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November 2012 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Winning streak puts griffins on top...
By Jason Kasiorek
December 1, 2012

What a difference a month makes. The emergence of Petr Mrazek helped the club take off on a winning streak that took the team from the basement to the top of the division in just 11 short games. The team's offense also caught fire with several players stepping up to score including rookies Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan. Brendan Smith, Adam Almquist and Chad Billins notching 8 points apiece as the defense was involved with the offense.

With an 8-3-0-0 record for November, the Griffins slingshotted into 1st place in the midwest division. They currently have a 10-6-1-1 record on the season for 22 points which also leaves them in 3rd place in the Western Division and 11th in the AHL. Grand Rapids boasts the leagues 4th best offense with 63 goals in 18 games (3.5 goals per game), but the defense is still a work in progress rated 20th giving up 56 goals in 18 games (3.11 goals per game). Van Andel arena has the 7th best average attendance in the AHL at 6,711 per game.

The following is a review for November:

OFFENSE - Grand Rapids scored 38 goals in 11 games in November almost three and a half per game. The top line of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson have accounted for 13 goals and 16 assists in the 11 in November. They play together as a powerplay unit and see a lot of time at even strength as well. They are closely followed by Riley Sheahan centering Frankie Pare and Tomas Jurco on a rapidly improving scoring line. The trio posted 11 goals and 9 assists on the month, including several clutch performances. Two-way whiz Landon Ferraro is in the middle of the third line flanked by captain Jeff Hoggan and either Louis-Marc Aubry or Trevor Parkes. This line is all speed and buzzes around creating turnovers and scoring chances, Aubry has better offensive skills than Parkes, but Parkes brings a little more hitting when he plays allowing the team to change things up. The constants on the fourth line are wingers Triston Grant and Mitchell Callahan, centered by either Brent Raedeke or Louis-Marc Aubry. After sitting out for several games, Callahan has found his game and has helped this line be more effective. This line is still a bit in flux, and don't be surprises to see Luke Glendening from Toledo get an opportunity to show what he can do.

November Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Frankie Pare 11 5 6 11 2 3 25Streaky scorer on a tear.
Tomas Tatar11 6 4 10 11 2 28Red hot start continues for dynamic scorer.
Gustav Nyquist 11 4 6 10 6 3 30Team leading scorer keeps up the pace.
Joakim Andersson 11 3 6 9 8 0 23Rugged center brings offense online.
Landon Ferraro 11 4 4 8 10 2 19Ace penalty killer still scoring.
Tomas Jurco 11 3 2 5 6 -3 14Talented rookie showing glimpses of top flight skills.
Riley Sheahan 10 3 1 4 0 4 18Physical forward rising up the depth charts.
Brent Raedeke8 1 2 3 6 0 5Third Year man fighting for ice time.
Triston Grant11 1 2 3 15 1 8Brings grit and presence to the 4th line.
Jeff Hoggan 11 0 3 3 8 2 19Lots of hustle, but not much offense.
Mitchell Callahan 8 1 1 2 7 0 6Found his game after sitting out for awhile.
Trevor Parkes 8 1 1 2 0 0 5Speed and Grit keep him in the fight for last spot.
Louis-Marc Aubry11 0 2 2 0 1 20Exceptional defense, waiting for scoring to pick up.

DEFENSE - The Griffins top six is locked in for now with a nice blend of speed, size and offense. The first pairing has been vet Nathan Paetsch paired with top prospect Brendan Smith. Paetsch, normally known as an offensive defenseman has been playing back more, allowing Smith to get more involved with the play. The second tandem is solid Brian Lashoff paired with rookie Adam Almquist. These two have been the best defensive pairing in the early going, and Almquist's sudden offensive explosion was just an added bonus. The last pairing has seen powerplay king Chad Billins playing alongside gritty defender Brennan Evans. Paetsch's injury left some room for Max Nicastro and Gleason Fournier to get into a couple of games. Nicastro was the more impressive of the two and notched a goal to go along with a +2 rating in three games.

November Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Adam Almquist 11 2 6 8 4 3 14 Adjustment coming along nicely for slick rearguard.
Brendan Smith11 2 6 8 20 2 42Showing signs of bringing his game more consistently.
Chad Billins 11 1 7 8 6 -6 12Powerplay ace still bringing offense.
Nathan Paetsch 6 0 2 2 0 1 8 Missed time with an injury.
Max Nicastro 3 1 0 1 0 2 3First year man making the most of his opportunities.
Brian Lashoff 10 0 1 1 2 3 7 Rugged defender takes care of his own end.
Brennan Evans 11 0 1 1 22 0 10Physical blueliner provides veteran presence.
Gleason Fournier 2 0 0 0 0 0 1Smooth skater still the odd man out.

GOALTENDING - Rookie Petr Mrazek came in and took over the starting job in short order, setting a franchise mark by winning his first six starts. He solidified the position and gave the team some confidence that had been lacking the last few seasons. His numbers, a 2.53 GAA and 91.0 save percentage are easily tops of the three masked men to tend the net for Grand Rapids so far this season. Backup Thomas McCollum went 2-2 in November lowering his GAA below 3 to a middle of the pack 2.83 and lowered his save percentage a few points to 89.6% near the bottom of AHL goaltenders.

SPECIAL TEAMS - As you might expect from the leagues fourth ranked offense, the Griffins powerplay has been very effective in the early going. With 18 powerplay goals in 80 chances (22.5%) the team is 3rd in powerplay efficiency. The road unit, slotted in 4th at 23.7% (9 for 38) has been marginally better than the home unit which sits at 7th with a 21.4% rating (9 for 42). Tomas Tatar (5 goals - 4 assists), Gustav Nyquist (4-5) and Chad Billins (1-8) have done the most damage with the man advantage but Brendan Smith (2-5) and Joakim Andersson (2-5) have not been far behind.

The penalty killing however is another story. While it has improved over last month, it still ranks in the middle of the pack and has a long way to go. On the road the team has had more success, killing off 34 of 40 chances (85%) which leaves them 10th in the AHL. At home, they are 20th stopping 40 of 49 chances (81.6%), leaving them about in the middle over all at 16th killing off 74 of 89 chances (83.1%). Ferraro, Parkes and Sheahan have all tallied shorthanded goals for the Griffins.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Defense - Petr Mrazek. The rookie phenom was eagerly awaited all summer and after serving a few games in the ECHL arrived in Grand Rapids. He gave the team the goaltending they had lacked for a long time and established himself as the starter with a 6 game winning streak. If he can keep up this level of play he could be a difference maker in the teams fortunes this season.

Offense - Frankie Pare. Pare has been dogged in the past by slow starts, but not this season. The fifth year winger is off to a great start with 9 goals in 18 games and has shown great chemistry with rookies Sheahan and Jurco. He recently had a 7 game scoring streak snapped, attesting to his consistency this season.


NOTABLE MOVEMENT - D Gleason Fournier assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Fournier recalled from Toledo... D Max Nicastro assigned to Toledo (ECHL)... Nicastro recalled from Toledo... Fournier assigned to Toledo...

KEY STATS - Gustav Nyquist is 9th in league scoring with 19 points, teammate Tomas Tatar is tied for 13th with 18 points... Rookie Chad Billins is 2nd in assists with 15... Billins is also 3rd in powerplay assists with 8... Landon Ferraro is tied for first with 2 shorthanded assists and 3 shorthanded points... Billins is tied for 5th in rookie scoring with 16 points... He is also second in rookie assists (15) and rookie powerplay assists (8), and third in rookie powerplay points (9)... Among blueliners, Billins is tied for 5th in scoring (16), 2nd in assists (15), 2nd in powerplay points (9) and 2nd in powerplay assists (8)...

IN THE PIPELINE - The three forwards that Grand Rapids assigned to Toledo have been making strong cases for a recall. Ranked 1-3 in team scoring Willie Coetzee, Andrej Nestrasil and Luke Glendening have provided 40% of the goals so far for the Toledo Walleye. Glendening is ranked among the ECHL rookie scoring leaders and is in the top ten in the league in goals with 12. The defensive forward leads the team with a +10 defensive rating and has a pair of shorthanded goals already. Nestrasil has bounced back from an inconsistent rookie season and counts 7 goals among his 18 points and is a +4. Coetzee shares the team lead with 18 points, of which he has 8 goals and 10 assists. The south african sniper has accomplished this despite not notching a powerplay tally yet.

Netminder Jordan Pearce has found the groove since being farmed out by the Griffins, winning six straight after losing his first game. He is among the league leaders in goals against average (7th) giving up a stingy 2.38 per game and save percentage (9th) at 91.3%. Gleason Fournier and Max Nicastro have each seen brief time with Toledo, with Nicastro's goal being the lone statistical high point.

UP NEXT - Grand Rapids has the luxury of being home for the holidays, playing 9 of 11 contests at Van Andel arena. The month starts out with visits from the gritty Texas Stars and division rival Peoria Rivermen. The team then plays a Friday night game in Chicago against the Wolves before returning to play a Sunday matinee against the Rockford IceHogs. Next up is a rematch with the Rivermen before taking a trip to Toronto for a Sunday afternoon game. Three quick games are on tap the week before Christmas as Rochester, Abbotsford and the Wolves all come to town ahead of Santa. The finishes the month with a rematch with the Marlies and then the traditional New Years Eve contest featuring the IceHogs.