Utah Grizzlies: Goat Rodeo

After playing two pretty good games, but only coming up with one point to show for it, Utah looked to keep the goals coming, and do a better job of keeping the puck of out of their own net. Troy Redmann got the start for Utah, while Kenton Helgesen drew back into the lineup.

Things did not exactly go as planned.

Luke Salazar scored just 50 seconds into the first. Although the Grizzlies had a few good chances, Colorado outshot them through the first half of the period 8-2. Michael Sdao and Martin Nemcik were both sent to the box with 9:17 to go, Nemcik getting two, and Sdao getting four, which gave Utah the first power play of the game.

The man-advantage continued to look shaky for the Grizzlies, and with 7:48 to go, Erik Higby took Teigan Zahn into the boards behind the Eagles’ net. Sean Zimmerman took exception to it, and both Higby and Zimmerman went to the box for roughing.

Unfortunately, Travis Howe took a delay of game penalty shortly after they returned to full strength, and just moments after that, Nemcik went to the box for slashing, putting Utah on the wrong side of a 5-on-3 for 1:52. Colorado scored just over 30 seconds into the power play, and the Grizzlies found themselves down 2-0.

Helgesen drew a power play as he was hit and then slashed by Darryl Bootland, but the Grizzlies found themselves fighting off a 2-on-1 shorthanded. Fortunately, Redmann made the save, and Zac Larraza got a bit chance in the dying seconds of the power play, but that was all.

At the end of 20, Utah found themselves down 2-0, outshot 12-5.

Just 17 seconds into the second, the Grizzlies drew a power play as they continued to do a good job of not retaliating. Unfortunately, just as they began to get going, Austen Brassard took a tripping penalty.

The momentum changed a bit after that, as the Grizzlies kept their cool, and didn’t retaliate as Colorado pulled down Brassard. When the dust cleared, there were three Eagles in the box, and on the ensuing power play, Colorado took yet another penalty. The Grizzlies kept possession well, but were unable to get the puck through the Colorado defence. They got yet another crack at the 5-on-3, as the Eagles continued to pick up penalties.

Colin Martin cut the deficit in half at 8:55, scoring his fifteenth of the year from Marc-André Lévesque, who picked up his third point in three games. Colorado established some pressure after they returned to full strength after 5:32 on the penalty kill.

Colorado went up 3-1 with 4:48, restoring their two goal lead, and then things got a little crazy. Jon Puskar bumped an Eagles player by the bench, and absolute mayhem ensued. Zahn tried to goad Lévesque into a fight, Howe threw some punches from the bench, and there was a general pile up. Howe got a double minor for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct, while Nemcik got five for fighting, and Puskar got two for boarding. Bootland also got two for roughing and five for fighting.

The first half of the penalty kill for Utah went quite well, but Alex Belzile scored with 1:24 left in the period, and the Grizzlies found the game slipping further out of their reach.

After 4o, the Grizzlies trailed 4-1, and had been outshot to the tune of 20-16. It would take a huge third period to pull off the comeback, but it wasn’t entirely out of the question – especially considering that Ralph Cuddemi once scored two goals in thirty seconds.

The opening four minutes or so of the third saw a number of strong shifts from Utah, but then things went a bit further south. Pelech took an elbowing penalty at 4:24, but the Grizzlies killed it off, forcing Saunders to rob first Cuddemi and then Larraza on short-handed breakaways. However, no sooner had the Eagles returned to full strength than they made it 5-1, capitalizing on a defencive scramble that ensued after Helgesen took a puck to the face.

Any dying thoughts of a comeback were thoroughly squashed just under three minutes later when Jackson Houck’s shot trickled agonizingly through Redmann and into the net. Moments later, an alert play by Pelech kept the puck from crossing the line as another shot rolled through the blue paint, but shortly thereafter Colorado got the seventh goal anyway.

It was a miserable end to what had otherwise been a well played – if highly frustrating – road trip.  It didn’t seem so much that there was a lack of will to win, as that when they went to kick the comeback into gear, the engine sputtered on an empty tank instead of coming to life as it had previously.

Standings wise, fortunately for Utah, both Alaska and Missouri lost as well, so the Grizzlies remain four points behind the former, and one behind the latter. Certainly well within striking distance, provided that they rest and regroup, and are able to pick up some vital wins against tough competition in the coming weeks.

The Grizzlies are back home Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday against the Alaska Aces in what could be some of the most important games of the season.

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