Utah Grizzlies: House on Fire

The Guns N Hoses game is always a good one, and Saturday night’s had the added bonus of seeing Carlos Amestoy back in the lineup after a lengthy absence. With Amestoy back, Mathieu Aubin took a seat, and the Grizzlies continued to ice eleven forwards and five defensemen.

Tulsa got possession on their first shift, but from then on, it was all Utah, as they picked up six of the first shots. Then Colin Martin scored his seventh goal of the season at 2:10 with Cam Reid and Austen Brassard picking up the assists.

The Grizzlies and Oilers traded penalties in the early going, but neither side was able to come up with more than a shot or two on net.

Erik Bradford got his second goal in two games, rifling home an absolutely beautiful shot from the blue line at 12:52. Pelech and Cuddemi picked up the assists, and mere moments later, Puskar drew a power play. Utah got a few more chances on the man advantage, but Martin took a crosschecking penalty with two seconds to go. Tulsa tested Faragher, but didn’t beat him.

As the period drew to a close, Pelech went to the box for cross-checking, and was followed moments thereafter by Emerson Clark, who took both roughing and cross-checking calls against Richart.

Utah went to the room with the 2-0 lead, and a 18-7 shot advantage.

To start the second, Keegan Asmundson took over the net from Jay Williams, and the first five minutes of the second period went much better for the Oilers, despite the Grizzlies’ power play once Pelech left the box. Fortunately for Utah, Faragher was sharp, making some important saves to keep it a 2-0 game.

By the seven minute mark, Tulsa had doubled their shot count, and the Grizzlies had spent far more time in their own end than strictly wise. Tulsa continued to keep the Grizzlies on their heels, but between Faragher, Nemcik, some good team defending, and a great penalty kill, Utah made it to the fifteen minute mark unscathed.

It’s not that Utah didn’t get chances, because they did – including two two-on-ones from Cuddemi and Bradford, and a chance by Brassard all alone – but Tulsa definitely ran the show through the second period, only to come up empty thanks to the feats of Faragher.

After 40, the shots were 29-25 for Tulsa, but the score was still miraculously 2-0.

At 6:03 in the third, Tulsa finally beat Faragher, as Darcy Murphy scored on the Oiler’s 30th shot of the night.

Cuddemi was sent off for tripping at 7:44, and the 9,119 fans in attendance let the refs hear their displeasure, but the Grizzlies killed off the penalty, and continued to hold on to the one goal lead for dear life.

Despite killing off a Pietroniro delay of game, the Grizzlies found the game tied up with 6:03 left in the period, as all of Tulsa’s shots and hard work paid off.

Utah drew a crucial power play with 4:31 left to play in the period, but were unable to muster so much as a single shot. However, with 2;14 left, Danick Paquette ran over Bradford in front of the Tulsa bench, and the Grizzlies got a do-over.

With 1:13 left to go, Martin got an all-important second goal, putting the Grizzlies up 3-2. Tulsa elected to pull their goalie, but iced the puck, and Utah hung on through the last 40 seconds to win the game.

Despite the narrow escape, there were no signs of concern or doubt from the team.

“We’re a confident group right now.” Tim Branham said after the game.  “Tulsa works hard. We knew that, we knew that from the start that we’d get their best game every night. I thought we did a good job of finding a way to get the win. Sometimes it’s ugly. Faragher stood on his head, no doubt. We came out strong, but at the end of the day we get the two points, and that’s all that matters.”

Saturday night’s game ended the Grizzlies homestand, and kicks off a vitally important stretch in the playoff race, which Branham was quick to stress. “This next month we play our division. The three teams that we’re chasing, the entire month. We’ve done a great job to put ourselves in a good position, now this next month will determine our fate. Our boys are ready, and we’re playing the best hockey we’ve played all year, so we’re looking forward to it.”

“I wish he wouldn’t have been injured at all all year.” Coach said when asked about Martin’s return, and his four goals in three games, “He’s a good player. For a rookie to come in and score big goals like he does, big goals, it’s great. He plays the right way, he plays with an edge, he’s a great leader in the room, we’ve got a lot of character on this team. He fits right in.”

Colin Martin’s praise was all for Faragher. “Words can’t explain it. He’s unbelievable, he’s been unbelievable all year, he’s been unbelievable his whole career. He totally deserves that Anaheim contract. We’re lucky to have him still down here, because in my opinion, he’s better than this league.”

Faragher’s 39 saves (including the jaw-dropping 22 in the second alone) earned him the first star of the game, and to cap off a stellar night, his Guns N Hoses jersey went for the auction topping $3,000 dollars. The Grizzlies raised $21,000 in the jersey auction, and closed out their six game homestand with a 5-1 record.

 

Photo courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

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Utah Grizzlies: Friday Night Fun

After the 6-2 victory on Wednesday, the Grizzlies got back to work against the Tulsa Oilers. Utah’s lineup remained the same, with the exception of Ryan Faragher who, fresh off the announcement of signing an NHL deal with the Ducks, took a scheduled night off. Troy Redmann got the start, and had a terrific game.

The Grizzlies got off to a very good start, getting three shots less than a minute into the game, but Tulsa got their bearings, and got some zone time of their own.

Utah drew the first power play of the night at 6:19, as Dennis Brown was sent off for slashing.  However, the Grizzlies would be called for too many men, part way through the man advantage.

Just over ten minutes into the period, in what was possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the evening, Danick Paquette and Travis Howe dropped the gloves. Both players got in some good punches, and after a lengthy bout, they were separated with no clear victor. Both players got five for fighting, and an additional two for removing their helmets.

Mere minutes later, Erik Bradford scored his eighth of the year to give the Grizzlies the 1-0 lead with assists to Michael Pelech and Troy Redmann.

Jon Puskar went off for hooking at 14:43, but the Grizzlies’penalty kill was, as they have been so often of late, quite strong, and fought the Oilers off, before drawing a penalty of their own with about a minute and a half left in the period.

At the end of 20, shots were 10-7 for Utah, who also led 1-0.

The Grizzlies began the second period on a 26 second power play, and Ralph Cuddemi almost capitalized, but Tulsa returned to full strength before they could register more than one shot.

Tulsa took another penalty almost immediately thereafter, and the Grizzlies made them pay for it, Colin Martin putting the Grizzlies up 2-0 with assists from Austen Brassard and Phil Pietroniro.

At 2:50, Danick Gauthier boarded Taylor Richart behind the Grizzlies net and was sent to the box.

Scarcely had Tulsa returned to full strength than Emerson Clark tried to take a piece of Pietroniro, who wisely skated away.

Howe took exception to Clark’s attempt, and he went to the box too – though to serve the Grizzlies’ second too many men penalty of the night.

Richart, seemingly none the worse for wear, made the game 3-0, tapping in a beautiful pass from Brassard, who got his second primary assist of the night. Hardly had the goal been announced when Tim Daly scored his eighth goal of the year, putting the Grizzlies up 4-0, and resulting in a goalie change for Tulsa.

Down 4-0 with more than half the period left, Tulsa tried to push back, but the Grizzlies continued to skate hard, making it difficult for the Oilers to create useful chances. And when they got shots off, Redmann was more than ready to shut the door.

Howe took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 10:58, but Redmann and the penalty kill fought Tulsa off. The Oilers continued to hold offensive zone following their power play, but the Grizzlies did a great job of getting in the lanes and taking away shots, while whatever got through was deftly handled by Redmann.

At the end of 40, the Grizzlies still held the 4-0 lead, outshooting Tulsa to the tune of 24-16.

Pietroniro took a holding penalty eight seconds into the period and Tulsa established themselves well on the power play, but again, the Grizzlies’penalty kill was up for the task, and the penalty kill ended with an up-ice rush.

Redmann came up with a number of great saves, and the Grizzlies went to the power play as Clark slashed Pietroniro at 3:41. Cam Reid negated the power play at 4:28 as he tripped up a Tulsa player, and the teams played 4-on-4.

5:11 into the period, Danick Gauthier threw the puck on net, and while Redmann made the initial save, Paquette jumped on the rebound and made it 4-1.

Tulsa cut the lead in half with 7:41 left in the game, but the Grizzlies responded well, with two lengthy shifts in the Oilers’ end.

With just over five minutes left to go, Martin drew a hooking penalty, and the Grizzlies’power play went to work. Tulsa took a tripping penalty shortly thereafter, sending Utah to 1:13 of 5-on-3.

The Grizzlies were unable to convert on either advantage, and  Tulsa pulled their goalie with 1:40 left to play.

Though the Oilers fought, and fought hard to get another goal, the Grizzlies effectively shut the door to earn two more points.

“We’re getting a lot of bounces that we weren’t getting earlier on the year and everyone is working a full sixty” said Daly after the game, “Everyone’s just having fun right now. When that’s happening its way easier to work for your teammates and work for yourself so it’s a lot of fun right now.” On his own superb play this year he added, “I approach every game the same way but I think it has a lot to do with confidence, and I’m playing with more confidence than I ever have right now, and I think that really shows with the offensive production.”

“Daly played thirty-one minutes tonight,” Coach Branham was quick to point out. “For a guy to do that, play over half the game, and contribute the way he does is tremendous. So kudos to him and that entire D core. I think the difference is just, we are winning the battles back there. I don’t know…too many blocked shots to count, that’s for sure. Guys are just competing and doing whatever it takes to keep the puck out of your net. You know. And then on the offensive side our guys are really talented, we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, it’s really fun to watch.”

The Grizzlies have indeed been fun to watch of late, and hope to finish the homestand in a similar manner tonight against Tulsa.

Utah Grizzlies: Storm’s End

Wednesday’s tilt against the Wichita Thunder saw the return of Austen Brassard, who played 20 games with the Ducks’ AHL team after eight games with the Grizzlies at the beginning of the year.

The Grizzlies and the Thunder traded chances through the opening five minutes or so, with Wichita holding a slight advantage until Taylor Richart was high-sticked behind the Grizzlies’ net. Utah got a four minute power play as a result at 6:48. The first half passed with Utah chasing the puck, several times back into their own zone, but they did eventually get themselves sorted out. Erik Bradford, Cam Reid, and Ralph Cuddemi camped out in the offensive zone, and while Bradford was unable to beat Kent Patterson on two half-wall passes from Reid, the line kept possession, and Cuddemi buried the puck.

After that, the teams traded a series of penalties, and the Grizzlies survived a rocky stretch of play around their own net, but between some good shot blocking, wild bounces, missed shots, and the phenomenal play of Faragher, the puck remained out. Utah pressured at the end of the period, but were unable to add to their one goal lead.

The beginning of the second went well for the Grizzlies, as they picked up a few more shots. However, on the very next rush down the ice, Wichita came back, and Blake Tatchell beat Faragher with an unfortunately beautiful wrist shot.

The Grizzlies didn’t ease off, and – as they so often do – C.J. Eick and Jon Puskar, together with Travis Howe got the Grizzlies going.

With 14:45 left to play, Howe made the second of several really nice plays to set up Navin, but the score remained 1-1.

Phil Pietroniro got called for interference a little past the five minute mark, and the Grizzlies’ penalty kill got to work. It remained strong, as it has of late, and Utah spent at least as much time in the offensive zone as they did in their own end. With seconds left in the penalty, Brad Navin blocked a shot, and then took off down the ice, getting a nice chance on Patterson, who shut the door.

Pietroniro also had a chance seconds after exiting the box, but for the time being, the Grizzlies remained unable to solve Patterson.

Brassard, Puskar, and Navin, had a strong shift in the offensive zone, and at 9:53 Evan Stoflet’s shot from the slot trickled through Pattersen on Puskar’s tip. Stoflet and Brassard both picked up the assists

On the very next shift Michael Pelech put the puck off the back of Patterson and into the net to give the Grizlies a 3-1 lead.

Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Wichita’s captain Ian Lowe at 12:35 for his second fight in as many games, and his third in six, and both were sent to the box.

Mere moments later, Cuddemi put Utah up 4-1 as the puck also slipped through Patterson’s pads thanks to an unforced error by a Wichita defenseman.

After allowing three goals in such rapid succession, Patterson  was yanked in favour of Drew Owsley.

Puskar took a holding penalty, at 14:14, joining Pietroniro in the box, but Utah put on a clinic on penalty killing, keeping Wichita on the outside, and chasing the puck down the ice.

No sooner had Puskar exited the box, than he was high-sticked by Vincent Arseneau, and the Grizzlies got a power play of their own. Despite a strong power play, however, they were unable to pick up another goal, and with 58.8 seconds Brandon Carlson cut the lead in half.

Puskar didn’t think much of that though, responding with his second of the game ten seconds later, this time from Brassard and Colin Martin. Puskar’s 15th of the year sent Utah to the dressing room up 5-2, outshooting the Thunder 26-11.

Despite their lead, Utah never sat back, buzzing around Wichita’s net for large stretches of the early third, with both Puskar and Cuddemi looking to complete the hat trick.

With 10:35 left in the game Owsley absolutely robed Travis Howe point blank as Utah continued pressing. Likewise, every time the Thunder ventured into the Grizzlies end, they were met by the spectacular play of Faragher, and Grizzlies’ defensemen.

