Everyone talks about a Stanley Cup hangover in the NHL. Chicago proved that they are still a team to beat when they won their season opener on Tuesday night. The Grand Rapids Griffins seem to have followed suit and in a big way. They opened their season by visiting the Rochester Americans on the AHL’s opening night, Friday, October 4th.
It was not the home opener that Rochester fans wanted to see. The Griffins put on a show, eventually winning 8-1 with the goals coming from 7 different players. There are a number of players returning to Grand Rapids this season and that showed in their first game.
Despite the high score, the first excitement of the game came in the form of a fight and not a goal. Brennan Evans of the Griffins dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb of the Americans. This all started when Mitch Callahan of the Griffins checked Dan Catenacci. Drew Bagnall took offense and tried to step in for his teammate. Evans is returning for another season with Grand Rapids and has often played the role of enforcer. McNabb is in his third season with the Sabres organization. Despite his size, he has never been much of a fighter.
Just 29 seconds after that fight, 14:09 into the first period, Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring when he beat American’s goalie Matt Hackett on the powerplay. Alexey Marchenko added the second goal to send the Griffins into the first intermission up 2-0.
The second period was where it all seemed to go downhill for the Americans. Like the first period, it took Grand Rapids some time to get scoring. Their third goal came at 10:54 in the second frame. Returning forward Triston Grant beat Hackett to make it 3-0. 2011 Red Wings draft pick Ryan Sproul added his first goal of the night on the powerplay just about a minute later.
Americans fans hoped that things would look up from them at 13:01 of the second. Luke Adam scored the lone goal of the game for Rochester when he beat Tom McCollum from Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Phil Varone. Unfortunately for Rochester, 4-1 is as close as they would get in their home opener.
Captain Jeff Hoggan put the fifth goal of the game past Hackett at 14:41. The assist went to Luke Glendening, another returning face in the lineup. At 16:37, Sproul tallied his second of the night and that was the end of the game for Hackett. After allowing 6 goals on 30 shots, Hackett got the hook and was replaced by Nathan Lieuwen. Although he stopped the first shot he saw, he let in the next one. Mitch Callahan beat him with less than a minute to go in the second to send the Griffins to the second intermission leading 7-1.
The final period was much more subdued than the second had been. During the middle frame, the Griffins netted 5 goals on 22 shots. During the third period, the two teams only combined for 11 total shots. Despite that, Riley Sheahan still managed to beat Lieuwen to make the final score 8-1 in favor of the Griffins. McCollum made 18 saves in the win for Grand Rapids.
There is not much time for the reigning Calder Cup champions to appreciate their victory as they are back at Saturday, October 5th when they visit Toronto for a matinee game. Rochester will have the week off before playing their second game when they host the Utica Comets on Friday, October 11th. That will be the first game of the season for the Utica Comets who are brand new to the league.