After a disappointing loss last time out, the Grizzlies returned to action ready to put Wednesday night’s game behind them. Kevin Boyle got the start, Tim Daly returned to the lineup, while Erik Bradford sat this one out.
Utah looked much better throughout the game than they had in the previous match-up, in that when Alaska came at them, they were not as thoroughly overwhelmed, and counterattacked far more quickly.
Just moments into the period, the Grizzlies tangled with the Aces behind the Alaska net, and as a result, Austen Brassard and Mackenze Stewart were sent off for roughing. Utah picked up the first three shots of the game on the power play, and Stewart and Brassard dropped the gloves properly mere seconds after they returned to the ice. In the ensuing scrap, Brassard decidedly got the best of the exchange, and they were both sent back to the box.
Seconds later, Nolan Descoteaux took a tripping penalty against Travis Howe, and the Grizzlies went to work on their first power play of the night.
At 7:52, Brad Navin took a tripping penalty, but Alaska negated their man advantage as goalie Kevin Carr took an interference penalty. Both teams took two more penalties, first Richart and Puskar, then Tyler Ruegsegger and Tim Coffman, before the period drew to a close. Utah had the 9-7 advantage in shots, and the score remained tied at zero.
The Grizzlies had a brief power play to begin the period, as Coffman’s penalty carried over, and the Aces took yet another penalty, giving the Grizzlies a 19 second 5-on-3.
Though they were unable to capitalize, the Grizzlies’ power play looked pretty good. Phil Pietroniro had a couple of alert plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and then a few more on the other end to keep the puck out of the Utah net as the penalty expired.
There was a bit of a scare at 13:25, when Ben Lake went barreling into Kevin Boyle, but he appeared to be no worse for wear.
Colin Martin broke the deadlock at 7:45, picking up the puck, and dancing in all alone to put the puck past Carr to give the Grizzlies the 1-o lead on his eleventh of the year.
Mere moments later, Taylor Richart picked up his seventh goal of the season, and sixth point in the last five games to give the Grizzlies the 2-0 lead. Boyle, in his turn, made some great saves as Alaska fought to get something going.
Alaska took yet another penalty with 8:09 to play, but Utah was unable to capitalize, and Travis Howe took a tripping penalty. The Grizzlies killed off the minor, but no sooner had they done so than the Aces scored with just 2:55 left to go in the second. The Aces pressed back hard after their goal, but the Grizzlies were able to fight them off.
The Grizzlies escaped to the locker room after 40, still holding the 2-1 lead, with Alaska holding the lead in shots by only the slimmest of margins.
The Navin-Puskar-Brassard line continued their strong play to start the period, causing trouble for the Aces in their own end, and less than two minutes in, Howe fought Dax Lauwers after the later laid a big hit on Ralph Cuddemi. Howe got an extra two for instigating, but Alaska quickly negated their power play when Stephen Perfetto tripped up Puskar.
Through the rest of the game, the teams traded chances, the Grizzlies fighting tooth and nail to keep their lead, while Alaska pressed for the tying goal. Carr robbed Cuddemi, and the Grizzlies narrowly missed several other chances to get an insurance goal on the last power play of the game. On the other end, Boyle shut the door with help the really excellent play of Richart, Pietroniro and Nemcik.
With one minute remaining, Idaho pulled their goalie, but the Grizzlies escaped, giving Boyle his second win since returning to the Grizzlies. His 33/34 save performance earned him second star of the game, and Richart – who scored what ended up being the game winning goal – was named third star.
Boyle has saved 74 of the 77 shots he’s seen in the two games since his return from San Diego, which gives him an incredible .962 Save Percentage, and an equally impressive 1.49 GAA. Per Adrian Denny, he will start in tonight’s game as well.
Though Daly returned to the lineup, he played very limited minutes, meaning that once again, Richart, Pietroniro and, to a lesser extent, Nemcik shouldered the lion’s share of the minutes. All three have flourish with the extra ice time, which has allowed the Grizzlies to not only survive but to succeed, in the absence of their best defenceman.
The two teams square off tonight for the third time in as many games, where the Grizzlies will hope to draw within two points of the Aces’ much coveted playoff spot.
Image courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies