The Grizzlies continued their Florida road trip with their first game in Orlando. Ryan Faragher got the start against the Solar Bears, Garrett Haar made his debut, and Erik Higby returned to his natural position at forward.
Utah began well, maintaining some good possession, but it would the Solar Bears who struck first 3:01 into the period. After the goal, the Grizzlies struggled to play crisp hockey, while Orlando hemmed them in their own zone.
The Solar Bears made it 2-0 at 6:47 as they established a strong cycle game, and then put a rebound past Faragher.
The Grizzlies responded well, though, with Erik Bradford having a terrific shift, followed by another strong shift by Cam Reid, Ralph Cuddemi, and Colin Martin. However, momentum ended with Reid taking a slashing call. The penalty kill proved to be up to the task, Austen Brassard even getting a scoring chance, and Orlando negated the final 30 seconds or so of their man advantage.
Utah looked far better after their power play, especially in the dying minutes of the period, getting a few really good shots on Ryan Massa. At the end of 20, the Grizzlies had made up ground, tying up the shots at 11, but Orlando still led 2-0.
The Grizzlies got the first two shots of the second, as they got 10 of the last 14 shots, but the Solar Bears came back and forced yet another great save from Faragher.
As the period progressed, Orlando dominated zone time, but the Grizzlies did a good job keeping shots away from Faragher, shots 14-11 with 12:08 to go. The Solar Bears’ strength was especially evident as they efficiently took away time and space from the Grizzlies.Utah had some trouble completing passes as a consequence.
The game opened up a bit in the second half of the period, as Orlando negated another power play, and the teams played 4-on-4. Cuddemi and Phil Pietroniro gave the Grizzlies a good chance, but with 4:29 left in the period, the score was still 2-0. Orlando also led in shots 19-17.
Ty Stanton high-sticked Daly at 15:55, sending the Grizzlies to their first power play of the game. Although Utah took a 21-20 lead in shots, they were unable to capitalize, and Pietroniro took a tripping call with 1:05 to go.
After 40, shots were 21-20 for Utah, but the Solar Bears remained up 2-0.
Utah killed off the tail end of the penalty kill, and got a terrific shift from Cuddemi and Jon Puskar, as the Grizzlies made a concerted effort to throw shots on Massa.
The first six minutes belonged emphatically to Utah, as they racked up seven of the first nine shots. They continued to win battles and get shots all through the third, but were unable to get past Massa.
Haar took a penalty with 6:34 to go, but the Grizzlies’ penalty kill looked terrific, Cuddemi and Bradford both getting shots, followed by a short-handed breakaway from Higby. Higby drew a penalty at 14:46. Pietroniro got a pair of shots off from the point on the 4-on-4, as the Grizzlies came agonizing inches away from beating Massa.
Unfortunately, Eric Faille made it 3-0 at 15:13, and though the Grizzlies continued to buzz, none of their shots got past Massa.
Despite their valiant effort, the final buzzer saw Utah shutout 3-0, despite outshooting Orlando 42-26.
Unsurprisingly, the Grizzlies defense had some tentativeness to work out early with so many new bodies, however, as they game wore on, they looked far more comfortable.
Offensively, Cuddemi (seven shots) and Pelech (five shots) had very strong nights, despite the lack of goals, while the Puskar line also generated a number of grade A scoring chances. In fact, every single player on the Grizzlies recorded at least a shot, and all but three of them recorded two or more.
The loss was by no means due to a lack of effort.
Utah is off tomorrow, before playing their final game in Orlando at 11:30 on Sunday morning.