Last week was a good example of the bounces going the right way for a team in what seemed to be the wrong places. After a tumultuous losing streak in the prior weeks, the Grand Rapids Griffins found a way to upset one of the league’s powerhouses not once, but twice! Let’s take a look at the week that was.
(Unfortunately, the Rockford IceHogs don’t release home video highlights)
Friday February 5th, @ Rockford (9-1 Win)
Release from GriffinsHockey.com
ROCKFORD, Ill. – A hat trick and five points from Mitch Callahan helped the Grand Rapids Griffins snap their five-game losing streak, routing the Central Division-leading Rockford IceHogs 9-1 on Friday at BMO Harris Bank Center.Martin Frk also registered a pair of goals while Tom McCollum stopped 37 of 38 shots as the Griffins scored four times on the power play en route to matching their largest margin of victory in franchise history. The result also snapped the IceHogs’ seven-game point streak.Mike Liambas started the scoring shorthanded for Rockford (27-11-3-4) 3:31 into the opening period. Anthony Mantha’s errant cross-ice pass from the right point ended up on the stick of Liambias. After gaining the zone on the right wing on a partial breakaway, Liambas fired a shot from the right circle low to the glove side.Callahan replied for the Griffins (25-17-1-1) just 27 seconds later. Just as a Jake Dowell boarding penalty expired, Mark Zengerle’s pass from the right corner found Callahan alone in front of the net, lifting a fluttering puck over Michael Leighton’s glove and in.Xavier Ouellet gave the Griffins the lead with 5:30 remaining. Mantha’s feed from center ice reached Ouellet as he was gaining the zone on the left side. Ouellet then sent a slapshot from the left point over the Rockford netminder’s glove.Frk gave the Griffins a two-goal advantage with 11.2 seconds on the clock. Nick Jensen’s wrist shot from the right circle found its way through traffic, forcing a save from Leighton. In a scramble in front of the goal, Callahan kicked the rebound in the direction of Frk, who scored on a tap-in at the left post.The Griffins took advantage of two extended power play opportunities in the middle frame. First, Kirill Gotovets received a major and game misconduct for boarding when he hit Eric Tangradi from behind at the 2:02 mark. Grand Rapids capitalized 1:14 into the power play when after Nathan Paetsch’s wrist shot from the point was saved, the rebound end up on the stick of Callahan in front, chipping the puck past Leighton’s glove side.Frk made it a four-goal cushion on the power play with 8:57 left in the middle frame. With Marko Dano serving a double-minor for high-sticking Tangradi, Paetsch’s cross-ice pass from the left point found Frk, who blasted a slapshot from the top of the right circle to the short side for his second of the night and 16th of the campaign. That goal proved to be the end of the night for Leighton, who was replaced by Mac Carruth.Tomas Nosek added to the IceHogs’ misery with 5:52 remaining. Dan Cleary’s pass from the right half-wall found Nosek at the bottom of the right circle. Nosek then crashed the net, sending a shot past Carruth’s blocker to give the Griffins a commanding 6-1 lead after 40 minutes.The night went from bad to worse for Rockford as the Griffins added three insurance tallies in the final frame. Jeff Hoggan scored on a breakaway at the 5:06 mark after receiving a stretch pass from Jensen. Hoggan faked a shot on his forehand before sending a shot through the five-hole.Callahan completed his hat trick on the power play 52 seconds later. Ryan Sproul sent a pass from the right half-wall to Callahan in the slot, who moved from backhand to forehand, lifting a puck high to the glove side.Tangradi added a ninth goal on the power play with 4:45 left in regulation. Zengerle’s pass from the left corner found Tangradi in the slot, scoring on a backhanded shot that trickled through Carruth’s five-hole for his team-leading 17th of the season.Grand Rapids finished 4-for-10 on the power play, while Rockford failed to score on four opportunities. Leighton stopped 16 of 21 shots in a losing effort while Carruth turned aside seven of 11 shots in relief.
Saturday February 6th, vs. Rockford (4-3 OT Win)
Release from GriffinsHockey.com
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins toppled the Central Division-leading Rockford IceHogs for the second straight night on Saturday, as Tomas Nosek’s goal 59 seconds into overtime gave them a 4-3 victory at Van Andel Arena.Nosek collected a loose puck at center ice and worked his way into the Rockford zone before passing to Nick Jensen and driving to the net. Jensen’s rocket from the right circle was denied by Michael Leighton, but Nosek slashed across the top of the crease to backhand the rebound home.The Griffins (26-17-1-1), who snapped a 0-4-1-0 skid on home ice that came on the heels of their franchise-record 14-game winning streak at Van Andel Arena, will hit the road for their next three contests, starting with a Friday-Saturday set against the Iowa Wild.Following their 9-1 slaughter of the IceHogs in Rockford on Friday, the Griffins got their offense started early with their 10th unanswered goal of the weekend series just 3:36 into the first period. Seconds after Leighton robbed Andy Miele with a brilliant point-blank glove save during a Grand Rapids power play, Martin Frk took a pass from Miele at the top of the circles and blasted a slap shot into the left corner at 3:36.The IceHogs (27-11-4-4) broke the streak of Griffins goals at the 8:15 mark when Mark McNeill tapped a rebound past Jared Coreau, but Grand Rapids kept the offense rolling on Frk’s second of the game 2:04 later. He crashed the goalmouth during a scrum, found a loose puck in the slot and slipped it just inside the right post to put the home team ahead at 2-1.A similar script played out in the second period, as again Rockford tied the score only to see the Griffins respond in short order. With the IceHogs breaking into the Grand Rapids zone on a 3-on-1, Chris DeSousa fired a shot from the right side that Coreau turned aside, but Tanner Kero was waiting in the left circle to pot the puck into a yawning cage at 8:13. Then just 47 seconds later, Tyler Bertuzzi gobbled up a mishandled puck in the high slot and sped toward Leighton before putting a backhand between the netminder’s pads, making it a 3-2 contest.The IceHogs forged a tie for the third time during a power play at 13:59, as Marko Dano darted across the slot to deflect Ville Pokka’s shot from the right point past Coreau. The Griffins finished the period with that lone goal by Bertuzzi, after having scored at least two goals in each of their previous five periods (3-3-3-3-2) against Rockford.The score remained 3-3 through the end of regulation, although the Griffins had their chances late thanks to a power play with fewer than five minutes remaining and a flurry around the Rockford net in the final 30 seconds.
Grand Rapids’ estimated Fenwick close remains identical this week at 50.48% through 45 games, though they’ve dropped a position in the ranks to 14th. Their blowout win on the Friday night shoots the team’s goal differential to +21, and they remain in the same position in shots per and against per game (3rd and 24th) as they were last week.
Both goaltenders had solid outings. Thomas McCollum stopped 37 of 38 shots on Friday (0.974) while adding an assist (!!) on the game winner (!!!). Jared Coreau stopped 29 of 32 on Saturday. (0.906).
Player of The Week
Mitch Callahan has to be the guy here. His seven shots on goal tie him for the top of the team, and while his hat trick and two assist effort on Friday was more than enough to get him this recognition, he also added an assist on Saturday for good measure. This weekend represented nearly a third of his annual offensive contribution; he’s had 20 points in 31 games this year.
With two huge wins behind them, the Griffins have an opportunity to pick up a few more in a 3-in-3 extravaganza. Thy head to Iowa on Friday and Saturday to take on the Wild, who are neck and neck with the Manitoba Moose for the very last seed in the conference and league. After those games, they’ll head to Rockford once again in hopes of replicating the success they had last week. Friday and Saturday’s games begin at 8:00 PM, while Sunday’s starts at 5;00.