Griffins Watch: March 16th

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We’re back with more updates on your future Red Wings! It was a monster week for the boys from Grand Rapids, who continued to be the hottest team in the AHL with another three wins to bring them to an absurd eleven in a row.

The Games

Friday March 11th vs Manitoba

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Eric Tangradi’s five points powered the Grand Rapids Griffins to their ninth straight victory, a 7-2 thrashing of the Manitoba Moose on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Tangradi tied a franchise record for most points in a home game by factoring into each of the Griffins’ first five goals, as they built a 5-0 cushion en route to handing the league-worst Moose (18-34-4-5) their fourth consecutive loss.
Todd Nelson, whose squad set a Griffins record earlier this season with a 15-game winning streak, became the first head coach in team history to author two winning streaks of at least nine games at any point during his tenure. Grand Rapids (37-20-1-1) will look to make it 10 in a row on Saturday in a 7 p.m. rematch with the Moose.
The Griffins, who had not played host to Manitoba since the Moose’s previous iteration visited Van Andel Arena on Nov. 5, 2010, jumped ahead 3-0 before the game was 12 minutes old. Tangradi got things started during a power play at 2:10 when his centering pass from below the left goal line was blocked by sliding defenseman Peter Stoykewych, sending the puck fluttering inside the left post.
Moose goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who has logged 26 games with the parent Winnipeg Jets this season, was victimized soon after by a Manitoba turnover in the neutral zone. He made the initial save on Tangradi during the ensuing Griffins rush, but Andy Miele potted the rebound from the left side at the 7:13 mark.
Exactly four minutes later, Anthony Mantha capitalized on a beautiful, spinning setup by Miele, whipping a laser past Hellebuyck’s glove from the edge of the right circle.
The onslaught continued 21 seconds into the middle period, with Tangradi lifting a backhand into the top of the net off a slick centering feed from Mantha to make it 4-0. Tangradi then notched his fifth point of the night at 7:13, when Hellebuyck denied his deflection of an Xavier Ouellet shot from the point but was helpless to stop a completely uncovered Robbie Russo from converting the rebound.
The Moose broke Jared Coreau’s shutout bid with a pair of power play tallies early in the third, as Chase De Leo’s wrister from the left circle snuck through him at 5:07 before Dan DeSalvo popped home a rebound at the right post at 7:16.
But the Griffins responded with goals from Nick Jensen at 13:46 and Tyler Bertuzzi on the power play at 18:46 to quash any hopes the visitors had of a dramatic comeback. Miele and Russo earned assists on those respective goals to cap off four-point nights.

Saturday March 12th vs. Manitoba

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Behind 32 saves by Tom McCollum, the Grand Rapids Griffins completed a weekend sweep of the Manitoba Moose on Saturday with a 5-1 win at a sold-out Van Andel Arena, moving within .003 percentage points of first place in the Central Division with their 10th consecutive victory.
Eric Tangradi chipped in a goal and an assist to finish the two-game set against Manitoba with seven points (3-4—7), while Andy Miele had two helpers to give him six points (1-5—6) over the last two nights.
Combined with their 15-game run earlier this season, the Griffins have become the first AHL team since the 2009-10 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears to post a pair of double-digit winning streaks in the same season. And with first-place Rockford losing tonight, Grand Rapids (0.650) has climbed nearly even with the IceHogs (0.653) in the Central Division race while taking the lead over both Rockford and Milwaukee in terms of points (78 to 77).
With only four home games remaining over their final 16 contests, the Griffins will commence a five-game, 11-day road trip on Sunday with a 5 p.m. EDT start at Chicago, from which they’ll head to Texas for a pair of games each against the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage. 
The Griffins’ penalty killers were put to an extended test less than four minutes into the game after Joel Rechlicz was whistled off on simultaneous roughing and cross-checking calls. Manitoba failed to capitalize on that four-minute opportunity, but the Moose did break through for the first goal at the 10:28 mark when Axel Blomqvist – who drew the penalties on Rechlicz – snapped a shot past McCollum from the right circle.
Grand Rapids revived its potent offense from Friday’s 7-2 win to score three times in a span of just over nine minutes, beginning with a power play goal by Tyler Bertuzzi off a feed from Tangradi with 2:49 remaining in the first period.
Anthony Mantha’s 20th goal of the season put the Griffins ahead only 51 seconds into the middle period. From deep in the right corner of his own zone, Robbie Russo threaded a perfect 120-foot stretch pass to Mantha, who broke in alone on Eric Comrie and managed two quick shots before sliding his third try just inside the right post.
The Griffins doubled their advantage on their second power play tally of the night at the 6:13 mark, as Martin Frk took a pass from Miele at the top of the circles and blasted a rising howitzer past Comrie for his team-high 23rd goal of the campaign.
 
Tangradi scored Grand Rapids’ fourth consecutive goal at 4:20 of the third to make it 4-1, showing quick hands on the doorstep to slip a rebound home, before Tomas Nosek added a shorthanded empty-netter at 16:16 for the final margin.
McCollum earned his fifth consecutive win since Feb. 20, a stretch during which his 1.00 goals against average and .967 save percentage are both the best marks in the AHL – one spot ahead of teammate Jared Coreau’s numbers (1.19, .956) over that span. 

Sunday March 13th vs. Chicago

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Martin Frk netted a pair of goals while Jared Coreau stopped all 45 shots he faced as the Grand Rapids Griffins rose to first place in the Central Division with their 11th straight win, blanking the Chicago Wolves 4-0 on Sunday at Allstate Arena.
 
Coreau earned his sixth shutout of the season, tying Yann Danis of the Albany Devils for second in the AHL. The 6-6 netminder has been in spectacular form recently, recording three shutouts in his last six outings with a 0.99 goals against average and .967 save percentage in that span.
 
Grand Rapids entered Sunday’s contest one point ahead of the Rockford IceHogs in the Central Division standings following the IceHogs’ 4-1 defeat to the Charlotte Checkers earlier in the day. After the Milwaukee Admirals’ 5-1 win over the Iowa Wild, the Griffins, IceHogs, and Admirals are separated by .019 percentage points.
 
The Griffins have outscored their opponents 45-11 during their 11-game winning streak, including a remarkable 16-3 for the three-in-three weekend. The streak is tied for the second-longest in franchise history, matching a run lasting from March 5-31, 2006 under Greg Ireland. 
 
Frk started the scoring on the power play for the Griffins (39-20-1-1) at the 8:56 mark of the opening period. Andy Miele’s feed from the right half-boards found Anthony Mantha in front, who then sent a backhanded pass to Frk at the bottom of the left circle for a one-timer into an open net for his 11th power play goal of the campaign. 
 
Frk’s second of the night came 5:32 into the middle frame. Tomas Nosek’s feed from the right half-boards reached Frk in the high slot for a slapshot that whistled past Pheonix Copley’s blocker side for his team-high 25th of the season.
 
Miele scored the first of two third-period insurance tallies shorthanded at the 4:47 mark. With Joakim Andersson serving a tripping minor, Dan Cleary chipped the puck to Miele in the neutral zone. After escaping pressure from Jordan Schmaltz and driving the net, Miele’s initial effort forced a pad save from Copley, but Miele collected his own rebound for a shot that went off the Chicago netminder’s right arm and in.
 
Anthony Mantha added a fourth goal 1:11 later. Ryan Sproul’s 150-foot stretch pass from behind his own goal line reached Mantha for a breakaway, beating Copley to the glove side for his 21st of the campaign.

The Stats

Pos No Name GP G A PTS +/- Sh PIM
D 4 N. Paetsch 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
D 5 R. Russo 3 1 5 6 5 5 0
D 7 R. Sproul 3 0 2 2 1 5 0
LW 8 A. Mantha 3 3 3 6 7 11 4
RW 9 M. Zengerle 3 0 2 2 1 1 0
LW 10 J. Hoggan 2 0 0 0 -1 2 2
RW 11 D. Cleary 3 0 1 1 1 3 0
C 13 J. Andersson 1 0 0 0 0 1 2
D 14 N. Jensen 3 1 0 1 4 4 0
RW 15 M. Callahan 3 0 0 0 0 5 15
D 16 X. Ouellet 3 0 2 2 5 9 0
D 18 B. Lashoff 3 0 1 1 5 4 4
C 19 T. Nosek 3 1 1 2 2 5 4
D 20 D. Renouf 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
C 21 A. Miele 2 2 6 8 7 7 2
C 22 L. Aubry 2 0 1 1 0 6 0
LW 26 E. Tangradi 2 3 4 7 8 10 0
RW 27 M. Frk 2 3 0 3 1 8 8
RW 37 Z. Nastasiuk 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
LW 39 T. Bertuzzi 3 2 0 2 3 4 2
RW 44 J. Rechlicz 1 0 0 0 -1 0 4
RW 45 C. Campbell 1 0 0 0 0 0 5

Grand Rapids’ estimated Fenwick Close is slightly up this week, now at 50.86% on the year. Despite this, the team actually fell a spot in the rankings to 14th in the AHL. Their goal differential has increased to +53, however, which is good for 2nd and puts them closer to the top-seeded Toronto Marlies than any team has been in months (they’re still 27 back). The team remains in second in shots per game (33.54) and fall to sixth from the bottom in shots against with 32.05 allowed per game.

In honesty, it wouldn’t have been very hard to name the two goaltenders as players of the week again. Jared Coreau stopped 20 of 22 on Friday and had a 45 save shutout on Sunday for a combined 0.970 SV%, while Tom McCollum fell short with a… 0.969 on Saturday. It’s a good time to tend goal for the Griffins, apparently.

Player of The Week

Some love is in order for Andy Miele, who not only led the team in points on the weekend but had multi-point games on all three days. Miele had a goal and three assists on Friday, two assists on Saturday, and a goal and an assist on Sunday. To go on a three-game point streak is hard, to go on a three-game multi-point streak is harder, but to do it all without a break? Absurd. Miele was also a +7, took 7 shots on goal, and took just one penalty.

Looking Ahead

The Griffins have three games this week, but thankfully, it’s not the same three-day stretch of the week before. They’ll play their first matchup against the Texas Stars tonight. This should be an interesting one, as it thrusts Grand Rapids’ hot goaltending into the fire against one of the strongest offensive teams int he league. They’ll get two days off after that, before taking them on again on Saturday. Finally, they’ll end the weekend with an afternoon game on Sunday against the San Antonio Rampage.