The Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly notebook today:
Original Six Showdown
This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS vs. Toronto Marlies // Sat., Dec. 18 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS vs. Toronto Marlies // Sun., Dec. 19 // 4 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
Season Series: First and second of four meetings overall, first and second of two at Van Andel Arena.
All-Time Series: 32-31-3-2 Overall, 19-14-1-1 Home
NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs
Noteworthy: This will be the first meeting between the two franchises since Nov. 9, 2019 when Toronto defeated the Griffins 5-2 in West Michigan. The 2021-22 campaign will be the first since the 2015-16 season in which Toronto and Grand Rapids will play more than two games.
Last Week’s Results
Fri., Dec. 10 // GRIFFINS 2 at Manitoba Moose 4 // 9-9-2-1 (21 pts., 0.500, T4th Central Division)
Sat., Dec. 11 // GRIFFINS 2 at Manitoba Moose 3 // 9-10-2-1 (21 pts., 0.477, 5th Central Division)
Last Week’s Notes
Friday at Manitoba (4-2 L) – Manitoba’s four-goal third period propelled the Moose past the Griffins at Canada Life Centre. Netminder Calvin Pickard tied a season high with 20 stops in the second period on his way to a 38-save performance. Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson recorded goals for the Griffins. Seth Barton made his AHL season debut after being sidelined for the first two months due to an injury and Randy Gazzola made his first appearance in the AHL. The Griffins’ roster featured six players on a professional tryout, including five from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Recap | Highlights
Saturday at Manitoba (3-2 L) – The Griffins were swept in the road season series against Manitoba when they dropped Saturday’s contest 3-2 and finished 0-3-0-1 in Winnipeg. Grand Rapids’ defense held the Moose to just 22 shots, which tied for its fewest attempts allowed this season. Turner Elson bagged a two-point night (1-1—2) and extended his goal streak to three games, which is tied for the longest on the team this season with Jonatan Berggren and Kyle Criscuolo. Riley Barber notched his 50th point as a Griffin on a goal, which extended his point streak (2-1—3) to three games. Calvin Pickard made his 11th consecutive start and 15th straight appearance in net for Grand Rapids. Recap | Highlights
Huffin’ and Puffin’: So far this season, the Griffins are 1-8-1-1 (0.182) against the Central Division-leading Chicago Wolves and second-place Manitoba Moose. However, Grand Rapids is 8-2-1-0 (0.773) against the rest of the AHL.
Spartan Store: Matt Berry became the 20th former Michigan State Spartan to play for Grand Rapids, extending that program’s lead as the most productive at developing future Griffins (including teammate Taro Hirose). Michigan (13, including current assistant coach Mike Knuble), Notre Dame (11, including current head coach Ben Simon), and Miami (10, including Riley Barber) are in double-digits as well. Wisconsin comes in fifth with nine Griffins alumni, before the first non-Midwest school makes an appearance as part of a three-way tie at six (8): Maine (Chase Pearson and Dan Renouf), Northern Michigan (Dominik Shine), and Ferris State. A six-school tie for ninth (7) includes Western Michigan (Luke Witkowski) and UMass-Lowell (Seth Barton).
Fast Starts: On Dec. 4, the Griffins set a season high for goals in a period when they exploded for five tallies in the opening frame against Rockford. After rattling off three first-period goals against Cleveland on Dec. 6, Grand Rapids has now outscored its opponents 8-2 over the opening 20 minutes of its last four games. The Griffins are 8-4-0-0 (0.667) this season when scoring first and 7-2-0-0 (0.778) when leading after the opening frame. Almost half of Grand Rapids’ goals (27, 42%) have come during the first period.
World Traveler: Defenseman Donovan Sebrango on Sunday was selected to the 25-man roster for Team Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship. The 19-year-old will represent his home country at the tournament that runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. This marks the third time in the past four years a player has left the Griffins mid-season to compete in the World Junior Championship, after Filip Zadina represented the Czech Republic in 2019 and Joe Veleno (Canada) and Moritz Seider (Germany) competed at the event in 2020.
Cris-COOL-o: After being sidelined in the first four games due to an injury, center Kyle Criscuolo has made up for his lost time with 17 points (9-8—17) in 15 contests. The Harvard University graduate logged a two-game point streak (1-1—2) from Oct. 30-31 and surpassed that mark with an active seven-game point streak (7-7—14) from Nov. 20-Dec. 6, which is a new career high for the forward. He posted back-to-back three-point (1-2—3) nights against Milwaukee and Chicago on Nov. 24 and 26. Criscuolo’s three-game goal streak (Nov. 20-26, Dec. 3-6) tied Jonatan Berggren (Oct. 30-Nov. 5) for the longest on the team this season while his four-game assist streak (Nov. 20-28) set a new season high for Grand Rapids. The sixth-year pro is second on the roster with 17 points while his nine goals pace the team and are tied for ninth in the AHL. On Nov. 29, Criscuolo was recalled by Detroit and made his NHL season debut on Dec. 1 against Seattle, marking his first NHL game since March 5, 2018. Criscuolo was then reassigned to Grand Rapids the following morning and returned to Detroit on Dec. 7.
Jonny on the Spot: Rookie Jonatan Berggren saw his season-high six-game point streak (3-4—7 from Oct. 30-Nov. 13) come to a close on Nov. 17 against Chicago. The Uppsala, Sweden, native bagged his first AHL goal and two-point (1-1—2) night on Oct. 30, which began a three-game goal scoring streak for the right winger. The forward recorded his first two-goal night in the AHL on Nov. 20 at Texas. The former second-round draft choice notched his 50th pro assist on Nov. 12 against Manitoba and is tied for sixth among league rookies with seven goals while his 16 points (7-9—16) are tied for eighth among first-year players.
