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 Grand Rapids Griffins

Griffins Begin Central Division Finals at Milwaukee

May 14, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Grand Rapids Griffins News Release

Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Sebastian Cossa vs. the Milwaukee Admirals
Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Sebastian Cossa vs. the Milwaukee Admirals
(Grand Rapids Griffins, Credit: Nicolas Carrillo)

This Week's Games

GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals // Central Division Finals - Game 1 // Wed., May 15 // 8 p.m. EDT // Panther Arena

GRIFFINS at Milwaukee Admirals // Central Division Finals - Game 2 // Mon., May 20 // 8 p.m. EDT // Panther Arena

Listen: 96.1 The Game at 7:45 p.m. EDT

Watch: AHLTV

2023-24 Regular-Season Series: 4-3-1-0 Overall, 1-2-1-0 Road

All-Time Regular-Season Series: 113-83-7-9-8 Overall, 52-44-5-6-5 Road

All-Time Playoff Series: 6-4 Overall, 3-2 Road

NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators

Noteworthy: The Griffins took down the third-seeded Rockford IceHogs 3-1 in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals. After dropping the first two games of their Central Division Semifinals series against Texas, Milwaukee went on to take all three must-win games at home to defeat the fourth-seeded Stars, 3-2.

Setting the Stage: The Griffins clinched their 18th playoff berth in 28 seasons with a 37-23-8-4 record and 86 points, claiming the second spot in the Central Division, seventh in the Western Conference and 13th overall in the AHL. Grand Rapids will face the top-seeded Milwaukee Admirals (47-22-2-1, 97 pts.), who have reached the Central Division Finals for the third consecutive season. The Griffins finished the regular-season series against the Admirals with a 4-3-1-0 record, including 3-1-0-0 at Van Andel Arena and 1-2-1-0 at Panther Arena. Neither team posted a shutout during the regular-season series but the Griffins held Milwaukee to just one goal on three occasions. Grand Rapids possesses a 101-83 ledger in the postseason and 21-15 series record, which includes games in the IHL's Turner Cup Playoffs from 1996-01. The Griffins have a 7-5 mark in a best-of-five series. This is Milwaukee's 18th Calder Cup Playoff appearance in 21 seasons. The Admirals are 72-76 in AHL postseason games and have a 14-16 series record. Last season, Milwaukee took down Manitoba and Texas to claim the Central Division title before being defeated 4-2 by the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the Western Conference Finals.

How We Got Here: After finishing in second place in the Central Division in the regular season and receiving a first-round bye, the Griffins took down the third-seeded Rockford IceHogs 3-1 in the Central Division Semifinals. The Milwaukee Admirals completed the regular season in first place in the division and faced the fourth-seeded Texas Stars in the Central Division Semifinals. After dropping the first two games of their series against Texas, Milwaukee went on to take all three must-win games at home to defeat the Stars, 3-2. The Admirals became the 13th team in AHL history to win a best-of-five series after trailing 2-0 (Grand Rapids was the 11th, against Toronto in the 2015 Western Conference Quarterfinals). The Griffins have advanced to the Central Division Finals for the first time since their 2017 Calder Cup championship run, while this is Milwaukee's third consecutive appearance in the division finals. The Admirals have set a new franchise record by earning a playoff series win in three straight postseasons.

Prior History: The Griffins and Admirals will renew a rivalry that dates back to the 1996-97 season when both were members of the International Hockey League. The teams have met a combined 220 times in the regular season, with the Griffins possessing a 113-83-7-9-8 record. The Griffins' 220 meetings against Milwaukee are the most of any opponent Grand Rapids, and the Griffins' 113 wins are the most against any foe. Grand Rapids is 6-4 overall against Milwaukee in the postseason, including 3-2 at home and 3-2 on the road. The Griffins and Admirals have met three prior times in the Calder Cup Playoffs, with Grand Rapids holding a 2-1 series advantage. Every series between Milwaukee and Grand Rapids has ended in a sweep. The Griffins swept the Admirals 3-0 in both the 2017 and 2016 Central Division Semifinals, and Milwaukee went 4-0 against Grand Rapids in the 2006 Western Conference Finals.

