Utah Grizzlies: Ex-Zac-tly what the Doctor Ordered

With Jon Puskar and Cam Reid out with injuries, Ralph Cuddemi suspended, and Tim Daly up in the AHL, the Grizzlies came into tonight’s game with nine forwards and five defensemen – a situation they had not found themselves in since the infamous game against Alaska in February. When asked what it would take to replicate a win, Tim Branham answered, “heart.” Fortunately, that’s something the Grizzlies have in spades.

The game started much more tentatively for the Grizzlies than Friday’s contest, but Faragher made some terrific saves to keep the game 0-0 as Colorado got the first six shots of the night.

Utah took the first penalty when Michael Pelech took a roughing call with 11:39 to go. They were able to kill off the disadvantage, thanks to an excellent penalty kill, and to a terrific save or two from Faragher.

After that, the Grizzlies improved, getting some chances of their own, and doing a much better job of keeping Colorado in check.

Mathieu Aubin made it 1-0 at 15:13 as Pelech, Aubin, and Zac Larraza capped off a strong offensive zone shift.

Unfortunately with 20 seconds to go in the period, Luke Salazar made it 1-1, and after 20, the shots were 15-7 for the Eagles.

Erik Bradford drew a power play at 2:19, and Larraza scored on an absolutely gorgeous snipe just over a minute later.

Utah continued to largely control play through the middle of the frame, but Pelech took a slashing call with 8:29 to go, and Colorado went to the man advantage. However, the Grizzlies got short handed chances from Higby and Bradford, and killed off the penalty.

Utah got a power play of their own at 14:18, but though they got a few looks, they spent most of the man advantage chasing the puck back to their own end. They got a second chance on the power play with 2:42 left as Colin Martin drew a hooking call, and then made Colorado pay, scoring his 20th of the year with assists from Bradford and Larraza.

There were some extracurriculars as the buzzer sounded, and Utah headed to the locker room up 3-1, having closed the shot gap to 24-22.

The Grizzlies began the third well, keeping Colorado shotless for the first three minutes or so, Garrett Haar drawing a hooking call at 3:25. Utah was unable to capitalize, but Bradford’s speed drew another power play with 13:43 to go, but were unable to make it 4-1. However, they also did not allow any dangerous short handed chances, which after their previous struggles, was certainly a good thing.

In the end, it didn’t matter, as Larraza made it 4-1 at 9:48 with assists from Bradford and Gabriel Verpaelst.

The Eagles pressed hard with just about five minutes to play, but Faragher and the Grizzlies stood their ground. Phil Pietroniro and Jackson Hauk took matching roughing penalties with 5:05 to go, and Nemcik followed soon after, putting the Grizzlies on a 4-on-3 penalty kill for a minute, and the Eagles pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. the Eagles scored shortly afterward, but the goal was scored on a high-stick and immediately called back.

Colorado pulled their goalie once more with 1:54 to go, but the Grizzlies held on to win 4-1, and closed out the season series against one of the best teams in the league on a high note.

Larraza had a breakout night, and had a hand in every single Utah goal, picking up assists on the goals by Aubin and Martin. He also picked up two goals of his own, and was named first star. Bradford and Larraza continued right where they’d left off on Friday night, and Bradford had a multi-point game of his own with two assists, earning second star of the game. Faragher was also incredible, making 41 of 42 saves, and holding the fort early before the Grizzlies really got going, and was named the third star.

With Missouri wining against Wichita, and Alaska losing to Rapid City, the race for the final playoff position has become incredibly close. The Mavericks and Aces both have a game in hand, and are tied with 70 points, while Utah trails them by just one.

The Grizzlies continue their road trip in Rapid City, where they will play Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday before returning home for a final, all important home stand against the Mavericks.

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