PAIR OF FORMER AMERKS WIN CALDER CUP WITH GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINSNews | 6/19/2013 1:45:49 PM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
The Grand Rapids Griffins cemented their place in American Hockey League history last night, capturing the city’s first-ever Calder Cup by virtue of a 5-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 6 of the 2013 Calder Cup Finals at the War Memorial at Oncenter. The historic season marks Grand Rapids’ first league title in the 17-year history of the Griffins franchise and the first Detroit Red Wings affiliate to hoist the AHL’s coveted prize since the 1991-92 Adirondack Red Wings.
Among the 24 players who helped guide Grand Rapids to its most successful season in franchise history are former Amerks Nathan Paetsch and Triston Grant, both of whom called Rochester their home for the 2010-11 campaign.
Paetsch and Grant led the Griffins to a first place finish in the AHL’s Midwest Division on their way to locking up third place in the Western Conference with a 42-26-4-4 record during the regular season. Under first-year head coach Jeff Blashill, the Griffins eliminated the Houston Aeros (3-2), Toronto Marlies (4-2) and Oklahoma City Barons (4-3) before defeating Syracuse in the Finals. Grand Rapids' 2013 playoff roster also featured eight players who appeared in the NHL with the parent Red Wings this season, including playoff MVP Tomas Tatar, who scored twice in Game 6 and led the Griffins in postseason scoring with 21 points and a league-best 16 goals.
Originally a seventh-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Paetsch is coming off his second-best season of professional hockey in 2012-13 after recording 31 points on four goals and 27 assists in 70 games with the Griffins. Paetsch closed out the regular season ranked tied for first in assists and third in scoring among team defensemen before adding 11 more helpers while appearing in all 24 playoff contests for Grand Rapids.
Paetsch, whose 10-year pro career includes 167 NHL games with Buffalo and Columbus, played parts of four seasons (2003-06, 2010-11) in the Flower City and was an integral part of Rochester’s historic 2004-05 campaign when the Amerks finished atop the AHL standings as regular season champions with a franchise-best 51-19-6-4 record (112 points). That year also produced the AHL’s top goaltender in former netminder Ryan Miller and Coach of the Year in Amerks Hall of Famer Randy Cunneyworth, whose eight seasons behind the Rochester bench remains unmatched by any Amerks head coach.
In 215 career games with the Amerks, the LeRoy, Saskatchewan, native has scored 21 goals and 65 assists and currently ranks 31st among all-time defensemen with 86 points. Paetsch also led Rochester to back-to-back playoff appearances during his first two seasons with the club, totaling four points (2+2) in 25 postseason outings, including 16 during his rookie campaign. He notched his best season in 2005-06, Rochester’s 50 anniversary season, when he captured career-highs in all offensive categories, including goals (11), assists (39) and points (50), to finish first among team blueliners and fourth in overall scoring while being named team MVP. Paetsch became just the third Amerks defenseman since the early 1990s to take home the honor, a feat also accomplished by Don McSween in 1991 and Mark Krys in 1995.
After a five-year hiatus from the AHL following a lengthy stay with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets, the veteran blueliner returned to the Amerks for the 2010-11 season and recorded three points (1+2) in nine games before a midseason reassignment to nearby Syracuse officially ended his tenure in Rochester. In addition to his success on the ice, Paetsch’s accolades in Rochester extend off the ice as well as he was a two-time winner of the team’s McCulloch Trophy for his outstanding and dedicated service to the local community during his first two seasons with the Amerks.
Grant, an edgy two-way forward known for his toughness and grit along with a natural scoring ability, is also fresh off his first-ever championship season with the Griffins in 2012-13. Playing with his fourth AHL team in as many years, Grant collected 10 points (4+6) in 75 games with Griffins while piling up a team-high 196 penalty minutes. He, too, appeared in all 24 postseason games for Grand Rapids, contributing four points (2+2) throughout the playoffs, including a goal in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals against Syracuse.
During the 2010-11 campaign with the Amerks, his only season in Rochester, Grant amassed 13 points (7+6) in 56 games and racked up 144 penalty minutes. Rochester, then under its third year as the top development team for the Florida Panthers, would finish the season with a 31-39-5-5 record and miss the playoffs for the third time in four years before seeing the return of the Buffalo Sabres later that summer as its NHL affiliate.