Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum-Indianapolis, IN: While driving back to Michigan last weekend, we decided to stop in Indy for fuel. I mean, Fuel. Minor league hockey, like baseball, is a great family friendly affordable fun, so we were definitely lucky to catch this East Coast Hockey League game. It was Racing Night, and Trevor was able to meet Indy car driver Conor Daly before the game.
The Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum is a nice venue to watch a game, and I have to admit, the Fuel entrance was pretty amazing.
The game itself was fun, and they had a few fun things going on between periods. The visiting Cyclones took it to the home team, though. Sam Jardine scored the lone goal for the Fuel in the loss. The number one star of the game was Cincy goalie Andy Iles with 30 saves. This is definitely a fun place to stop, and I’m sure we’ll be using Indy as a resting point many times on our trips between Kentucky and Michigan. Final: Fuel 1, Cyclones 5.
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: After a fun afternoon at the West Michigan Whitecaps’ Open House, and a great meal at Enza’s Pizza, we made out way to the Van Andel Arena for an evening of AHL hockey featuring the home town Griffins taking on San Antonio. The Griffins won the Calder Cup last season, and were out to their best start ever in 2013, but injuries to parent club the Detroit Red Wings have depleted the roster here in GR. The Griffins still have a lot of fight in them, though, and it was fun to finally make it down to a game this season. The kids really like Van Andel Arena, also, as it’s the biggest one they’ve had a chance to visit so far. They also had a free hockey figure promotion, and we all know how much kids love getting free stuff. Brian finally got to meet one of the Griffins’ mascots, so he was all his glory at that point.
The game itself was a rough one for the hometown Griffins, as they got spanked 3-0 by San Antonio. They really just didn’t look like a typical Grand Rapids team, and made too many mistakes. The only stand out player was Petr Mrazek in net, who made 22 saves on the night, but was hung out to dry on the three Rampage goals. Head coach, and Sault Ste. Marie native, Jeff Blashill should have this team back to their winning ways by next weekend, though. The games are always a little more fun with a win like they did for us last season, but we still had a great time together. I’m not sure if we’ll make it down to another game this season, but if not we surely wish the Griffins luck on another championship run. Looking over the Whitecaps schedule, I was hoping to find a baseball/hockey double-header we could go to, but their games just don’t match up. All together, another day with the kids and my dad that I’m extremely thankful for.
I’m taking a small break from minor league baseball to focus on some minor league hockey. Why would I do this, you ask? Easy, when my own Grand Rapids Griffins captured the Calder Cup last night with a 5-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch. The Calder Cup is awarded to the playoff champion of the American Hockey League, which is comparable to Triple-A in baseball. The Griffins won the series four game to two over the favored Syracuse team. Grand Rapids won the first three games of the series, but the Crunch battled back to win two and bring the series back home. It would have been nice to have won it on home ice at Van Andel Arena, but a championship is special no matter where it’s won. Griffin captain Jeff Hoggan accepted the Cup at center ice, and Tomas Tatar was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the series most valuable player, scoring 16 goals and 21 points in 24 games. In net, Petr Mrazek made 24 saves for the win. First year head coach Jeff Blashill made a fine showing also, and is a native of our little town of Sault Ste. Marie here in the U.P. This is the first championship in the 17 year history of the Griffins, and 27 years of pro hockey in Grand Rapids.
To celebrate, more than 4,000 fans were in attendance at Van Andel Arena this evening to see the Griffins and the Calder Cup. The team was also able to thank their fans. We knew this would be a special season when we saw them play in February, and they looked very solid. I would love to see the Whitecaps pick up on this, and have the Griffins honored at one of their games. They could even have a championship puck give away or something, or have the Calder Cup on display. Anyway, this is very good for my hometown of Grand Rapids. Congrats to the Griffins, and also to Syracuse on a great season.
Photos courtesy of the AHL/Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard/MLive.com/Grand Rapids Press