For the first game of a six game home-stand, the Grizzies’ roster remained the same, Ryan Walters, Brad Navin, Austin Ortega, Cliff Watson, and James Melindy were all in the starting lineup for Utah, while Sean Maguire once again started for Utah.
The game started off with quite a bang, as Travis Howe dropped the gloves with Mike McKee at 2:40, and then barely a minute later Watson dropped the gloves with Kale Kessy. Watson got an extra two, and the Tulsa power play went to work. Grizzlies killed the penalty, and Ortega, and Kyle Thomas made the ensuing minutes quite interesting.
Maguire looked comfortable in his first game in front of the home crowd, and at 15:04 Chris Leibinger absolutely wired the puck to give Utah the 1-0 lead.
Utah got another chance on the advantage later in the period, but after 20, they led 1-0, out-shot 14-10.
Jon Puskar took a stick to the face 4:15 into the second, drawing a double minor, but the Grizzlies were unable to put the puck past Jake Hildebrand, and to make matters worse, Justin Selman scored short-handed with 21 seconds to go.
At 12:29 the third fight of the night occurred after a really quick whistle around the Tulsa net. This time, Howe dropped the gloves with Kale Kessy, and they both went of five five minutes.
Navin took a tripping call at 13:22, but Utah killed it off handily. The rough stuff by no means abated, and with just under 30 seconds go to, Kessy and Maguire got into it, both getting roughing calls.
When the second period came to a close, Tulsa out-shot Utah 22-16 in a 1-1 game.
The final frame opened with 1:38 of four-on-four time, and Ryan Misiak (who had been buzzing all game) got a couple of gorgeous chances, as did Brendan Harms, but both teams returned to full strength.
Misiak got high-sticked in the face about six minutes in, and in the aftermath of a no-call, Tulsa went the other way and took the 2-1 lead.
To add insult to injury, Walters was called for a fairly similar high-stick at 13:18. Though the Oilers did not score on the ensuing power play, by the time there were two minutes to go in the game, they were out-shooting the Grizzlies by a hefty 39-20, and largely out-playing them.
Maguire got pulled with just over a minute left, but Tulsa completed their win with an empty net goal.
Over all, it wasn’t a very inspiring performance from the Grizzlies, particularly in the third period, with a few exceptions. Misiak was noticeable on most of his shifts and was tied with Erik Higby for a team leading three shots. Maguire had a very good game, Howe did his best to spark the team on a number of occasions, and Leibinger’s goal earned him third star honours.
Overall, however, it was a disappointing result. The Oilers are directly ahead of the Grizzlies in the Mountain Division, and instead of leapfrogging them, they conceded two important points.
“Definitely our third period, the effort wasn’t good enough.” Branham said after the game. “To come out with six shots is clearly not what we wanted. Yeah that four minute was definitely a turning point. I don’t think either team got many chances on the power play, but it’s a tight game, definitely until the third period. I thought they controlled the play the majority of the third period. We’ve gotta make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Grizzlies have another crack at Tulsa tonight (Friday), as well as on Saturday, which is also Guns ‘N Hoses night.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff.