Checkers Take Advantage of Griffins 3-1|
Givani Smith makes AHL Debut...
By Jason Kasiorek
March 31, 2017
The shorthanded Grand Rapids Griffins put up a valiant effort but suffered a 3-1 setback on home ice tons get to the visiting Charlotte Checkers. The home team was missing six of its top ten scorers to injury or recall to the parent Detroit Red Wings, including Matt Lorito, Ben Street, Eric Tangradi, Tomas Nosek, Tyler Bertuzzi and Robbie Russo. Charlotte scored the first three goals, before Matt Ford broke the shutout bid in the last minute of play, scoring his 11th. Jared Coreau made 27 saves en route to his 9th loss of the season.
Mitch Callahan left the ice on the second shift of the game and hobbled down the hall to the dressing room, but returned a few minutes later and seemed none the worse for wear. Dominic Shine picked up the puck in his won end and went coast to coast weaving through defenders and showing off some impressive speed. The gritty winger couldn't bring the puck into shooting position and had to circle the net and regroup. Going the other way, Charlotte had a 2-on-1 and Renouf did not take away the pass allowing a nice dish to Zykov for an easy goal. Givani Smith battling in the corner came up with the puck and sent a beautiful cross ice feed right onto the tape of Paetsch's stick for a dangerous point shot. A big scrum broke out in front of the Griffins net after a Coreau save. McIlrath had three Checkers on him, but was throwing punches and stood tall. Broken play and Campbell streaked up the middle for nice chance. Shots on goal: GR 7- Cha 14.
Martin Frk with a quick shot from the circle but it was blocked on the way to net and Svechnikov recovered it. Shine on the rush with a nice shot on Altshuller then Hicketts collected the rebound for another chance. Altshuller very active between the pipes, jumped up in the air to snare a puck and keep it in his glove. Callahan makign friends in front of the net pushing and shoving and knocking a couple of players into each other and then falling onto Altshuller. Sadowy smoked McKeown along the boards as the Griffins tried to get the physical game going. Shine with a rocket from the slot that hit Altshuller. Shots on goal: GR 13 - Cha 8.
Grand Rapids started the third with some extra jump after what one would assume was a between periods pep talk. Campbell very aggressive on the forecheck. Givani Smith winning battles behind the net and centered the puck for Shine in front. Charlotte with a rush and Saarela scored to extend the lead to two. Connor Allen fell down allowing Saarela another free trip to the net and he froze the goalie and lifted it in stick side to make it 3-0. Dylan McIlrath with a big hit , driving Bickell hard into the end boards. Matt Ford fired a laser just in under the crossbar to break up the shutout bid with just under a minute left to play. Coreau to the bench for the extra skater and the Griffins pressing. Givani Smith alone on the doorstep had two great chances but could not get the puck past Altshuller. Time ran out on a 3-1 loss to the visiting Charlotte Checkers. Shots on goal: GR 11 - Cha 8. For the Game: GR 31 - Cha 30.
11 forwards - 7 defense
Frk - Turgeon - Svechnikov
Ford - Criscuolo - Callahan/#43 Givani Smith
#42 Dominik Shine - Campbell/Borkowski - Sadowy
Lashoff - Allen
Renouf - McIlrath
Paetsch - Hicketts
#13 Filip Hronek
#11 Cleary - Veteran
#26 Tangradi - Injury
#28 Lorito - Injury
#39 Bertuzzi - Injury
Ford - Callahan - Svechnikov
Frk - Hicketts
Sadowy - Criscuolo - Shine
Frk - Hicketts
Turgeon - Campbell
Paetsch - Lashoff
Ford - Campbell
Allen - McIlrath
A tough game to watch, neither team looked particularly good, Charlotte was just as guilty as GR and just ended up with more pucks in the net. The Griffins lacked chemistry as the line blender was in full effect trying to find a combination that would click. Essentially everyone skated with everyone else at some point in the night including on defense where they dressed 7 blueliners. The other area that killed GR for the second home game in a row was the lack of centers to take faceoffs. With Nosek and Street out of the lineup (along with sometimes center Lorito) the Griffins were crushed in the faceoff circle all night. They would get an offensive zone draw and then chase it back down the ice.
A couple of new guys in the lineup the last couple of games. the first has been Defender Dylan McIlrath, acquired at the deadline from Florida. The first couple of games he looked big and slow, but has rounded into form nicely, leading me to believe that it was a conditioning or usage issue prior to coming to GR. He actually gets around pretty good and makes a nice first pass. He is huge and usually just needs a glare to get an opposing player to backdown, but has shown off his strength a couple of times knocking players down during scrums and a pretty convincing fight. He has looked solid in his own zone and has really solidified the GR blueline.
Another new face on the Griffins backend is 2016 2nd rnd pick Filip Hronek. He made his AHL debut a few games ago at the end of his Jr season, and had a rocky start defensively. He has started to find his way, looking a bit more steady in subsequent games and even scoring his 1st AHL goal. He has been utilized on the point of the powerplay where he used his vision to find openings to get the puck in deep. He definitely looks the part, but still is trying to find his level.
Free agent forward Dominic Shine joined the team at the end of his college career at Northern Michigan. The highly sought after UFA stepped into the lineup right away and does not look out of place. He has shown off some pretty impressive speed and grit and is not afraid to battle to get the puck to the net. He works hard in the defensive end and despite his smaller size looks like he has the makings of being a power forward. He was a standout player in last nights game, picking up three shots on goal and a couple of other chances that were blocked on the way to the net.
2016 2nd rnd pick Givani Smith made his AHL debut last night and made his presence known. The physical winger was battling all night long, showing that he could more than hold his won against AHL competition. He used his size very well in the corners and along the boards to take pucks and send them to teammates for scoring chances, and when the time was right, he went to the net for a couple of chances of his own. He is one of the more intriguing prospects in the system as his skill set is not matched by current players on the roster. If last night is any indication, I am looking forward to seeing what else he can bring this spring.