With Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals set to take place tonight in Syracuse, New York (7:00 ET), the Grand Rapids Griffins are one win away from their second American Hockey League championship. Of all the players on the roster, one player has had a unique journey this season.
23-year old Czech forward Martin Frk did not expect the roller coaster that this season brought, but he has powered through and has a chance at victory this post-season.
His year began with the Detroit Red Wings waiving him with the intention of assigning him to Grand Rapids. However, the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him, and he played his first two games in the National Hockey League early in the season. The Hurricanes then waived Frk, and he was reacquired by Detroit, and then re-sent down to Grand Rapids.
“The beginning of the season was crazy,” said Frk following Game 4’s victory over the San Jose Barracuda in Round 3. “I appreciated to be with Carolina [and] to have the chance to play the two games in the big leagues, so I was very happy about that. Then, I was coming back to the Detroit organization. I knew where I was going, so I was glad at least I’m going to where I know the people and the guys on the team. The whole year we had, pretty much, the [team] on the top of the league most of the time. So we had a good team [this season]. We knew when we go to the playoffs, there would be a lot of pressure on us because we have a good team the whole year, so we are glad with how things are going right now.”
Quite the season for a young player trying to make good impressions on upper management.
In fact, his season production of 50 points in 65 games surpassed his previous year, in which he accumulated 44 in 67. It would appear that the early-season drama had little impact on his play.
Additionally, he has become more disciplined, spending 58 minutes in the penalty box, 31 fewer than last year.
At every level, Frk has performed remarkably well in the post-season. In his last year of junior he scored two points-per-game, while he has matched his 13 point playoffs with Toledo (ECHL) with another 13 points this year in Grand Rapids.
Currently, he has four points through four games against the Syracuse Crunch.
Some of this success can be attributed to coach Todd Nelson, who seems to have made quite the impression on these players. And in return, the players seem to respond well to his coaching style.
“Nelly’s a funny guy sometimes,” said Frk. “He brings a joke too in the room, which helps everyone, you know, you put that good mood in the room.”
So far, that coach-player chemistry has shown results, with only one win needed now.
This Calder Cup Finals is a rematch of the 2013 Finals in which the Griffins defeated the Crunch 4-2.
If necessary, Games 6 and 7 will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively (both 7:00 ET) at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.