The American Hockey League is seven days into its 2012-2013 season, and the teams are better than ever (for now at least). The reason being that many young players (under 2-way contracts) are eligible to play in the AHL and be called up at any time (if the NHL season ever gets underway) without having to clear waivers.
10,384 fans packed the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan on October 12th to see the Griffins take on the Milwaukee Admirals (a sellout crowd). It was the season opener for the Griffins, and the anticipation of the fans wanting to see hockey being played was at record levels. Star prospects Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco joined the Griffins this season and will no doubt amaze and stun the audience with their incredible stick skills and dekes.
I had the chance to watch Nyquist practice with the Red Wings during their informal skates at the Troy Sports Center in Troy, Michigan until the Griffins’ training camp opened. I knew he was good, but he’s one of those players where you really have to see him play to believe it.
With Jeff Blashill as the new coach (former assistant coach of the Red Wings), the Griffins were tied at 2 in the third period. But Jordan Pearce let in the deciding goal on a Milwaukee power play. Grand Rapids had 16 penalty minutes, giving the Admirals a huge momentum swing. Pearce stopped 23 out of 26 shots (.885 SP) in the loss. Goals were by Landon Ferraro (Ray Ferraro’s son) and Joakim Andersson. Assists were recorded by Nyquist and Tatar. The Griffins were outshot 26 to 21. The assistant coach of the Milwaukee Admirals is former Detroit Vipers (IHL) star and 2-time Turner Cup winner Stan Drulia.
The next day the Griffins took on the Hamilton Bulldogs. The first goal of the game was scored by Blake Geoffrion (assisted by Steve Quailer and Brendan Gallagher) of the Bulldogs (and the Montreal Canadiens). Aaron Palushaj made it 2-0 (assisted by Michael Bournival and Brendan Nash) with 7 seconds left in the 1st period. Trevor Parkes scored 46 seconds into the 2nd period (assisted by Landon Ferraro) and Francis Pare tied it up soon after (assisted by Brendan Smith and Jeff Hoggan). Gabriel Dumont of the Bulldogs (assisted by Zack Stortini and Kyle Hagel) and Jeff Hoggan (assisted by Nathan Paetsch and Brian Lashoff) both scored in the 3rd period to bring the game to overtime. In the shootout, Geoffrion, Patrick Holland, Nyquist, and Brendan Smith didn’t score in the first two rounds. Michael Bournival scored the only goal in the shootout in the 3rd round to win the game for the Bulldogs. Tatar, Pare, and Andersson also shot for the Griffins without recording a goal. Tom McCollum turned aside 33 out of 36 shots on net (.917) in the shootout loss. Mitch Callahan racked up 11 penalty minutes including a double minor for attempted butt-ending. The Bulldogs outshot the Griffins by a count of 37-20.
The third game of the season was on Friday against the Rochester Americans. Tomas Jurco opened the scoring 6 minutes into the game (assisted by Trevor Parkes) and Landon Ferraro added to the lead (assisted by Nathan Paestch and Brendan Smith) 3 minutes into the 2nd period. But the Americans roared back and scored 4 straight goals (Brian Flynn: assisted by Kevin Porter; T.J. Brennan: assisted by Brayden McNabb and Evan Rankin; Phil Varone: assisted by Luke Adam and Mark Pysyk; Marcus Foligno: assisted by Cody Hodgson and T.J. Brennan). Triston Grant scored Grand Rapids’ 3rd goal with 2 minutes left in the game (assisted by Callahan). 3 of the 4 goals that Rochester scored were on the powerplay (Brennan, Varone, Foligno). Jordan Pearce gave up 4 goals on 30 shots. The Griffins outshot their opponents 33-30 in the loss. The Griffins are now 0-2-1 and tied for last place in the Midwest Division as of 4:00PM ET 10-21.
Landon Ferraro leads the Griffins through 3 games played with 2 goals and 1 assist. Jordan Pearce is 0-2 with a 3.59 GAA and a .875 SP. Tom McCollum is 0-0-1 with a 3.62 GAA and a .889 SP.
The upcoming schedule for the Griffins includes: Friday October 26th Charlotte @ Grand Rapids and Saturday October 27th Rockford @ Grand Rapids.
The Plymouth Whalers took on the Kingston Frontenacs Friday night in their 10th game of the season. Simon Karlsson opened the scoring on the powerplay 4 minutes into the game (assisted by Gianluca Curcuruto and Alex Aleardi). Kingston responded with a power play goal of their own less than 3 minutes later scored by Trevor Morbeck (assisted by Michael Moffat and Ryan Kujawinski). The Whalers added 2 more goals in the 1st period, scored by Garrett Meurs (assisted by Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick) and Stefan Noesen (assisted by Tom Wilson and Rickard Rakell). Roland McKeown of the Frontenacs scored first in the 2nd period (unassisted). But Plymouth responded by scoring 5 unanswered goals by Garrett Meurs (assisted by Ryan Hartman and Simon Karlsson), Rickard Rakell (assisted by Cody Payne and Danny Vanderwiel), Ryan Hartman (assisted by Curtis Crombeen), Matthew Mistele (assisted by Cody Payne and Austin Levi), and Cody Payne (assisted by Vanderwiel and Hartman). With the score 8-2, Darcy Greenaway of Kingston made it 8-3, which was the final score of the game. Whalers goaltender Matt Mahalak stopped 21 of 24 shots (.875). Plymouth outshot the Frontenacs by a total of 49-24.
The Windsor Spitfires lead the West Division with a record of 6-4-0-3, followed by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (7-5-0-0). The Whalers are 4-3-2-1 and they are in 3rd place in the Division. The Sarnia Sting and the Saginaw Spirit are 5-6-0-1 and 4-6-2-0 respectively. Standings as of 4:00 PM ET 10-21.
Cody Payne leads the team in scoring with 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points. Tom Wilson has 2 goals and 8 assists for 10 points. Matt Mahalak is 3-2-2-1 with a 3.01 GAA and a .898 SP. Backup goalie Riley Corbin is 1-1 with a 4.04 GAA and a .860 SP.
The Whalers’ upcoming schedule for the week includes: Friday, October 26th Plymouth @ London 7:30 ET, and Saturday October 27th Kitchener @ Plymouth 7:05 PM ET.
*Stats and Standings from griffinshockey.com and plymouthwhalers.com.
Follow me on Twitter @yungspork