The fight to make the circus is over, and now the battle begins in earnest. Sixteen teams, four rounds, one prize. Garrett Haar returned to the lineup for the Grizzlies, while Cam Reid and Colin Martin remained sidelined, and Kevin Boyle made his seventh straight start.
Which did not exactly begin well, as Allen scored two minutes into the first period.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Austen Brassard drew the first penalty of the game, as Mike Gunn took an interference call at 5:36, and just moments later, Riley Gill put the puck over the glass, sending Utah to the 5-on-3.
The Grizzlies weren’t able to capitalize on the power play, but Erik Higby made it 1-0 just after it expired, and Marc-André Lévesque struck again for good measure at 9:09 to make it 2-1. Ralph Cuddemi and Mathieu Aubin got the assists on Higby’s goal, while Lévesque’s was unassisted.
Gill took a roughing penalty against Michael Pelech, and Utah went back to the power play. Allen killed off the penalty, and Pelech took a tripping call of his own at 12:00.
Utah kept the Americans scoreless, and the Grizzlies went the other way. A shot from Jon Puskar hit Gill up high, and he left the game replaced by Jamie Murray. Pelech took another penalty with 3:57 to go.
Utah killed that penalty off as well, and Larraza and Brassard caused havoc around the Allen net.
After 20, Utah led 2-1, and outshot the Americans 11-6.
The second period began in a much more sloppy fashion, and with 15:19, Puskar and Brian Moore got into a shoving match after the whistle. No penalties were called, and Allen began to put some pressure on the Grizzlies. Fortunately, Boyle stood tall.
At 7:17, Puskar threw a shot on net, and a huge rebound came right to the stick of C.J. Eick, who made it 3-1. Unfortunately, the Americans came the other way, and made it 3-2. Allen continued to pressure, and Martin Nemcik took a holding call at 11:20.
Utah’s penalty kill remained perfect, on the penalty kill, thanks in large part to Boyle. Phil Pietroniro took a hooking call and a stick full in the face with 1:15 to go, and Travis Howe served the penalty, while Pietroniro went to the room for repairs.
At the end of forty, the Grizzlies still held the 3-2 lead, but the Americans had taken over most of the momentum and a 16-15 edge in shots.
Utah killed off the remainder of the penalty to start the third, but Allen carried most of the momentum, and at 7:28, Wade MacLeod tied the game. Howe had a terrific chance with just under eleven to go, but the Grizzlies were unable to tie it up.
Gabriel Verpaelst got involved in a scuffle with 4:29 to go, and Joel Chouinard made it 4-3.
About a minute later, Tim Daly and Alex Krushelnyski got tangled behind the Utah net, and Boyle came to Daly’s defense. Marc-André Lévesque fought Bryan Moore in the resulting chaos, and once the refs sorted everything out, Boyle got two for roughing, Krushelnyski got two for slashing, and two for cross-checking, while Lévesque and Moore got five for fighting.
With a minute to go in the game, Utah pulled Boyle, but despite a valiant effort from the Grizzlies on the 6-on-4, including one especially heartbreakingly close chance from Ralph Cuddemi, they weren’t able to tie it up. Allen seemingly scored into the empty net, but it was called off.
So Utah dropped Game 1 4-3 after relinquishing a lead, which is certainly very frustrating, but one thing we did find out. The Grizzlies have what it takes to skate with the Americans.
Higby was named third star of the night, Cuddemi had two assists on the night, and Utah looks to tie up the series on Friday.
Image courtesy of Tim Broussard.