The Afternoon Shift – Nov. 3

When it comes to rivals, they don’t get any bigger for the Griffins than the Manitoba Moose and Chicago Wolves, who will both visit Van Andel Arena this weekend.

Manitoba is easy enough to understand. The Moose and Griffins both reside in the North Division, and they’ve clashed in each of the last three postseasons for which Grand Rapids has qualified (2009, 2007 and 2006). The Griffins won a thriller in the 2006 division finals, rallying from a 4-1 deficit in Game 7 at Van Andel Arena by scoring four unanswered goals over the game’s final 20:o1.

The Moose exacted revenge in 2007 by winning Games 6 and 7 of the division semifinals at the MTS Centre, before sweeping the Griffins in the 2009 division finals. This season, Manitoba started off by going 0-3 against Grand Rapids and 5-0 versus the rest of the AHL, and the Griffins will aim for their first season sweep of the Moose since 2002-03 on Friday.

The Griffins’ rivalry with Chicago is appreciated more by old-school fans who date back to the teams’ IHL days. The closest the Griffins have come to a playoff championship was in 2000, when they lost Game 6 of the Turner Cup Finals and had to watch the Wolves skate around with the cup on Van Andel Arena’s ice.

Grand Rapids also suffered first-round losses to Chicago in both 2002 and 2004 but got a measure of satisfaction during the 2003 Calder Cup Playoffs by finishing off a four-game sweep of the Wolves at Allstate Arena.

With their last playoff meeting having been staged six and a half years ago, and thanks to the oddities of an AHL divisional alignment that has placed Grand Rapids’ closest geographical opponent in a different division for six straight seasons, the Griffins’ once-blazing rivalry with the Wolves has unfortunately been reduced to embers. Familiarity breeds contempt, and their clashes have been all too infrequent over the last several seasons.

However, the flames of the rivalry still burn in each organization’s memory, and our hunch is that all it will take is an errant elbow, a high stick or a well-timed slash on Saturday to rekindle them.

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL/opponent links:

Alumni news and notes:

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