Defensive struggles, inconsistent scoring hurt Griffins vs. Rockford, San Diego


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dated: 2022-11-20 15:02:45 .

The Grand Rapids Griffins attended their annual school game at Van Andel Arena last week before heading to the West Coast for two games with the San Diego Gulls, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.


The Griffins faced the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate Rockford IceHogs for the second time this season in their 21st annual School Game last Wednesday morning. Things looked good during GR’s impressive opening 20 minutes when Joel L’Esperance scored on the power play for the sixth time of the season.

Esperance have scored three goals so far in November (Photo: Mark Newman/Grand Rapids Griffins)

However, the wheels fell off for Grand Rapids in the second period. Four penalties gave the IceHogs too many opportunities and they took advantage, scoring four in the frame to take the lead. Rockford defenseman Ian Mitchell then scored his second power play goal early in the third period to ice the game and the IceHogs improved to 2-0 on the season with a 5-1 win over the Griffins.

Rockford ended up going 2-for-7, something head coach Ben Simon wasn’t too happy about.

“We manage them [AHL] multiple shortage of staff. We can’t keep coming up short six or seven times a game. The penalties we hand out… penalties for lazy bats. Those are mistakes that can be corrected, which is encouraging, but we can’t keep making them.”

Taro Hirose and Kyle Criscuolo added assists to L’Esperance’s tally, with Hirose tied for sixth in the league in assists (12) after Wednesday’s action. Goaltender Victor Brattstrom was handed his second regular season loss after making 28 saves.

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Hats off to you, Hirose

When the Griffins headed to sunny California for the first time this season, they knew at least one win was important.

They came out of the gates hot on Friday night, with Austin Czarnik scoring his sixth goal of the season and first since his trade from the Detroit Red Wings. Just over a minute later, Hirose found the back of the net and Dominik Shine’s goal later in the frame gave GR a 3-1 lead after one quarter of play.

Austin Czarnik of the Grand Rapids Griffins celebrates scoring against the San Diego Gulls on Nov. 18, 2022. (Photo: Andy Hayt)

In the second half, there were more attacks from both sides. Pontus Andreasson scored for the third time in four games, while Hirose scored his second goal of the night in the dying seconds of the middle run. However, goals from the Gulls’ Jacob Perreault and Danny O’Regan kept the Griffins’ lead to two goals in the third period.

San Diego came back early in the frame, tying the game at five. Then, just over a minute into the game, Hirose found a way to score his third goal of the game, completing his first hat trick as a pro and sending Grand Rapids to a commanding 5-4 victory.

Hirose finished the competition with four points, and Czarnik also with two points. Although he certainly struggled in goal, Jussi Olkinuora held on for his fourth win of the season and made 17 saves in the game.

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The final game of the weekend between the Griffs and Gulls got off to a good start for the visiting team as the Griffins opened the scoring for their fourth straight game with Andreasson scoring a power play goal just minutes into the contest.

But that was the only bright spot on Saturday night for GR. Much like they did against the IceHogs, the Gulls scored six unanswered goals, including a hat trick from Glenn Gawdin, to finish the weekend with a convincing 6-1 win.

Rookie Andreasson now has six points in his last five games (photo credit: Andy Bayt)

With the goal in the loss, Andreasson became the fifth Griffin in double figures this season, with four goals and six assists in his debut campaign. Kyle Criscuolo earned the lone assist on the goal, his fourth of the season, while Brattstrom suffered another loss, allowing five goals on 35 shots.


The Griffins (7-8-1) get a few extra days off when they return to Van Andel Arena for five home games, starting with two meetings against the Manitoba Moose, the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.

Manitoba will be a little less quiet as they have a meeting with the Milwaukee Admirals in Wisconsin on Tuesday. The Moose are currently 8-3-2 on the season, two points behind the Admirals for first place in the Central Division.

On Friday night, the old rivals of the International Hockey League meet for the first time since last January. During the 2021-22 season, the Griffins battled the Moose and compiled a 2-4-2 record against their division rivals.

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UPCOMING SCHEDULE (home matches in bold)

  • Friday, November 25 vs. Manitoba Moose (7 p.m. ET)
  • Saturday, November 26 vs. Manitoba Moose (7 p.m. ET)
  • Friday, December 2 vs. Texas stars (7 p.m. ET)
  • Saturday, December 3 vs. Texas stars (7 p.m. ET)
  • Wednesday, December 7 vs. Iowa Wild (7 p.m. ET)

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Defensive struggles, inconsistent scoring hurt Griffins vs. Rockford, San Diego

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