After having lost game one in a disappointing fashion, the Grizzlies looked to even up the series in game two against Allen. Kevin Boyle once again got the start, Colin Martin returned to the lineup, and Rob Mann drew in for Martin Nemcik. The Grizzlies were also without Zac Larraza who was called up to play for San Diego.
The early minutes of the first period were a fairly back and forth affair, with only three shots total through the first five minutes. It became evident quite early on that the C.J. Eick-Jon Puskar-Austen Brassard line had come to play, getting several of the Grizzlies’ best chances.
Marc-André Lévesque got shoved into Boyle with 13:19 to go, and took exception to it, starting a scrum that sent him to the box together with Greger Hanson.
Brassard and Eick had a terrific shift on the four-on-four, Brassard out-muscling the Allen defense, and Eick just narrowly missing a chance on the net. Boyle made a nice save on the other end, and both teams returned to full strength with no change in score. Lévesque got a one-on-one chance right out of the box, but Riley Gill made the save.
Spencer Asuchak took a roughing minor with 11:04 to play, but though the Grizzlies retained possession for almost the entire two minutes, and got a few shots, nothing substantial came of it.
Brassard and Eick made yet another a lovely play with 4:56 left in the first, but Gill again shut the door, shots 8-6 in Utah’s favor, while the refs largely left their whistles in their pockets.
Boyle, Gabriel Verpaelst and an Allen player all collided with 4:17 to go, and there was some concern for Grizz fans as Boyle remained down for a long moment, requiring assistance to stand up. However, after taking a spin, he remained in net, and fortunately appeared none the worse for wear.
Puskar got a shot right off the draw, and Brassard beat Allen to the rebound, making it 1-0 Utah at 17:17.
With just 8 seconds to go, Erik Bradford had an absolutely terrific chance, but Gill jumped on it. The Grizzlies definitely looked sharp throughout the first frame, picking up 15 shots to Allen’s eight and once again taking a lead into intermission, clearly outworking the reigning Kelly Cup champions.
Utah began the second period well, nearly capitalizing on an Allen miscue in the early going. The Americans struggled a little, icing the puck several times in a row, and looking a little tentative for the division leader playing the team that squeaked in to the playoffs in the eleventh hour.
The Puskar line remained the most obviously dangerous throughout, but the Grizzlies in general continued to control the game. Bradford got a nice chance, as did Tim Daly on the same shift with about thirteen minutes to go in the second.
Just moments later, Puskar sprang a flying Eick, and Eick once again deked out the goalie, making it 2-0 on a gorgeous play at 7:28. Daly was boarded about a minute later, and Utah went to the power play.
Allen got one of the better chances on the Grizzlies’ man advantage, and the Americans returned to full strength with no change in score.
With just over eight minutes to go, the Americans thought they’d scored, but the puck had glanced off the post crossbar, the refs waived it off, and play continued.
Puskar forced Gill to make a big save on one end, and Boyle answered on the other, robbing Alex Krushelnyski at 5:43.
The Martin-Cuddemi-Bradford line had a number of really good chances as the period drew to a close, but it was Puskar who scored on a rebound at 17:54 from Eick and Brassard.
Less than a minute later, Josh Brittain boarded Phil Pietroniro, and Pelech made it 4-0 on a pretty passing play with 31 seconds left in the period.
After 40, Utah held a commanding 4-0 lead, and was outshooting Allen 25-20.
Allen played a much better third period, and at 5:49 Martin took a hooking call against Krushelnyski. The Americans responded by pulling Gill to play six-on-four with an empty net.
Though the Grizzlies spent nearly the whole kill in their own zone, they did a terrific job of frustrating Allen. Pietroniro blocked a big chance, Higby took another, and Boyle turned aside or smothered all the others, including an absolutely spectacular stick save in the dying seconds of the kill.
Unfortunately, after killing off the penalty, Brittain scored with 11:11 to go. However, that would be the only goal Boyle allowed, and the Grizzlies were not at all deterred, despite the Americans finally waking up.
Brittain took an interference call against Cuddemi with 5:19 remaining, and Utah once more went to the power play. The Grizzlies didn’t so much try to get another goal as to keep the puck as far away from the Americans as possible. Allen had a short-handed chance, but otherwise, time continued to tick away.
Verpaelst took a holding call with 3:22 left, and Allen once again pulled Gill for the extra attacker. Once again, though, the Grizzlies’ penalty kill came up huge, and Boyle was absolutely rock solid. Allen kept Gill pulled after the penalty to Utah expired, but they remained unable to solve Boyle, and David Makowski got an elbowing call against Brassard to end the game.
Boyle was named first star of the game with 36 out of 37 saves, while Eick got second star with the game winning goal and an assist, and Puskar was named third star with a goal and two assists of his own.
The Puskar line, as mentioned previously, was spectacular throughout, picking up ten of the team’s 30 shots, while Cuddemi had five all on his own. It was, in general, a really strong effort from Utah top to bottom. The power play, which struggled mightily at times throughout the regular season, made a contribution, while the penalty kill continued its run of excellence.
Utah comes back home with the series split 1-1, having kept up with – or even out played – Allen for large parts of two games in enemy territory. The Grizzlies will definitely look to continue that momentum through the home stand.
Image courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming