Utah Grizzlies: Fickle Fortune

If Fortune favoured the Grizzlies on Monday, she proved a fickle friend last night.

The first shift of the game began well for the Grizzlies, though they were quickly hemmed into their own zone for the next few shifts, as Adirondack got to work. Utah scrambled in their own end a little, but after four minutes, shots were tied 3-3, and the Grizzlies began to push back.

At 4:15, Jon Puskar turned and fired in the high slot, and Mathieu Aubin put the puck past Ken Appleby for his second of the year.

The play went back and forth with plenty of board battles and chances on both sides. There was a bit of a scare as Puskar went down after being hit up high with the puck, but he remained on the bench, apparently little worse for wear.

With 2:25 left in the period, Phil Pietroniro was called for holding, the Grizzlies’ penalty kill got down to business, and Kevin Boyle made several very good saves.

At the end of 20, Boyle and the Grizzlies were up 1-0, though the shots tipped in Adirondack’s favour, 13-12.

The Grizzlies came out flying in the second, and Brandon McNally just missed the wide open net, but it was the Thunder who scored first, as both Robbie Donahoe and the puck went into the net behind Boyle at 1:22.

Utah went to the power play shortly thereafter, as James Henry hooked Ralph Cuddemi, but the Adirondack penalty kill proved up to the task against a lacklustre power play. To make things worse, right off the power play, the Thunder came the other way, James Henry’s pass beat out a sprawling Grizzlies’ defenceman, and Peter MacArthur deked out Boyle.

The game got heated after that, as Keegan Kanzig and Travis Howe dropped the gloves with 13:03 left in the second, and the crowd roared their approval as Howe saluted them on the way to the box. Adirondack was assessed an extra slashing penalty, so the Grizzlies went back to the power play. The first half of the power play was pretty abysmal, but the second half had some signs of life, though it ultimately came up empty.

With about eight minutes left to play, Adirondack got in behind the Grizzlies’ defence, and Boyle made an outstanding save to keep the deficit to one goal.

For a couple of teams who almost never see each other, a fair bit of dislike has built up between them in the past two games, and the last five minutes saw two fights break out. the first between McNally and Phil Lane with 4:31 left, and the second between Mike Bergin and Kenton Helgesen, after Bergin took exception to a big hit of Helgesen’s. As the Thunder also took a slashing penalty together with the first fight, the Grizzlies got a power play, but were unable to make anything of it yet again.

Pietroniro took his second penalty of the night with 18.2 left to go in the period, but the Grizzlies ended the period buzzing around the Adriondack net. After 40, shots were 27-18 for the Thunder, who also maintained the 2-1 lead.

 

Then the game got a little weird.

Half way through the third, Boyle made a big save, the whistle went, the puck flew out, and Adirondack scored, but the goal was waived off.

A few shifts later, the puck rang the crossbar and bounced out to the slot, where the Thunder put the puck back in the net, but it was waived off immediately thanks to a distinct kicking motion, so the Grizzlies dodged yet another bullet.

With about 1:20 left to play in the period, the Grizzlies pulled Boyle in favour of an extra skater and called their time out. Unfortunately, despite some good pressure, the Grizzlies were unable to capitalize, and they fell 2-1, outshot 32-25.

It was good to see Boyle return to something like the form he showed in his first two games of the season. As head coach Tim Branham said, “He’s a competitor, and we saw when he first got here that he’s going to be a top goalie in this league…his first two starts were excellent…obviously there were probably some goals he would have wanted back, and we kind of put him under some pressure too in those three games that he lost, which is tough for a rookie goaltender. But today he responded. He was solid. We left him out to dry on those two goals against, and he made some big saves tonight, that’s for sure.”

As to what they need to do tonight to come  out on top in this three game series with Adirondack, Branham added “Guys just need to refocus, take a look in the mirror, figure out what they did right, what they did wrong, come back with a better effort. When the pucks aren’t going your way, you just have to work that much harder to make sure they go your way, and you can’t give up, can’t give in.”

The Grizzlies and the Thunder face each other again tonight at 7 PM for the last time until January, and will be wearing their specialty throw back Golden Eagles jerseys which will be auctioned off after the game with the proceeds going to the Angel’s Hands Foundation.

 

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