Finally home after a good road trip, the Grizzlies took on the Fort Wayne Komets in the first of seven home games to finish November.
With Ryan Walters loaned to the Belleville Senators of the AHL, it was a bit of a hitch in the Grizzlies’ scoring machine to find out that Kyle Thomas had also been called up to the Gulls prior to the game. Charley Graaskamp and Brad Navin drew back into the lineup in their places, and Kevin Carr got the call in net.
Walters and Harms are the latest in a series of call-ups that have taken Greger Hanson, and James Melindy to San Diego, leaving Utah without some of their top scorers.
“We’re missing Walters, Hanson, Thomas, it’s tough when those guys are gone,” Tim Branham said after the game, “But it’s definitely an opportunity for other guys to step up, I thought [Ryan] Misiak, [Ryan] Olsen, [Brendan] Harms, obviously, they were great, and some other lines had some scoring opportunities, but we just didn’t cash in. In times like these, you’ve really got to rely on your power play, and again, I thought we had some good looks on it, but just didn’t put it in. We’ve just got to dig in a little deeper.”
When asked for his thoughts on the game in general, he said: “I thought we played a pretty solid game the first two periods. We started getting low on players with some injuries, and some penalties, so that was kinda hard. Special teams was a difference, we couldn’t cash in on the power play, had a few good looks, and they get one good chance and scored, right? That’s the difference when you’re missing three of your four top goal scorers, it’s tough. I mean, no excuses. I thought we played a pretty solid game, a few mistakes on some bad goals. Not on the goalie, our goalie played amazing, but systematically, just some bad goals on our part. We’ve just got to clean that up. We know we gotta make it a low scoring affair, we’re not going to get in a track meet with these guys, and I thought a couple of times we did, through turnovers and stuff, so we gotta make sure that we clean that up.”
Fort Wayne got off to the best start, spending a long first shift in the Grizzles’ zone, but after that first shift, both teams got chances.
There was a particularly dangerous moment when Carr wound up well out of his crease in a crowd of players, but he managed to poke the puck out of harm’s way amongst a sea of players to keep it scoreless.
Utah drew the first power play of the game at 6:22 when Artur Tyanulin attempted to break up a great Grizzlies’ opportunity.
Of course, former Grizz Ralph Cuddemi struck first for Fort Wayne, but Travis Howe dropped the gloves off the next face-off with Taylor Crunk, both getting two for removing their helmets, and of course, five for fighting.
The Grizzlies made it 1-1 at 4:59 when Olsen made a great pass to Harms, who passed to Misiak after Michael Houser bit on the play, and Misiak scored into the wide open net.
After the first period, Fort Wayne led the shots 14-13, and the score was tied at one.
The second period began well, but the Komets ended up with some very, very good zone time. Fortunately for Utah, it was Olsen who scored at 4:59 to make it 2-1.
A few minutes later, however, Garrett Thompson tied the game up right off the face-off. The two teams treated the fans to some fast end-to-end hockey. Carr made a pretty little windmill save on Cuddemi, and Brendan and the Ryans created some really great chances on a Grizzlies’ power play.
They continued to get great looks after the penalty expired, and when C.J. Eick drew yet another man advantage, they got even more chances. Navin, Zach Saar, Erik Higby, Michael Pelech, and Cliff Watson also had a great shift on another power play as the period came to an end.
After forty, the score was still 2-2, Utah out-shooting Fort Wayne 24-21.
Utah opened the third on a 59 second power play, but like most early power plays, it got nothing accomplished, and Carr had to make a couple of good saves.
Mason Baptista ran over Carr at 4:01, and Richart took exception. Both went to the box for roughing, Richart getting an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Ryan Culkin scored eight seconds later on the power play to break the tie.
Both teams exchanged penalties, the Grizzlies moving the puck quite well, Richart and Graaskamp both making good plays. Despite some good pressure from Utah in the final minutes, the Komets scored into the empty net, and the Grizzlies fell 4-2.
Ryan Olsen (1G, 1A) and Ryan Misiak (1G) got the second and third stars, the former also leading the team with seven shots. Carr was his usual stellar self, as well, turning aside 27 of 30 shots.
When asked if the Grizzlies need to change anything for the next game against the Komets, Branham said no.
“I thought we played a pretty good game.” He added. “The mistakes that we made were definitely not system, once again, we got scored on on a face-off, that’s just not being ready on a face-off. Their power play goal our d-man didn’t take the pass away, and their first goal, we had the puck on our stick, and shot it at their chest, just some plays we need to clean up, and when we have the puck on our stick we need to make sure that we make good plays, and don’t just give it back to them.”
The two teams meet again tonight (Saturday).
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff