 2. Joey MacDonald (5362)
3. Jimmy Howard (190) 3. Jimmy Howard (10886:40) 3. Jimmy Howard (93) 3. Jimmy Howard (4941)
4. Jared Coreau (128) 4. Jared Coreau (7399:20) 4. Jared Coreau (71) 4. Jared Coreau (3396)

Up and Down: With a 10-14-1-3 record through 28 games, take a look at how the statistics compare between the Griffins’ 10 wins and 18 (including overtime and shootout) losses. Nineteen of the 28 games have been decided by two or more goals. Grand Rapids has scored five or more goals in eight of its 10 victories.

  GF GA PP% PK% SF SA
W (10) 5.20 2.50 32.08% 89.13% 34.50 30.90
L (18) 1.67 3.89 10.14% 79.55% 33.06 30.56


Back-to-Backs: The Griffins will play back-to-back games a total of 24 times this season. Grand Rapids plays its second of four three-in-threes this week. Compare the statistics for when Grand Rapids has played on consecutive nights:

  W L (incl. OT, SO) GF GA PP% PK% SF SA
First Night 3 6 3.33 3.56 22.86% 79.41% 31.89 30.33
Second Night 2 7 2.44 3.78 16.13% 81.25% 31.44 33.11
Third Night 0 1 1.00 2.00 0.00% 75.00% 41.00 30.00


Championship Effects: Since 2001-02, the year Grand Rapids joined the AHL, nine Calder Cup champions have gone on to qualify for the postseason in the following season, including the Griffins, who reached the conference semifinals in 2014 after winning the franchise’s first championship in 2013. Only one team in this 16-year span repeated as champions (Hershey in 2009 and 2010).

Walleye Report: Under second-year head coach Dan Watson, the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye have won three straight games and continue to lead the Central Division with a 17-7-2-1 (37 points) record. Christian Hilbrich (12-11—23) and Erik Bradford (6-15—21) lead the team in scoring. Griffins-contracted Pat Nagle leads the league with 14 victories (14-2-2) and places 12th with a 2.57 GAA while Red Wings-contracted Matej Machovsky is 3-4-1 with a 2.29 GAA and a 0.920 save percentage.