The Grizzlies got off to a very good start in the last of the three home games against Adirondack, with Ryan Faragher making some big saves early, and Eriks Higby and Bradford each getting breakaways within the span of a few minutes.
Several shifts midway through the period showcased the speed of the Grizzlies, but it would be Adirondack who drew the first power play, as Phil Pietroniro was sent off for tripping. Despite killing the penalty, the Thunder struck first, as Peter MacArthur scored in a net-front scramble with just over three minutes left in the period.
Eleven seconds before the end of the first, Brandon McNally got called for hooking, and at the end of the period, shots were 12-7 for Adirondack, who also led 1-0.
The second period opened with the remaining 1:49 of McNally’s penalty, and Adirondack scored their second just 57 seconds in.
A few minutes after that, Phil Lane and Jon Puskar tangled up, and everyone grabbed a buddy. Puskar and Lane got four each for roughing, Stoflet got two for cross-checking, and Lane got two for slashing, so the play continued 5-on-5. C.J. Eick took a penalty shortly thereafter, but the Grizzlies held off the Thunder.
Just when Lane and Puskar were freed, Brian Ward took a hooking penalty, and the Grizzlies power play went to work. Utah players took a few good whacks at the puck in front of Mason McDonald, and McNally put the puck away with authority for the Grizzlies’ first of the night.
About a minute later, Gunnar Hughes took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the Grizzlies’ power play had a stellar outing, keeping the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the entire two minutes, but they were unable to solve McDonald.
The Grizzlies got another crack at the power play as Lane took a holding penalty as he tried to catch Eick. The second power play was nowhere near as impressive as the first, but they still got a pair of chances.
With just about three left in the period, Higby missed the corner of the net, the Grizzlies kept possession, Pietroniro got off a huge point shot, and Higby missed the net again.
After all that Grizzlies offensive pressure, Stoflet found himself back in the box for hooking at 18:21. However, with 1:30 left in the penalty, Bradford broke away from the Adirondack defense halfway to the blue line, and scored a beautiful short-handed goal for his first with the Grizzlies.
The third period saw the Grizzlies get some great chances, and carry a large portion of the play. But it was Adirondack who slipped the puck past Faragher for their third of the night with 12:25 left to play.
Utah got another chance to tie it up on the power play as Keegan Kanzig took an interference penalty, tripping up Kenton Helgesen who was poised to break away up the ice, but the Thunder penalty kill went off without a hitch.
Despite pulling Faragher for the extra skater, and some last-second heroics from Brandon McNally, Mathieu Aubin, and Tim Daly to keep the puck out of the open net, the Grizzlies were unable to tie the game up, and fell 3-2 to the Thunder.
“I’m not sure how many open nets we missed, rebound opportunities … we missed a lot of them,” said Grizzlies’ coach and general manager, Tim Branham, after the game. “And I’m not even going to say their goalie made good saves, it was just we missed them.
“But you know what? I thought that was a really good hockey game for us. I thought we battled much harder, and it was gradual. Our first period was decent … and then our second period was really good. Our third period was really good. We had so many chances to score, but that is what it is. The bounces didn’t go our way again, and you just gotta battle through it. Saw a lot of good things. Saw a lot of good things that I’m happy about.”
Bradford looked excellent in his second game for the Grizzlies, scoring on that speedy short-handed breakaway.
“I sort of had a tough time getting adjusted to the altitude,” Bradford confessed after the game. “I’ve never been this far west in my life, so I definitely felt a little more tired than usual, but I try to give it my all. It’s unfortunate” he added, “that we didn’t get the two points tonight and yesterday, but the guys have been very welcoming, and I’ve been very appreciative of that.”
Coach Branham in turn was appreciative of Bradford’s efforts: “He’s working hard. He skates well with the puck, he’s got good vision, good skill … he’s been a good addition, that’s for sure; he’s been a good addition.”
Like Branham, Bradford went on to say: “We played a pretty good game tonight. If you look at their goals, they had some fluky goals out in front of our net where maybe we should have been a bit stronger, tougher in front of our net, but other than that I thought we played a pretty good game.
“But at the end of the day, you only score two goals in a game, you’re probably not going to be winning a lot of hockey games, so we gotta find a way to put more in the back of the net for our goaltenders.”
After the game, the Grizzlies auctioned off their specialty jerseys, raising $16,800 for Angel’s Hands Foundation, with Jon Puskar’s jersey selling for $1,600, and C.J. Eick’s for $1,400!
The Grizzlies will look to resurrect their scoring touch tonight against Allen where they are looking to avoid being swept at home before heading out for a lengthy road trip.