Griffins Watch: January 19th

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Introducing Griffins Watch! Every Tuesday, we’ll be catching up with the Grand Rapids Griffins, who are the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. This week, the Griffins had a relatively decent showing, winning a pair of games and picking up a point in one of the two that they lost, helping them maintain the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Let’s take a closer look!

The Games

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A trio of goals in the final 8:59 of regulation, including a pair from Martin Frk, helped the Grand Rapids Griffins defeat the Charlotte Checkers 5-3 on Tuesday at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
The Griffins (22-11-0-1) won for the 20th time over their last 23 games, snapping Charlotte’s 12-game point streak in the process. Grand Rapids wraps up its series with the Checkers at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Anthony Mantha opened the scoring for the Griffins 24 seconds into the opening period. Mark Zengerle’s initial sharp-angle shot from near the goalline forced a shoulder save from Daniel Altshuller. However, the rebound fell perfectly for Mantha in the high slot, who fired a shot past the Charlotte netminder’s glove side.
Ethan Werek put Charlotte (21-12-1-1) on the scoresheet with 2:42 remaining in the first. After stealing the puck from Ryan Sproul in the neutral zone, Werek went on a breakaway, moving from backhand to forehand and lifting the puck over the pad and underneath the blocker of Jared Coreau. The Griffins outshot the Checkers 17-8 after 20 minutes.
Kyle Hagel gave Charlotte their first lead of the game 2:41 into the middle frame. In a scramble behind the Griffins’ net, Werek stabbed the puck in the direction of Hagel in the slot, who shot high to the glove side.
The Griffins trailed for just 18 seconds thanks to some aggressive forechecking from A.J. Jenks and Louis-Marc Aubry. After winning a dump-in, Jenks found Aubry in the right corner, who made his way to the top of the right circle, sending a wrist shot under Altshuller’s glove.
Jakub Kindl scored on the power play to give the Griffins a 3-2 edge with 8:59 to go in regulation. Kindl, assigned to Grand Rapids by the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, sent a wrist shot from the right point that went wide off the end boards only for Altshuller to kick the puck into his own net with his left skate.
Charlotte thought they had tied the score on a Zach Boychuk wraparound with 8:01 remaining, but the goal was immediately waved off by referee Mark Lemelin due to incidental contact with Coreau in the crease.
Frk scored what proved to be the game-winner with 7:27 remaining. Tyler Bertuzzi sent a backhanded pass from below the goalline towards Frk, who was racing in towards the bottom of the right circle for a one-timer, placing a shot just inside the far post.
The Checkers would not go away quietly, making it a 4-3 contest with 2:28 left. David Wohlberg’s shot from the left circle forced a right pad save from Coreau, but Werek scored on the rebound from the bottom of the right circle for his second of the night. Frk added an empty-netter for his 13th of the campaign, restoring the Griffins’ two-goal cushion with 54.1 seconds on the clock.
Grand Rapids finished 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Checkers failed to score on three opportunities. Coreau turned aside 33 of 36 shots in his 15th consecutive start, while Altshuller stopped 30 of 34 shots in a losing effort.
Three Stars: 1. GR Frk (two goals); 2. CHA Werek (two goals, assist); 3. GR Miele (two assists)
Notes: Jenks, who was signed to a professional tryout by the Griffins on Sunday, played parts of four seasons in Charlotte (2011-15), recording 23 points (9-14-23) in 90 games.

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Grand Rapids Griffins surrendered four unanswered goals, including three in a 4:56 third-period span, falling to the Charlotte Checkers 4-3 on Wednesday at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
 
The Griffins (22-12-0-1), winners of 20 of their last 24 games, saw their winning streak end at three consecutive games. The result also spoiled the AHL debut of Jake Paterson, who stopped 38 of 42 shots.
 
Anthony Mantha started the scoring on a 5-on-3 power play with 5:13 left in the opening period. Andy Miele’s pass from the right corner found Mantha at the right circle, who placed a wrist shot inside the far post for his 11th of the campaign.
 
Martin Frk added to the Griffins’ lead 38 seconds later. Shortly after the power play expired, Tyler Bertuzzi’s feed from the bottom of the right circle found Frk near the high slot, firing a snapshot past Rasmus Tirronen’s blocker side for his 14th of the season and third in two games against the Checkers.
 
Louis-Marc Aubry gave the Griffins a three-goal advantage with 10:10 remaining in the middle frame. Zach Nastasiuk’s initial effort from the right circle grazed off Tirronen’s arm and hit the near post, with the rebound rolling behind the Charlotte netminder in the crease for an Aubry tap-in. 
 
Ethan Werek scored on the power play to put Charlotte (22-12-1-1) on the scoresheet with 4:43 to go in the second. Justin Shugg’s pass from the right circle found Werek at the goalline to Paterson’s glove side. Werek worked his way towards the front of the crease, lifting the puck past the blocker side, matching Frk with his third goal of the midweek series.
 
The Checkers controlled the play to open the final frame, with Zach Boychuk scoring on the power play at the 1:34 mark. Sergey Tolchinsky’s diagonal pass from behind the goalline found Boychuk at the bottom of the right circle for a one-timer past the glove side to make it a 3-2 contest.
 
Rasmus Rissanen tied the score for Charlotte on a terrific individual effort with 16:16 left in regulation. Starting at center ice, Rissanen gained the zone and sent a wrist shot from the left circle towards the glove side.
 
Brody Sutter scored what proved to be the game-winner, giving the Checkers their first lead of the contest shorthanded with 13:30 remaining. While Boychuk was serving a roughing minor, Sutter intercepted a Jakub Kindl cross-ice pass at the point and went on a breakaway, scoring on his forehand when he pushed the puck around the left pad of a sprawling Paterson and in.
 
Grand Rapids finished 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Checkers scored twice on five opportunities. Tirronen stopped 27 of 30 shots to earn the victory.
 
The Griffins return to Van Andel Arena looking to extend their franchise-record 13-game home winning streak on Friday when they face off against the Lake Erie Monsters at 7 p.m.
 
Three Stars: 1. CHA Sutter (game-winning goal); 2. CHA Rissanen (goal); 3. CHA Wohlberg (two shots)
 
Notes: Tonight was the first time the Griffins have lost this season when scoring three or more goals (20-1-0-0) and when leading after one period (11-1-0-0)…Grand Rapids is 8-5-0-0 (.615) against opposition with a winning percentage of .600 or higher and 6-5-0-0 (.545) on the second night of a back-to-back during the current campaign.
 

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Goals were so hard to come by at Van Andel Arena on Friday that few knew for sure that the only one had been scored until six and a half minutes of real time had passed. Regardless of how it happened, though, the Grand Rapids Griffins extended their team-record winning streak at Van Andel Arena to 14 games with an incredible 1-0 overtime victory against the Lake Erie Monsters.
With 2:52 left in a frantic 3-on-3 overtime, Nick Jensen sped into the Monsters’ zone and teed up a blistering slap shot from the top of the right circle that many thought glanced harmlessly off the iron, although the Griffins’ bench immediately erupted. As play continued, Jensen gestured to one of the referees that he thought it was a good goal, but since there wasn’t a stoppage until the five-minute extra frame expired nearly three minutes later, the referees had no opportunity to review the overhead replay.
So as 8,067 fans were awaiting the start of a shootout, the referees were – unbeknownst to many – reviewing the replay at the scorer’s table. After several minutes, they emerged and signaled a goal, and the goal horn sounded for a delighted but understandably confused crowd.
With the win – their 21st in their last 25 games – the Griffins improved to 23-12-0-1 and put their previous record home winning streak of 10 games further into the rearview mirror. They’ll look for consecutive home win number 15 on Sunday when they host the Chicago Wolves in a 4 p.m. start. 
A combined 66 shots during regulation couldn’t determine a winner, much less light even one lamp. Brad Thiessen turned away all 38 pucks that the Griffins launched toward him while Jared Coreau made 28 saves, including a left-toe stop at the final buzzer that stifled Lake Erie’s bid to end it, forcing the second straight overtime between these two Central Division rivals. 
The Griffins, who eventually prevailed over the Monsters in a 4-3 shootout decision in Grand Rapids last Saturday, won for the sixth time in their last seven clashes with Lake Erie (19-13-3-3), thanks to Coreau’s 30-save performance that netted his third shutout of the season. Coreau continues to reside among the AHL’s elite netminders in terms of wins (19, first), save percentage (0.933, second), goals against average (2.08, third) and shutouts (tied fourth).
Thiessen was brilliant in defeat for the Monsters, finishing with 38 saves.
Notes: The Griffins’ last two 1-0 games saw them come out on either side of the equation, as they lost in regulation at Bakersfield in this season’s opener on Oct. 9 and won in a shootout at home against Milwaukee on Feb. 23, 2014…As part of the Griffins’ 20th anniversary celebration, 10 former Griffins players and coaches returned to Van Andel Arena tonight and were honored in an on-ice ceremony during the first intermission: Greg Amadio, Wade Brookbank, Mike Fountain, Jon Insana, Kory Karlander, Jim Paek, Travis Richards, Darcy Simon, Chris Szysky and Dave Van Drunen.  
Three Stars: 1. GR Jensen (OT goal); 2. GR Coreau (W, 30 saves, SO); 3. LE Thiessen (OTL, 38 saves)

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Pat Cannone completed a hat trick with a power play goal 2:29 into overtime on Sunday to give the Chicago Wolves a 4-3 triumph at Van Andel Arena, snapping the Grand Rapids Griffins’ franchise-record 14-game home winning streak.
From the bottom of the left circle, Cannone lasered a shot into the far corner for his second power play tally of the night, to go with his shorthanded goal during the first period. As a result, the Griffins lost on home ice for the first time in 72 days, dating to a 4-1 defeat to Rockford on Nov. 6 that dropped their overall record at the time to 1-7-0-0. 
Grand Rapids, now 23-12-1-1 overall, still earned a point for the 22nd time in its last 26 outings (21-4-1-0). The Griffins will travel to Cleveland for a Wednesday meeting against Lake Erie that will already mark their 10th game against the Monsters this season.
Newcomer A.J. Jenks scored his second goal in just four games as a Griffin with 4:32 left in the opening period, when he popped the rebound of Zach Nastasiuk’s shot past Pheonix Copley from just outside the crease.
Chicago pulled even 3:09 later on Cannone’s shorthanded tally. He picked up an errant pass along the left boards in the Wolves’ zone, sped up ice, maneuvered across the high slot and uncorked a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that snuck just beneath the crossbar of a screened Jared Coreau. 
Less than a minute into the second period, Andy Miele put the Griffins ahead 2-1 after he caught up to a loose puck above the right circle, angled toward the goal while fending off a Wolves defenseman and scooped a backhand over Copley just 52 seconds in. But the Wolves again answered late in the period, as Petteri Lindbohm stepped into a clearing attempt above the left circle and blasted a rocket past the glove of Coreau at the 15:02 mark.
With the Wolves (18-17-1-2) already on the power play as the period expired, a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Robbie Russo at the buzzer gave Chicago 21 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time to begin the final 20 minutes. While they did not capitalize on the brief two-man advantage, they did take their first lead on a power play goal at the 2:41 mark, with Cannone scoring off a rebound on the doorstep for his second of the night.
Tomas Nosek responded for the Griffins to forge the game’s third tie at 4:23. He won a battle for the puck along the end boards, skated out to the right of the net and threaded a shot into the top left corner.
Consecutive penalties on the Wolves in the late going gave Grand Rapids a 5-on-3 power play for 1:22 with just over five minutes left, but the Griffins were unable to capitalize. Chicago, however, did not waste the opportunity presented by a hooking call on Eric Tangradi early in overtime.
Coreau stopped 33 of 37 in the loss, while Copley earned the win behind 22 saves.
Notes: The Griffins’ 14-game home winning streak tied for the AHL’s fourth-longest over the last 18 seasons…Goaltender Tom McCollum did not dress today but is back with the Griffins following his one-game conditioning stint with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. On Saturday, he stopped 25 of 28 shots to lead the Walleye to a 4-3 home win over the Wheeling Nailers…With McCollum’s return from Toledo and injury, goaltender Jake Paterson was reassigned to the Walleye after the game…Four former Griffins were in Chicago’s lineup, including Jared Nightingale, Zack Torquato, Joel Chouinard and Richard Nedomlel, who was traded by the Detroit Red Wings to the St. Louis Blues on Friday.
Three Stars: 1. CHI Cannone (hat trick); 2. GR Nosek (goal); 3. GR Miele (goal)

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

The Stats

No Name GP G A P +/- Sh PIM
D 4 N. Paetsch 4 0 1 1 1 9 0
D 5 R. Russo 4 0 1 1 1 8 8
D 7 R. Sproul 4 0 0 0 0 9 2
LW 8 A. Mantha 4 2 0 2 -1 7 2
RW 9 M. Zengerle 4 0 2 2 0 1 0
LW 10 J. Hoggan 4 0 0 0 0 6 0
D 14 N. Jensen 4 1 1 2 2 5 0
F 17 A. Jenks 4 2 1 3 1 5 5
D 18 B. Lashoff 4 0 0 0 0 1 0
C 19 T. Nosek 4 1 1 2 1 10 0
C 21 A. Miele 4 1 3 4 -1 4 4
C 22 L. Aubry 4 1 3 4 4 9 0
LW 26 E. Tangradi 4 0 2 2 -1 9 2
RW 27 M. Frk 4 3 1 4 2 15 2
RW 37 Z. Nastasiuk 4 0 2 2 2 8 0
LW 39 T. Bertuzzi 4 0 2 2 4 6 0
RW 45 C. Campbell 4 0 0 0 -1 7 4
D 55 J. Kindl 4 1 0 1 -1 10 8

The Griffins are estimated to be at a 50.64% Fenwick Close percentage at this point in the season, good for 13th in the AHL. Their offensive generation is what’s helped them the most, ranking 5th in the league with 32.14 shots per game, though giving up the exact same amount has placed them near the bottom of the league defensively. Getting as many goals and wins out of it as they have leans a little bit on the lucky side; their 101.8% PDO is third only to league juggernauts Toronto and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Jared Coreau played the lion’s share of the minutes this week, starting in three of four games. He went 2-0-1, posted a shutout, and stopped 96 of 103 shots for a 0.932 save percentage, bringing him to 0.931 on the season. Jake Peterson, who has spent most of his season with Toledo, made his AHL debut on Wednesday and stopped 38 of 42 shots in a loss against Charlotte.

Player of The Week

Martin Frk gets the nod as our first player of the week. Frk scored a pair of goals on Tuesday and a third on Wednesday, led the team with seven shots on goal on Friday, and picked up an assist on Sunday. He was an offensive presence in every game that he played in, leading him to be the team leader in goals (3), points (4), and shots (15) for the week.

At this point in the season, Frk finds himself fourth in scoring on the Griffins, with 23 points in 28 games. His fourteen goals leave the 2012 second-round pick behind only veteran Eric Tangradi.

Looking Ahead

The Griffins have three games this week; one against the Lake Erie Monsters tomorrow, and a pair on Friday and Saturday against the Rochester Americans. While Rochester is out-of-conference, the Monsters are only two spots behind the Griffins in the Western Conference playoff race. All three games start at 7:00 PM.