Finally. A win.
However, as promised, we gotta start with the Wednesday game. It’ll be quick. I promise.
The lowdown on the 5-2 loss:
- Ryan Walters and Ryan Olsen continued their strong play and goal scoring, on a line together with Greger Hanson
- It looked like Walters had scored with 13:09 to go in the first, but the goal was waived off on a high-stick, and that bad luck seemed to dog them all game. That same line had already rung the post earlier, and it seemed as though Brad Navin hit iron at least twice.
- Kevin Carr was perhaps the shakiest he’s looked all season, giving up four goals on ten shots, and was pulled for Angus Redmond half way through the game.
- Utah looked like they were playing a little scared, understandable when every mistake made seems to have led to disaster lately.
- The Grizzlies drew a surprisingly high three goaltender interference penalties.
- Speaking of power plays, special teams went well for Utah, Walters scoring on the penalty kill, and Olsen on the power play.
- They say goalies can’t stop what they can’t see. Ryan Faragher stopped those too. It was that kind of night.
- There was a line-brawl to end the game, Jones dropping the gloves, and Navin, Olsen, and Pelech all in the thick of it. Once the dust settled, Navin and Mitch Moroz got matching misconducts and roughing calls, Olsen got a rough, Jones got a double minor, and Faragher ended up with a leaving the crease violation. Likewise somehow or other, Travis Howe, who was did not play, ended up in the middle of the kerfuffle, and was consequently suspended indefinitely.
- Quote of note, Walters told Adam Turner of the Tribune that the Grizzlies just needed to get one win to get going again.
Now on to the good stuff.
Looking to stop the losing skid at nine, the lineup looked a little different on Friday night in Idaho.
Out were Michael Pelech and Brad Navin (and Charley Graaskamp), and in were Garrett Haar and Brendan Harms. Tim Branham opted to go with nine forwards and seven defencemen, while Kevin Carr looked for a bounce back start. To start the game, Greger Hanson skated with Ryan Olsen and Erik Higby, Ryan Walters centered Ryan Misiak and Brendan Harms, while Jon Puskar centered Zach Saar and C.J. Eick.
Not a whole lot happened in the first couple of minutes, but at 3:01 Carr made a great save, and James Melindy took a penalty. The penalty kill did a terrific job, however, allowing zero shots, even though the majority of the short-handed situation was played in their zone. Puskar was especially noticeable with two big blocked shots.
Hanson and Olsen spent a good ten seconds fighting the Steelheads in the offensive zone, and then Harms and Misiak both got point blank shots one after the other, and drew a power play with 11:53 left in the first. Utah looked pretty good on the advantage, but came up empty.
Both teams played good hockey in the minutes that followed, the shots staying close, and the score remaining 0-0. Saar and Corbin Baldwin exchanged shoves by the Idaho net with under five minutes to go, but it quickly came to nothing.
with just under 3:30 to go, Misiak, Harms, and Walters had a glorious up ice rush, added and abetted by Mitch Jones, putting the shot count up to 11-9 for Utah. Though they didn’t score, they drew another power play.
Another power saw the Grizzlies throw a flurry of shots on Philippe Desrosiers, giving them 16 on the period, but still not finding the back of the net.
Saar took a high-sticking penalty with 18 seconds to go, and after 20, Utah was out-shooting Idaho 16-10. Nevertheless, the score remained locked at zero.
Utah began the second with 1:42 of penalty time, which they killed off. They were short-handed almost immediately afterwards, however, as Puskar took a slashing call at 2:01. Once again, the penalty kill went to work. Harms made a couple of good plays, and Misiak continued to spend time running Idaho back into their own end.
Puskar evened the score later in the period, drawing an interference call steamrolling towards the Idaho net at 7:01. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies had a little trouble keeping the puck in the zone, but escaped any potential disasters.
At 11:39 it looked like Henrik Samuelsson had taken the puck away from Walters at the blue line, and was poised for a breakaway, but the only reason he got the puck to begin with was on an infraction, so Utah went to the power play yet again. The power play never really got clicking, though, and Idaho killed it off.
There was a pretty close call with about 3:30 left in the frame, when Carr made one save, scrambled for the other, and a Utah player whisked the puck out of danger. The pace favoured Idaho through the tail end of the second, and it paid off for them as the Steelheads scored on a three-on-two with 54 seconds left. It felt like an all-too-familiar back-breaker
The beginning of the third was slightly nerve-racking, as Utah pushed for some offense, and the defence fell apart a little in consequence.
To start the period, Branham also shuffled the lines up, putting Ryan Misiak together with Ryan Olsen and Ryan Walters, and the Ryan Line was born. It payed off on just their second shift, as Misiak tied the game from Walters and Jones at 4:13.
The Grizzlies were stuck running around their own zone following the goal, and at 8:18 Jones took a slashing call. Fortunately, the Grizzlies looked sharper on the PK than they had in the four minutes or so after the goal.
Haar iced the puck with 5:46 to go, and he and Windle were stuck in the defensive zone for an agonizing 46 seconds before they got a whistle.
The Ryan Line got the first offensive zone shift in what seemed like absolute ages a couple of minutes later, followed by one from Hanson, Higby, and Harms.
With less than a minute left, it looked like Utah was headed for yet another gut-wrenching OT, but Olsen received a perfect pass from Ryan Misiak behind the net, and while Idaho was distracted by a hit on Walters, he made no mistake. Thirty-nine seconds left, 2-1 Grizzlies.
Olsen’s third goal in three games held up for the game winner. Kevin Carr raised his arms to the sky, and was mobbed by his jubilant teammates.
It was only a 2-1 win, but it felt bigger than that. All through the losing streak, Branham kept preaching the same message. Work hard. Play the same way. It was incredibly frustrating at times, but they did it. And for the first time since November 11th, it finally paid off.
Ryan Walters, Ryan Misiak, and Ryan Olsen combined for five points on the night. Olsen and Misiak both had five shots, as did Richart, while Hanson and Harms both had four. Walters’ four game goal streak came to an end, but he now has seven points in five games, while Mitch Jones was once more in the thick of things.
But enough about people not named Kevin Carr. What is there left to be said. He’s been a rock for the Grizzlies. His resilience and mental fortitude have been incredible through an agonizing nine games where he fought tooth and nail to keep the score close for a stone cold offense—and often succeeded. He came back from a couple iffy outings with monster performances, and if he ever cracked under the weight of it, it never carried over into the next game.
Obviously, there are still issues. Every goal in the last five games has been scored by Greger Hanson or someone named Ryan. That’s not exactly sustainable. Nor was tonight’s game anywhere near perfect. That being said, as much as losing nine straight sucked, Utah also got points in five of those nine losses, and as much as there are things to work on still, they finally got the win.
Hopefully this is that one win Walters said Utah needed to get out of their funk.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and Jess Fleming