Puskar became the second player this season to complete a hat trick a with 4:44 left to play as he tipped Tim Daly’s shot past Owsley.

Faragher made a huge save with 3:56 left in the period, and another one with 3:09 to go.

Pietroniro drew a high-sticking call with 1:59 left to play, and Utah finished the game on the man advantage. That was not the end of the excitement though. Seconds from the end of the game, Arseneau sucker punched Travis Howe, and Howe was sent off to the dressing room early with a ten minute misconduct.

At the final buzzer, the Grizzlies were the 6-2 victors, having outshot Wichita 38-20.

The Grizzlies are now an astounding 19-1-3-1 when either Cuddemi or Puskar score.

“It feels great” said Puskar of his hat trick.  It’s something I’ve never done in my pro career, and it’s exciting for that to happen.” Just as a few games ago, he was quick to credit the hard work of his linemates:”In this one again, two tips, and open net on an unbelievable play, that’s my teammates.”

The praise didn’t stop with his linemates. “That was a huge guy to have come back.” he said when asked about Brassard’s return to the lineup. “That kid can play some great hockey. He works every time he comes to the rink. And with energy like that, skill like he’s got, you just build off him. When you’ve got guys that good, you want to be up there at his level when he’s playing at that elite level – and a lot of guys are like that on this team – you want to build off those guys, that’s where we’re getting it from.”

Branham’s comments on Brassard’s return were along the same vein: “He started the season really well for us, he deserved a call up, he deserves to play in the American league, that’s for sure.”

With Brassard now in the lineup as well, the Grizzlies have added another weapon to their considerable arsenal, and despite the scoring coming largely from Puskar and Cuddemi on Wednesday, the entire team continues to roll along as a very impressive unit.

“We’ve got a lot of talent up front. Lot of good players up there,” Branham said. “I’m lucky behind the bench there. I can’t really go wrong putting anybody on the ice. That’s a good feeling to have, it’s a lot like our team last year. Our boys are playing great, they’re playing with a lot of confidence, they’re sticking to the system, they’re working hard. That’s the biggest thing. We didn’t let up all game. I thought maybe the last half of the first period we were a little slow, but other than that, I thought we played a really solid game, and we need that. We’ve dug ourselves a huge hole there in November, so we’ve got to slowly climb our way back out.”

The Grizzlies will hope to keep stringing wins together on Friday and Saturday where they will finish the homestand against Danick Paquette and the Tulsa Oilers.

Photo courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

Utah Grizzlies: Total Domination

After last game, Tim Branham was confident that the Grizzlies would be ready for game two against Alaska, and they absolutely were, turning in what was perhaps their strongest and most complete game of the season against  a very good team – to the great delight of the 6,026 fans in attendance.

Utah came out flying, playing smart with the puck, and working relentlessly to get it back whenever they lost it – just as Branham had discussed the night before.  It took until about the five minute mark for either team to register a shot, but then the Grizzlies got the first four straight as they monopolized possession of the puck.

They rapidly picked up shots five through seven, and the number one line of Michael Pelech, Erik Bradford, and Ralph Cuddemi got their first of the game as Pelech put the puck home at 6:04 after a series of rebounds.

The Grizzlies didn’t take their foot off the pedal after the first five, and Alaska struggled to even gain Utah’s zone. Ten minutes into the period, Alaska had yet to register a shot, Puskar almost got in alone on a breakaway, and the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the night.

Unfortunately Alaska scored twice short handed on the same penalty to put them up 2-1 on three shots. However, the Grizzlies did not let that rattle them, as they came back with a vengeance, going right back to the strong play that had served them well before the first man advantage.

Alaska got called for hooking against Phil Pietroniro, and the Grizzlies’power play got a second chance, just under fifteen minutes into the period.

Cuddemi missed the wide open net, but Alaska put the puck over the boards on the ensuing clearing attempt, sending the Grizzlies to a 5-on-3 for 1:21. The Grizzlies set up strongly, but were unable to muster a shot on the two man advantage.

Tim Daly threw a big shot on net on the  following 5-on-4, and this time, Cuddemi made no mistake, tying it up at 17:23. Daly drew the first of what would eventually be three primary assists, and Cam Reid got the secondary.

The Grizzlies continued to press through to the end of the period, camping out in the Aces’ zone, and trying to capitalize off Daly’s shots from the point. After 20, the Grizzlies outshot Alaska to the tune of 14-5, and had vastly outplayed them.

Less than a minute into the second, Pelech took a holding call, but Utah killed it off, even getting a short-handed attempt from Cuddemi. Alaska held on to the advantage for a few shifts following the power play, but Utah came back, and Bradford got a pair of chances on Carr.

At 4:16 Martin Nemcik laid a big hit, but was sent to the box for tripping. On the ensuing penalty kill, the speedy duo of Cuddemi and Bradford got in again on one end, and Faragher made some strong saves on the other to kill it off.

Alaska looked a little stronger through the rest of the period, but Utah kept skating and working, and Alaska continued to struggle to get shots through swarms of Grizzlies, who also made it difficult for them to maintain the zone.

With roughly five minutes left in the period, Jon Puskar and Taylor Richart both laid glass-rattling hits, Faragher made a great save, and Alaska took a hooking penalty. Utah pressed the man advantage hard, but the Aces escaped.

Shortly thereafter, Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Ben Lake and got the take-down. Both players were sent to the locker room, and a few minutes later, Colin Martin beat Kevin Carr to take the 3-2 lead, with the assists going to Richart and Aubin.

Just moments thereafter, the Grizzlies drew another power play, finishing the period on the man advantage, outshooting Alaska 28-13, and holding a well deserved 3-2 lead.

Like most very short early power plays, the Grizzlies 25 second man advantage didn’t accomplish anything, but through the following two minutes, the Grizzlies carried play, and by the three minute mark, their shot lead increased to 30-15.

C.J. Eick made it a 4-2 game at 3:06 with assists from Navin and Pietroniro.

Alaska took a boarding penalty with 10:11 left in the third as Daniel Moynihan stapled Richart to the boards by the penalty box. Richart was very slow to get up, but remained on the bench, and later returned to the game.

At 9:49, Daniel Moynihan took a boarding penalty against Richart, and on the ensuing power play, Pietroniro’s perfect point shot put the Grizzlies up 5-2, capping off the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Martin and Hunt both took roughing penalties after the Aces mugged Faragher in a net front scrum, and Martin came to his goalie’s defence.

A few minutes later, Pietroniro and Trenz both were sent off with matching slashing calls, but Bradford got in all alone and drew a hooking penalty, and Utah went to a lengthy 4-on-3. A perfect bit of passing eventually put the puck on the stick of Cam Reid, putting the Grizzlies up a convincing 6-2 with just over five minutes left to play.

Eick took a tripping penalty, but the Grizzlies penalty kill kept Alaska scrambling for pucks, and running all the way back to their own zone throughout.

The lethal penalty killing duo of Bradford and Cuddemi kept Alaska on their toes, keeping it a 6-2 game, but with 1:11 left in the game, Alaska made it 6-3. But that was as close as they’d get. The Aces got one last chance on the penalty kill as the clock ticked down, but failed to threaten, and Utah took the win.

If the Grizzlies ever deserved a big win, this was it. Six different players scored, as Pelech, Cuddemi, Martin, Eick, Pietroniro, and Reid all filled the net, and five different players had multiple point games, Reid getting a goal and two assists, Daly getting three assists, Aubin picking up two, and Cuddemi and Pietroniro both picking up a goal and an assist.

Cuddemi’s 18th goal of the season ties him for first in goals among rookies, and Daly’s three points tie him for third in points amongst defensemen.

“We were definitely on it” Pietroniro said of the team’s performance. “We stuck to the game plan from the start, and we never gave up. It shows on the scoreboard, it shows as a win, so it’s a huge confidence boost for us here.”

“We’re very confident” he later added, “We’ve got enough time to move up, and I think teams know we’re on the move. I really think we’re going to get there.”

Of his Gordie Howe hat trick he said: “It’s awesome, it doesn’t happen too often, but I’ll definitely take advantage of it.”

Branham’s thoughts were similar. “I thought we played a really good game” he said, “We talked after the game yesterday, and before the game here how we want to play, the way we need to play in order to have success and climb back in the playoff standings.” He went on to say “It was one of the most complete sixty minutes that we’ve played except for one power play. You gotta tip your hat to the boys, they played a really good game, and they executed our game plan.”

The Grizzlies are still in for an uphill battle in the playoff hunt, but if any team can come roaring up from behind, it’s this one – especially if they keep playing the way they did on Saturday.

