In a rare morning game (something that hasn’t happened since Assistant Coach Ryan Kinasewich was on the bench instead of behind it). The roster remained the same as it had on Saturday, with the exception of Nate Mitton, who drew in after Mitch Hults was called back up to San Diego.
The Grizzlies began the game with a lot of buzz, and even when Rapid City got their skates under them, the first five minutes went to Utah, who outshot them 4-0.
So of course, the Rush scored first on their second shot from a tight angle. They were not allowed to rest on their lead very long, however, as Taylor Richart tied it up less than two minutes later on a big shot from the point at 10:30.
Austin Ortega drew the first call of the game at 11:50, but though Utah got a couple of shots, they were unable to get a second one past Adam Vay. Instead, Kenton Miller capitalized on a number of breakdowns in front of the Utah net for their second of the game with about five to go.
That’s more or less where the first period derailed. Kyle Thomas was high-sticked with two minutes left, and Alex Kromm pulled a clearly reluctant James Melindy into a fight.
Somehow, after all that, Melindy got two for instigating, negating the power play. The Grizzlies bench continued to protest, and were eventually called for a bench minor. Fortunately, Ryan Walters drew a slashing call at 18:40 to put the teams back four-on-four.
After 20, Utah trailed 2-1, outshooting the Rush 8-6.
Walters tied the game up at 1:39 from Ortega to once more tie it up. Rapid City got some zone time of their own after the goal, and Walters followed that up with a delay of game penalty at 4:41.
At 6:12, Mitch Jones and Daniel Leavens got tied up on the neutral zone, gloves went everywhere, and both got four for roughing. Jones went to the room, rather than the box, but returned shortly after the penalty expired. Both teams returned to full strength with no change of score. Unfortunately, however, a defensive turnover led directly to Miller’s 3-2 goal soon after returning to full strength.
Walters drew another slashing call at 10:40, but despite getting a couple of good looks, including a point-blank chance from the Captain, Rapid City drew a power play of their own with seven to go.
Walters got a good shot off on the kill, and he and Jones chased the Rush around their own zone. Rapid City maintained really strong possession of the puck coming off the power play, but Maguire dove to smother the puck, effectively putting an end to the onslaught.
Ortega took a holding call at 16:42, but Cliff Watson was high-sticked under a minute later, and left bleeding pretty heavily. It gave Utah a brief four-on-four, and then a considerable advantage that carried over into the third.
After getting patched up during the intermission, Watson returned to start the third, the power play fell flat, but Brad Navin threw a shot on goal, and as everyone looked around, Brendan Harms jumped on the puck, and tied the game.
The Ryans followed the goal up with a very nice shift, and at 4:52 they drew a power play. Brief, and averted defensive disaster aside, the power play moved the puck well, and got the chances they wanted, but didn’t convert. The defense continued to struggle though, and at 8:18, Miller capitalized once more on a mistake in front of the net for the hat trick.
Thomas took a slashing call half-way through the period, but Utah killed it off, though not without another skirmish by the Grizzlies’ net.
Jones went off to the room again shortly thereafter, and to make bad worse, yet another disastrous defensive turnover led to the Rush’s first two-goal lead of the afternoon at 17:19.
Utah pulled Maguire for the extra skater, and what had been such a close game for so much of the game ended 6-3 on an empty netter, shots 27-26 for Utah.
So, once again, turnovers by Utah’s top defense, and Rapid City capitalizing on every mistake killed what had otherwise been a close (if not particularly strong) game.
Once again, Utah wins one and loses one, and is still seeking consistency—especially from the defense. At least, with three goals, the offense is still showing signs of life, even with Vay giving Grizzlies fans a creeping feeling of deja vu.
So Utah will have to try again to pick up a win against the Rush on Friday.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff.