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