With Brassard and McNally called up to the San Diego Gulls, the Grizzlies looked a little different than they have of late. However, if last night’s stinker was surprising, tonight’s rebound was not. Tim Branham teams don’t often drop two bad games in a row, let alone three.
Wichita came out hot again, but the Grizzlies were able to weather the early onslaught, before going short handed on a delay of game penalty 2:24 into the first.
Unfortunately, less than 30 seconds to go in the kill, a wildly bouncing puck got past the Grizzlies’defence, and trickled through Ryan Faragher’s five hole. It was a pretty bad goal all around, but the Grizzlies responded immediately, Colin Martin scoring on the very next shift. Evan Stoflet and Shane Walsh got the assists on Martin’s second of the year.
With 13:05 to go in the period, Travis Howe and Macoy Erkamps dropped the gloves, and were allowed to have a lengthy go at each other, before they were separated and sent to the box.
Just past the half-way mark, the Grizzlies were sent to the power play, and though they struggled to set up at first, they did eventually break Wichita’s perfect penalty kill record as Erik Higby put one past Drew Owsley. Helgesen got the primary assist, extending his scoring streak to five points in six games.
Taylor Richart made a fantastic play to break up a two-on-one a few minutes later, but took a penalty, negating a Grizzlies power play at 13:44. However, the Grizzlies pushed back, and a strong shift in the Thunder offensive zone led to a Thunder penalty in return.
Forced to take a defensive zone draw, with mere seconds to go, and a one goal lead, Helgesen was one of the players Coach Branham trusted to get the Grizzlies out of the period, and they did just that, shots 14-6 in their favor.
Just under five minutes into the second, Nick Trecapelli checked C.J. Eick into the boards, sending the Grizzlies to the power play, and Ralph Cuddemi scored on a breakaway, putting one past Owsley for Utah’s second power play goal of the night. Tim Daly and Ryan Faragher got the assists on that one.
Several minutes later, the Grizzlies crashed Wichita’s net, and Travis Howe scored his first of the year, with Carlos Amestoy and Mike Banwell picking up the assists. It looked like Utah would escape the second up 4-2, but a bad turnover allowed Gerrad Grant to score with just two seconds left.
Utah has had rough third periods of late, being out scored to the tune of 18-7, so the goal in the final 20 was definitely to buck that trend, and so they did. At 7:24 Helgesen deflected Tim Daly’s shot into the net, giving the Grizzlies their third two goal lead of the game. With the goal, his second point of the night, Helgesen is is now one of four Grizzlies at (or above) a point-per game.
Nothing much of note occurred in the next few minutes until Alexandre Carrier and Logan Nelson dropped the gloves for the second fight of the night at about the 12 minute mark.
From there on out, the Grizzlies battened down the hatches, and rode out a few dangerous shifts from Wichita, though there were some uneasy moments down the stretch — including a strong shift from Alex Krushelnyski and his linemates.
With a little over 2:34 left, Faragher made a snappy windmill save, and with less than a minute remaining, and the Thunder net empty, Amestoy just missed the cage. Wichita called their time out with 13 seconds left, but were unable to capitalize, falling 5-3, out-shot 41-24.
The Grizzlies’ win halts a two game skid, and was a marked improvement over their last three games. They improve their record to 6-3, Faragher improves to 5-1, and ten different players registered a point. Helgesen (named first star of the game), Daly (third star) and Stoflet all picked up two a piece.
The defense and special teams looked much better tonight, with the power play scoring on two out of four chances, and hopefully they can continue the upward trend.
All in all, it was a much better game for the Grizzlies who will travel back to Tulsa tonight, and take on the Oilers in the afternoon tomorrow.