Utah Grizzlies: The Best Is Yet To Come

Coming off a 6-3 win, Utah looked to build off their performance, and end the year on a high note. With the exception of Charley Graaskamp drawing in for Zach Saar, and Angus Redmond getting the start, the lineup remained unchanged.

The first period started with a bang, literally, as Jon Puskar and Justin Parizek dropped the gloves just 21 seconds in. Puskar got the take-down, and both players were sent to the box to cool their heels.

Once again, Idaho had good possession, getting five shots to Utah’s one, and then striking first at 3:08 once again from Jefferson Dahl.

With Puskar in the box, Graaskamp centred the first line, to some effect, and Greger Hanson rang iron. Unfortunately, Idaho came the other way on the next shift and made it 2-0 at 6:49.

Utah got a couple shots thereafter, but half of them went into the crest on Ryan Faragher’s jersey, and he had clear sight-lines on them all.

Michael Pelech took a charging minor at 10:15, and Kyle Thomas played hero on the penalty kill, blocking a hard shot and going down. He got up slowly, and immediately blocked another shot before making it off the ice.

It paid off, as the Grizzlies went the other way, Taylor Richart got off a big shot, and Graaskamp banged the rebound past Faragher from the doorstep.

Graaskamp took a tripping call with five minutes left in the first, but Utah got to the intermission still 2-1, despite being out-shot 15-11.

The second got off to a good start, as Puskar drew a penalty just 53 seconds into the period, as Dodero was a little too enthusiastic in his crosschecking in front of the Idaho net.

Unfortunately, it went down-hill from there. Jefferson Dahl hit Ryan Olsen hard along the boards at 1:33 and Olsen was very slow to get up. He got himself in trouble on the way back to the bench, jawing at Dahl, and was sent to the box, negating the power play. As soon as he left the box, he took a surprisingly ill-judged roughing call on Dahl again, and went straight back to the box. Steven McParland scored at 5:24, and Olsen found himself benched for the remainder of the game.

Idaho iced the puck a couple of times after their goal, but with 9:27 to go, Utah had spent a lot of time fighting off Idaho possession in their own zone. All three lines had a few good shifts, but then Pelech took a tripping call. Idaho promptly capitalized once more, and Redmond’s night was over.

Baldwin got his stick between Thomas’ legs, tripping him up, and when no call was forthcoming, the 5385 fans in attendance were riotous in their disapproval. Utah drew a power play at 14:42, and then drew another one at 15:13, giving them a 90 second five-on-three. The Grizzlies got some looks, but the Idaho kill closed ranks, and a golden opportunity was squandered.

Though Utah did not capitalize on the power play, the final two minutes of the second were much better, getting some great chances around Faragher, including a breakaway from Puskar. After 40, shots were 26-22, and the score 4-1 after some uncharacteristically ill-advised penalties led directly to goals.

Down 4-1, faced with the task of putting four past Faragher, things looked grim. But of course, it’s the Grizzlies, and when they’re rolling, it’s not wise to count them out before a game (or a season) is over.

Utah came out flying to start the third, and never really looked back. Mitch Jones continued his outstanding play, throwing a huge shot through traffic, and Ryan Walters tipped it home to cut the lead in half 3:30 into the third.

Cody Corbett took a hooking call on the next shift, and Utah made Idaho pay. With 23 seconds left in the advantage, Thomas dished to Pelech behind the net, Pelech tossed it to Puskar in the slot, and he made no mistake. And so it was 4-3 with over thirteen minutes to go, an amped up crowd, and a buzzing team.

Graaskamp electrified the fans, tying the game at 9:29, for his first career two goal game on with a phenomenal effort and assist by Chris Leibinger.

Carr was terrific in relief, making a couple of big saves to keep the game tied.

Thomas looked like he’d scored the game winner with 5:35 to go, but the refs called off the goal on supposed goaltender interference. Though that drew some ire from the Grizzlies, they kept their foot on the accelerator, and their eyes on the finish line.

Puskar and Chatham got matching penalties, Puskar for cross-checking, Chatham for embellishment at 16:15, and then Pelech and Corbett immediately followed them on the next shift getting matching roughs 12 seconds later. Lost in all that was a crazy dipsy-doodle from Leibinger to keep the puck alive.

Carr and Jones made some big saves and blocks as the game entered the last two minutes of the period, and the Grizzlies fought their way through a strong Idaho push.

At the buzzer, Brendan Harms took on Corbin Baldwin, despite giving up a good five inches, and forty pounds, and though Baldwin decidedly got the best of it, it was a spirited finish to an excellent period.

OT saw both teams getting good chances, including a rocket from Richart on a ridiculous play from Hanson. Leibinger also had a big chance, and Carr and the defense answered on the other end of the ice. At the end of overtime, there was no change in score, and Utah went to the shoot-out.

With the spectre of three shoot-out losses, and zero shoot-out goals looming large over the Maverik Center, Graaskamp put up another first, scoring his first career shoot-out goal, and the Grizzlies’ first of the year. Carr let in one Idaho goal, and Faragher stoned Puskar. With the game once again on his stick, the Captain delivered, capping off an incredible comeback, and giving the Grizzlies their first shoot-out win of the season in the last game of the year.

“Well, I didn’t like the fact that we gave up 15 shots in the first period.” Tim Branham said of the game. “You knew they were going to come out hard, but you’ve gotta be ready for them. We put ourselves in a hole, getting down early, and then taking a couple of dumb penalties. We haven’t had too many discipline issues this year, and so it wasn’t good to see that. So we put ourselves in a deep hole there going into the third period, but I mean, this group has come back so many times in the third period. We just did it again, and found a way, and it feels good. We needed it. Obviously, that’s a tough opponent there, we gained three points on them in the standings, and we just got to keep it going.”

He also reiterated how much Thomas’ return means to the Grizzlies’ depth, and how good their record is with him in the lineup (it’s 10-4-2-1), and pointed out again that the Grizzlies are still missing what had been their top pairing in Cliff Watson and James Melindy.

After being benched for four straight games, Graaskamp came out swinging, picking up two goals, and one in the shoot out, en rout to being named the first star of the game. Branham was nothing but complementary about his performance, and also shed some light on why he hasn’t been a more consistent member of the lineup.

“He was a veteran player tonight, right from Puskar getting in that fight early, it got Charley into the game early, and some confidence. He’s a good player. He’s a project for me, he’s a young kid coming out of major juniors. He’s got a lot of talent, and a lot of skill and I’m really itching to see how he is at the end of the year, and how he develops. You look at his points, and it’s like ‘how is a guy like that not in the lineup consistently?’ and, well, it’s the play without the puck, and tonight he was a veteran player. He was all over the ice, obviously scoring goals, tenacious, finishing checks, playing a game like that should only build his confidence. It’s great to see.”

“He’s just an awesome kid, obviously from Wisconsin,” he added with a grin, “But no. Honestly, he’s just an awesome kid, and I’m so glad to see he’s doing well.”

He’s not the only one doing well. It seems that after an anemic start, and a few false spikes, the Grizzlies’ goal-scoring is on a real upward trajectory, as they have scoring four or more in five of the last seven. Moreover, looking to the new year, if the records in three of the last four years are any kind of precedent, the Grizzlies’ post-Christmas record should be much improved.

Last year in the first 25 games, Utah went 9-14-1-1 before going 29-15-4-1. This year, though they have fewer wins, Utah has picked up more points, going 7-11-5-2, and the up-swing may already be underway, as they’ve gone 4-1-1-0 in the last five games.

Regardless of what the rest of this season holds, this game was an exciting cap to 2017, and we can look forward to 2018 with anticipation.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Holiday Cheer

Coming back from a brief Christmas break, the Grizzlies looked to erase the memory of a tough OT loss against Colorado on the 23rd. With Brendan Harms and Ryan Olsen back in the lineup, C.J. Eick, and Brad Navin went on reserve, while Howe served the second to last of his nine game suspension, and Kevin Carr got the start.

The whole evening did not begin well, what with the anthem singer momentarily forgetting the words, and the zamboni having to come out after the ceremonial puck drops to repair some ice behind the Grizzlies’ net.

Then, once the game started, a bad second shift allowed Jefferson Dahl to wheel around the net uncontested to make it 1-0 on a wrap-around :58 seconds into the game. Considering how bad the Grizzlies’ record is when the other team scores first, how the last home game against Idaho went (5-2 for the Steelheads), and how dominant Idaho looked early, there were definitely some causes for concern.

The weirdness didn’t stop there, as Idaho held possession through the first four minutes, and a hard shot got the head referee right in the head. Fortunately, he appeared to be none-the-worse for wear.

Utah had a few good shifts, but largely struggled to establish possession in the zone. There were signs of life though, from Leibinger, and the Ryan Line most noticably, but from the rest of the line-up as well.

However, off another long stretch in the defensive zone, Michael Pelech took an unforced delay of game penalty, putting the puck over the far glass at 9:14. The penalty kill got the job done, and the score remained unchanged.

Kyle Thomas and Corbin Baldwin got into a scuffle with just over five minutes to go, following a strong shift from the first line, but nothing came of it. That was about the time, however, that the Grizzlies came alive.

At 15:16 Ryan Olsen chipped the puck up to Ryan Misiak, Misiak fed Ryan Walters the perfect pass, and he converted to tie the game. Olsen got the secondary assist.

57 seconds later, Leibinger wired the puck from the point to give Utah the lead from Hanson and Thomas.

Idaho made a push to answer, and Harms took a penalty with 1:59 to go, as the third line continued to have a rough first period. Richart got tripped up with 1:13 to go, and the teams played four-on-four.

Thomas just missed Hanson on a two-on-one, and the Steelheads were likewise unable to tie it up in the final moments of a weird first period. Although Utah led 2-1, shots were 12-9 for the Steelheads.


The Grizzlies got off to a decent start in the next frame, following the 46 seconds of power play time. Leibinger almost got his second of the night on a beautiful move, and Carr flashed the leather on the other end. Unfortunately, Idaho tied it up right off the next face-off at 1:29.

The Grizzlies dodged a major bullet shortly thereafter as Carr made a huge save, and was out of position for the rebound. Fortunately, the Utah defensemen stopped the puck in the blue paint, and the Grizzlies got a chance of their own on the other end.

In the end, it was another rocket from a defenceman that gave Utah back the lead, as Sam Windle scored from center ice at 4:24 with assists from Leibinger and Erik Higby.

The third line had a great shift with around twelve minutes to go, but on the next shift, Misiak went down at the blue line. Already mysteriously down Zach Saar (later revealed  to be an apparent illness according to the broadcast), and with Misiak gone, Idaho scored on the shift after that. The good news was that despite being helped off the ice, Misiak was back in short order, and Baldwin’s illegal contact to the head penalty at 11:30 on Higby sent Utah to the power play.

The second half of the period (and indeed the game) was far more characteristic of the Grizzlies and Steelheads, playing a much more structured, and less sloppy game.

Olsen gave up a bad turnover at the offensive zone blue line, but got it back before the puck crossed the Grizzlies’ blue line, and set up Hanson on a breakaway. Unfortunately, Philippe Desrosiers shut the door with about 4:30 to go in the frame.

The second ended with the Ryan Line buzzing, and after 40, shots were 23-18 for Idaho, tied 3-3.

“Just win the third” said Sam Windle in the intermission interview, and boy did the Grizzlies ever. Though, not so much in the first three minutes.

Utah got into gear after that though, and with 11:53 to go, Leibinger sprang Puskar on a gorgeous breakaway. That was the game breaker, and less than two minutes later, Higby forced a turnover, and Pelech scored off the cross-bar and in.

Taylor Richart put the cap on the night with another big shot from the blue line, giving the Grizzlies the 6-3 lead at 13:45, and breaking a goalless streak dating back to November 18th.


Puskar went to the box at 14:25, and again with 1:18 left in the third, but other than a net-front scuffle around Carr after a whistle, and another breakaway chance for Thomas and Hanson, they were both fairly uneventful.

With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Richart and Charlie Dodero tangled at center ice, and Mitch Jones and Corey Durocher dropped the gloves. Both got five for fighting, Dodero got two for roughing, and Utah closed out the night with their fifth win in the last eight.

After a rough first period, the third line really got going in the second, and in the third, scored (or were involved in) two of the Grizzlies’ goals three goals in the frame. Moreover, Leibinger was terrific all over the ice, throwing hits, blocking shots, making plays, getting chances, and of course, scoring a goal, and two assists. He was named third star of the game.

“He skates really well, he reads the play really well” Tim Branham said of Leibinger. “He trusts himself, he can make plays, that’s why he was really effective today. I thought he played really well defensively, had a good stick on puck, had a good gap all night, obviously made plays offensively, which we need, get some production from our back-end there. I though he was excellent tonight. We gotta follow that up with another good one though.

The Grizzlies got goals from every line, three from forwards, and three from defensemen. So what do they have to do to keep the offense rolling?

“This game is all about confidence. And you could tell. Once the score got 6-3, we started making some plays that we never would really make normally, and you could just tell that they were making them with confidence. This game is funny. That’s what it’s all about, hopefully this gives us the confidence to get going.

Leibinger thought the Christmas break also did the team some good. “We had some time away from the rink, sometimes that’s good for a team,” he said, “Especially if you’re struggling a little bit. You feel rejuvenated when you come back, see all the guys again, even if it’s just a couple of days”

“Carrying it forward,” he added, “I think we put a lot of effort in tonight, played hard, so I think if we do that every night, we have the talent to make plays, so I think it’s just all work ethic.”

Hard work and confidence. Those sound like good things to build success on going into the new year.

Utah Grizzlies: Captain Clutch

With goaltender Joe Cannata called up, as well as goal scorer Michael Joly, and defenseman Nicolas Meloche, Colorado was even more short-handed on Friday night than they were on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies, on the other hand, were not. They brought back Jon Puskar in place of Brad Navin, and once more sent out Kevin Carr to face Sam Brittain. Utah’s main objective? Get some goals for Carr.

Greger Hanson, Michael Pelech, and Kyle Thomas started the game off, but the Eagles scored on their first shot of the night, on a defensive misscommunication.

The Grizzlies responded well though, the Ryan Line and the Puskar line (the later especially) having good shifts afterward. Olsen centered the puck for Misiak, but Misiak was hauled down, and Utah went to the power play.

It took them only 37 seconds to capitalize. Carr sent the puck to Garrett Haar, who made a terrific pass to Hanson to make it a 1-1 game.

The penalty kill went to work 2:33 later, as Zach Saar went off for interference, and they kept the Eagles off the board. Chris Leibinger was terrific on the kill, continuing to be a shot blocking machine.

Just moments after the Grizzlies returned to full strength, Colorado the puck hit the post behind Carr, rolled along the line, and out. The call on the ice was a goal, but after some consultation, it was overturned.

Almost immediately afterwards, Colorado put the puck over the glass for delay of game, and Utah went back to the power play. They had some good puck movement on the advantage, but were unable to capitalize this time around.

C.J. Eick and Leibinger got a two-on-one with just over seven minutes to go, but Brittain turned it aside.

Colorado held Utah in their own end for a number of consecutive shifts, as the Grizzlies struggled to make clean plays in their own end. Fortunately, Carr was well up to the challenge, and the Ryan Line finally got the puck out.

The Eagles pressure continued, however, and eventually led to a Utah penalty with less than 30 seconds left. The Grizzlies were very fortunate to escape to the locker room with a tie game.

Utah’s PK made quick work of the 1:37 of penalty time to start the second. Hanson and Pelech got a two-on-one short-handed, but Pelech’s pass missed Hanson.

Missed passes continued to haunt the Grizzlies, as Walters’ pass to Olsen went into his skates as he was all alone in front of Brittain after Utah returned to full strength. Likewise, the first line were unable to connect on the next shift.

Utah had some more issues keeping Colorado out of their own end, but in the end, the sloppy play ended up going in Utah’s favor.

Olsen and Hanson converged in the offensive zone, which apparently distracted the Eagles so much that Walters sneaked in uncontested to give the Grizzlies their first lead of the night. Olsen and Hanson got the assist on Walters’ eighth of the year.

On the very next shift, Thomas was called for slashing, and then got hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct for some mild protesting. Utah responded well though, getting a glorious up-ice rush that put a rebound just wide. Colorado never got properly set up, and the Grizzlies killed off all four minutes.

It looked an awful lot like Colorado got away with a call when Hanson was hauled down, and with too many men, but they eventually took a penalty with 7:43 to go.

Unfortunately, the power play was sloppy in their own end, and Matt Garbowsky scored short-handed all alone in front of Carr. Utah responded well with a good shift, but were unable to take the lead back on the advantage.

Puskar took a tripping penalty with 2:23 to go, but once again, the Grizzlies’ penalty kill was up to the task, getting a breakaway chance from Mitch Jones, and a two-on-one from Misiak and Walters.

After 40, Utah was being out-shot 23-12, but the game remained tied, 2-2 this time.

Utah came out hot in the third, Olsen went hard into the boards, but though he was a little slow to get up, he remained on the ice. Walters and Olsen both ended up down on the ice shortly afterwards, and the Grizzlies went to the power play.

The bad news was that the power play was unable to capitalize, but the good news was that Olsen and Walters both took their usual second unite power play time. Misiak got fouled up twice on one shift, but no second penalty was called.

The lack of finish on the power play ended up costing them, as Utah got stuck in their own end, and Carr gave up an uncharacteristic goal at 5:19.

The lines went into the blender with about half the period to go, and Utah found themselves hemmed into their own zone.

The line blender worked out to the Grizzlies’ advantage, as Higby, Olsen, and Thomas went over the boards, and Thomas tied the game with his fifth of the year.

Puskar took a penalty with just over ten to go in the period, but they killed off the minor, and Puskar made it 4-3 from Misiak and Hanson.

With 3:16 to go, Colorado scored again, Carr immediately protested, and though the official never signaled goal it did, in fact, count.

Utah got a late power play, thanks to Hanson’s speed and tenacity on the puck, but there was no last second power play goal, and the game went to OT.

The Grizzlies carried 30 seconds of power play time into OT, and then Colin Bowman took an ill-advised roughing call against Thomas in front of the Eagles’ net, and Utah went back to the advantage.

They got strong possession, passing the puck carefully and deliberately, getting off a couple of shots, but no goal. Pelech was crosschecked to the ice after the Eagles returned to full strength, and despite it being bad enough to bring the athletic trainer Cole Libby out onto the ice, there was no call. It was the latest in a litany of questionable non-calls, so a few shifts later, when the Eagles fans were in uproar over yet another perceived missed call, it felt like poetic justice that Walters came flying down the ice on yet another a two-on-one with Misiak, and scored the OT winner.

The eagle celly was definitely a dig at Colorado, but it was also appropriate for a goal that threw the OT monkey off the Grizzlies’ collective back, and gave them their first win against the Eagles after eight meetings, seven of which were lost by one goal, and five of which were lost in OT or the shoot out.

“I figured I’d take it and win it” the Captain said, of his decisive game winner.

The Grizzlies got on a bus immediately after the game to return home where they face Colorado again tonight where they hope to hit .500 before the Christmas break.



Image courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming & staff

Utah Grizzlies: Back to Square One

Coming off a winning weekend, Utah looked to finally pick up their first win against Colorado. In their six match ups this season, Utah played them close with one exception, and pushed into OT three times. With Colorado missing one of their leading goalscorers in Michael Joly, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take it to the Eagles. Alas, it was not to be. At least, not in terms of goal-scoring.

The Ryan Line, together with Sam Windle, Chris Leibinger and Kevin Carr started for the Grizzlies, while Rob Mann drew in, and Charley Graaskamp sat this one out.

The second line spent half their first shift in the Eagles’ zone, and half in their own. That first foray was more or less the only time they spent in the offensive zone in the first four minutes, as Utah repeatedly struggled to get the puck out of their own end.

The Ryan Line got both of the first two shots for the Grizzlies before Greger Hanson took a high-stick, and Utah went to a four minute power play. It did not begin well, Carr having to make a big save almost immediately off the draw.

The power play decidedly lacked in power, but they finally got set up in the last 30 seconds or so, and carried the momentum through in the shifts that followed. Their hard work drew another power play at 11:35 as Jake Marto returned to the box for hooking this time.

The second power play went far far better than the first, but didn’t capitalize. Michael Pelech took a holding call at 13:53, but the Utah penalty kill spent more time in the offensive zone than Colorado did. In fact, Mitch Jones’ shot on Joe Cannata was the only shot.

The Grizzlies got another power play with 1:05 left in the frame, and finished the first in the offensive zone, out-shooting the Eagles 13-3, but with the score still 0-0.

The 45 seconds of power play time to open the second were disjointed at best, but Utah put their foot down on the gas pedal afterwards. On one end, Kyle Thomas went on a beautiful spin around the Eagles’ net, and on the other, Garrett Haar made a really nice play separating player from puck. The third line followed that up with a flurry of chances around Cannata as he was lying on his back in the crease, but were unable to get anything past him.

Ryan Olsen took a holding call about five minutes into the frame as he made a bid in the defensive zone to take away a scoring chance, but Utah killed off that penalty as well.

Through the middle of the frame, both teams played some disjointed hockey, and both got a couple of looks. Past the ten minute mark, the Eagles began to play with more coherence, and the Grizzlies struggled to do the same. Fortunately, Carr continued to see the few shots that did get through to him, and for all that there was some sloppiness, Utah did a good job of clearing out any rebounds.

Colorado continued to press through the last five minutes of the period, getting a couple of lengthy, back-to-back shifts in the Grizzlies’ end, but Utah finished the frame with a glorious chance by Ryan Walters, and a cross-crease move by Hanson.

The teams hit the locker rooms still 0-0, shots 24-10 for Utah.

The Ryan Line once again started the third with some good defensive play, and then followed that up a few shifts later with a strong offensive zone shift, but neither team was able to solve the opposing goalie.

Colorado momentarily thought they had, but Drayson Bowman’s shot rang the post, and somehow, miraculously ended up under Carr. The Grizzlies took a high-sticking call at 14:24, but yet again did a good job killing it off.

Regulation solved nothing, so Utah headed to their league-leading eleventh OT, and their fourth against Colorado. The Eagles maintained possession through the beginning of OT, but Olsen, and Misiak pushed back, and the Grizzlies got their own stretch of possession. Hanson got a gorgeous opportunity one-on-one against Cannata, but the puck rolled off his stick before he could get the shot off.

With 1:13 to go, Branham went with Pelech, Thomas, and Hanson, but extra time went the same way as regulation, and neither team could break the deadlock.

The Grizzlies’ shoot-out woes continued, as the Eagles scored two to Utah’s none, and they took it 1-0.

Once again, Carr did a terrific job, and though he didn’t get one of the stars of the game, he definitely deserved one. Overall, Utah played really well…and yet couldn’t bury any of their chances in a game that was an abrupt return to the status quo of great play with nothing to show for it after last weekend’s offensive outpouring.

On the positive side, in addition to Carr’s shut out, the defensive play has never missed a beat, even without two of their best defencemen in James Melindy and Cliff Watson. A lot of that is down to Chris Leibinger, who has stepped up in a big way, as well as to the skill of Jones and Richart. On the less positive side, while Utah got 20 shots in the first, 11 in the second, and only three in the third and OT. On the other hand, they weren’t exactly haemorrhaging shots against, keeping Colorado to three in the first, seven in the second, nine in the third, and four in OT.

Moreover, the Grizzlies did a good job staying disciplined, only taking three penalties, and killing them all off with very strong play. Jones got five shots, Hanson got four, the Ryans, Zach Saar, and Brad Navin all had three, while only four Grizzlies were held off the shot chart.

Branham was very pleased with his team’s play without the puck, and on the defensive side of things against the best team in the west, but was understandably less pleased with the return to lack of scoring. He stressed again the importance of burying chances on the power play, and finding a way to finish on all those scoring chances against a better team than Rapid City.

They’ll have another chance on the road against Colorado on Thursday, before returning home to play the Eagles on the 23rd.

Utah Grizzlies: The Phantom Menace

After winning 8-3 against the Rush on Friday night, the Grizzlies’ line-up remained unchanged, with the exception of Angus Redmond getting the start.

Utah got the first two shots of the game, but the Rush answered quickly, getting the next four, and throwing their weight around. The Grizzlies got some looks in the first five minutes, but by-and-large, Rapid City kept the play moving towards the Utah zone.

With 14:08 to go, the Ryan Line charged the net, Ryan Olsen got the shot, and they drew the first power play of the game. They drew another power play when Peter Sivak got a throwing-the-stick call. The Grizzlies got a couple of shots on the minute long five-on-three, re-establishing their shot lead, but they were unable to put the puck past former Utah goalie Shane Owen.

One thing the power play did, however, was allow the Grizzlies to take back momentum from a Rush team working hard after the 8-3 drubbing. Olsen got a shot off one-on-one against Owen on a tight angle with 9:52 to go, but Owen kept it scoreless.

Chris Leibinger made a couple of huge blocks in the defensive zone, that led to an odd-man rush between Kyle Thomas and Ryan Misiak. Misiak put the puck past Owen, and gave Utah the 1-0 lead from Thomas and Redmond. The goal energized the team, and they started to absolutely fly. Michael Pelech got a gorgeous shot of his own, and Tommy Maxwell got sent to the box with 6:31 to go in the frame.

On the power play, Olsen got slashed, and then stapled to the boards, but Utah kept control of the puck. Kyle Thomas got into it with a Rush player in front of the net, and got sent off to the box with 4:50 to go, and 20 seconds left on the Maxwell penalty. The penalty kill returned to its former state, however, Hanson getting a short-handed chance, and then killing it off.

With 2:26 to go, Kenton Miller boarded Taylor Richart, and Erik Higby made him pay. Richart and Olsen got the assists on Higby’s second in two games.

After 20, Utah led 2-0, shots 20-13 tying their season high. Redmond’s  play definitely held the Grizzlies in it early on.

The teams traded opportunities and zone time in the first five minutes, but once again, Owen and Redmond were up to the challenge. Utah drew a power play with 15:24 to go, but were unable to capitalize.

The Grizzlies did not exactly make Redmond’s life easy in the second period, and he came up pretty big for them. With almost exactly 10 minutes left in the period, Sam Windle rang the post.

That post could have been haunting, as Richart took a delay of game penalty with 8:40 to go. They were able to kill it off, but an egregious turn over left Maxwell all alone in the slot. He beat Redmond, and cut the lead in half with 6:25 to go in the second.

Shortly thereafter, they had another bad turnover, but fortunately, nothing came of that one. Utah returned to their puck possession game with about four minutes to go from all their lines.

Owen stood on his head on a flurry of shots from a determined first line jumped on some rebounds. At the buzzer, Misiak got bumped at the boards, and Walters and Olsen objected vehemently. Olsen and Maxwell took matching roughing calls, and the refs herded the teams to the locker room. After 40, shots were 28-21 for Utah (but 8-8 in the frame), and the score 2-1.

The third period opened with two solid minutes of four-on-four, but then the Rush pressured. The third line got the engine going again, but Owen made a couple of big saves on Zach Saar and C.J. Eick, and Redmond was called upon to make a save of his own as the puck went the other way. Misiak and Walters got an odd-man rush as well, but again Owen shut the door.

With 13:13 left, Rapid City once again capitalized on Utah sloppiness, erasing the lead.

Greger Hanson restored the lead, 1:14 after the Rush tied it, once again started by a Leibinger play. The assists on Hanson’s eighth went to Leibinger and Pelech.

Rapid City continued to skate hard, Misiak got a break-away that went wide, and at 10:08, Thomas restored the two goal lead on a dazzling display of skill. Hanson and Olsen got the assists 1:51 after the game was tied.

Maxwell went back to the box for roughing immediately after that, but they didn’t extend the lead. Unfortunately, Utah was unable to get the puck out of their own end shortly after that, and Rapid City closed the lead again with seven minutes to go, as they refused to go away.

Navin, Higby, and Saar got a two on one, and helped re-establish puck possession.

With just a bit over four minutes to go, Hanson beat out an icing, and threw the puck across crease to Pelech, who put the puck past Owen for his eighth of the year.

Rapid City got in on a breakaway, Redmond made a terrific save, and Richart whisked the rebound out of harm’s way with less than two minutes to go.

The Rush pulled Owen with a minute to go, Utah held possession, but were unable to get a shot on the empty net. With 23 seconds to go, the Rush drew within one, scoring short-side, and then taking their time out.

Olsen won the face-off following the time out, keeping Owen stuck in his net. Redmond made the save with nine seconds left. Olsen again took the draw in the defensive zone, as Rapid City pulled Owen once more. The Rush got control of the puck, but Redmond pounced on the puck. With four seconds to go, Branham called his time out. Olsen won the final face-off, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had held on for their second straight win.

Thomas (1G, 1A, 3 shots), Pelech (1G, 2A, 5 shots), and Olsen (2A, 4 shots) were named the three stars of the game, while Redmond got his second win of the season. Misiak now has goals in consecutive games, and seven points in the last six, while Olsen now has eight points in six games, including five over the weekend. The first line, meanwhile combined for a total of seven points on Saturday, and a total of 15 in the last two. Higby also has goals in two straight.

“I thought our guys did a good job of creating scoring chances,” Coach Branham said after the game. “It was good to see. I mean, we were on a huge scoring drought, and playing good hockey, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. Now we’ve done eight and five. We just gotta keep that rolling, we’re playing a good team next week in Colorado, we’re gonna need that same effort out of everybody to come out with the win.”

When asked what the team needs to do to carry on their winning ways against Colorado–who they have yet to beat this season–he added:

“Just play the same way, all the games have been one goal, except for one or something, but it’s a different story when you have Thomas down, and you’ve got that fire power, those two lines that are playing with a lot of confidence right now. I like our chances. I thought our D were a little tired out there today, going two nights back-to-back going with five D I thought put a little stress on them, but Colorado is good, we gotta be disciplined. They’re good on the power play, we’ve just gotta make sure we play a solid game, and score on our scoring chances the last two games.”

Utah will play the Eagles twice in Loveland, before finishing off the year at home against Colorado and Idaho.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff