Conference-Leading Griffins Hit the Road to Face Milwaukee and Rockford
This Week's Games
GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals // Fri., Jan. 13 // 8 p.m. // UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:35 p.m.
Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Road, 3-1-0-0 Overall. Fifth of 12 meetings overall, third of six at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
All-Time Series: 34-31-5-5-5 Road, 81-55-7-6-7 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators
Noteworthy: Since the 2013-14 season, the Admirals are 10-17-2-3 (0.391) against the Griffins. Over that same time frame, Milwaukee is 130-67-17-15 (0.638) against the rest of the AHL.
GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs // Sat., Jan. 14 // 8 p.m. // BMO Harris Bank Center
GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs // Mon., Jan. 16 // 2 p.m. // BMO Harris Bank Center
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7:35 p.m. (Saturday), ESPN 96.1 FM at 1:35 p.m. (Monday)
Season Series: 1-0-0-0 Road, 4-1-0-0 Overall. Sixth and seventh of 10 meetings overall, second and third of five at BMO Harris Bank Center.
All-Time Series: 11-15-2-3 Road, 33-24-3-5 Overall.
NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks
Noteworthy: Since the start of the 2012-13 season, the Griffins are 16-3-1-1 in 21 regular season games against the IceHogs at Van Andel Arena. In that same time, Grand Rapids is 9-8-0-1 in 18 games at Rockford.
Last Week's Results
Wed., Jan. 4 Iowa Wild 5 at GRIFFINS 6 21-8-1-2 (45 points, 1st Central Division)
Fri., Jan. 6 Charlotte Checkers 2 at GRIFFINS 1 21-9-1-2 (45 points, 2nd)
Sat., Jan. 7 Rockford IceHogs 1 at GRIFFINS 6 22-9-1-2 (47 points, 1st)
Opening Faceoff: The Grand Rapids Griffins have won eight of their last 10 games and have points in 16 of the last 19 (13-3-1-2). Grand Rapids leads the Western Conference and places third in the AHL with a 0.691 points percentage (22-9-1-2 record). The Griffins completed a four-game homestand last week with a 3-1 mark and are set to play their next four on foreign ice beginning Friday at Milwaukee.
Last Week's Recap: Behind three-point games from Tomas Nosek and Ben Street, the Griffins defeated Iowa 6-5 on Wednesday. Facing the last-place Checkers on Friday, Grand Rapids gave up two goals in the opening period and were able to get only one of them back, losing 2-1. The Griffins bounced back on Saturday with a 6-1 rout of Rockford, as Street and Nosek again accounted for three points apiece.
All-Star Coach: Head coach Todd Nelson has earned the honor to coach the Central Division in the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Capital BlueCross, to be held Jan. 29-30 at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. Thanks to Grand Rapids' 5-2 win on New Year's Eve against Rockford, the Griffins clinched the best points percentage in the division through the end of play on Dec. 31, meriting Nelson's accolade. In his seventh season as an AHL head coach, Nelson will be making his second trip to the AHL All-Star Classic as a coach, after he previously served as co-coach for the Western Conference at the 2012 All-Star Classic in Atlantic City, N.J. Nelson will become the third head coach in Griffins history to coach in an all-star game, joining Jeff Blashill in 2014 and Bruce Cassidy in 2002 (AHL) and 2001 (IHL).
Russo and Lorito Named All-Stars: The American Hockey League announced last Thursday that Griffins forward Matt Lorito and defenseman Robbie Russo have been selected to play for the Central Division All-Star Team at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Capital BlueCross. Lorito ranks among the league's leaders with 22 assists (T4th) and 32 points (T9th). The 5-foot-9, 171-pound winger has been an integral component in the Griffins' vaunted league-leading power play attack, as his 18 power play points (4-14 - 18) and 14 power play assists both tie for fourth on the circuit. His 10 multi-point games are tops on the team. Lorito has been selected to his first all-star game in his second year as a professional. Russo paces all Griffins defensemen in scoring and ties for 16th among AHL blueliners with 19 points (5-14 - 19). Russo is the first player in franchise history to be named to a year-end All-Star Team, an All-Rookie Team and an All-Star Classic. During a historic rookie campaign in 2015-16, Russo became the first player in the team's 20-year history to earn both All-Rookie and All-Star Team accolades in the same season when he was named to the AHL Second All-Star Team.
Start It Up : The Griffins' 0.691 points percentage is tied with the 2008-09 team (20-7-4-3, 0.691) for the third-best record in franchise history after 34 games, trailing only the 2000-01 (25-6-3, 0.779) and 2013-14 (23-8-1-2, 0.721) editions.
As of Late: During the Griffins' recent stretch of eight wins in the last 10 games, Grand Rapids is averaging 4.00 goals and 31.7 shots for per game versus 1.90 goals and 24.4 shots against. Grand Rapids has scored five or more goals 10 times this season, including three times in the last four contests.
Follow the Leader(s): Matt Lorito (10-22 - 32), Ben Street (10-17 - 27), Mitch Callahan (10-16 - 26) and Tomas Nosek (12-13 - 25) lead the team in points...Lorito's 32 points are tied for ninth in the league and 22 assists are tied for fourth... Kyle Criscuolo's 22 points (10-12 - 22) tie for 11th among rookies... Robbie Russo's 19 points (5-14 - 19) are the most among team defensemen and tie for 16th among league blueliners... Evgeny Svechnikov paces the club with 32 penalty minutes and Eric Tangradi has a team-best +9 rating.
Home Sweet Home: The Griffins have points in nine of their last 10 games on home ice (7-1-0-2), including wins in six of the last seven. Grand Rapids will play eight games within friendly confines in January, tied for the most home games in a month this season (November). The Griffins are 13-4-0-2 at home this season, and their 28 points are third-most in the league.
Quieting the Crowds: Grand Rapids is 9-5-1-0 on foreign ice and its 19 points tie for ninth in the AHL despite tying for the sixth-fewest road games played (15). The Griffins' plus-10 goal differential on the road ties for third best in the league.
All About Chances: The Griffins are averaging the second-most shots in the league (33.74) and the sixth-most goals (3.36) while surrendering the second-fewest goals (2.47) and the 11th-fewest shots (28.91). Grand Rapids has outshot opponents 24 times in 34 games, including the last six in a row.
Between the Pipes: With Jared Coreau on recall in Detroit, goaltenders Eddie Pasquale and Cal Heeter have stepped up their games. Pasquale has points in 10 of his 12 starts on the season and ties for 13th with a 2.46 goals against average. His two regulation losses have been separated by over two months (Oct. 29, Dec. 30) and he recorded a career-high nine-game point streak (6-0-3) from Nov. 12-Dec. 28. Heeter has won four of his five starts for the Griffins this season and is a combined 14-2 between the ECHL's Toledo Walleye and Grand Rapids. If he had enough minutes to qualify, Heeter's 2.20 GAA would rank 10th and his 0.929 save percentage would tie for fifth in the AHL. The fifth-year pro is in his first season back in North America after spending the latter part of the 2014-15 season and all of 2015-16 between Zagreb Medvescak (KHL) and Hamburg (DEL).
Being Nosy: Third-year Griffin and seventh-year pro Tomas Nosek has 25 points (12-13 - 25) in 24 games and is on pace to break his previous career high totals of 19 goals, 25 assists and 44 points that were set in 2013-14 - his last season in Europe - with HC Pardubice. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound center has three three-point efforts in his last four games. He recorded back-to-back three-point nights on Dec. 31 and Jan. 4, marking the first time in his North American career that's happened. Nosek's 1.04 points/game are most on the team while his six power play goals place second.
Spreading the Wealth: Mitch Callahan, Kyle Criscuolo and Ben Street all scored their 10th goals of the season in last Saturdays' 6-1 win versus Rockford. The Griffins now have six players with double-digit goal totals, the most in the league.
On the Power Play: The Griffins lead the league with a power play percentage of 27.7% (41/148) and have recorded at least one goal while on the man advantage in 22 of the last 25 games, including four in a row. Grand Rapids has converted on the power play in four of the last five road contests, going 7 for 19 (36.8%) during that stretch. The Griffins have relied on the power play for 35.0% of their goals (41 of 117), the third-highest percentage in the AHL behind only Toronto's 37.5% (36 of 96) and Tucson's 35.6% (31 of 87). The power play has been keyed by first-year Griffin Matt Lorito, who ties for fourth in the league in both power play points (4-14 - 18) and power play assists (14) and Martin Frk, who ties for fifth in the league with seven power play tallies. Mitch Callahan has been on the ice 28 times during a power play goal, tops on the team, followed by Lorito (23), Ben Street (22), Frk (22) and Tomas Nosek (20).
Current Streaks: Rookie defenseman Joe Hicketts has four points (1-3 - 4) in the last four games... Ben Street has seven points (4-3 - 7) in the last four games... Martin Frk has three points (1-2 - 3) in the last three games... Matthew Ford has recorded one assist in each of his first three games back in the lineup after missing eight due to injury.
Rookie Production: The Griffins have played eight rookies this season, which already surpasses last year's total of seven. Those eight rookies have combined for 74 points (30-44 - 74), which equates to 25.6% of the team's goals (30/117), 22.7% of the assists (44/194) and 23.9% of the points (74/310).
