James Melindy returned from San Diego, and Chris Leibinger made his Grizzlies debut against Tulsa on Friday night. Tim Branham went with the hot hand in goal, and Kevin Carr got the start against his former team, and boy was it a good one. Facing him in nets was the reigning ECHL goaltender of the month in Devin Williams.
Carr made the first of many nice saves about thirty seconds in, and Utah drew the first power play of the game about a minute later, following a strong offensive push by the Grizzlies.
Although Utah picked up a number of good scoring chances, they were unable to capitalize on the man advantage. Carr made another spectacular save about four minutes in, and Sam Windle scored his first pro goal on a beautiful shot from the left circle. Brendan Harms and Michael Pelech got the assists.
Harms rang the post, and Zach Saar also had a chance crashing the net about half-way through the first. Unfortunately, though, Tulsa scored the next goal at 13:59 as multiple Grizzlies got tied up in the offensive zone, and Taylor Richart was left all alone to defend a two-on-one.
Ryan Olsen took a slashing call at 15:11, but the Grizzlies killed it off, and after 20, the game was still tied 1-1, shots 14-12 for Tulsa.
The Oilers came out flying in the second, but Utah held them off early, and Saar drew a power play. Kyle Thomas made it 2-1, pouncing on Ryan Walters’ rebound and firing bar down into the open net. Walters and Richart got the assists on Thomas’ second of the year.
Thomas took a hooking call at 8:08, and Windle took another about a minute later, but Carr held down the fort, and the penalty kill remained perfect, as it did again when Windle went to the box again with four minutes to go.
Carr made several more incredible saves, (are you sensing a theme here?) including an especially spectacular moment where Carr and Richart combined to snatch the puck from the goal line on yet another two-on-one. The play drew a penalty for charging with less than a minute to go in the frame. After 40, shots were 33-26 for Tulsa, but Utah held the 2-1 lead.
Utah opened the third with 1:06 on the power play, but it did not go well, Evan Richardson scoring short handed 15 seconds in.
Olsen had a fantastic chance a little bit more than two minutes in, splitting the Oilers’ defense, and beating Williams, but either the puck bounced off Williams’ gear or off the back of the net, and there was no celebration, no goal light, and play continued.
Melindy and Kale Kessy got tangled up and both got two, while Melindy got an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty kill remained perfect once more.
Tulsa and Utah exchanged penalties through the middle of the period, the Oilers taking two, and Utah one, but neither team was able to draw ahead.
Williams went down holding his back with 26 seconds left in the third, and it looked bad for a while, but though Jake Hildebrand warmed up in front of the bench, Williams remained in the game.
Forty two seconds into OT, Thomas was tripped up as he flew into the offensive zone, and Utah got a four-on-three.
The Grizzlies got set up, and after a back and forth between Walters and Richart, Taylor got his league leading third game winning goal of the year to win the game from Walters and Thomas.
The Grizzlies are now 5-5-0-0 on the year, are 3-0 in OT games, and have won four of their last five. Walters has three assists in two games, all three on the power play, which he has helped improve immensely.
Richart was named first star of the game with the goal and the assist, and Carr was a most deserving second star with 39 saves on 41 shots.
Utah is back in action tonight (Saturday), before they head out to Wichita tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff