The Athletic’s Katie Strang profiles Grand Rapids Griffins forward Matt Puempel today:
Tangradi, along with Ben Street, has forged chemistry on a line with Puempel. And though the 25-year-old Windsor, Ontario, native may come across as carefree and guileless when he arrives at the rink, there is a tenacity he plays with on the ice.
“A lot of guys when they’re in the NHL, on one-way contracts, they come down here and want to just flow through the motions. I think when he came down here, he had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder,” said Tangradi, who leads the American Hockey League with 16 goals since Jan. 1. “I know, from experience, when you get put on waivers and sent down for the first time, it’s very humbling and it can be tough. You see it in his work ethic. Instead of ‘poor me’ it’s ‘get out there and prove somebody wrong.’
“I think we’ve had great chemistry as a line; me, him and Street, because of that. I think all of us believe we can play in the NHL and there’s a little bit of hunger in every single game. I think you’re seeing him play at a whole other level because of that.”
With the Griffins battling for a playoff spot, Puempel is producing at more than a point-per-game clip in the AHL. He has 20 goals and 27 assists in 45 games this season; he earned 44 of those 47 points in 40 games with the Griffins.
This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins // Sat., March 10 // 7:05 p.m. // Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
Listen:WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m.
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Road, 0-1-0-0 Overall. Second of two meetings overall, first and last at Mohegan Sun Arena
All-Time Series: 2-1-0-0 Road, 4-2-0-1 Overall
NHL Affiliation: Pittsburgh Penguins
Noteworthy: Grand Rapids is making its first trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton since March 25, 2009.
GRIFFINS at Hershey Bears // Sun., March 11 // 5 p.m. // Giant Center
Listen:WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 4:35 p.m.
Season Series: 0-0-0-0 Road, 0-1-0-0 Overall. Second of two meetings overall, first and last at the Giant Center
All-Time Series: 3-0-0-0 Road, 6-1-0-0 Overall
NHL Affiliation: Washington Capitals
Noteworthy: The Griffins will be playing at Hershey for the first time since Feb. 26, 2006.
Last Week’s Results
Wed., Feb. 28 Tucson Roadrunners 2 at GRIFFINS 3 31-19-1-6 (69 pts, 2nd Central Division)
Fri., March 2 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4 at GRIFFINS 2 31-20-1-6 (69 pts, 3rd)
Sat., March 3 Milwaukee Admirals 4 at GRIFFINS 1 31-21-1-6 (69 pts, 3rd)
Opening Faceoff: The Grand Rapids Griffins place fourth in the Central Division and are 21-6-0-3 in their last 30 games. After playing six home games in a span of 11 days, Grand Rapids heads east this week to take on a pair of Atlantic Division opponents – the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears.
Follow the Leaders:
Points: Eric Tangradi (25-22—47), Matt Puempel (20-27—47)
Goals: Tangradi (25)
Assists: Ben Street (35)
PIM: Dylan McIlrath (96)
Plus-Minus: Filip Hronek (+19)
Goaltender Wins: Jared Coreau (20)
Goals Against Average: Coreau (2.47)
Save Percentage: Coreau (0.916)
Last Week’s Notes:
Wednesday vs. Tucson: The Griffins earned their first-ever win against Tucson…Grand Rapids jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the 6:13 mark of the first period but Tucson rallied with a pair of markers in the middle frame…Eric Tangradi tallied a pair of goals, including the game-winner at 8:26 of the third period, for his fifth multi-goal game of the campaign…Ben Street recorded a goal and an assist and picked up his 100th career point as a Griffin…In his return to the lineup after missing the last six due to injury, Matt Puempel contributed an assist…Tom McCollum turned aside 30 shots to earn his 10th victory of the season.
