The Grand Rapids Griffins have been making a trend of splitting back-to-back games as of late. When losing the Friday night game, the Griffins have come back in 11 of the last 13 to win on the Saturday match. In corresponding fashion, Grand Rapids split this weekend with the Pacific Division number one team, the San Jose Barracuda.
The last time Grand Rapids faced a number one team while being number one themselves, was March of 2017 and it was against the very same Barracuda. It’s infrequent that California teams make it to Grand Rapids, and when they do, its a stern test of the Griffins’ resilience.
Unfortunately for the Griffins, they’d face the #2 goalie for goals against in the league, Josef Korenar, who dominated the game and skate away with a 3-0 shutout. San Jose played an outstanding game.
Coming back in dramatic fashion on Saturday, Grand Rapids fought hard for the win and to retain the number one spot in the Central Division.
Notable: Chris Terry returns to the lineup from injury. Filip Hronek played in his first game back since being reassigned by the Detroit Red Wings. Tyler Spezia was released from his PTO. Trevor Hamilton was reassigned to the Toledo Walleye.
Player of the Weekend: Chris Terry
There’s a reason Chris Terry has been so successful in his pro career. After missing a handful of games due to a nagging injury, Terry returned to the lineup on Friday and was the difference maker (as always) all weekend. Though Grand Rapids dropped Friday’s game, Terry was no-less impactful which carried over into Saturday’s win.
Terry, selected to represent the Griffins in the AHL All-Star Classic, is 8th in the AHL for points. He only dropped a few places due to missing games. He’s play-maker, rush-starter, and puck-hustler to name a few qualities. A 10 season veteran to the game, he has amassed loads of precision and knowledge which has catapulted the Griffins into a contending spot in their division. He consistently outperforms himself which has made him a notable mention almost every week.
Play of the Weekend: Camper’s Game-Tying Goal
Carter Camper is another veteran who has been filling the void left by Eric Tangradi and Ben Street remarkably. He’s an intensely hard worker and is what I would consider, an elite skater. Saturday’s match-up against San Jose was a tight one, which was to be expected. Tying the game up and ultimately forcing overtime and a shootout.
Camper’s goal was set up by none other than Griffins veteran, Collin Campbell. Campbell, another long-time skater worthy of praise, made a beautifully clean pass entering the offensive zone to Camper. Camper did the rest – slamming a shot past San Jose goaltender, Antoine Bibeau. The goal was nothing short of timely. Scored at 18:57 in the third period, Camper spared Grand Rapids another home-ice defeat. Carter Camper now has 11 goals on the season and Campbell tallied his 8th assist.
Quotable Lockerroom Talk:
Keys for the Future: Special Teams
The trend of the fizzling powerplay has been one all of the Griffins are aware of. In Chris Terry’s words, “We’re number one right now… without a powerplay. Imagine how much better we’d be with one.” A correct statement that was spoken out of frustration – but true. Grand Rapids has shown that they can climb the standings primarily riding the coattails of even strength success and penalty kill. The powerplay has good intentions, top scorers, offensive pressure and everything needed – they just can’t connect and no one seems to know why.
Going forward, the powerplay will be the key to making a strong playoff push. Yes, they can survive and maintain without one right now, but that won’t last long as other teams zero in on playoff spots. Even the Calder Cup Championship team of 2016-17, where the powerplay was a goal-guarantee, bad an intensely hard battle for the cup. The current powerplay comes nowhere near the success of seasons prior so finding a way to make it click will be mandatory to make it beyond the first round.