The Grand Rapids Griffins’ regular season kicked off this weekend, with the defending AHL champions splitting a pair of road contests.
Friday evening, the Griffins posted an 8-1 thrashing of the Rochester Americans in Rochester, N.Y. The next night, the Wings’ affiliate followed up with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies.
Friday recap, courtesy of Alyssa Girardi and GriffinsHockey.com:
GRAND RAPID GRIFFINS 8 at Rochester Americans 1
The Grand Rapids Griffins broke a three-year losing streak in season openers by trouncing the Rochester Americans 8-1 at Blue Cross Arena.
The Calder Cup-defending Griffins started the season off with a bang, netting two goals in the first period. Following a roughing call on Rochester’s Drew Bagnall, Gustav Nyquist took only 27 seconds on the power play to score the first goal of the year for Grand Rapids at 14:09. Nyquist came into possession of the puck at center ice and exchanged passes with Tomas Jurco before poking it into the net.
In his first game as a Griffin, defenseman Alexey Marchenko netted a wrister off of a pass from forward David McIntyre at 17:45. Marchenko nearly scored another as he banged a shot off the pipes in the last seconds of the opening period.
The Griffins carried the momentum over from the first period and had a busy middle frame, scoring five goals and firing 22 total shots.
Triston Grant and defenseman Ryan Sproul scored back-to-back goals assisted by Nyquist at 10:54 and 12:01 before the Americans responded with a tally of their own. Rochester’s Luke Adam scored on a rebound at 13:01 after the puck bounced around netminder Tom McCollum’s crease.
The Griffins quickly stole the spotlight back, however, as Jeff Hoggan scored on a rocket off of the faceoff at 14:41. Shortly after at 16:37, Sproul netted his second of the night in a similar fashion as Hoggan, finding the back of the net after Calle Jarnkrok’s faceoff win.
Immediately after Sproul’s tally, Rochester goaltender Matt Hackett was pulled from the net and replaced by Nathan Lieuwen, but Lieuwen faced similar woes. Mitch Callahan quickly pounced on the fresh goaltender and buried the Griffins’ seventh goal of the night with an assist from Adam Almquist, his third of the evening.
Riley Sheahan was the only scorer in the third period, aiding the Griffins in shattering their franchise record for margin of victory in an opener. The previous record was four goals, set on Oct. 16, 2004 against the Chicago Wolves. The game also broke two franchise records for the most goals scored: one for season openers and one for road openers.
McCollum earned the victory behind 18 saves, Hackett managed to stop 24 of 30 shots and Lieuwen blocked five of seven.
Three Stars: 1. GR Nyquist (one goal, two assists); 2. GR Sproul (two goals); 3. GR Almquist (three assists)
Saturday recap, courtesy of Alan Cross and GriffinsHockey.com:
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3 at Toronto Marlies 4
A total of eight penalties and a hat trick by Toronto Marlies defenseman T.J. Brennan proved to be too big of obstacles for the Grand Rapids Griffins to overcome on Saturday afternoon when they were defeated 4-3 in overtime.
Brennan opened the scoring in the first period with a quick snap of the wrist at 5:25, yielding the first professional goal against Griffins rookie goaltender Jared Coreau.
Despite a distinct 7-0 shot disadvantage in the first half of the period, the Griffins turned the tables on the Marlies with a goal by Tomas Jurco at 14:10. Gustav Nyquist delivered the puck to Jurco from the corner and he easily found an opening between the post and Toronto netminder Drew MacIntyre, tying the game at 1-1.
Shortly after at 15:59, Riley Sheahan walked into the crease and slammed the puck home off of a feed from Luke Glendening to secure a 2-1 lead. The Griffins maintained a firm grip on the rest of the period, outshooting the Marlies 14-4 in the second half of the first.
The momentum shifted in the direction of Toronto during the second period when the Griffins offered up five consecutive power play opportunities.
Grand Rapids nearly fended off an Adam Almquist holding penalty that came at 9:47, but Glendening sent a rogue puck out of play near the end of the penalty kill which resulted in a delay of game call at 11:36. Staving off Toronto’s short two-man advantage, the Griffins couldn’t hold back Brennan for the remainder of the power play as he buried the puck past Coreau at 12:29.
Brennan refused to be extinguished, rifling yet another shot beyond the reaches of Coreau at 16:17 while the Griffins were at full strength. The goal marked Brennan’s third of the game and notched him a hat trick, much to the joy of Toronto’s season-opening crowd. Brennan’s hat trick was the first allowed by Grand Rapids since Dec. 28, 2011 when Hugh Jessiman tallied the game-winning goal in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Lake Erie Monsters. The Marlies led in scoring 3-2 at the close of the second period.
The Griffins returned to the ice seemingly rejuvenated in the third period, indicated mainly by Mitch Callahan’s tying goal at 4:53. Jurco broke into the Toronto zone with possession and as the Marlies defense clogged his path, he made a pass behind his back to Callahan who deposited the puck into the wide open net.
At 13:39, the Griffins were granted a huge opportunity to secure the lead when Andrew MacWilliam was called for a five-minute boarding major after a mutual team tussle near the Grand Rapids net. They were unable to capitalize on the biggest opportunity of the game, however, and the game headed into overtime knotted at three each.
In the extra minutes, Nathan Paetsch was called for a delay of game just six seconds in and Brennan Evans closed his hand around the puck at 2:20. The penalties proved to be lethal for the Griffins when Marlies captain Trevor Smith sealed the deal with a violent one-timer at 2:59.
Former Griffin MacIntyre earned the victory for Toronto behind 27 saves, while Coreau managed to stop 22 shots in his debut with the Griffins. Grand Rapids ends its opening weekend on the road with a 1-0-1-0 record.