Going Way Back: The upcoming series between the Griffins and Admirals will actually mark the fifth series ever between pro teams from Grand Rapids and Milwaukee. The Grand Rapids Owls defeated the Admirals four games to three in the 1979 IHL Turner Cup Quarterfinals.

Power Outage: The Griffins failed to convert on eight power-play opportunities during their Central Division Semifinals series against the Rockford IceHogs. This was the first time in 36 all-time postseason series that Grand Rapids did not score at least one time on the power play, dating back to 1997 when the team competed in the IHL Turner Cup Playoffs.

Leaders and Best: Jonatan Berggren leads the Griffins with five points (3-2-5) in four games this postseason, including all three game-winning goals. Berggren became the only Griffin and just the 13th player in AHL history to score two sudden-death overtime goals in a single playoff series. The Swede also tied a franchise record (Stacy Roest, 2003 vs. Chicago) by scoring his third game-winning goal of a single playoff series. Berggren and Austin Czarnik are tied for the team lead with three goals, and Carter Mazur paces the squad with three assists. In net, Sebastian Cossa holds a 3-1 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .880 save percentage. For Milwaukee, Zach L'Heureux ranks first with nine points (5-4-9) and five goals in five outings, while Juuso Parssinen has five helpers to lead the Admirals. Netminder Troy Grosenick possesses a 3-0 ledger with a 2.34 GAA and a .920 SV%.

Against Top Seeds: Dating back to the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Playoffs, the Griffins have a 4-7 series record when they face a No. 1 seed. Grand Rapids has won four of the last five series against a top seed. The Griffins are 26-31 in games against a top seed, including a 16-11 mark at home and a 10-20 ledger on the road. The Griffins have faced a top-seeded Milwaukee squad twice before (2016, 2006) and are 1-1 against them with a 3-4 record in games played. The Admirals swept the Grand Rapids 4-0 in the 2006 Western Conference Finals before the Griffins returned the favor with a 3-0 sweep in the 2016 Central Division Semifinals.

Lock it Down: This series will feature two of the top defensive teams in the AHL during the regular season, as the Admirals finished third with 2.68 goals against per game and the Griffins tied for seventh at 2.81 goals against per game. Both netminders for Grand Rapids (Sebastian Cossa 2.41 GAA, Michael Hutchinson 2.89 GAA) and Milwaukee (Yaroslav Askarov 2.39 GAA, Troy Grosenick 2.56 GAA) held a goals-against average below 2.90. Grand Rapids averaged 2.38 goals per game against the Admirals, while Milwaukee showed 2.25 goals per game.

Bench Boss: On April 27 in a 3-2 overtime victory over Rockford, first-year head coach Dan Watson joined seven other head coaches who won their first postseason game behind the Griffins' bench. Watson also became the eighth of the last nine Griffins head coaches to win his first playoff series, defeating the IceHogs 3-1. He is the ninth head coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to the postseason during his first full season behind the bench, joining Dave Allison (1996-97), Bruce Cassidy (2000-01), Danton Cole (2002-03), Greg Ireland (2005-06) Curt Fraser (2008-09), Jeff Blashill (2012-13), Todd Nelson (2015-16) and Ben Simon (2018-19). Watson has never missed the playoffs during his seven seasons as a head coach. With the ECHL's Toledo Walleye, Watson went 51-34 (.600) over five postseasons, reaching the Kelly Cup Finals twice (2019 and 2022) and leading Toledo to four Western Conference Finals berths (2017, 2019, 2022 and 2023).

Images from this story

Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Sebastian Cossa vs. the Milwaukee Admirals
Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Sebastian Cossa vs. the Milwaukee Admirals

(Nicolas Carrillo)

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