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 Grand Rapids Griffins

Griffins Return Home for Games 2 and 3 of Central Division Semifinals

April 30, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Grand Rapids Griffins News Release

Grand Rapids Griffins center Nolan Stevens vs. the Rockford IceHogs
Grand Rapids Griffins center Nolan Stevens vs. the Rockford IceHogs
(Grand Rapids Griffins, Credit: Brad Repplinger/IceHogs)

This Week's Games

GRIFFINS (1-0) vs. Rockford IceHogs (0-1) // Central Division Semifinals - Game 2 // Wed., May 1 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena

GRIFFINS vs. Rockford IceHogs // Central Division Semifinals - Game 3 // Fri., May 3 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena

GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs // Central Division Semifinals - Game 4 // Sun., May 5 // 5 p.m. EDT // BMO Center * if necessary

Listen: 96.1 The Game at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday and, if necessary, at 4:45 p.m. EDT on Sunday

Watch: AHLTV

2023-24 Regular-Season Series: 6-4-2-0 Overall, 2-2-2-0 Home, 4-2-0-0 Road

All-Time Regular-Season Series: 67-47-11-11 Overall, 40-16-7-5, 27-31-4-6 Road

All-Time Playoff Series: 5-1 Overall, 2-0 Home, 3-1 Road

NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks

Noteworthy: Jonatan Berggren, who scored the overtime-winner in Game 1 on Saturday, became the fourth player to score his first career playoff goal in overtime as a Griffin, joining Kyle Criscuolo (2017 at Milwaukee), Ryan Sproul (2014 at Abbotsford) and Chris Szysky (2000 at Cleveland). All four were on the road. The Griffins' next playoff victory will be their 100th in franchise history (99-82).

Game 1 Recap: Trailing 2-0 going into the third period, the Griffins pulled off yet another comeback with Jonatan Berggren scoring the game-winner in overtime to give Grand Rapids a 3-2 victory and a 1-0 series lead. Veteran Dominik Shine and rookie Amadeus Lombardi each scored in the third frame to send the contest to overtime. Sebastian Cossa stopped 20 of 22 shots in his Calder Cup Playoffs debut to help Dan Watson join seven other head coaches who won their first postseason game behind the Griffins' bench. Cossa became just the fifth rookie goalie to start a playoff game for the Griffins - joining Jared Coreau (2015), Petr Mrazek (2013), Jimmy Howard (2006) and Mathieu Chouinard (2001) - and the third to win his first start (Howard and Chouinard). Mrazek backstopped Grand Rapids to its first Calder Cup during those 2013 playoffs, while Coreau went on to help the Griffins earn their second championship in 2017, two years after making his postseason debut. Grand Rapids improved to 17-11 all time in overtime playoff games, including an incredible 9-2 on the road.

Home Playoff Fun: The Griffins return home for Games 2 and 3 of the Central Division Semifinals against the Rockford IceHogs this Wednesday and Friday. In addition to $2 beers and $2 hot dogs, fans will receive Griffins playoff rally towels upon entry. Before Friday's game, Van Andel Arena will host an outdoor pig roast on its brick plaza on Fulton Street, adjacent to the Griffins' 2024 Playoffs arena decal. From 5 p.m. until everything -- including the oink -- is gone, fans can purchase a $14 BBQ Pork Sandwich Combo that includes chips and a bottled water or soda, and which ticket holders may choose to take inside the arena to enjoy once the doors are open. (Cashless transactions only. Promotion is subject to change and valid while supplies last.)

Made the Nice List: Before the Christmas break, the Griffins were tied for the fourth-lowest points percentage in the AHL with a 9-13-3-1 record (.423). Grand Rapids then went on a tear to finish the season, as it held the fifth-highest points percentage in the AHL since Dec. 27 with a 28-10-5-3 mark (.696). The Griffins, who sat in sixth place at the holiday break, quickly catapulted themselves into second place in the Central Division, which was their best finish since the 2017-18 season.

Hard to Kill: During the Griffins' franchise-record run of seven straight playoff appearances from 2013-2019, they won two Calder Cups (2013 and 2017), twice lost to the eventual champion (Texas 2014, Lake Erie 2016), and twice lost to the cup runner-up (Utica 2015, Chicago 2019). During their 13 previous AHL playoff runs, they won those pair of cups, lost to the eventual champion on four occasions, and also lost to the other finalist four times. Including their first five seasons as members of the International Hockey League, the Griffins have qualified for the postseason on 17 prior occasions, winning it all twice, losing six times to the eventual champ, and losing four times to the runner-up.

First Time for Everything: Dominik Shine, among Grand Rapids' all-time regular season leaders in games played (422, 3rd), goals (61, T18th), points (138, T20th) and penalty minutes (477, 8th), is the only current Griffin who has previously played a postseason game with the franchise. He is looking for his first series win, as he totaled 10 playoff games as a member of the 2018 and 2019 teams that each lost in the Central Division Semifinals. Two other longtime Griffins saw their first playoff action with the team in Game 1, including Taro Hirose (248 games played, 151 assists (3rd), 201 points (6th)) and Tyler Spezia (240 games played).

Bench Boss: First-year head coach Dan Watson made his Calder Cup Playoffs debut last Saturday, becoming the seventh head coach to win his first postseason game behind the Griffins' bench. He is also 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).

From Friend to Foe: The Griffins and IceHogs share a few connections on championship winning teams. In 2023, assistant coach Steph Julien helped lead Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship with Rockford's Colton Dach and Ethan Del Mastro. Carter Mazur and Drew Commesso competed together for Team USA at the 2023 World Championship last summer. In 2022, Sebastian Cossa and Del Mastro won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. Cossa also won the 2022 WHL Title with the Edmonton Oil Kings alongside IceHogs' Jalen Luypen. Mazur, Antti Tuomisto, Shai Buium and Rockford's Cole Guttmann captured the 2022 NCAA Title with the University of Denver.

Been There Done That: Josiah Didier (2019 Charlotte) and assistant coach Brian Lashoff (2013 and 2017 Grand Rapids) are the Griffins' previous Calder Cup champions. Brogan Rafferty (2023), Joel L'Esperance (2018) and Michael Hutchinson (2014) all have made a Calder Cup Finals appearance. David Gust is the lone IceHog to capture the Calder Cup, doing so in 2022 with the Chicago Wolves. Rockford's Zach Sanford won the 2019 Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

Images from this story

Grand Rapids Griffins center Nolan Stevens vs. the Rockford IceHogs
Grand Rapids Griffins center Nolan Stevens vs. the Rockford IceHogs

(Brad Repplinger/IceHogs)

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