Milestones: Following a third-period empty-net goal last Saturday, Mitch Callahan notched career goal No. 88 and ranks third all-time in franchise history...He trails only Francis Pare (102) and Michel Picard (158) in the record books...Callahan's 169 career points (88-81 - 169) are eight-most in team history, 10 behind Jiri Hudler for seventh...Captain Nathan Paetsch has 115 career assists to rank sixth all-time in team history...Paetsch is 15 behind Derek King for fifth... Matt Lorito needs two points to reach 100 as a pro.
Showing Discipline: The Griffins are the least penalized team in the league, averaging just 9.26 penalty minutes per contest. In fact, Grand Rapids is on pace to log 704 PIM, which would break the franchise record for fewest PIM in a season set by the 2014-15 team with 869. Evgeny Svechnikov has 32 PIM and is on track for 72 this season, which would make him the first team PIM leader to not break the century mark (previous low: Brennan Evans, 111 PIM in 2013-14). Svechnikov has recorded two PIM total in the last 12 games.
Magic Numbers: The Griffins are 18-2-1-1 when scoring the game's first goal, 15-1 when leading after one period and 18-1-1-0 when leading after two periods...Grand Rapids is 22-1-0-1 when scoring three goals or more and 0-8-1-1 when scoring two or less.
Three in Detroit: Jared Coreau, Nick Jensen and Anthony Mantha remain on recall with the Detroit Red Wings. Coreau, the 158th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL, shows a 3-1-1 record, a 3.14 GAA and a 0.903 save percentage. The 6-foot-6 netminder notched his first shutout last Thursday at Los Angeles. Jensen, the 159th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL, has skated in eight games, recording three assists and two PIM. Mantha has points in eight of the last nine games and totals 19 points (11-8 - 19), a plus-11 rating and 12 PIM in 25 contests.
Walleye Report: Under first-year head coach Dan Watson, the ECHL's Toledo Walleye have points in eight of their last 10 and continue to lead the league with a 26-6-0-1 record (0.803). Rookies Tylor Spink (12-24 - 36), Tyson Spink (15-20 - 35) and former Griffin A.J. Jenks (13-20 - 33) lead the team in scoring. Second-year pro Jake Paterson, Detroit's second pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is 16-5 while ranking sixth with a 2.45 goals against average and placing ninth with a 0.913 save percentage. Griffins-contracted Cal Heeter, who is on recall in Grand Rapids, is 10-1 between the pipes and shows a 3.03 GAA and a 0.898 save percentage.
First Things First: The Griffins have seen six rookies score their first professional goal with the club this season. Dan Renouf (Dec. 31 vs. Rockford), Joe Hicketts (Nov. 12 at Milwaukee) and Kyle Criscuolo (Oct. 18 at Iowa) all notched their initial goals in game-winning fashion while Dylan Sadowy (Dec. 9 vs. Milwaukee), Dominic Turgeon (Nov. 26 at Cleveland) and Evgeny Svechnikov (Oct. 15 at Chicago) all recorded their first pro goals earlier in the campaign.
Wisconsin/Milwaukee Connections: First-year Griffins Ben Street and Matthew Ford were teammates at the University of Wisconsin from 2005-08 and helped the Badgers win the 2006 NCAA Championship...Defenseman Conor Allen skated in 31 games with Milwaukee last season and recorded six points (1-5 - 6) and 52 PIM.
Immovable Object vs. Unstoppable Force: Friday's matchup will mark the fourth straight time in five meetings this season that Milwaukee and Grand Rapids will play with both teams occupying the top two spots in the Central Division. The only exception came in the first matchup of the season on Nov. 12 when Milwaukee led the division while Grand Rapids was in third. In fact, Friday will be the 10th time in the last 13 meetings overall between the teams that either the Admirals or Griffins were the division leaders at the time of the game.
Back-to-Backs: The Griffins will play back-to-back games a total of 27 times this season. Compare the statistics for when the Griffins have played on consecutive nights:
First Night Second Night
W 5 9
L (incl. OT, SO) 6 2
GF 2.73 3.91
GA 2.27 2.36
PP % 21.28% 26.83%
PK % 78.95% 85.71%
SF 33.64 31.82
SA 28.55 32.27
Win Some, Lose Some: Compare the statistics for the Griffins during their 22 wins and 12 (including overtime and shootout) losses:
GF GA PP % PK % SF SA
W (22) 4.50 2.00 31.63% 88.89% 34.73 29.05
L (12) 1.50 3.33 18.00% 71.05% 31.92 28.67
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