The list of hockey teams Todd Griffith has played for reads like a National Geographic handbook. In his eight-year career he’s played for 11 teams, including some named after fish, reptiles, bulls, deer and an endangered bird, the Condor.
He’s never worn the same jersey for longer than 46 regular-season games before switching teams, so he’s used to quick acclamations with new teammates.
In eight games with the Thunder, Griffith has shown his propensity for making good early impressions. His two goals Friday, in first-place Wichita’s 6-0 win over Fort Worth at Intrust Bank Arena, give him five for the season, along with four assists.
Griffith has quickly become a reliable asset for Wichita, and his offense Friday served as a supplement for another dominating performance by Thunder goalie Kevin Regan, who recorded his second shutout. Rookie Greger Hanson also had two goals for Wichita.
"I never expected to jump in and start scoring," Griffith said. "I’ve been around a while, and I’ve known that when you show up to the plate you have to put (shots) in the net and you’ve got to work hard. I’m just happy that things are going my way right now and hopefully they continue to."
Griffith doesn’t seem to wear out his welcome with teams, as evidenced by the fact that he has had at least two stints with three teams, including the Newcastle Vipers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom.
The 27-year-old is often in high demand because he can fill multiple needs. Aside from being a strong scorer, Griffith plays with a physicality often neglected by other forwards.
As his comfort level with Wichita has expanded, so has Griffith’s exhibition of those traits. All 14 of his penalty minutes have been accumulated in the last four games, and he has at least one point in four of the last five.
"Most people know that I can score goals and that I’m willing to get in those dirty areas and I’m not scared to protect myself or my teammates," Griffith said. "It is kind of a little bit of a commodity, so it hasn’t really been that tough to get jobs."
Wichita’s four-goal second period was keyed by Griffith, who contributed to three scores. He earned more ice time with some of the Thunder’s top playmakers, and he fit in perfectly, first assisting on a goal by Matt Summers before scoring two of his own, both assisted by RG Flath.
Hanson’s first-period goal forced the normally defensive-minded Brahmas, one of Griffith’s former teams, to play more aggressively. That suited the high-octane Thunder perfectly, and Wichita scored on 4 of 13 shots.
Defenseman Kevin Young scored on the power play; seven Wichita players had either a goal or an assist in the second and 11 scored overall.
"We knew what we were getting into coming into the game," Griffith said. "We knew we had to throw offense at them and get our forecheck because they’re very good defensively. We knew what we had to do, and (coach Kevin McClelland) talked to us on the bench a little bit, telling us to get going. All of a sudden we got one goal and it compiled from there and it ballooned."
The rest was handled by Regan, who is quickly solidifying himself as perhaps the best goalie in the CHL. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of his last five games, and Wichita has won seven of his last starts.
Friday wasn’t Regan’s most visually pleasing performance — Fort Worth rarely mustered enough pressure to force Regan to do anything spectacular — but his steadfastness was key in allowing Wichita’s offense to break through early, then, in the second period, often.
"He made some good saves," McClelland said. "That first goal we got was huge. It was just a shot that went to the net, and we got some lumber on it and it went in for us. Up until that it was a pretty tightly contested hockey game, and in the second period we opened it up a little bit."
Scoring — 1. Wichita, Hansen (Lutz, Flanigan), 17:21. Penalties — None.
Scoring — 2. Wichita, Summers (Griffith, Painchaud), 1:10; 3. Griffith (Flath, Young), 4. Wichita, Young PP (Painchaud, Martens), 12:44; Wichita, Griffith (Flath, Summers), 18:38. Penalties — Wichita, Reaney (hooking), 2:04; Fort Worth, Fox (slashing), 11:38; Fort Worth, Boychuk (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:38.
Scoring — 6. Wichita, Hanson (Lizon, Lutz), 15:05. Penalties — Fort Worth, Tolles (holding), 5:11; Wichita, Griffith (slashing), 11:51; Wichita, Martens (interference), 19:28.
Power play — Fort Worth 0 for 3, Wichita 1 for 3.
Shots — Fort Worth 6-5-11—22, Wichita 9-13-4—26
Saves — Fort Worth, Fogal, 20 saves on 26 shots; Wichita, Regan 22-22.
T — 2:18. A — 4,062.