High-Flying Hirose: After leading the Griffins in assists a year ago with 23, Taro Hirose has picked off right where he left off as he has bagged 15 helpers in the opening 22 games, which is a team high and tied for seventh in the league. Eight assists have come on the power play, which is tied for third in the AHL. Hirose saw his season-best six-game point streak (2-7—9) from Oct. 30-Nov. 13 come to an end on Nov. 17 against Chicago. Hirose’s 19 points (4-15—19) this season pace the Griffins and are tied for 14th on the circuit.
Return of Riley: Although it was a slow start to this year, Riley Barber rattled off a six-game point streak (4-5—9) from Oct. 30-Nov. 13 and is currently in the midst of a three-game stretch (2-1—3). His 16 points (7-9—16) this season are tied for third on the roster while his four power play goals are tied for fourth in the AHL. Barber led the Griffins in goals (20), points (34) and points per game (1.06) a season ago. His scoring pace equaled a 48-goal, 81-point clip in a regular 76-game AHL season. Barber also ranked second in the league for goals, just one shy of Cooper Marody (who played seven more games), and was named a Central Division AHL All-Star. Six game-winning goals tied a career best while his four-game goal streak from Feb. 26 through March 11 also matched a career high. The forward added seven multi-point outings out of 32, including a career-high four points (2-2—4) on May 7 against Chicago. Barber posted a nine-game point streak (8-5—13) from Feb. 5-March 11 that was the longest ever to start a player’s Griffins career as well as the longest from the start of a Griffins season.
Timmy Turner: Veteran Turner Elson surpassed his goal count (4) from the 2020-21 season, as he totaled his fifth goal of the campaign on Nov. 19. The Edmonton, Alberta, native began the campaign with a goal during the season opener but then was held scoreless in the next four outings. The nine-year pro has cranked it up as of late with a three-game goal streak (Dec. 6-11), which is tied with Jonatan Berggren and Kyle Criscuolo for the longest on the team this year. In addition, the left winger is enjoying a season-high four-game (3-2—5) point streak from Dec. 4-11. Elson’s eight goals are place second on the roster while his 15 points (8-7—15) rank fifth.
AHL Leaderboard Tracker:
Riley Barber—Four power play goals are tied for fourth
Jonatan Berggren—Seven goals are tied for sixth among league rookies, 16 points (7-9—16) are tied for eighth among first-year players
Kyle Criscuolo—Nine goals are tied for 15th
Taro Hirose—19 points (4-15—19) are tied for 14th, 15 assists are tied for seventh, eight power play assists are tied for third
Ryan Murphy—Four goals are tied for seventh among blueliners, 14 points (4-10—14) are tied for 10th among defensemen
Wyatt Newpower—37 penalty minutes are third among rookies and tied for sixth among league defensemen
Calvin Pickard—2.47 goals against average ranks 13th, 0.926 save percentage is tied for fifth
Dominik Shine—56 penalty minutes are tied for second
Luke Witkowski—43 penalty minutes are fourth among league blueliners
Riley Barber bagged his 50th point as a Griffin on Dec. 11 at Manitoba and appeared in his 50th game with Grand Rapids on Dec. 3 against Rockford. Matt Berry skated in his 250th game as a pro on Dec. 3 versus the IceHogs. Ryan Murphy suited up for his 250th game in the AHL on Dec. 3. Finally, Donovan Sebrango appeared in his 50th game as a Griffin at the age of 19 on Dec. 4 and Luke Witkowski bagged his 50th assist as a pro. Other upcoming milestones include:
Riley Barber—Two games from 350 as a pro
Josh Dickinson—One game from 150 as a pro
Turner Elson—Two assists from 100 in the AHL, two goals from 50 as a Griffin, four points from 200 in the AHL
Brian Lashoff—Two assists from 100 as a pro
Brett McKenzie—Three goals from 50 as a pro
Luke Witkowski—Two points from 50 in the AHL
Under New Leadership: Pat Verbeek takes over as the new general manager of the Griffins, a position previously held by Ryan Martin. In addition to his new role in Grand Rapids, Verbeek retains his assistant general manager position with the Red Wings working under Detroit GM Steve Yzerman. Verbeek oversees all aspects of hockey operations for the AHL franchise, including player personnel decisions, player development, contract negotiations and player movement.
Simon Says: Ben Simon, 43, begins his fourth season as Grand Rapids’ head coach. A year ago, he guided the Griffins to a 16-12-3-1 record (36 points, 0.563) and a third-place finish in the Central Division. Simon has only coached in one full AHL season as head boss, as his second and third campaigns were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During his inaugural year at the helm in 2018-19, he became the eighth head coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to the postseason during his first full season behind the bench. Simon served as an assistant coach in Grand Rapids from 2015-18 under Todd Nelson and helped the franchise win its second Calder Cup in 2017. He is the fourth former Griffins assistant to then become the head coach. Appearing in 21 games and scoring nine points (4-5—9) with the Griffins in 2006-07 as part of an 11-year professional playing career, Simon is the third former Griffins player to serve as Grand Rapids’ head coach, joining Nelson and Danton Cole (2002-05).
Griffins in General: The Grand Rapids Griffins began the franchise’s 26th overall season of play, 21st as a member of the American Hockey League and 20th as the primary affiliate of the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 15, 2021 when they defeated the Rockford IceHogs, 6-1. This marked the first time the Griffins began their season at Van Andel Arena since 2017. Grand Rapids has competed in 1,917 games between the IHL and AHL and has amassed a 1,011-697-27-64-118 regular season record (0.575), to go along with 17 playoff appearances, seven division titles and two Calder Cups (2017, 2013).