For the third game against Rapid City in three games, the Grizzlies more or less kept their roster intact on Sunday, with the exception of Travis Howe drawing in, and Mitch Jones sitting the game out.
Howe made his presence felt at once, dropping the gloves with Anthony Collins at 1:43.
Brad Navin continued to get chances, as the Grizzlies once again dominated play in the first four minutes. Once again, however, Rapid City struck first at 3:52, Daniel Leavens from Peter Sivak and Riley Weselowski.
Jon Puskar took a slashing call at 5:26, but the Grizzlies came on with a vengeance, Brendan Harms scoring short-handed at 6:13.
James Melindy took a cross-checking call, giving Rapid City a decent five-on-three, and though they killed off the five-on-three, Rapid City scored on the power play.
The Grizzlies responded again, Walters on another terrific pass from Navin.
Howe had a couple of nice moves on both sides of the ice, and the Puskar line had a strong shift that ended in Ryan Misiak getting robbed by Christian Frey.
After 20, shots were 11-9 for the Rush, but tied 2-2.
The Grizzlies and Rush both had chances in the first half of the second, Walters, and Mann especially getting looks for Utah.
The pressure paid off, as Kyle Thomas made a beautiful pass to Cliff Watson, who made no mistake, putting Utah up 3-2 at 9:13.
Unfortunately, Rapid City tied it up again with 3:36 to go. On the very next shift, Walters tried to sell a goal, but after the officials gathered, it was called no goal.
At the end of a penalty-less second period (even after the tussle between Weselowski and Walters), they were tied 3-3, shots 19-16 in Rapid City’s favor.
The two teams exchanged chances, but at 5:34 Rapid City took a tripping call, and Ortega pounced. He struck again less than two minutes later, giving Utah their first two-goal lead of the game at 7:34.
Utah maintained the lead, but were unable to extend it on the power play just past the half-way mark of the third.
The Rush pulled Frey with 1:30 to go, and Ortega just missed the empty-net hat trick. Puskar made no mistake on the next shift though, fighting past a Rapid City defender to score his tenth of the year from Walters and Ortega. Leibinger took a slashing call with 17 seconds to go, but Utah killed it off to win the game.
Ortega now has 12 points in nine games with Utah, and was named second star of the game with two goals and an assist, while Watson’s goal and assist earned him second star.
The Grizzlies returned to Utah with three of a possible six points, and thank to loses from teams ahead of them in the standings, are within striking distance of the final playoff spot.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff