We’re back! After some time off, we’ve re-adjusted the schedule on Griffins Watch and brought it back to the early-week slot. Let’s take a look at what happened with the kids in Grand Rapids over the past week, as the ride a wicked hot streak into the beginning of March:
March 2nd vs. Rockford (2-1 overtime win)
Release from GriffinsHockey.com:
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – It was just another day, another third-period rally, another overtime power play goal and another win for the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday, as they beat the Central Division-leading Rockford IceHogs 2-1 at Van Andel Arena for their sixth consecutive victory.Following Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against Chicago, when Andy Miele tallied the game-winner on the power play after Grand Rapids had trailed 3-1 in the third period, it was Mark Zengerle’s turn to complete the comeback tonight, just 39 ticks into the extra frame. From the left goal line, he tried to send a pass across to Eric Tangradi on the back door, but the puck was knocked into the net by the skate of sliding Rockford defenseman Ville Pokka. As a result, the Griffins improved to a sparkling 7-1 in overtime this season.Tom McCollum, who shut out Iowa 3-0 in his last outing on Saturday, made 20 saves for his third straight win, during which time he has denied 79 of 82 opponent shots (0.963).Rockford (30-14-7-4) drew its only blood during the opening period at the 15:44 mark. Out of the left corner, Mark McNeill threw the puck toward the slot to Bryan Bickell, whose snap shot from the edge of the left circle glanced off the right post before falling across the line.Four consecutive minor penalties incurred by the Griffins (34-20-1-1) during the second period tested their penalty kill and prevented them from gaining much momentum, and the parade to the box continued when Tyler Bertuzzi was whistled off for high-sticking just 18 seconds into the third period.But Bertuzzi, who scored four goals during Grand Rapids’ 4-1 series triumph over Rockford in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, made amends soon after by rekindling some of that magic to tie the game on the Griffins’ 22nd shot. Standing at the right faceoff dot, he took a long cross-ice feed from Zengerle and blasted a one-timer inside the far post of Michael Leighton at 6:37.Another high-sticking penalty, to Rockford’s Jonathan Carlsson with 1:12 left in regulation, gave Grand Rapids its fourth power play chance of the night. The Griffins could not convert before the horn, but 48 seconds of that advantage carried into overtime, giving Zengerle the opportunity he needed to cap off a memorable night.Leighton, who surrendered goals on two of the final 11 shots he faced, finished with 30 saves.
March 4th at Charlotte (4-0 win)
Release from GriffinsHockey.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Behind a trio of second-period goals and Jared Coreau stopping all 29 shots he faced, the Grand Rapids Griffins won their seventh consecutive game, blanking the Charlotte Checkers 4-0 on Friday at Bojangles’ Coliseum.Robbie Russo recorded the primary assist on all three tallies in the middle frame as he improved his plus/minus rating to a league-best +41, while Coreau earned his fifth shutout of the campaign and second straight away from Van Andel Arena. The Griffins have a rematch with the Checkers at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.Eric Tangradi started the scoring for the Griffins (35-20-1-1) with 5:59 remaining in the opening period. Andy Miele’s pass from the left corner found Tangradi at the bottom of the left circle, who threaded the needle with a shot that went off Daniel Altshuller’s right arm and in at the near post.Tomas Nosek added to the Griffins’ advantage 1:19 into the middle frame. Nosek’s blind, between-the-legs centering pass from behind the Charlotte net was intended for Martin Frk in front, but bounced off Trevor Carrick’s stick and in at the right post.Anthony Mantha made it a three-goal cushion at the 6:01 mark. A perfect feed from Russo at the right point reached Mantha at the top of the left circle for a partial breakaway. After initially winding up for a slapshot, Mantha moved from forehand to backhand, breezing past the Charlotte netminder’s outstretched left pad and tapping the puck into an open net for his 18th of the season.The Griffins added a fourth goal with 8:29 remaining in the second. Shortly after a John Hagel interference minor expired, Xavier Ouellet’s wrist shot from the right point changed direction in front, going past the glove of a sliding Altshuller. That proved to be the end of the night for Altshuller, who was replaced by John Muse.Grand Rapids was unable to convert on four power play opportunities, snapping a five-game streak in which the Griffins had scored on the man advantage. Charlotte (27-23-3-3) failed to score on three chances. Altshuller stopped 14 of 18 shots, while Muse turned aside all 12 attempts in relief.
March 5th at Charlotte (2-1 Win)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Grand Rapids Griffins used a pair of first-period shorthanded goals and 36 saves from Tom McCollum to win their eighth consecutive game, holding off the Charlotte Checkers 2-1 on Saturday at Bojangles’ Coliseum.Louis-Marc Aubry started the scoring shorthanded for the Griffins (36-20-1-1) with 5:38 left in the opening period. After Dan Cleary sent a drop pass to Aubry from the right circle, Aubry made his way down from the right point to the edge of the left circle, sending a wrist shot off the inside of the right post and in.The Griffins added a second shorthanded tally with 5.8 seconds remaining in the first. Colin Campbell’s centering pass found Aubry in the high slot for a one-timer, forcing a terrific glove save from John Muse. Aubry continued to jam away at the rebound, with Campbell racing in to put home the loose puck as the Charlotte netminder was flat on his back.Keegan Lowe put Charlotte (27-24-3-3) on the scoresheet at the 10:44 mark of the middle frame. Anthony Camara crashed the net from the right circle and attempted to go back on his forehand, but had his stick lifted by Ryan Sproul. The puck then rolled across the goal mouth and on to the stick of Lowe, who beat McCollum to the blocker side.The Checkers would not go away quietly, looking to capitalize on two Griffin minor penalties in the final 7:32 of regulation. However, McCollum was equal to the task as he earned his fourth straight victory and fifth in his last six starts. The result prolonged Charlotte’s second-half freefall, with the Checkers winless in their last eight on home ice.Grand Rapids finished a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill, but were unable to convert on four power play opportunities. Muse turned aside 24 of 26 shots in a losing effort.The Griffins return to Van Andel Arena on Friday and Saturday, March 11-12 for a series with the Manitoba Moose. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Despite the hot streak, the Griffins are a little bit lower in estimated Fenwick Close than the last time we checked, sitting at 50.65% (13th) through 58 games. Their goal differential of +40 is third in the league, and just one behind the Ontario Reign for second. Their 33.67 shots for per game rank them second in the league, while giving up the 8th most at 31.98. Needless to say, high-event hockey is here to stay in Grand Rapids.
Player of The Week
Both goalies are deserving of player of the week honors. Jared Coreau picked up a 29-save shutout this week, while Tom McCollum stopped 56 of 58 in his pair of appearances. It’s becomes of them that the Griffins managed to sweep the week with just eight goals scored.
While I’d typically play realist and say that the eight-game win streak is about to come to an end, there’s a good chance that the Griffins can push it until at least Sunday. They kick off this upcoming weekend with a pair of games against the 29th-seed Manitoba Moose and finish the weekend against the 25th-seed Chciago Wolves. The Moose are in the midst of their best stretch of the year (6-4 in their last 10), while the Wolves have won just two of their last ten. Check back next week to see what happened!