…Just try shooting the puck another 43 times. It’s bound to go in eventually…
In game one of a four game road trip, and the first of six regular season meetings against Allen, neither Mathieu Aubin (on IR) nor Greger Hanson (called up to San Diego) were on the ice to face off against their former team.
However, Ryan Walters made his second Grizzlies debut in the starting lineup, drawing in beside Ryan Olsen and Kyle Thomas. Kevin Carr got the start, and Erik Higby returned to the lineup as a forward.
Utah drew a power play just moments into the game. As do so many early power plays, the man advantage came to nothing, as did the Allen power play that followed shortly thereafter.
Except for the parade of penalties, including a four-on-three Allen power play, the game was fairly uneventful until Taylor Richart drew a penalty mere seconds after stepping out of the box. Brad Navin made it 1-0 from Thomas and Walters on the ensuing advantage 12:19 into the first. Despite the fourteen penalties that were assessed over the course of the game, it would be the only special teams goal.
The rest of the period continued in the same vein, as both teams racked up a combined 25 minutes of penalty time, and played a total of 3:11 five-on-five. The most absurd part of a penalty-filled first period is that they could have called even more penalties than they did.
At the end of the first, shots were 12-12, Utah still leading 1-0.
2:14 into the second, Tanner Eberle scored on the breakaway, despite an excellent initial save from Carr.
Utah got in quite a lot of shots and offensive zone time through the middle frame, but Brodeur was definitely the difference maker in only his second pro game, as none of the 23 shots the Grizzlies threw on net made it past him, including what looked like a couple of sure things from Mitch Jones and Erik Higby.
After 40, shots were 36-18 for Utah, but the score remained a frustrating 1-1, thanks to the obnoxiously excellent play of Brodeur.
The Americans came out with far more pep in their step to start the final 20 minutes, but Utah continued to play well, winning their battles, and generally outworking Allen. Finally, on the forty-third shot of the game, it all paid off when Cliff Watson broke the tie. The goal came off a beautiful cycle by Walters, Olsen, and Thomas, Watson coming in at the last minute with a beautiful shot to score.
Watson’s goal held up for the game winner, despite a late Allen power play, Utah closing out the night with a total of 44 shots—their season high this year.
Throughout, the Grizzlies did a terrific job of carrying play, and generating quite a lot of high-danger scoring chances. Ten players got three or more shots, Thomas and Richart both getting six, and Watson close behind with five. Additionally, Walters seemed to fit seamlessly into the lineup, and was instantly a contributor of both scoring chances and points. Mitch Jones also had a strong outing, and though he only had two shots to show for it at the end of the night, he was noticeable everywhere, both offensively and defensively, especially in the first period.
Watson’s game winning goal, and five shots earned him first star, Brodeur took a well earned second star for Allen, while Thomas got the third star with two assists and six shots.
Overall, the work ethic that Tim Branham talked about needing so badly last game was definitely evident, and while there was no return of three or more goals, it certainly wasn’t through a lack of high quality scoring chances.
The Grizzlies will be in Tulsa Friday (11/3) and Saturday (11/4) before heading to Wichita for an afternoon game on Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming & staff