Pickard Whitewashes Admirals 3-0|
Griffins welcome back NHL vet Jonathan Ericsson...
By Jason Kasiorek
October 24th, 2019
The Grand Rapids Griffins were looking to avenge last week's home opener loss to the visiting Milwaukee Admirals in front of a sparse crowd at Van Andel Arena Wednesday Night. The result was a 3-0 whitewash that saw the Griffins scored one goal each period and netminder Calvin Pickard stop all 26 shots he faced. The real story of the game however was the towering defense that the Griffins rolled out, featuring Johnathan Ericsson (6'5), Dylan McIlrath (6'5), Moritz Seider (6'4), Brian Lashoff (6'3) and Gustav Lindstrom (6'2). The blueline did a great job of moving the admirals out of scoring position, taking away shots and passing lanes, and providing a physical presence.
Slow first period with no real energy or flow. Grand Rapids carried the shots on goal 10-3 with the last two Admirals' shots coming in the closing minute. Despite the shot advantage no great scoring chances for the Griffins, and no sustained pressure, just a lot of back and forth play between the bluelines. The home team took a 1-0 lead with 1.4 seconds left in the period on a slick play started by Brian Lashoff to carry the puck down the wing, get it into the zone and find Michael Rasmussen. Rasmussen made a heads up pass to Matt Puempel, who dragged the puck behind him and managed to elude the stick check of the defender and carry it into the circle. Puempel went cross-ice to Terry who sniped a shot, top-shelf over Ingram for his third of the season. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - Mil 3.
The griffins extended the lead to two midway through the second when Ryan Kuffner showed off his great hands, cutting in through the slot and snapping a quick pair of shots on Ingram, with the second finding its way through for a goal. Gregor MacLeod with the lone assist as his speed through the neutral zone set things up. Dylan McIlrath and Jonathan Ericsson in the middle of a big scrum around the net after the whistle, but not a lot of takers to mix it up with them. Puempel got racked with a dirty hit and what looked like an elbow. Big scrum broke out and Puempel lost his temper, skating in swinging, trying to get back at Healey. McIlrath in the pile as well, and Rasmussen pushing and shoving away from the pile. The Griffins ended up shorthanded as Puempel's retaliation produced a double-minor. Rasmussen with a great stick on the penalty-kill, showing off his long reach and anticipation. Terry found Kuffner in front for a point-blank chance that somehow stayed out, fooling everyone including the goal horn operator. Moritz Seider smoked Gaudreau in front of the Admirals bench and ended up in the box for two-minutes. Chase Pearson with a shorthanded steal, then he surprised the defense with a quick burst of speed to cut in on net for a great chance. Two admirals went after Terry after the whistle, alone behind the play. Turgeon flew over to even things up until the officials could get everyone separated. Shots on Goal: GR 7 - Mil 16.
Griffins with more jump in the third. Puempel and Rasmussen two-on-one into the Milwaukee zone, Puempel with a nice feed, but Rasmussen couldn't get the shot off. Lashoff thumped Jeannot along the boards as the physical play really picking up. Ingram was summoned to the bench with three minutes left in the game for the extra attacker in an attempt to solve Pickard. Puempel almost stripped the puck off the Admirals puck-carrier for a breakaway but it just spun off. A few seconds later Rasmussen fed Puempel all alone for an easy shot at the empty net and a 3-0 win. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - Mil 7. For the Game: GR 27 - Mil 26.
#25 Terry - #27 Rasmussen - #73 Puempel
#21 Kuffner - #23 Turgeon - #65 Shine
#15 Elson - #90 Veleno - #11 Zarina
Several - #22 Pearson - #10 MacGregor
#18 Lashoff - #52 McIlrath
#4 Ericsson - #53 Seider
#2 Hicketts - #5 Lindstrom
7 D dressed so everyone played with everyone at times.
Starter: #31 Pickard
Backup: #30 Larsson
#54 Smith - 1 Game AHL Suspension
#55 Ford - Veteran Scratch
#15 Elson - #90 Veleno - #10 MacGregor
#11 Zadina - #53 Seider
#21 Kuffner - #27 Rasmussen - #73 Puempel
#25 Terry - #2 Hicketts
#22 Pearson - #27 Rasmussen
#4 Ericsson - #53 Seider
#15 Elson - #23 Turgeon/#90 Veleno
#18 Lashoff - #52 McIlrath
As stated above the imposing Griffins blueline was a difference in this game. Lots of big mobile bodies made it tough for Milwaukee to get much going. Jonathan Ericsson making his return to the Griffins after a 10-year absence, played better than I would have expected, and his mobility looked fine at this level. He was paired with several different defenders throughout the game but made a solid shut down tandem with Dylan McIlrath.
Michael Rasmussen continues to impress with his multi-faceted skill set. He was great on the PK all night and finished with a team high two assists as his offensive game stays hot. The funny thing is that for a player his size, you don't notice him a lot, but when a great play happens, you look at the sweater number and say "Oh, that was Rasmussen".
Calvin Pickard was solid in earning the shutout but didn't really face a lot of quality chances. He has one spot in the second where he was forced to make several quick stops in a row while killing a penalty, and he came up huge.
The Griffins dressed 11 forwards and 7 defensemen, so everyone played with everyone a t least a little bit. Vili Saarijarvi was the extra and didn't see a lot of ice time, and Joe Hicketts rounded out the top six. Ericsson saw time with Seider early in the game, and the seemed to rotate between playing with Lindstrom and McIlrath. It was pretty funny to see the diminutive Hicketts with all the jumbo-sized defenseman.
The penalty killing unit was solid for the most part, but Dominic Turgeon did look to be having to adjust to not playing with long time partner Colin Campbell. He had a couple of miscues trying to get the puck to Turner Elson who was in a different position than he expected. The powerplay however did not look good, turning over the puck too often and not really generating many quality chances. With the talent on this club, that will need to improve. The team as a whole looked like what they are, a new group of players trying to get a feel for playing with each other for the first time.