Weekend watch list: Apr. 5-7

Photo: Todd Reicher

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

A potential Calder Cup Playoff match-up will be on display tonight when the Grand Rapids Griffins host the Rockford IceHogs.

The Griffins will take an 18-game home points streak (13-0-3-2) into the game, a run that has helped them climb to second place in the Central Division. It is the longest such streak in the AHL since the Providence Bruins went 18-0-3-2 over 23 home games during the 2015-16 season.

Five points behind Grand Rapids are the third-place IceHogs, who have won 14 of their past 16 contests and have just four regulation losses since the start of February (17-4-2-1). Rockford was also the last team to defeat the Griffins in regulation at Van Andel Arena, when Mitchell Weeks made 22 saves in 2-0 win Jan. 12.

Both teams feature young goaltenders riding impressive streaks themselves. Sebastian Cossa, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, has blossomed as a second-year pro with the Griffins, and has set a franchise by going 18 straight decisions without a regulation loss; Cossa is 12-0-6 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage since that defeat against Rockford on Jan. 12.

The IceHogs’ Jaxson Stauber, meanwhile, has won 10 consecutive decisions, posting a 2.19 GAA and .919 save percentage in that span. Also a second-year pro, Stauber has not lost since a 3-2 overtime setback against Manitoba on Feb. 3.

A pair of teams fighting to remain in playoff contention meet Saturday afternoon at Place Bell when the Springfield Thunderbirds visit the Laval Rocket.

Seventh in the Atlantic Division, Springfield enters the weekend two points out of a playoff spot. Over in the North Division, the Rocket hold the fifth and final playoff position with 70 points, one point ahead of Utica and two up on Belleville.

Both teams are in action tonight, with Laval hosting division-leading Syracuse and the Thunderbirds visiting the Senators.

Springfield took a 7-3 win in the teams’ lone previous meeting on March 2. Adam Gaudette and Ryan Suzuki each had a goal and two assists while Vadim Zherenko stopped 53 shots. Gaudette ranks second in the AHL with 38 goals and third with 61 points through 60 games.

Brandon Gignac continues to lead Laval in scoring with a career-best 55 points.

A pair of Pacific Division playoff teams meet in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week on Saturday (10 ET/7 PT) as the Bakersfield Condors host the Calgary Wranglers in the second of a two-game set at Mechanics Bank Arena.

Both teams enter the weekend with 76 points, tied for sixth place in the Pacific. The Condors have a game in hand on the Wranglers, and also own the tiebreaker based on having one additional non-shootout victory.

Bakersfield and Calgary are also just five points out of second place in the compact Pacific Division race, which includes Ontario (81 points), Tucson (79), Colorado (79) and Abbotsford (78). The second- through fourth-place finishers will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Condors clinched a playoff berth on Wednesday with a 4-1 home win against Tucson. The Wranglers earned their postseason invitation last weekend.

An AHLTV account is required to watch the AHLTV Free Games of the Week, but no subscription is needed. Visit AHLTV.com for details.