Utah Grizzlies: Monday Madness

The Grizzlies began a six game home stand with a Monday afternoon game against the Idaho Steelheads. The lineups saw a little bit of tinkering. Erik Bradford and Ralph Cuddemi, the Grizzlies’ two most potent scorers of late, flanked Cam Reid, while Colin Martin took Bradford’s spot beside Michael Pelech and Mathieu Aubin. Kenton Helgesen remained on defence, where the pairings remained as they had in the previous few games.

The game got off a slow start, with not much happening until about half way through the first period, and then everything happened all at once. Idaho struck first at 8:44, but Jon Puskar responded on the very next shift to tie up the game. Unfortunately, on the next shift after that Idaho scored again to make it a 2-1 game with just about ten minutes to go in the period.

The Grizzlies pressured well following the goal, but unfortunately Idaho got in on a two on one, and Anthony Luciani beat Faragher.

Shortly thereafter, Helgesen took an interference penalty, but the Grizzlies’ aggressive penalty kill neutralized the man advantage effectively, even getting a few forays into the offensive zone.

However, At the end of the first, shots were 9-8 for Idaho who also led 3-1.

The Grizzlies got off to a good start in the second period, drawing a power play as Martin got a scoring chance and was hooked in front of the net. Unfortunately, Utah’s power play struggles continued, as Idaho spent at least as much time in the offensive zone as Utah did, and then scored on a 3-on-1 as their penalized player returned to the ice.

About eight minutes into the second, C.J. Eick nearly tipped in a shot by Cuddemi, before the puck came to Taylor Richart who scored his third of the season to cut the deficit in half.

Half way into the period, Eick was taken into the boards at the Idaho bench by Travis Ewanyk, and Banwell came flying in to his defence. Eick and Ewanyk were sent to the box to cool their heels, Howe and Ewanyk jawing the whole way.

With just under seven minutes to go in the period, Pelech laid a nifty hit in the defensive zone to separate Idaho puck carrier from the puck. The play went the other way, and Puskar scored his second of the night making it a 4-3 game.

In the minutes that followed, Faragher made some big saves, and Puskar drew a high-sticking penalty to send the Grizzlies to the power play with about three minutes to go. Utah’s second go at the power play went much better than their first attempt, but they were still unable to make anything of the man advantage.

Faragher was called upon to make some key saves as the period drew to a close, keeping it a one goal deficit heading into the final frame.

Both teams exchanged a series of power plays through the first ten minutes of the period with Martin and Banwell among others getting chances. However, Faragher was also called on to make a few key saves on short-handed attempts.

At 16:44, the Grizzlies completed the comeback, as Brad Navin scored his fourth of the season with assists from Eick and Puskar, giving the third line their third goal of the game.

However, Utah was not out of the woods just yet as first Banwell, then Pietroniro went down. Banwell remained on the bench, and Pietroniro eventually did return.

Neither team was able to draw ahead in the last few minutes of the game, so the game went to overtime, and right off the opening faceoff, there was a slight delay as one of the refs went down. Once play resumed, Reid, Daly, and Bradford all had chances, and with 20 seconds left, Faragher made a key save to keep the game tied, and the Grizzlies drew a power play. It was not enough to break the tie, so the game went to the shoot out, shots 30-28 for Idaho.

Reid shot first, and was the only goal scorer as Philippe Desrosiers beat Cuddemi, and Faragher stopped all three Idaho shooters to give the Grizzlies the 5-4 victory.

Puskar (2G, 1A), Eick (3A), and Navin (1G, 1A) were named the three stars of the game. After being named first star, Puskar was quick to turn the praise to his teammates: “It was really my line. Both goals I had were my forwards getting in, my linemates getting in there, jumping in on the forecheck, that puck’s coming to me in the middle, I just put the final touch on it. That’s all their effort. I’ve got to tip my cap to the guys on the wings that were down there grinding it out.”

Coach Branham also had good things to say about the play of the third line, Faragher, and the game in general. “Puskar’s line was tremendous tonight, obviously we owe them a lot. Fedzy, big saves when he had to, one second left in regulation, that was a crazy hop, he stuck with that one, then got the job done in the shoot out.

“We’re just trying to keep things simple. We’ve got a simple team, we’ve got a smart team. When we keep things simple,  play solid defence, and out-work the opposition, with and without the puck, good things happen ’cause we have enough skill. So with [Puskar] having two tonight, it definitely helps and takes a lot of pressure of those top two lines when your third line is contributing like that, so definitely proud and [Puskar] deserves it. He’s a good player, heart and soul.”

The Grizzlies have had a number of gutsy come-from-behind performances recently, and both Puskar and Branham weighed in on what allows the team to stick with it and go on these big runs to tie the game.

“They’re calm on the bench, they’re positive with each other, whether we’re down or not, it doesn’t matter” said Branham. “We have a lot of confidence right now. We’ve jut got to keep it going.”

“When we’re down, it doesn’t matter now, we grind back. We’re not going to quit.” Puskar said, and later added, “We’ve got all the confidence in the world, it just comes down to effort and execution at this point.”

The next two games against Alaska are crucial, as Branham pointed out: “We’re nine points back, so words can’t describe how big those games are this next weekend. There are four points on the line, you could be within five points of them. They’ve got a tough road. They play us twice, and then they’ve got Idaho and then they have Colorado. We’ve just gotta worry about what we can do each and every game. Right now we’re trending in the right direction, and that’s what you like to see as a coach.”

Both the Friday and Saturday games against Alaska will be played at the Maverik Center at 7 PM.

Utah Grizzlies: Triumphant Return

After a crazy come-from-behind OT loss last night, the Grizzlies got some reinforcements in the form of Ryan Faragher back from San Diego. There was also a little bit of rejigging to the lineup, as Travis Howe took Kenton Helgesen’s spot at forward, and Helgesen took over Evan Stoflet’s spot on defense.

The Grizzlies gave up a few chances right off the opening faceoff, and proceeded to give up eight shots in the first eight minutes.

However, the they began pushing back after that, and Brad Navin stole the puck from the Rush, and Cam Reid scored to put the Grizzlies up 1-0 with 8:10 left to play in the first.

Rapid City pressured the other way, but the Grizzlies had got their feet under them better by that point, and managed to hold them off.

Michael Pelech took a hooking call at 15:17, and Ryan Misiak scored on the power play just seven seconds later to tie up the game.

With 2:16 left in the period, the Grizzlies drew a power play of their own, but their power play struggles continued. In a desperate attempt to negate a two-on-none Richart took a penalty to send the teams to a brief 4-on-4. The 4-on-4 went much better for the Grizzlies than the power play had, and they got a few more good shots off before the period ended. After 20, the score was still tied 1-1, and the shots were a far more even 12-11 for the Rush.

The Grizzlies’ penalty kill got off to a strong start, getting the first couple of chances of the period, including one of those exciting two-on-one rushes by Erik Bradford and Ralph Cuddemi. Utah established possession returning to full strength, and Mathieu Aubin put the Grizziles up 2-1 on a beautiful shot for his 13th of the year.

Pietroniro and Banwell had a pair of chances from the points with just under ten minutes left to play in the second, and the Rush had a few chances of their own going the other way, but both goalies made the necessary saves. The end of 40 saw Utah up 2-1, though Rapid City held the edge in shots 20-16.

The third period began really well for the Grizzlies, as Cuddemi scored 35 seconds into the period. Unfortunately, the momentum stuttered as Nemcik was sent to the box just seconds later.

Utah looked much better as the third period progressed, getting chances, and drawing a delayed penalty. Cuddemi scored his second of the period on the ensuing power play to give the Grizzlies their biggest lead of the weekend. The goal tied him up with Tyson Spink for first in the rookie goal-scoring race, and Reid’s assist gave him his third point of the night.

At 9:44, Jon Puskar scored his 11th goal of the year, Navin picked up his second assist of the night, and the Grizzlies went up 5-1.

Faragher continued to be magnificent in nets, making a number of great saves, including on a Bradford penalty. Through the second half of the period, the Grizzlies kept skating and getting chances.

Rapid City pressed in the dying minutes of the period, but the Grizzlies closed ranks, and Faragher stood tall.

The Grizzlies are now 5-1-1 against Rapid City this year, and Cuddemi has multiple goals in four out of the last five games.

Utah returns to the Mav for a six game homestand to close out January. They will host Idaho on Monday where the puck drops at 1:30 PM.

Utah Grizzlies: Close, but no Cigar

Another night, another start against Rapid City. The lineup remained the same, and the Grizzlies got off to a much better start than on Wednesday night, controlling play through much of the first half of the period.

However, Rapid City scored first off a bad turnover at 8:40 to go up 1-0.

With 2:57 left in the period, Troy Redmann went down after several spectacular saves on the penalty kill. Fortunately for Utah, Redmann appeared to be alright, and the Grizzlies drew a power play as Mathieu Aubin got highsticked at 17:45.

The Grizzlies had some really good chances on the power play, but Marek Langhamer shut the door.

After 20, the Grizzlies had — for long stretches of the period, dominated in possession and zone time, and led in shots 13-9. Nevertheless, Rapid City still held the edge where it mattered.

Utah controlled the puck through the opening few minutes of the play in the second, pouncing on several Rush turnovers.

At 5:30, the third line crashed the Rapid City net, and Colin Martin beat Langhamer with assists to Puskar and Richart.

And then the game became a bit of a goat rodeo.

Rapid City got a power play at 7:11, and though Redmann made some huge saves, and Tim Daly went down blocking a shot, the Rush scored to make it 2-1. The Grizzlies got a power play of their own very shortly thereafter, but it was Mark Cooper who scored short handed.

With 8:26 left to play, Phil Pietroniro and Nicholas Miglio dropped the gloves, and Ralph Cuddemi scored a few minutes later to make it 3-2

Rapid City thought they scored after a wild sequence, further into the period, but it turned out that the puck had hit the crossbar, and the Grizzlies cleared the crease. Then a Rush player got back all alone on the breakaway, and Redmann absolutely robbed him, allowing the Grizzlies to escape the period down just 3-2.

The two teams exchanged penalties in the first ten minutes of the third, but both sides had trouble making passes, and it felt like not a whole lot happened, despite both teams trading chances. Things continued in this state for nearly all of the third period.

But because it’s the Grizzlies, that wasn’t the end of the story.

 

With less than a minute left to play, Cuddemi made it 4-3, and with 15 seconds left, he capped off the hat trick with his fifteenth of the year to send the game to over time.

Unfortunately, Rapid City scored to win the game 59 seconds into the extra frame. It was not the Grizzlies’ finest game, by any stretch of the imagination, what with the defensive struggles and passing issues. However, Utah never gave up, and did collect a very important point.

The five game series concludes tomorrow night in Rapid City before the Grizzlies return home for an extended home-stand.

Utah Grizzlies: Spinning Tires

Tonight saw the much awaited returns of Colin Martin and Cam Reid, bringing with them some changes to the lineup. With Sam Windle day-to-day with an injury per Adrian Denny, Phil Pietroniro returned to defence, and Martin replaced Travis Howe as the tenth forward.

The first period was nothing if not penalty filled. Erik Bradford took a hooking call 2:22 into the first, Mike Banwell took another at 9:09, and Pelech went to the box for roughing seventeen minutes in. Troy Redmann took a delay of game penalty soon thereafter, giving the Grizzlies a brief 5-on-3.

With that many penalties in the first, it is perhaps not surprising that the Grizzlies did spend quite a bit of time in their own zone, getting outshot 12-6 through the first period.

The second period began a lot better for the Grizzlies. They killed off the remaining 51 seconds of Redmann’s penalty, and then Reid sent the puck past Marek Langhamer to put the Grizzlies up 1-0 at 3:25 for his third of the year.

Utah got their first crack on the power play at 5:41 as Triston Grant got sent off for interference, but Ralph Cuddemi took the Grizzlies’ third hooking call of the night to negate the man advantage.

Rapid City tied the game up at 15:47 as Michael Young beat Redmann on the Rush’s 20th shot of the night.

Evan Stoflet got called for cross-checking at 16:31, but the Grizzlies killed it off, and got a power play of their own to close out the period as Grant went off for high-sticking against Nemcik. Though they established good offensive zone pressure, the period ended before they could make anything of it.

At the end of 40, Rapid City outshot Utah 23-13, and the game was tied at one a piece.

Just seconds into the third, Rapid City took a slashing penalty against Bradford, and the Grizzlies had a very short 5-on-3. The two man advantage was not long enough to set anything up, but Utah had a pretty decent looking power play.

Coming off that power play, the Grizzlies began to pick up the pace a bit, but just when things began to look like they might get rolling, Banwell got called for delay of game. The penalty kill remained perfect, but Rapid City took the 2-1 lead with 10:50 to go.

The Rush took a penalty almost immediately after the goal, but again, though the Grizzlies had some chances, they were unable to capitalize.

The teams traded penalties with less than five to go, ultimately ending with a short Grizzlies’ power play. Again, the Grizzlies established possession, but couldn’t press the man advantage.

With about a minute left to play, Branham pulled Redmann in favour of the extra skater, but Rapid City scored into the empty net with less than 30 seconds left to play.

It was not one of the Grizzlies better outings as they took quite a few penalties, and were never able to really get going. However, the game was also not uniformly awful, as Utah was a perfect 8/8 on the penalty kill, and Redmann made 33 saves.

Utah and Rapid City face off on Friday and again on Saturday to cap off the five game series between these two teams.

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Goals Galore

On a snowy Saturday night, the Grizzlies faced off again against the Rapid City Rush in the second of a mammoth five game series.

Utah wasted no time getting the first goal, as Phil Pietroniro got his first of the season, tapping the puck into the empty cage at 1:11. Jon Puskar and Kenton Helgesen drew the assists.

Mike Banwell took the team’s first penalty but the Grizzlies kept Rapid City chasing the puck, and as Banwell’s penalty expired, Taylor Richart drew a holding call.

Back to back games against the same opponent are always fun, and this game was no exception as Sam Windle and Triston Grant dropped the gloves at 7:33.

The Grizzlies got another power play at about the nine minute mark, as Brayden Low slashed the stick out of Tim Daly’s hand, but the Grizzlies struggled to get set up, and nothing came of it.

At 12:52, Michael Young put beat out a sprawling Richart and Redmann to tie the game up, and Puskar took a hooking penalty almost immediately afterwards.

The shenanigans continued as a crowd gathered at the Grizzlies’net, and Rapid City negated their power play as Daly went to the box for roughing, while Triston Grant got a double minor, also for roughing.

The Grizzlies pounced on the opportunity, Ralph Cuddemi and Erik Bradford tore up the ice, and Bradford scored his third goal in two games.

Banwell took another penalty, this time for highsticking, after a big defensive play that put the puck just past a wide open net. However, Rapid City negated their power play as Logan Nelson tripped up Martin Nemcik at the Grizzlies’ blue line about a minute later.

Utah went in for the kill as Cuddemi scored on the power play, putting the Grizzlies up 3-1 with 1:41 left to play, collecting his third goal in two games. Just over a minute later, Mathieu Aubin got in on the action, putting the Grizzlies up 4-1, and Bradford collected his third point of the night.

The penalties continued as Michael Pelech took a highsticking penalty just 24 seconds into the second, but the Grizzlies were able to kill it off, even fighting to get a short handed goal as Adam Morrison was caught out of position.

Rapid City negated the power play as Grant boarded Pietroniro behind the Grizzlies’ net. Pietroniro was slow to get up, but remained on the bench, and Utah set up camp in the Rush’s end.

Several minutes later, the Grizzlies were off on what would have been a glorious up ice rush, when the refs called Travis Howe for elbowing. He and the crowd were furious, and Howe got an additional ten. The Grizzlies, however, went to the kill with a vengeance, getting a short-handed rush from Bradford. Utah got some good passing going, but took one too many and weren’t able to beat Morrison.

With 12:10 to go in the period, Puskar put the Grizzlies up 5-1, scoring his tenth of the year through an absolute throng of players, and making him one of six Grizzlies with 20 or more points on the season.

Rapid City got one back just past the half way mark, as Redmann was beaten by a perfect passing play.

The Grizzlies were put a bit on their heels after that, though the Grizzlies’ defense played quite well. Pelech blocked a shot with 3:25 to go, springing Bradford who got in all by himself. However, he was unable to beat Morrison. Puskar almost set up Evan Stoflet shortly thereafter, but to no avail. Unfortunately, it would be Rapid City who scored with just fifty seconds to play, narrowly beating a sliding Redmann. After 40, shots were 22-17 for Utah, who still led 5-3 going into what promised to be a very exciting third period.

Rapid City came out and immediately established themselves in the Grizzlies’ end, and camped out there for most of the first half of the frame or so.

With about twelve to go in the third, Howe and Grant tried very hard to drop the gloves, but the refs were quite firm that there would be no fight. Howe got four for roughing, and Grant got two, much to the displeasure of the crowd.

On the ensuing penalty kill, Rapid City made it 5-4 with eleven minutes to go, as Redmann made the initial save, but the puck landed in the crease, and Riley Weselowski put the puck in behind him.

The Rush did not take their collective foot off the pedal, and the pace around the Grizzlies’ net was nothing if not frantic. Utah ran into trouble, icing the puck several times — though fortunately not immediately in a row, and with five minutes left to play, the game was definitely tense.

With 1:30 to go, Rapid City pulled their goalie, and Pietroniro just missed the shot at the empty net. With just 30.7 seconds left in the period, Rapid City completed the comeback, tying it up on the 6-on-5, and the game went to overtime.

The Rush largely controlled the first minute or so of the extra frame, before the Grizzlies took possession.

At 2:48, Cuddemi took Daly’s pass from behind the net, delayed, and beat Morrison for his second game winning goal in as many nights.

Cuddemi, like Bradford on Friday, emphasized the simple things: “I’m just trying to go to the net, and finish my checks, and try do all the little stuff.” he said. “I feel like if I can play defense in all three zones, it makes it easier for myself to get scoring opportunities, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

He was also quick to give credit to his teammates: “I’m playing with some really good line mates, which definitely helps out, and I mean, it’s easy to score when the team is rolling, and everyone’s confidence is up, everyone is feeling good on the bench. It goes to 5-5 and we’re still positive, and we still believe in ourselves. That’s something important that kind of changed from a little bit earlier on in the season until now.”

Confidence was the watchword of the day, and despite the relinquished lead, that is definitely something the Grizzlies have had on their side in the past couple of games.

“The most important thing is that we got the two points” said Tim Branham after the game. “I mean as a coach, that’s all I care about.” He later added: “I just told the boys forget about it. We got the two points, that’s the most important thing. We’re climbing in the standings, we’re going to make playoffs if we continue to play the good hockey that we played in that first, and the first half of the second period. I’m not worried about that, we’re not going to think about it any more.”

He had nothing but praise for the big four who put up a combined 16 points in two games: “Raphie’s been on fire, Bradford’s been on fire, Pelech, Aubin, those guys have really carried the load, we’ve just got to keep it up. They’ve just got to continue to lead by example, and good things will happen.” In addition to those four, the Grizzlies have gotten secondary scoring from players like Tim Daly who now has seven goals and eighteen assists, which puts him fourth in the league in points among defensemen.

And they’re doing all that without players like Cam Reid, Colin Martin and Erik Higby, which has forced them to be creative at times, but Branham likes how the team has risen to the challenge: “I feel really good about the team right now. We’re playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger, from top to bottom. We’ve battled through a lot of injuries…. We had D playing forward, and playing four D, five D at a time, guys are hurt… so there’s a lot of adversity we faced there. The boys battled through and got two points.”

At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

The Grizzlies are now headed to Rapid City where they will play Wednesday, Friday and Saturday before returning to the Mav to play Idaho on Monday.