After a strong game on Friday, Saturday’s roster was unchanged, with one exception. Utah played five defencemen with Mitch Jones out after getting banged up in the game before.
The game got off to an eventful start, Zach Saar got hit close after the opening face-off, but the Allen player bounced off him, Brad Navin got hit, Allen was sent off for charging, and Jake Marchment made it 1-0 on the power play less than two minutes in. Michael Pelech took an interference call at 2:36, but the Grizzlies killed it off comfortably.
Allen had quite a push after the power play, but Utah pushed back before things got rather sloppy in Utah’s own end. They did pull themselves together again with around seven minutes to go.
Richart took a slashing call, and the Americans tied it up on a scramble in which Casey Pierro-Zabotel poked the puck into the net past a lunging Joel Rumpel.
Saar drew the ire of the Allen players running into Stephon Williams, and got sent off together with Gage Ausmus, and Colby McAuley who got unsportsmanlikes each.
The Americans negated their power play when David Makowski tripped up Ryan Walters, and the Grizzlies made no mistake. Austin Ortega fed Brad Navin for their second goal and assist combo in two games, while Taylor Richart got the secondary assist.
So after three combined power play goals, Utah went into the first intermission leading 2-1, shots 13-13.
Utah drew an early power play a couple of minutes in, but though they had some good possession for the majority of the advantage, they were unable to capitalize against Jeremy Brodeur, who took over in nets for the second and third periods.
Ryan Misiak took a tripping call at 7:28, which was frustrating, as they had picked up four shots to Allen’s one, and had looked like the much more engaged team. That continued to be the theme, as the penalty kill avoided danger. Richart got called for interference at 11:21, but between a good kill, and a lethargic power play from Allen, the score remained 2-1.
Allen once again woke up briefly after their power play, but Rumpel made the necessary saves, and Utah pulled themselves together again, thanks in part to a great shift by Brendan and the Ryans.
With 10 seconds to go in the frame, Sam Windle got boarded, and the period ended on a Utah power play, shots 23-22 for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies ran into issues getting set up, but then Navin got in one-on-one against Brodeur, and Utah got a decent amount of time five-on-three, then five-on-four, but weren’t able to capitalize.
They played better through the middle of the frame, and with around eleven to go, Allen wasn’t able to get the puck out of their own end, and the rebound from a Melindy blast went straight to Ortega’s stick. All alone in front of Brodeur, Ortega made no mistake to give the Grizzlies the 3-1 lead.
Allen pressured again after the goal, but Rumpel again held down the fort, and despite the Americans pulling Brodeur and the Grizzlies taking a late slashing call, Navin’s 2-1 goal held up for the game winner, and the Grizzlies swept the weekend in Texas.
Navin, Marchment, and Rumpel were named the three stars of the game, and were certainly deserving. But they were by no means the only ones who played well. Ortega picked up a goal and an assist, and is one of seven players who had points in both games (one of three with multiple points in the series). Maxwell hasn’t got his first point with Utah yet, but he’s been great for the Grizzlies, going hard into corners, retrieving pucks, and gaining fans with his grin and chat approach to scrums. Ausmus and Marchment continue to add stability and strength up and down the roster, as well as offensive flair, and Rumpel has definitely given Utah the saves they’ve needed. Really, the whole team played well, especially guys like Melindy, Pelech, Mann, Richart, and Misiak who were all rewarded with points.
It is much to be hoped that with two really strong wins under their belt, the team has turned a corner, and can continue to pick up wins (or barring that, honest losses) starting with the matinee today against Idaho.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming, and staff.