(Photo: Grand Rapids Griffins)
The Grand Rapids Griffins enter this postseason with the hope of defending their Calder Cup title and repeating as champions. The first series in the AHL is a best of 5 series and the Grand Rapids Griffins are already in excellent position to take the series. They are up 2-0 on the Abbotsford Heat.
Due to the distance between the teams, the series opened up with the first two games in Abbotsford. The first game was a long test for the two teams. The Griffins tied it a little past the halfway mark in the third period. Mattias Backman had the tying goal and the first goal of the post season for the Griffins. Backman joined the team after finishing his time with the Swedish Hockey League. It was not until 34 seconds remained in the second overtime that the game was over. Ryan Sproul added his first of the postseason and gave his team the series lead.
When it came time for Game 2, the Griffins put forth a much more solid showing, winning 7-2. Sproul added his second of the postseason. Teemu Pulkkinen added a goal after recording an impressive 31 goals during 71 regular season games. The team also got support from captain Jeff Hoggan, Cory Emmerton, Trevor Parkes, and Andrej Nestrasil, who had two.
Yesterday, the Detroit Red Wings, NHL affiliate of the Griffins, were knocked out of the playoffs when the Boston Bruins won their game 4-2, winning the series 4-1. With that news, Detroit made a couple of roster moves that are sure to help out their AHL affiliate. The Red Wings assigned forward Tomas Jurco, defensemen Riley Sheahan and Xavier Ouellet, and goaltender Jake Paterson to Grand Rapids.
This season, Tomas Jurco had 32 points in 32 regular season games with Grand Rapids as well as 15 points in 36 games with Detroit. Jurco skated in 3 of Detroit’s playoff games but was held without a point. The 21 year old from Slovakia also skated for his country in the Olympics, notching a goal in 4 appearances.
Riley Sheahan split his time between Detroit and Grand Rapids this season. During his time in the AHL this season, he had 18 points in 31 games. While with Detroit, Sheahan had 24 points in 42 games. That included 9 goals. Although getting into one game with Detroit last season, he got his first goal this season. Sheahan also played in all five postseason games for Detroit this season.
This was Xavier Ouellet’s rookie season, after finishing his time in the QMJHL. The rookie spent 4 games in Detroit during the regular season, but was unable to get on the score sheet. He was in Detroit for the playoffs as well, but only got into one game. During his 70 games with Grand Rapids, he had 17 points.
Finally, Jake Paterson was Detroit’s third round pick in the NHL Entry Draft in 2012. He recently finished his season with the Saginaw Spirit. It is unlikely that he will see any time during this postseason with the goalie tandem already in place. But Paterson will probably make his professional debut next season.
Last season, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco were critical pieces of the Calder Cup winning team. Despite their young age, they have valuable experience to bring back with them to Grand Rapids. These additions could definitely make the Griffins even more dangerous than they already are.
Game 3 in Grand Rapids is schedule for Wednesday. Game 4, if necessary, will be Friday and Game 5, if necessary, will be Saturday.