Utah will face the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday before squaring off against Danick Paquette and the Tulsa Oilers for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

Utah Grizzlies: Bear Fight

Friday night’s game began the first of two hugely important games for Utah in terms of the standings, as they faced off against Alaska, who, coming into the game, held a nine point lead. The lineup remained mostly the same, Evan Stoflet coming in for Mike Banwell being the only change.

The hostilities started even before the puck dropped, as Travis Howe and Garet Hunt began what turned into a gathering of both teams by the penalty boxes in warm-ups. The situation defused, but did not go away, as would later be seen.

Alaska began crisply, collecting three of the first four shots, but the Grizzlies kept their legs moving, and Ryan Faragher was, as always, rock solid.

At 3:26, Howe and Hunt dropped the gloves right off the faceoff, as the situation from warm-ups bubbled up. Howe absolutely pummeled Hunt, though they both remained upright, and were sent off to cool their heels.

Unfortunately, it was Alaska who struck first, as Stephen Perfetto put the puck past Faragher at 5:06, and then the Grizzlies went to the penalty kill on a roughing call on Kenton Helgesen. Utah’s penalty kill remained strong however, allowing only one shot, which Faragher snagged easily.

Utah got some chances of their own around Alaska’s net, including a point blank chance from Brad Navin, and the Grizzlies drew a power play of their own with about eleven minutes left to play. they did get a few chances, but several times had to chase the puck down, and seemed to lack urgency.

They got another not long after, and there was nothing sleepy about this one, as  they kept possession in the offensive zone, Cam Reid got a big shot on net, and Michael Pelech got a hold of the puck and put it around Kevin Carr.

Jon Puskar took an interference penalty with six minutes left, but the penalty kill kept Alaska running down the puck in their own zone. The game became noticeably more physical in the aftermath, and with 2:53 left, Howe and Mackenze Stewart dropped the gloves. Howe got the take down, and the two as the instigator. Utah killed off the penalty, largely thanks to a couple of great saves from Faragher, including a gorgeous windmill.

At the end of the first period, 30 penalty minutes had already been assessed, shots were 11-8 for Alaska, but the score was all tied up at one.

Alaska had all the jump through the first minute of the second period, running the Grizzlies around in their own zone, and hitting a crossbar, but as the period progressed, Utah pushed back. Utah and Alaska both took a number of penalties through the middle of the frame, and Faragher was huge for Utah, though the defensive play of the Grizzlies was also fairly strong.

Unfortunately, despite the valiant efforts of Faragher and the Grizzlies, the puck took a series of bounces that ultimately landed it in the back of the net with just 17 seconds left in the period. The goal was given to Perfetto, for his second of the game.

The Grizzlies got out to their best start in the third period, holding on to the puck through most of the first two minutes, but they were unable to generate much by way of shots.

Alaska slowly took over play though, and at 8:24 Tim Daly took tripping penalty that ultimately resulted in a power play goal for the Aces, putting them up 3-1 about a minute later.

Although the Grizzlies pressured towards the end of the game, with Aubin drawing two power plays with 5:53 and 3:35 to go respectively, and Bradford and Daly producing a few chances, they were unable to capitalize.

Colin Martin and Ryan Trenz both went off for roughing after a tussle around Carr’s net, and Martin Nemcik took a penalty while making a desperate play to break up an Alaska rush, and the game ended on a Grizzlies’penalty kill.

It wasn’t the best or most consistent of the Grizzlies’ games lately, but they still had good stretches, just about keeping pace, shot for shot, with Alaska throughout. Faragher especially was sharp, and despite a few lapses, the team’s defensive play was far more cohesive than it was earlier in the year.

“I thought we had our spurts, where we played well in the offensive zone” said Tim Branham after the game. “They had a lot of the puck bounces go their way, which led to puck possession, a lot of the plays up the wall ended up on their tape, our plays up the wall ended up on their tape, they worked hard. They’re a fast team, they work hard, their goaltender made some phenomenal saves – so did ours. Both goalies played tremendous. We just gotta make sure we rest tonight, and come back ready to play tomorrow.”

“I think we’ve come a long way in that regard, that’s for sure” he added, when asked about the team’s defence. “We’ve made some changes, we’ve learned, grown, we realize how important it is to defend. In this game, it’s not complicated. It’s a simple game. When you say defend, all defence is is hard work, so we know that, and when we don’t have the puck, you have to work as hard as you can to get it back. When you do have the puck, you have to make good plays, and be smart and support each other, and we understand that. This was just a little set back. They’re a good team, that was a playoff game, and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

The teams return for round two on a snowy Saturday evening, two even more valuable points on the line.