It was not an auspicious start for the Grizzlies in Wheeling, despite a few big chances from Ralph Cuddemi off the first shift, as Brett Stern blasted a shot over Ryan Faragher’s glove just 42 seconds into the game.
At 3:16, the puck bounced off the back boards, onto a Nailers’ stick, and took a wild bounce over Faragher and into the back of the net.
Shortly thereafter, the Grizzlies were trapped in their own zone, and Mathieu Aubin took a hooking penalty, sending them to the penalty kill. To make matters worse, Colin Martin had to be helped off the ice just prior to the 10-minute mark, and Utah found themselves outshot 5-3.
Erik Bradford took a hooking penalty at 13:47, but the Grizzlies were able to kill it off, and stepping back onto the ice, Bradford drew a penalty of his own. However, the period would end with Utah down 2-0, and outshot 8-5.
The second period did not begin any better as Wheeling scored less than 1:30 into the frame, and Faragher was replaced by Ryan McKay.
The Puskar line got a few good chances around the blue paint, but the Grizzlies and Nailers took matching penalties, as Jordan Kwas was dinged for hooking, and Puskar for diving. C.J. Eick took a holding minor roughly a minute later, and Wheeling scored on the 4-on-3.
Bradford drew a penalty before the the game returned to even strength, but the Nailers got about as many chances as the Grizzlies did. At 14:05, Aubin was called for boarding, and Puskar and Garrett Meurs both went to the box as well for roughing. The Grizzlies did get a 2-on-1 chance on the penalty kill, but a pass bounced over Eick’s stick on the odd-man rush.
The Grizzlies did get a chance on the 5-on-3 for 1:10 as first Alex Kromm went off for tripping, followed by an elbowing call on Danny Fick. Scarcely had the first 5-on-3 situation expired then Kromm went back to the box for slashing. Utah had a few chances, but the period ended with no change in score. Tim Daly was run over as time expired, and everyone grabbed a buddy.
Utah opened the final 20 with 52 seconds on the power play, but like many early-period man advantages, it came to nothing. However, the Grizzlies had another shot at the power play, as Christian Hilbrich was sent off for hooking. At the 3:46 mark of the period, Wheeling took a too many men penalty, and Tim Daly scored his second goal in as many nights.
With 14:13 to go, Cuddemi took yet another hooking penalty, but the Grizzlies were able to kill it off, and Eick even got his second short-handed attempt of the night. Just under 13 minutes in the period McKay made a big save, but Evan Stofflet took a slashing minor. Puskar got a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct after a rumble in the neutral zone. Fortunately, McKay continued to look sharp, making a series of big saves, and the penalties to Stofflet and Puskar were both killed off.
Though the Grizzlies got some good chances in the final seven minutes or so, they were unable to spark any kind of comeback, losing their eighth straight game.
Unlike previous games, where the team looked good overall, with a few costly hiccups, the first period was pretty dreadful all around. However, with McKay coming in and making 14 saves on 15 shots in the second and third, the Grizzlies eventually got their bearings, and had a much better third period.
Obviously, this was not the follow-up game anyone was hoping for after last night, but the road trip is almost over.
Utah travels to Fort Wayne tonight where they will face the Komets tomorrow at 3 PM before finally returning to the Maverik Center.