GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins will have the opportunity to capture their second Calder Cup in five seasons after defeating the San Jose Barracuda four games to one in the Western Conference Finals, capped off by tonight’s 4-2 victory in Game 5 at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins, winners of the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference playoff champions, will now face the Syracuse Crunch in a rematch of the 2013 Calder Cup Finals, when Grand Rapids claimed the city’s first-ever hockey championship with a 4-2 series win over the Crunch.
With the Griffins owning home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series, Games 1 and 2 will be played at Van Andel Arena on Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 before the series shifts to the War Memorial Arena for the first of as many as three straight games. The complete schedule is as follows:
2017 Calder Cup Finals - Best of Seven
2017 Calder Cup Final Schedule
|Game 1||Fri., June 2||Crunch at GRIFFINS||7 p.m.|
|Game 2||Sat., June 3||Crunch at GRIFFINS||7 p.m.|
|Game 3||Wed., June 7||GRIFFINS at Crunch||7 p.m.|
|Game 4||Fri., June 9||GRIFFINS at Crunch||7 p.m.|
|*Game 5||Sat., June 10||GRIFFINS at Crunch||7 p.m.|
|*Game 6||Tue., June 13||Crunch at GRIFFINS||7 p.m.|
|*Game 7||Wed., June 14||Crunch at GRIFFINS||7 p.m.|
Tickets for Games 1 and 2 at Van Andel Arena will go on sale to the public this Monday, May 29 at 10 a.m. via the Griffins app for iPhone or Android and online through griffinshockey.com/tickets, and on Tuesday, May 30 at 10 a.m. at all Star Tickets locations, including The Zone, and by phone through Star Tickets at (800) 585-3737.
Grand Rapids has advanced to the championship round for the third time in franchise history and second time during its 16 AHL seasons. The Griffins, who dispatched No. 3 Milwaukee (3-0), Central Division champ Chicago (4-1) and Pacific Division/conference titlist San Jose (4-1) in these playoffs, now take aim at their third consecutive first-place foe. Syracuse won the North Division’s regular season crown with a 38-24-7-7 record (0.592/90 pts.) while Grand Rapids finished second in the Central Division at 47-23-1-5 (0.658/100 pts.). The Crunch defeated No. 4 St. John’s (3-1), No. 2 Toronto (4-3) and No. 4 Providence (4-1) en route to their second appearance in the Calder Cup Finals.
The Griffins and Crunch have not met since the 2013 finals, and only four players who participated in that series remain with their clubs: Grand Rapids’ Mitch Callahan, Brian Lashoff and Nathan Paetsch, along with Syracuse’s Matt Taormina. Meanwhile, the head and assistant coaches for each team have completely changed over the last four years.
This marks the first rematch of a previous Calder Cup Finals since 2007, when the Hamilton Bulldogs avenged their 1997 loss to the Hershey Bears.
In addition to 2013 champions Callahan, Lashoff and Paetsch, the Griffins have two members of their coaching staff who have claimed the AHL’s biggest prize. Head coach Todd Nelson was an assistant coach for Chicago’s 2008 championship squad and won it as a defenseman with Portland in 1994, while assistant coach Ben Simon hoisted the cup as a player with the Wolves in 2002.
The Crunch are led by Cory Conacher, a veteran of 152 NHL games who in 2011-12 led the Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup while garnering the league’s awards for MVP and outstanding rookie. He was also a member of the Utica Comets squad that defeated the Griffins in the 2015 Western Conference Finals. First-year head coach Benoit Groulx leads a Syracuse team that missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons.
Both Grand Rapids and Syracuse have powered to the finals primarily on the strength of their offenses, as the scoring averages for the Griffins (4.08) and Crunch (3.75) far outpace third-ranked San Jose (3.07) in these playoffs.
Taormina, a native of Warren, Mich., is one of three Crunch players who were born in the Wolverine State, including Erik Condra (Trenton) and Kevin Lynch (Grosse Pointe). The Griffins have a host of connections to Syracuse, upstate New York and the Empire State as a whole, starting with the Albany-born Lashoff. Paetsch (2010-11) and assistant coach Simon (2005-07) played for the Crunch, and Paetsch also spent eight seasons (2003-11) in the Buffalo/Rochester organization. Mike Borkowski attended Colgate University (2012-16), located 40 miles southeast of Syracuse, and the extensive list of players and coaches who have played in the state also includes Nelson (Rochester 2000-01), Conor Allen (NY Rangers 2013-15; Binghamton 2015-16), Matthew Ford (Adirondack 2011-13), Cal Heeter (Adirondack 2012-14), Matt Lorito (Albany 2014-16) and Dylan McIlrath (NY Rangers, 2013-17).
Continuing a postseason tradition, the Griffins have extended their popular Friday promotion and are offering $2 beers and $2 hot dogs for all Calder Cup Finals games for two hours after the doors open, while supplies last.
Peppino’s Sports Grille in downtown Grand Rapids will host watch parties for all road games during the finals. Fans can enjoy $2 short and $4 tall Bud Light specials, $5.99 all-American burger baskets and $8.99 one-topping deep dish pizzas.