Utah Grizzlies: They’re Coming Home

 

After writing three recaps in two days, I’m going with the lazy approach.

After being pulled last night, Ryan Faragher returned to the net, and Alexandre Carrier took the place of the injured Colin Martin.

Between then and the end of the period, Utah and Fort Wayne both took and killed off penalties.

The Grizzlies were ultimately outshot 33-29, and are now 7-13-1-1, having gone 0-8-1-1 in their last ten games. The good news is they’re on their way home now for a six game homestand where they will hopefully be able to sort themselves out and get back on track.

 

Utah Grizzlies: It Never Rains but it Pours

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.

Utah Grizzlies: The Goals Return, but the Losses Continue

Tonight’s game saw Ryan McKay make his pro debut against the Wheeling Nailers, and it was a wild ride to say the least.

The Grizzlies drew the first two power plays of the game, and after some chaos around the net, Erik Higby scored his third straight goal dating back from Sunday night, giving the Grizzlies the early lead.

Off the ensuing face-off, Travis Howe and Kyle Flemington dropped the gloves and fought to a draw. Immediately thereafter, Evan Stofflet drove the puck on the net and the rebound went straight to Colin Martin, who scored through a Wheeling defender giving Utah the 2-0 lead 17 seconds after they went up 1-0.

After receiving some nice goal support from his team, McKay returned the favour, making a series of huge saves. Things got a little chippy as the team tangled in front of McKay and Erik Bradford and Nick Sorkin were both sent to the box.

At 16.41, Ralph Cuddemi went to the box for hooking, and McKay and the Grizzlies defenders went to work. Unfortunately, Tim Daly took a hooking call, and the Grizzlies went down 5-3. Despite being hemmed in their own end, they killed off the 5-3, and thanks to a clear from Cuddemi, spent the remainder of period keeping the puck pinned to the boards in the Wheeling end. At the end of 20, the Grizzlies up 2-0, shots 13-12 in Wheeling’s favour.

The second period began with action on both ends, but though there was some excitement, nothing much of note occurred until Mike Banwell and Garrett Meurs dropped the gloves 6:06 into the period.

Kevin Schulze closed the deficit to 2-1 just past the 12 minute mark, and though Utah responded well, Wheeling tied it up with just under two minutes left to play in the period.

Scarcely into over a minute into the third, Flemington was left wide open and uncontested beside McKay, and batted in an easy goal to put Wheeling up 3-2.

The line of Johnny McInnis, Colin Martin and Erik Bradford drew a penalty, and then collected some good scoring chances on the ensuing power play. Utah would tie up the game on the power play, after an absolutely delicious display of determination and passing put the puck squarely on the Rocket’s stick. Mathieu Aubin made no mistake, scoring his fifth of the year with assists from Banwell and Jon Puskar.

Despite a valiant effort from Cuddemi and McKay, Derek Army scored his second of the game just past the half-way mark of the period, forcing the Grizzlies to once again play from behind.

The Grizzlies pressed on, however, Puskar, Howe and Kenton Helgesen getting some good looks, and creating chaos in front of Wheeling goalie Doug Carr with about six minutes left to play.

With 3:46 to go in the period, Banwell was called for roughing, and the Grizzlies found themselves in quite a hole, down 4-3, and on the penalty kill.

Although Utah was able to kill off the penalty, the Nailers kept buzzing, and Cody Wydo put them up 5-3 with 1:17 left in the game almost immediately thereafter.

Down 5-3, and with 50 seconds left, Branham elected to pull McKay, and the Grizzlies played 6-5, which payed off as Tim Daly scored after a wild scramble in front of the net. Bradford and Cuddemi were awarded the assists.

The Grizzlies pulled McKay again, but though they played furiously in the last ten seconds, they were unable to send the game into overtime.

While the loss was a disappointing way to go after the 2-0 start, there were still some positives. The team looked good, over all, much more like their former winning selves, and the goals made a long awaited return. McKay played well in his debut, despite the loss, and the Grizzlies have a chance to settle the score in the rematch tomorrow night.

 

Image courtesy of Josie Vimahi.