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

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