With the the finish line coming up fast, the Grizzlies received a boost on the blue line with the return of Taylor Richart. Joel Rumpel got the start, while Charley Graaskamp drew in for Brad Navin.
Utah got off to a pretty decent start, following up an early shot from Idaho with a couple of good shifts in a row. Sam Babintsev drew a penalty. Brendan Harms missed just wide on a gorgeous pass from Graaskamp, and Kyle Thomas had the puck roll through the blue paint after he beat Tomas Sholl, but hit the iron.
Tomas got the better of Thomas a couple of shifts later, as Kyle got in on a breakaway but couldn’t beat the Idaho goalie.
Babintsev looked sharp early, drawing that first penalty, forcing a couple of turn overs, even though he wasn’t credited with a shot until the third period. Utah also probably got away with one around the same time when an Idaho player was run over by the Utah blue line.
James Melindy took a hooking call at 11:47, and though Richart made a couple of nice clears early on in the kill, Rumpel stopped the first shot by Joe Faust, but Connor Chatham put the puck past him at 12:32.
Mitch Maxwell took a tripping call at 16:15 but the Grizzlies killed it off, with some good play from the penalty killers, and a very snazzy glove save from Rumpel.
At the end of twenty, Idaho led 1-0, out-shooting Utah 13-6.
Brendan and the Ryans buzzed on the first shift, Harms just missing Misiak on the cross-ice pass. Idaho responded on the rest of that shift, but the second line pushed right back.
Sholl put the puck over the glass at 2:20, and though it was first ruled as tipped, the refs gathered, and the Grizzlies got a power play.
At 5:32, the 24s, Travis Howe, and Zach Bell dropped the gloves. Howe got in far more punches, before the two exchanged back pats and headed off to the box. Richart took a cross-checking call moments later, but the Grizzlies killed that off as well.
The game went into a bit of a lull for a few minutes in the middle of the frame, Idaho more or less getting the best of it. The Grizzlies did get a good offensive zone shift about forteen minutes in, but the play went the other way before they could do anything with it. Despite a couple of huge saves by Rumpel, Utah couldn’t clear it, and Idaho made it 2-0.
Graaskamp took an apparent hooking call at 15:16, and then got a ten minute misconduct, presumably for arguing the call. Howe served it, but the Grizzlies killed it off, and on the very next shift, Walters was taken down, going awkwardly into the net and then the boards. He seemed to be ok, but the power play was lethargic at best.
At the end of 40, shots were 21-11 for Idaho, Howe’s fight being the most exciting moment for Utah.
Howe laid a big hit and Michael Neville retaliated with a cross-check that sent the Grizzlies to the power play once more. Though they did a pretty good job keeping the puck in the offensive zone, the Steelheads did an equally good job keeping Utah around the perimeter. Babintsev got one of the better looks on the play, firing from the slot, but Idaho returned to full strength.
Half way through the period, Mitch Jones was left alone to defend Jefferson Dahl and Cole Ully, and Ully put the puck past Rumpel.
On the very next shift, the puck squeaked past Rumpel, sitting in the blue paint. Unfortunately, it was the players in black who pounced, making it 4-0 with everyone but Howe and Walters standing still.
Melindy took a holding call as tempers flared around the Utah net, but the Grizzlies killed that off as well.
Jones drew a penalty with 3:03 to go, taking a stick up high, and Utah pulled Rumpel in favor of an extra skater. The Steelheads shot the puck down the ice, and a short-handed empty-netter. It was the final nail in the coffin, and when the buzzer went, the Grizzlies had been soundly beaten 5-0, out-shot 31-20.
For a goalie that let in four goals, Rumpel played a pretty good game. Richart and Babintsev had moments, as did Harms and the Ryans, and Howe’s fight was definitely well timed and entertaining, but overall, it was an incredibly underwhelming showing after the first part of the opening period. After the game against Colorado, which showed exactly what Utah is capable of, and with the playoffs at stake, this was not the kind of effort the Grizzlies or their fans wanted to see.
The playoffs are still not an impossibility, but with Allen getting an OT point, and Tulsa winning in regulation, Utah is going to have to be flawless going forward, and get a healthy dose of help from around the division.
They get a chance to redeem themselves tonight (Saturday) in their last meeting with Idaho.