Griffins Watch: January 26th

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Another week has gone by for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, who continue to fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as planned for the Red Wings affiliate, who won their first game but dropped the following two. Here’s how it all went down:

The Games

Wednesday January 20th @ Lake Erie

CLEVELAND – Ryan Sproul’s slapshot from the right circle with 2:28 remaining in overtime gave the Grand Rapids Griffins a 3-2 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
 
The Griffins won for the 22nd time in 27 games to improve to 24-12-1-1 on the season. The result also elevated Grand Rapids to 2nd place in the Central Division and 3rd overall in the Western Conference.
 
Tyler Bertuzzi started the scoring on the power play for the Griffins at the halfway point of the opening period. Eric Tangradi gained the zone on the left side and fed Bertuzzi at the left point, who then worked his way down to the top of the left circle and fired a snapshot off the inside of Anton Forsberg’s right post and in.
 
Lake Erie (20-14-4-3) answered with a goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand at the 17:16 mark. Dillon Heatherington’s pass from the left point found Bjorkstrand, who skated down to the left circle and sent a wrist shot over Jared Coreau’s blocker-side shoulder. 
 
Bjorkstrand scored his second of the night to give Lake Erie their first lead of the contest with 6:43 left in the middle frame. John Ramage’s slapshot from the right point forced a pad save from Coreau, but Bjorkstrand came up with the rebound below the right circle, shooting past a screened Coreau to the glove side.
 
Mitch Callahan tied the score for Grand Rapids on the power play 46 seconds into the third period. Nathan Paetsch’s fluttering shot from the right point was blocked in front by Callahan, who made his return to the Griffins’ lineup after missing 14 games with a broken jaw. Callahan outmuscled Jamie Sifers in front of the cage to get to the rebound and push the puck past Forsberg’s left pad. 
 
Lake Erie was unable to capitalize on a Jakub Kindl holding-the-stick penalty with 30 seconds left in regulation. The Griffins took advantage of the Monsters’ missed opportunity 3:32 into the extra session when Sproul stole the puck from Bjorkstrand at the point, blasting a slapshot from the right circle past Forsberg’s glove-side shoulder.
 
Grand Rapids finished 2-for-4 on the power play, while Lake Erie failed to score on three opportunities. Coreau turned aside 30 of 32 shots to tie Rockford IceHogs’ netminder Michael Leighton with a league-leading 20th win of the campaign. Forsberg stopped 43 of 46 shots in a losing effort. 

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

Friday January 22nd vs. Rochester

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In the first meeting of the season between the two clubs, the visiting Rochester Americans earned a 5-3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night at Van Andel Arena. The defeat, marking the first regulation loss at home for the Griffins in over two months (Nov. 6), spoiled the return of goaltender Tom McCollum who made his first start between the pipes since Dec. 5. 
The rematch between Rochester and Grand Rapids will be on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena. 
Rochester (19-19-2-1) entered the game averaging just under 28 shots per game but peppered the Griffins’ defense all evening long with 49 attempts. 
For the 23rd time this season, Grand Rapids (24-13-1-1) drew the game’s initial goal. At the 6:15 mark, Tyler Bertuzzi took control in the defensive zone and fed Martin Frk at center ice who gained the zone. After Frk’s wrister was turned away by Linus Ullmark, Tomas Nosek scooped up the rebound and filtered it past Ullmark for his fifth goal of the campaign. 
Any plan of McCollum using the first period to gain traction back in the crease was abruptly challenged by the impetuous Americans as they took swings at 20 shots on goal in the opening frame. 
Rochester got on the scoreboard to even the score at the 9:31 mark. William Carrier took possession of the puck in the high slot and skated toward the right circle. His centering pass was deflected and fell on the stick of Matt Donovan on the left goal line who used a difficult angle to slip one past McCollum.
The Americans entered the first intermission with a 2-1 edge following Jerry D’Amigo’s glove-side shot from the right wing circle at the 12:54 mark. 
A somnambulant second period came to life late in the frame thanks to some magnificent passing from the home team. Mark Zengerle took claimed control of the puck after a Rochester neutral-zone turnover and floated up the left side before dishing to a streaking Anthony Mantha in the slot. Mantha left it for a trailing Ryan Sproul who delivered the tying goal on a slapshot from between the circles.
The Griffins and Americans were tied at two-all following 40 minutes of action, but Rochester would use three goals in the remaining 20 minutes to earn their first regulation win over Grand Rapids in the last 10 tries. The Americans retook the lead on the stick of Evan Rodrigues with 12:49 left. 
On a partial breakaway, Jean Dupuy’s initial attempt was stuffed by McCollum but the soft rebound came to rest in front of the crease and Rodrigues was there to jam it in. 
The game-winning goal came with 8:35 to go after Dupuy intercepted a pass in the offensive zone and sent a wrister from the high slot to the back of the net. 
Grand Rapids trimmed the deficit down to one with 2:07 remaining on a Jakub Kindl power play goal. Already on a 5-on-3 thanks to consecutive American penalties, McCollum went to the bench for an extra skater and Kindl’s drive from above the right circle converted the Griffins’ 6-on-3 chance. 
D’Amigo added an empty-net goal for Rochester with 33 ticks left. 
Grand Rapids killed off Rochester’s lone power play opportunity while the Griffins knocked in one goal on their five man-advantage opportunities. 
McCollum stopped 44 shots, a season high, while Ullmark turned aside 41 shots for his second win of the year. 

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

Saturday January 23rd vs. Rochester

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Despite rifling off 42 shots, the Grand Rapids Griffins were unable to push one across the net and were shut out by the visiting Rochester Americans, 2-0, Saturday night at Van Andel Arena. Grand Rapids has dropped three of its last four contests after beginning the new calendar year with a 5-2-0-0 mark. 
The Griffins are back in Van Andel Arena for their annual matinee game on Wednesday. Puck drop against the Toronto Marlies is set for 11 a.m. 
In front of a sellout crowd of 10,834, the Americans (20-19-2-1) tallied the first mark on the scoreboard. Just 3:16 into the game, William Carrier took control of the puck and flipped it ahead to Jason Akeson at center ice. With 2-on-1 numbers, Akeson charged into the zone toward the right circle and feigned Jared Coreau before dumping the puck off to Dan Catenacci. With the blocker side vacant, Catenacci delivered the first goal – which proved to also be the game-winning goal – past Coreau’s diving effort. 
The Griffins (24-14-1-1) spent nearly half of the opening frame with a man advantage as the Americans were whistled for four infractions.  Even though Grand Rapids squared up 12 shots in the first 20 minutes, none were able to slip past Nathan Lieuwen. 
The second period witnessed 15 more shots for the home team but still the Griffins trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes of action.
Grand Rapids nearly tied the game with three and a half minutes elapsed in the final frame. While shorthanded, Tomas Nosek forced a turnover from below the goal line in the offensive zone. After gaining control, Nosek worked his way to the front of the crease. He took multiple stabs at the potential tying goal before Lieuwen lost his balance in the net and the puck was eventually cleared. The original ruling was determined no goal and upon a review at the next stoppage of play, the primary call was upheld. 
Rochester notched its second goal and salted the game away with 7:40 remaining in regulation. Carrier gained a handle on the puck behind the Grand Rapids zone. He skated up the right side boards before reversing course and sending a centering pass toward Allan McPherson. Posted up in front of the goal mouth, McPherson absorbed the pass and dribbled one just underneath Coreau’s glove. 
Grand Rapids went on its sixth and final power play of the night with 2:15 left on the third-period clock. Pulling Coreau for the extra skater, the Griffins had a 6-on-4 advantage but were unable to capitalize before an Eric Tangradi penalty with 29 seconds remaining offset the Americans’ previous hooking infraction.  
Lieuwen turned away all 42 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season while Coreau stopped 27 shots in a losing effort. The Griffins killed off all four of Rochester’s power plays, but could not convert on any of their own six power plays. 

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

The Stats

G No Name GP G A +/- Sh PIM
D 4 N. Paetsch 3 0 1 -4 7 0
D 5 R. Russo 2 0 0 0 6 0
D 7 R. Sproul 3 2 0 -2 14 0
LW 8 A. Mantha 3 0 1 0 3 2
RW 9 M. Zengerle 3 0 1 0 7 0
LW 10 J. Hoggan 3 0 0 -3 6 0
C 12 A. Athanasiou 2 0 0 -2 2 0
D 14 N. Jensen 3 0 0 -4 5 0
RW 15 M. Callahan 3 1 0 -1 12 6
D 16 X. Ouellet 2 0 0 0 6 0
D 18 B. Lashoff 3 0 0 -2 6 0
C 19 T. Nosek 3 1 0 1 8 0
C 21 A. Miele 3 0 1 -4 8 0
C 22 L. Aubry 3 0 0 -3 7 4
LW 26 E. Tangradi 3 0 1 0 4 12
RW 27 M. Frk 3 0 1 -1 8 0
LW 39 T. Bertuzzi 3 1 1 -3 8 2
RW 45 C. Campbell 3 0 0 -4 7 0
D 55 J. Kindl 3 1 0 -1 8 4

The Griffins continue to be an above average possession team at the 40 game mark, with an estimated 50.52% Fenwick Close. Their Goal Differential is one of the highest in the league at +22, and while they make life a little difficult for their goaltenders, the Griffins are third in the league in Shots Per Game with 33.02.

It was a pretty good week in between the pipes for Grand Rapids. Jared Coreau started on Wednesday and Saturday and stopped a combined 57 of 61 shots, good for a 0.934 save percentage. Tom McCollum was left for dead in Fridays barn burner, but even he managed to stop 44 of 48 (0.916). 

Player of The Week

Ryan Sproul hasn’t exactly met the expectations given to him when he was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, but he had a heck of a week, scoring the game winner on Wednesday and adding what was, at the time, an equalizer on Friday. He was the only multi-goal scorer of the week and one of the only multi-point getters (Tyler Bertuzzi being the other). Not to mention, he led the team with a whopping 14 shots on goal.

Looking Ahead

The Griffins have an extremely tough week ahead of them, as they take on the Toronto Marlies twice and the Milwaukee Admirals once. Toronto have been the among the best teams in the history of the league this year with an insane +67 goal differential and 0.795 points percentage this year, but given their “win four, lose one” record and their three game win streak, they’re due for a loss soon. Milwaukee is a spot ahead of Grand Rapids in the Western Conference standings, with a 0.662 points percentage and a 8-1-1 stretch in their last ten games. The hope is that the Griffins can come out of this slump sooner, but they’re in a position that means that it might come later.

Their first game, against the Marlies, is tomorrow morning at 11AM. It’s a school day game, so prepare for loud, high pitched noises!