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Detroit Red Wings

Griffins Learn Important Lesson in Game 2 Loss to Rockford



marco kasper, Grand Rapids Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS — Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman expects prospects to spend an extended time with the  Griffins in the American Hockey League because he wants them to experience each of the highs and lows of pro hockey before they arrive in the NHL.

If prospects are paying attention, then valuable lessons can be learned in the AHL.

That’s what happened to the Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night when they lost a 5-1 decision to Rockford IceHogs in Game 2 of  the best-of-five Central Division Semifinal. The series is tied 1-0 and the Griffins’ young players were left to wonder what just happened to them. Game 3 is Friday in Grand Rapids.

“The playoffs are hard,” Grand Rapids coach Dan Watson said. “And we talk about every game getting harder. That’s the lesson right there: We thought tonight was hard — wait until Game 3. They are going to want to strike against us and go home with a lead. And we have to be prepared for that.”

This was the 14th time the Griffins had played the IceHogs this season, and Grand Rapids had won seven of those games, counting Game 1 of those playoffs. Not once had the IceHogs pinned this kind of  lopsided loss on the Griffins. But the Griffins and IceHogs had not played a game with this level of importance before Wednesday’s game.

“You have an opportunity to grab a 2-0 series lead and you come out flat,” Watson said. “That’s not acceptable here. You want to make sure the guys know what the standards are.”

Post-Game Address

Watson felt strongly about delivering that message that he spoke to the players as a group after the game. He didn’t do that once during his first regular-season with the team.

“You don’t want to lose the way we lost tonight,” Watson said. “…It’s a wake-up call. And that’s for everybody, including the staff, myself included. We have to make sure these guys are prepared.”

It all turned bad for the Griffins in this playoff game. Their offense was unfocused. Goalie Sebastian Cossa wasn’t at his best.  Everyone seemed disconnected.

“It’s a tough league and guys are battling every night,” Cossa said. “Reset and come back on Friday with a big night of vengeance.”

It’s difficult to remember that they led 1-0 on a goal by Austin Czarnik midway through the first period before it all began to fall apart. He played on Grand Rapids’ top line with Jonatan Berggren and Carter Mazur.

“They out-competed us, they outdid everything against us,” Czarnik said. “Special teams were not good enough tonight. That’s a key part of the game where you need to capitalize on them. We didn’t do either. There’s lots to look at tomorrow. We’ll see what happens but that was unacceptable.”

Czarnik said maybe the team will benefit from this experience.

“A lot of young guys here but it’s good for them,” Czarnik said. “They need this, the experience of the ups and downs. I think it’s gonna be really good.”