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Griffins move on, face Rockford next

by Randy Cleves / Detroit Red Wings
The Griffins and Rockford IceHogs will face-off for the first time in the AHL playoffs when they meet this week in a best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. (Photo by the Rockford IceHogs)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After rallying from a 0-2 series deficit to defeat the Toronto Marlies 3-2 in the Western Conference quarterfinals, the Midwest Division champion Grand Rapids Griffins will continue their quest to "Bring It Back" by facing the Rockford IceHogs in the best-of-seven conference semifinals.

Grand Rapids, which finished off Toronto 3-1 in today's Game 5 to become just the 11th team in AHL history to win a best-of-five series after trailing 0-2, will host Rockford for Games 1 and 2 of the 2-3-2 format at Van Andel Arena this Wednesday, May 6 and Friday, May 8.

Tickets for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at Van Andel Arena are available at The Zone and all Star Tickets locations, online through griffinshockey.com/buytickets, by phone through Star Tickets at 800-585-3737, or via the Griffins app for iPhone or Android. Continuing a postseason tradition, all home playoff games will feature $2 beers and $2 hot dogs for two hours after the doors open, while supplies last.

This will mark the first Calder Cup playoff meeting between Grand Rapids and Rockford, which ousted the defending champion Texas Stars in a three-game sweep during the opening round and now sets its sights on the AHL’s 2013 champion. This clash between the Griffins and IceHogs presents numerous other storylines, including:

  • The Griffins have won six of seven playoff series under coach Jeff Blashill over the last three seasons, marking the first time in franchise history that they've advanced to the second round in three consecutive years. Meanwhile, the IceHogs are experiencing the postseason for the first time since 2010 and have won a playoff series for the first time since their inaugural AHL campaign/first playoff series in 2008;
  • In a race that went down to the final game of the regular season, Grand Rapids won the Midwest Division crown with 100 points (46-22-6-2), just one more than Rockford’s 99 (46-23-5-2). As a result, the Griffins claimed the Western Conference’s second seed and will have home-ice advantage against the fourth-seeded IceHogs;
  • Each team earned 46 victories during the regular season while posting four wins and nine points in the season series. Grand Rapids was 4-3-0-1 in the eight clashes with Rockford, including marks of 2-1-0-1 at home and 2-2-0-0 on the road;
  • A tight series loosened in favor of the home squads during the season’s final month, as the Griffins took a 6-1 win at Van Andel Arena on April 1 before falling by a 6-2 count at the BMO Harris Bank Center two nights later;
  • Grand Rapids is 24-20-3-5 all time against Rockford, but each team has enjoyed a significant advantage on its home ice. Versus the IceHogs, the Griffins are 16-7-1-2 at Van Andel Arena but just 8-13-2-3 on the road;
  • While fans certainly recall the Griffins’ historic 11-6 win at Rockford on Jan. 19, 2013, during which Grand Rapids set franchise records for goals and penalty minutes (139) thanks to a line brawl during the second period, most of the combatants have since moved on. Not a single current Rockford player participated in that game, while only six active Griffins – Louis-Marc Aubry, Brennan Evans, Jeff Hoggan, Brian Lashoff, Tom McCollum and Nathan Paetsch – took part, with Lashoff being the only one who was involved in the melee;
  • Each club’s special teams units mirrored their counterparts during the regular season. Grand Rapids and Rockford each converted 17.0% of its power play chances, while the Griffins’ 86.4 percent penalty killing rate edged out the IceHogs’ 86.0 percent mark;
  • Grand Rapids boasted the league’s most prolific offense this season with 249 goals, while Rockford’s defense was the third-stingiest on the circuit, allowing only 180.
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