Still looking for their first win on the road in Idaho, there were a few line-up changes. Travis Howe and Sam Windle drew into the roster on Wednesday, Erik Higby moved back to forward, and Kevin Carr got the start. James Melindy and Cliff Watson wore the A’s.
The Grizzlies got off to an energetic start, though Idaho got five of the first six shots.
Utah drew also the first power play, but were unable to break their abysmal streak on the man advantage, and after Idaho returned to even strength, Jefferson Dahl scored at 12:13. Dahl got his second of the game on a Carr cross-checking penalty about a minute later, as Melindy’s clearing attempt went straight to Dahl’s stick.
The Ryans (Olsen and Misiak) and Higby had a strong shift in the offensive zone, drawing another power play, which also unfortunately came up empty.
However, after breaking the dam on Monday, Greger Hanson scored his second in two games, beating Philippe Desrosiers at 16:43, and cutting the deficit in half with assists from from Kyle Thomas and Mitch Jones. Off the ensuing face-off, Howe and Reid Halabi dropped the gloves for their third fight this year (two of which were in preseason).
The teams traded penalties thereafter, as first the Grizzlies took (and killed off) one, and Higby drew another with 19 seconds left in the first.
Utah opened the second with 1:41 on the power play, and Thomas took an awkward hit from Baldwin along the boards. Thomas went to the room, but only ended up missing one shift.
The Grizzlies drew yet another slashing penalty, but still couldn’t find that elusive first power play goal. Thomas and Baldwin skirmished twice following Baldwin’s hit, and Utah reversed the tale of the first period, getting five of the first six shots of the frame.
Jon Puskar took a slashing penalty, but Carr made a couple of really great saves (including the one below), and the penalty kill remained sharp. Which was fortunate, because Pelech took another slashing penalty that was also killed off.
The Grizzlies once again ended the period on the power play, shots tied 22-22 with Utah out-shooting Idaho 18-8 in the second.
Unfortunately, Idaho scored 5:04 into the third as Carr just missed the poke-check on Brady Brassart, and to make matters worse, Puskar had to be helped off the ice by Howe, and Head Athletic Trainer Cole Libby after a pileup by the Steelheads’ bench. Windle, Dahl, and Mitch Moroz all went to the box after that, but once more, the power play ended with no change in score.
Utah continued to create chances, but were repeatedly unable to capitalize on a slew of power play opportunities they received throughout the remainder of the third, and dropped their fourth straight game of the season 3-1.
The bright spots remain, however, and are rather numerous, considering that the team has yet to notch a win. One such has been Cliff Watson who, as a rookie, has been a major player on the team in every game so far. Hanson’s goal-scoring has hopefully taken off, and the team seems to be coming together.
While it is frustrating that they continue to struggle to score both on the power play (they were 0/9 on Wednesday) and in general, it is encouraging to note that the offensively gifted players like Hanson, Olson, Thomas, Navin (and others) are still generating plenty of chances (and shots). They have also been phenomenally unlucky in that department.
That being said, there’s no getting around it. One way or another, the Grizzlies are going to need more goal-scoring going forward. And they might have to do it without Jon Puskar.
Utah’s next game is also in Boise, and is the first half of a home-and-home Friday and Saturday against the Steelheads.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and other staff photographers