Friday vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: The teams met for the first time since March 25, 2009, and matched up at Van Andel Arena for the first time since Nov. 21, 2008…Grand Rapids was held to a season-low 19 shots…Matt Puempel (1-1—2) and Eric Tangradi (1-1—2) both posted two-point nights…Garrett Wilson potted the game-tying goal 3:22 into the third period and Teddy Blueger scored the game-winner unassisted at 7:58…Wilson added an empty-netter with 41 seconds remaining…The Griffins wore purple jerseys that were then auctioned off post-game, as Friday was the team’s seventh annual Purple Community Game benefiting the Van Andel Institute.
Saturday vs. Milwaukee: The Griffins completed a run of six home games in 11 days…Grand Rapids dropped consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 13-17…The crowd of 10,834 marked the Griffins’ fourth sellout of the season and their seventh crowd of 10,000-plus in their last eight weekend home games…Newly acquired Troy Grosenick recorded 36 saves for the Admirals…Joe Hicketts tallied his third goal of the season, and second on the power play, at 7:02 of the third period…Matej Machovsky made 26 saves and suffered his first AHL loss.
Whoa, Nelly: Head coach Todd Nelson holds a 298-185-15-46 (0.604) record as an AHL head coach and needs two more victories to become the 20th head coach in the 82-year history of the AHL to reach 300. Milestones already achieved by Nelson this season include: becoming the fifth active AHL head coach to coach in 500 or more games on Nov. 11 at Texas, becoming the fifth coach in team history with 100 or more victories on Dec. 2 at Chicago, becoming the fourth coach in franchise history with 200 or more games coached on Feb. 4 at Cleveland, and coaching in his 800th game as a professional head coach on Jan. 6 at Chicago.
Finishing in February: The Griffins concluded the month 9-1-0-2, which ties for the second-most wins in February in franchise history. In the last four Februarys, Grand Rapids shows a 35-8-2-2 (0.787) mark, including 21-4-2-1 (0.804) at home. Under third-year head coach Todd Nelson, the Griffins are 25-8-0-2 (0.743) overall in February and 16-4-0-1 (0.786) at Van Andel Arena.
Sellouts: With a capacity crowd of 10,834 last Saturday, it marked the 172nd overall regular season sellout of Van Andel Arena and the fourth this season. Over the course of their history at the “Freezer on Fulton,” the Griffins have enjoyed the raucous crowd support, showing a 91-63-1-2-15 (0.581) record while outscoring opponents by a +58 margin in sold-out home games.
On the Road: The Griffins have points in 12 of the last 13 road contests (10-1-0-2), including eight in a row.
Home Sweet Home: Grand Rapids plays seven home games in the month of March, its most in the third month of the calendar since 2011.
Special Teams: Grand Rapids has scored a power play goal in five of the last six games, finishing 6-for-17 (35.3%) during that stretch. The Griffins place third in the AHL with a power play percentage of 21.3%. Matt Lorito leads the team with 22 power play points (7-15—22), followed by Matt Puempel (7-12—19), Ben Street (4-13—17) and Matthew Ford (11-5—16). Ford’s 11 PPGs tie for second in the league.
0 to 100:Ben Street registered a goal and an assist last Wednesday to mark his 100th career point as a Griffin. He did so in 116 games, which ranks as the 10th fastest in franchise history to reach the century mark. Matt Lorito (99 points in 112 GP) is also approaching his 100th career point. Thirty-seven players in team history have achieved 100 or more points and below is the top 10 quickest to 100.
Rank Games Player Date Reached 100 Points 1 81 Michel Picard 4/12/1997 2 87 Kip Miller 1/27/2005 3 97 Jeff Nelson 12/21/2003 4 98 Donald MacLean 3/25/2006 5 102 Gustav Nyquist 1/17/2013 6 103 Derek King 2/14/2001 7 107 Slava Butsayev 1/19/2001 8 108 Teemu Pulkkinen 1/23/2015 9 109 Andy Miele 1/20/2016 10 116 Ben Street 2/28/2018
Tangoal:Eric Tangradi has two multi-point outings in his last three games and his 25 goals tie for second in the league. The ninth-year pro has surpassed the 20-goal plateau for the second time in his AHL career and is just three shy of matching his career high of 28 set in 2015-16 with Grand Rapids. Since Jan. 1, Tangradi paces the league with 16 goals, while his 25 points in 25 GP in that span tie for fourth.
Model Year: Captain Matthew Ford, a 10th-year pro, has 20-plus goals for the fifth time in his AHL career. His 11 power play goals tie for second in the AHL.
Cool Ranch Loritos:Matt Lorito has posted 14 points (7-7—14) and a plus-five rating in the last 16 games.
Hot Street:Ben Street has three points (1-2—3) in the last three games and his team-high 35 assists tie for sixth in the AHL. In the last 15 contests, Street shows 15 points (4-11—15) and a plus-six rating.
Filip Hero-nek: Rookie defenseman Filip Hronek, the 53rd overall selection by Detroit in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, ranks among the league’s rookie defensemen leaders with 29 points (2nd), eight goals (T3rd), 21 assists (3rd) and a plus-19 rating (2nd).
Puemped Up: First-year Griffin and fifth-year pro Matt Puempel has notched three points (1-2—3) in his first three games back in the lineup after missing six due to injury, including a goal and assist output last Friday. He’s tallied 17 points (7-10—17) in his last 14 contests. Acquired by the Red Wings via trade on Oct. 21, Puempel has not gone more than three consecutive games in a Griffins uniform without recording a point.
McCollum the Records Holder: Grand Rapids’ all-time leader in goaltender games played, minutes and saves, Tom McCollum surpassed Joey MacDonald for the most victories in franchise history (110) following the Griffins’ 4-2 win at Cleveland on Feb. 2. McCollum is 7-3 in his last 10 appearances and shows a 2.44 GAA and a 0.922 save percentage in that span.
Coreau Honored: The AHL last Thursday announced that Griffins goaltender Jared Coreau has been selected as the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for February. Coreau allowed just nine goals against on 185 shots and finished unbeaten in six appearances during the month, compiling a 4-0-2 record, a 1.46 goals against average, a 0.951 save percentage and two shutouts before being recalled by the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 20. He combined for 66 saves during back-to-back shutouts of the Western Conference-leading Manitoba Moose on Feb. 15 and 17 and was named the AHL’s Player of the Week on Feb. 19.
Macho Man Debuts: Reassigned by the Red Wings to Grand Rapids from Toledo on Feb. 20, goaltender Matej Machovsky is 1-1-0 in three appearances with the Griffins and posts a 2.67 GAA and a 0.904 save percentage. Making his first career AHL start on Feb. 25 against Iowa, Machovsky stopped 26-of-28 shots and all three of the Wild’s shootout attempts to earn his first victory. The 24-year-old is skating in his first professional season in North America and also shows an 11-9-1 record, a 2.02 GAA and a 0.933 save percentage in 21 appearances with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Machovsky played the previous four seasons for Plzen HC in the Czech Extraliga.
Robbie Russo – five points to reach 100 as a pro
Ben Street – eight points to reach 400 as a pro
Turner Elson – two points to reach 100 as a pro
Eric Tangradi – one point to reach 300 in the AHL
Matt Lorito – one point to reach 100 as a Griffin and four games to reach 200 as a pro
Championship Effects: Eight players from the 2017 Calder Cup championship team have played in the NHL this season: forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (Detroit), Kyle Criscuolo (Buffalo), Martin Frk (Detroit), Tomas Nosek (Vegas) and Dominic Turgeon (Detroit), goaltender Jared Coreau (Detroit), and defensemen Joe Hicketts (Detroit) and Brian Lashoff (Detroit).
