After a string of overtime and shootout losses, a minor line shake-up, and the return of James Melindy, the whole line-up got shifted around. Out were Brad Navin, C.J. Eick, and Mitch Jones, and in were Charley Graaskamp, Travis Howe, and Melindy. Brendan Harms played with Michael Pelech and Greger Hanson, Graaskamp lined up with Ryan Walters and Ryan Olsen, while Erik Higby centered Howe/Zach Saar and Ryan Misiak. Angus Redmond got the start.
Saying the game did not begin well would be an understatement, as Manchester scored on their second shift. Utah didn’t even have a chance to get any offensive zone time. However, the Grizzlies answered with a couple of really good shifts, the Olsen line making the first foray into the offensive zone. Higby, Howe, and Misiak had a great chance, but Manchester went the other way, and made it 2-0 at 5:15.
Once again, there was a good deal of door slamming on the bench, but the Grizzlies continued to work hard and get chances–most notably from Hanson/Pelech and from Misiak.
At 13:32 Martin Nemcik and Zach Saar dropped the gloves in front of the Manchester net, and both were sent off for five minutes. Shortly thereafter, Hanson passed the puck to Sam Windle on the point, and Watson jumping on the rebound cut the lead in half.
Utah continued to get shots, rebounds, and chances, the defensemen especially shooting everything.
All the hard work eventually paid off, and Taylor Richart drew a power play in the offensive zone with 1:15 left in the period. Harms was tripped up, and the play briefly went the other way. In the end, it didn’t matter. With 31 seconds left in the frame, Watson scored again on a snipe from the bottom of the face-off circle. Pelech got the primary assist on a perfect pass from behind the net, and the game was all tied up.
The Olsen line closed out the period strong, and after twenty, Utah had put up a season high 20 shots, and allowed only 12. It wasn’t the greatest first period, but it seemed unfair to quibble after they scored twice.
Manchester started the second strong yet again, but Redmond and the Grizzlies were able to keep them off the scoreboard early.
Howe was given all sorts of space, and set up a perfect shot for Olsen standing in the blue paint, but Evan Cowley turned it aside. The third line had a good hustling shift, and on the other end of the ice, Redmond made a couple more saves. They did spend a rather uncomfortably large amount of time in the defensive zone, over all though.
Olsen took a high-sticking penalty with 10:45 after failing to clear the zone, and Manchester capitalized.
Misiak came flying in on a breakaway on the next shift, Cowley gave up a rebound, and Nemcik, trying to coral the puck, put it through his five hole. Higby was originally credited with the goal, but it eventually went to Misiak, from Melindy and Redmond.
Harms nearly gave the Grizzlies the lead mere seconds later, but his attempt hit the post, and Cowley dove over to get the glove on it. Harms got in on a two-on-one, and Walters also had a great shift, as that line came out with a will.
Hanson took an offensive zone high-sticking call with under 30 seconds left in the second, and the team went in to the last intermission tied 3-3, shots 25-21 for Manchester.
The third period began even worse than the first, and in looking for the best way to describe it as a whole, the term unmitigated disaster comes to mind.
The Monarchs scored just 26 seconds into the frame. At first, this didn’t seem like that much of a problem, because if nothing else, the Grizzlies have shown in the past couple of weeks (and in this game) that they can dig deep and battle back. The Olsen and Pelech lines responded well with offensive zone shifts after the goal, and getting a couple of shots.
Watson drew a power play at 2:38. Richart had a great shot that Cowley snagged, and the first line had a good shift as well. Watson also made a bid for a hat trick with a great shot. Unfortunately, there were no white jerseys to snag the rebound, and Manchester returned to full strength.
Melindy took a hooking call at 5:14, but Utah got out of it just fine. Redmond made a good save, Walters and Hanson got in on a short-handed two-on-one, Redmond made another couple of big saves, and it was over.
A few shifts later, though, the Grizzlies did have trouble clearing the puck, and after a few rebounds, no one covered Michael Doherty, who made it 5-3. There was still no panic, but at this point, it also became increasingly clear that while there were still a few players hustling, there was going to be no second comeback.
Utah drew another power play at 13:29, but it was largely harmless, despite a good play from Richart. The Monarchs got in alone, and while a furious back-check from Leibinger prevented a shot, it sent Utah to the penalty kill.
Manchester scored their third power play goal of the night as yet another rebound wasn’t cleared from the crease at 17:37. Although there were a couple of good push-back shifts from the Grizzlies, more or less the entire team, goalie included, got outworked all over the ice. Zac Lynch made it 7-3 at 19:24. To add insult to injury, the Monarchs scored with five seconds left.
Howe collared Matt Schmalz on the final face-off, and a disastrous third period came to a merciful end.
Redmond’s play wasn’t great at times, especially early in the first and through the third, but in his defence by the end of the third period, he wasn’t getting a lot of help.
After being one of the four or five best players on the team for a couple weeks running, Olsen had what was probably his worst period in a Grizzlies uniform, between several ill-advised passes, and the penalty that led to a Manchester goal in the second. However, he was by no means the only player who had an off night. The third period was awful pretty much straight across the board.
“Obviously we didn’t get off to a good start, for whatever reason.” Branham said after the game. “We battled back, traded a goal in the second, and then we just got outworked in the third period. They wanted it more than us, and that’s all it comes down to. When you get beat one-on-one, when you get beat driving to the net, when the other team goes to the net and you don’t make them pay a price, it’s just too easy for them. Left their goalie high and dry, and it’s just unacceptable. When all you have to do is win that period and win that game, to come out with that kind of effort, and the penalties, is just unacceptable.”
Watson was the second star of the game with two goals, and a team-leading eight shots.
Utah looks to hold off the sweep tonight in their last game of a seven game home stand, where they have five points in six games, but only one win.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff