With Sean Maguire out on injured reserve, and Charley Graaskamp back from injury for the first time in months, there were some lineup changes ahead of Saturday’s game. Out were Travis Howe and Mitch Maxwell, and in were Graaskamp and Mitch Jones.
Joel Rumpel once again got the start, behind the BAM Line, James Melindy, and Taylor Richart.
Allen jumped up to an early lead as Gage Ausmus tied up Vincent Arseneau, but then lost him again just 36 seconds in. Ausmus took the first penalty of the game as well, getting sent off for hooking at 3:15.
The Utah PK wasn’t able to get a clear, but Sam Windle blocked a couple of big shots, and Rumpel made several quick saves before Arseneau beat him on a nice bit of passing.
Kyle Thomas was noticeable early, throwing his weight around, which another large crowd was quick to appreciate.
Ryan Misiak, Brendan Harms, and Sam Babintsev got in three on one, but the Allen defender got his stick down on the pass just past the half-way mark.
At 13:08 Melindy got boarded, and Arseneau tried to take Richart with him to the box, to no avail. Utah got a two minute five-on-three, but it was negated about forty seconds later, as Austin Ortega was sent to the box for slashing.
Utah had a mad scramble around the Allen net right as the penalties expired, but largely had to spend the four-on-three chasing the puck.
Allen scored again at 16:43, putting Utah down 3-0 before the end of the first. When the period ended, Utah was out-shot 13-8, still down by three.
The second period started with absolute chaos. Jake Marchment and Josh Thrower dropped the gloves right off the face-off, then Dalton Thrower took an interference call, then Graaskamp took an interference call, not even 1:30 into the second, and the two teams got ready for some four-on-four.
Michael Pelech broke the shut-out at 1:42, picking up the puck turned over after a big hit on Richart, and beating Paterson. Mike Gunn took an elbowing call at 2:24, but Utah wasn’t able to muster up a shot, just after it looked like the Grizzlies had gotten going, Gunn scored right after leaving the box.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored 6:05 in, putting Utah down 5-1. However, after that, though the line blender was in full swing, the pace settled down considerably. Harms took a hooking call at 19:17, and at the end of the period, Utah trailed 5-1, out-shot 26-13.
The third began well; Utah killed off Harms’ penalty, Windle laid a terrific hit near center ice, and Thomas drew a power play at 6:19. But it didn’t go entirely to plan, Alex Guptil scoring short handed 8:00 in.
A minute and thirty seconds later, Thomas pounced on a breakaway, and made it 6-2 unassisted. For reasons unknown, Allen elected to pull Jake Paterson in favor of Stephon Williams after Thomas’ goal. Utah drew another power play at 11:08, and though they didn’t capitalize, the reunited BAM Line was back to their strong play, showing the Maverik Center just what kind of hockey they’d been playing over the winning streak. The momentum continued even after the Americans returned to full strength, and Babintsev cut the lead neatly in half at 14:02, Ryan Walters and Harms picking up the assists.
With improved possession, zone time, passing, and defense, Utah continued to press, and at 18:04 Brad Navin extended his point streak, scoring his 13th of the season from Windle and Ortega, who also extended his point streak. Down 6-4, Utah pulled Rumpel, and called their time out. Unfortunately, the combined efforts of Walters, Ortega, Richart, Navin, Pelech and Thomas were unable to put the team within one, and in the end, Allen put one more into the empty net.
It was a disappointing end to the frankly impressive winning streak, but the end of the third period was one to build on. Thomas, who had a bit of a rocky comeback up until that point, was named third star of the game. Navin extended his point streak to eleven straight games, and has picked up 24 points in the last 22 games, while Ortega extended his to 13, with 45 points in 29 games. Although Richart’s scoring streak came to an end, he now leads all defensemen with 16 goals. Walters put up eight goals and five assists during the streak, while Misiak had five goals, six assists, and Pelech put up 12 points in 11 games.
“First off, I want to say that I’m really proud of this team for going on the run that they just went on. It was really good, we saw what kind of hockey we can play. When you’re the hottest team in the league, teams are going to gun at you. I think we’ve been playing some really good hockey, and this is just a small little hurdle, we’ll get back at it and get on another run here.”
So now, Utah heads to the snow buried East for a series against the Manchester Monarchs and Worcester Railers, where even without Ortega (recalled to the Gulls) they hope to start a new streak that will lead them to the playoffs.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.