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Notes: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton places second in the Atlantic Division…After eight straight seasons of not being on the schedule, Grand Rapids and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will be meeting up for the second time in a nine-day span…The Penguins defeated the Griffins 4-2 last Friday at Van Andel Arena, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first visit to West Michigan since Nov. 21, 2008…Saturday marks Grand Rapids’ first trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton since March 25, 2009 (3-5 L)…Entering this season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – whose parent club in Pittsburgh has hoisted the last two Stanley Cups – has qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs in 15 consecutive campaigns…The lone postseason meeting between the Griffins and Penguins came in the 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals, a series Grand Rapids won 3-1.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Connections:Ben Street appeared in 107 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2010-12 and totaled 80 points (39-41—80)…Street led the team in points (57), tied for the team lead in goals (27) and placed second in assists (30) during the 2011-12 campaign…Eric Tangradi logged 178 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2009-13 and tallied 121 points (60-61—121)…Born in Philadelphia, Tangradi made his NHL debut with Pittsburgh on April 11, 2010, appeared in 45 games with the NHL’s Penguins from 2009-13 and posted five points (1-4—5) before being traded to Winnipeg in February 2013.
Hershey Notes: Now in its 80th season, Hershey began play in the AHL in 1938-39 and is the oldest franchise on the circuit…The Bears have made 23 appearances in the Calder Cup Finals, including their most recent in 2016 against champion Lake Erie, and have won 11 Calder Cups…Hershey currently places last in the Atlantic Division…The Bears claimed a 4-2 win against the Griffins on Oct. 21, Hershey’s first visit to Van Andel Arena since Dec. 22, 2005…Grand Rapids is 6-1 all time against Hershey…Sunday will be the Griffins’ first trip to Hershey since Feb. 26, 2006.
Hershey Connections: Griffins captain Matthew Ford appeared in 39 games with Hershey during the 2011-12 season and totaled 28 points (10-18—28) and 47 PIM…2017 AHL Hall of Fame inductee and former Griffin Bryan Helmer serves as Hershey’s vice president of hockey operations…Helmer played in every game during his two-year stay in Grand Rapids from 2004-06, compiling 81 points (19-62—81) in 160 games…He was named the Griffins’ Man of the Year and an AHL Second Team All-Star in 2005-06 while helping the Griffins capture that season’s regular season championship…The last time the Griffins played at Hershey on Feb. 26, 2006, Helmer was on Grand Rapids’ blue line and recorded an assist to help the Griffins skate away with a 4-3 win.
Atlantic Coasting: The Griffins hold a 37-26-1-2 (0.583) all-time record against current teams in the Atlantic Division, including 19-12-0-1 (0.609) on the road.
Up and Down: With a 31-21-1-6 record through 59 games, take a look at how the statistics compare between the Griffins’ 31 wins and 28 (including overtime and shootout) losses.
GF GA PP% PK% SF SA W (31) 4.35 2.13 27.91% 88.24% 32.84 30.13 L (28) 1.75 3.75 13.89% 77.69% 32.50 30.32
Back-to-Backs: The Griffins will play back-to-back games a total of 24 times this season. Grand Rapids has won six of the last eight on the first night and three of the last five on the second night. Compare the statistics for when Grand Rapids has played on consecutive days:
W L (incl. OT, SO) GF GA PP% PK% SF SA First Night 9 9 3.50 3.17 26.87% 83.33% 30.78 29.89 Second Night 7 11 2.50 3.17 19.05% 79.49% 31.44 31.39 Third Night 1 2 2.33 2.67 27.27% 85.71% 38.67 31.33
Walleye Report: Under second-year head coach Dan Watson, the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye are on a seven-game point streak (6-0-1-0) and lead the Western Conference with 85 points (40-14-3-2). Erik Bradford (15-30—45) and Christian Hilbrich (19-19—38) lead the team in scoring, while Griffins-contracted Mike Borkowski (15-23—38) places third. Griffins-contracted and 2018 ECHL All-Star Pat Nagle leads the league with 28 victories (28-4-4) while tying for sixth with a 2.27 GAA and tying for sixth with a 0.920 save percentage.