After a win in Wichita on Friday night, Utah looked to build on their success. The roster remained the same, Utah once again going with ten forwards, five defensemen, and Kevin Carr on Saturday night.
The Thunder were much more active early, controlling play through the first three minutes. Fortunately, Carr was sharp, and though they weren’t able to keep Wichita out of the offensive zone, they didn’t give up many shots.
The third line got a flurry of opportunities, and Taylor Richart rang the post about five minutes in. Brendan and the Ryans also followed that up with a strong shift.
Michael Pelech took a tripping call for the first penalty of the game, but Olsen grabbed the puck, sprinted out of the zone, shot, and Chris Leibinger slipped one past Shane Starrett at 10:57.
Utah almost immediately drew a tripping call of their own, but were unable to capitalize on the advantage. It didn’t matter, however, because Brendan and the Ryans had a terrific shift, and Misiak made it 2-0 from Harms and Cliff Watson.
Kyle Thomas drew a massive crowd with 2:30 to go, but except for it taking a few moments to break up, nothing came of it, and the period came to an end. Utah led 2-0, out-shooting Wichita 11-9.
Although Brendan and the Ryans had a strong shift a few minutes into the second, it ended with the puck trickling past Carr with agonizing slowness off the stick of Ralph Cuddemi. Cuddemi’s thirteenth of the year would be the Thunder’s only goal.
Mitch Jones took a high-sticking call at 9:14, but Thomas flew in, and scored the Grizzlies’ second short-handed goal of the game.
Misiak nearly got the second line another goal when he received a breakaway pass with about three minutes to go, but Starrett shut the door.
In the end, it didn’t matter either, as the next shift was a good one, and Walters made it 4-1 at 17:59. The assists went to Watson and Jon Puskar.
Olsen took a roughing call towards the end of the period, but Utah went into the locker room 4-1, with the 23-17 edge in shots.
Utah killed off the remainder of Olsen’s penalty to start the third, but Pelech collided with a Wichita player, and both had to be helped off the ice. This put Utah down to nine forwards and five defensemen, but it hindered them not at all.
The rest of the third was surprisingly uneventful, with no penalties, and no goals.
Wichita did hold possession throughout the middle of the period, evening up the shots 24-24, but between shot blocking and some amazing saves from Carr, the game came to an end with no change in score, shots 26-26.
Walters and Misiak were awarded the first and second stars of the game, Walters extending his goal-scoring streak to three (five points in two games) while Misiak now has goals in consecutive games. Olsen picked up his fourth primary assist in two games, while Puskar’s assist gave him his fourth point in three games. Austin Ortega put up a team-leading five shots, while Watson picked up two assists, before heading out to the ECHL All-Star game.
The Grizzlies have now turned in two very strong outings after the pair of disastrous games against Rapid City, scoring four goals in each game. They also did some damage on special teams, with two power play goals on Friday, and two short-handed goals on Saturday. Likewise, the first period or so of Friday’s game, and the lone goal on Saturday aside, it looks like Carr has returned to form.
Hopefully Utah will be able to keep the momentum rolling on Monday afternoon, when they kick off the first of four straight against the Rush.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff