Utah Grizzlies: Playing Catch-Up

Looking to pick up their seventh straight win, Utah turned to Sean Maguire in nets, and Mitch Jones returned to the lineup after missing seven straight games. With Jones’ return, Nate Mitton sat out as the Grizzlies returned to ten forwards and six defensemen.

It was not Utah’s best start, as they looked a little wobbly off the face-off, and it cost them, as the Mallards scored 43 seconds into the game on a huge shot. They settled down considerably after that, the third line helping tremendously in that regard.

Sam Babintsev drew a power play about five minutes in, and the Rookie of the Month wasted no time in getting yet another goal. Austin Ortega’s power play marker from Michael Pelech and Taylor Richart tied the game.

Sam Windle took an interference call at 8:28, but the Grizzlies killed it off. However, at 11:27 Kyle Bigos scored off the face-off on a lightning shot to once more give the Mallards the lead. At that point, things certainly looked less than ideal, as they trailed 2-1, and were being out-shot by a count of 15-3.

At 17:59 the Grizzlies pounced on a lose puck in the offensive zone, and Jake Marchment sniped on Ivan Kulbakov to restore the tie.

Ortega took a slashing call with 21 seconds left, but after twenty, the game was tied 2-2, the shots a far more respectable 16-10.

The second didn’t get off to a great start either, as Pelech took a cross-checking call 32 seconds in, putting Utah on a five-on-three for over a minute. The Grizzlies were able to kill off the five-on-three, but Ortega had barely made it out of the box when Tristan King gave the Mallards the 3-2 lead.

The usual scoring suspects went charging into the offensive zone, Kulbakov went on a wild adventure, and before Ortega could pounce on the mistake, the whistle was blown on a supposed hand pass.

The defense lost the puck behind the Utah net, and at 3:29 the Mallards made it 4-2. Joel Rumpel came in at that point for Maguire, who really couldn’t be blamed for the state of the game.

The Grizzlies drew a power play following a brief scrum in front of Rumpel, and just five seconds in, Walters made it 4-3.

Unfortunately, the Mallards pounced immediately, and made it 5-3 abuot a minute later.

After such a fast and furious opening six minutes, the back half of the period was slightly less eventful. The BAM line had a couple of shifts that came painfully close to finding the net, and Rumpel made a number of big saves.

Rob Mann and Brayden Low got into a net-front skirmish, Mann getting a double roughing call, and Low getting just two. However, Utah killed it off.

Despite another strong shift from Ortega, Pelech, and Navin, and a rocket from Richart, the Grizzlies went into the second intermission down 5-3, out-shot 29-24.

The third opened with a bang, Walters scoring unassisted 55 seconds in. On the very next shift, Misiak made it 5-5.

They weren’t allowed to rest on their laurels, however, as Low made it 6-5 a little over a minute later. The action didn’t stop there, as Misiak was sent somersaulting, and Utah got their third power play of the night.

They weren’t able to convert this time, but they followed that up with a couple of strong offensive zone shifts.

Harms dropped the puck off for Richart, who blasted it into the net, but supposedly the net was off, despite no whistle, and they called it off.

With the BAM line once again causing trouble around the Mallards’ net, Ortega drew a tripping call at 9:36. Navin tied it for real on the ensuing power play, extending his scoring streak to seven games with assists from Ortega and Pelech.

Richart took a puck up high shortly afterwards, but got up and remained under the bench, and took his usual shift afterwards.

Quad City kept things interesting, robbing Walters of a hat trick, and then beating Rumpel, but not the post.

The Grizzlies took over the lead in shots 36-34 with three minutes left, but despite a big shift from Misiak, the game went to OT after a big third goal period. Both teams came close, Misiak and Harms especially, but the extra five once again solved nothing. Babinsev and Navin both beat Kulbakov on perfectly placed backhanders, but neither Walters nor Ortega capitalized, and Utah fell 7-6.

So the winning streak is over, but the point streak continues, as do Ortega’s, Navin’s, and Richart’s scoring streaks. Moreover, Walters, who earned second star of the game with two goals one assist, is over a point a game on the season (53 points in 48 games), and has eight points in the last five. Likewise, Misiak has twelve points in the last ten, and Marchment has seven points in the seven games he’s played with the Grizzlies.

The playoff race has become very interesting, as the Oilers, Americans, and Grizzlies are all fighting for the final spot, currently sitting at 59, 58, and 57 points respectively. With fifteen games left in the season, the Grizzlies post season push is bound to be an exciting (if stressful) one.

In a quick turn around, the Grizzlies play the Indy Fuel tonight and tomorrow before returning home for a home stand against Allen.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Staying Hot

After a very successful, if brief home-stand, the Grizzlies were back on the road again in the Quad Cities. With Chris Leibinger and Mitch Jones still out, the Grizzlies again went with five defensemen and eleven forwards. After all, why mess with success? Joel Rumpel got the start in nets.

The Mallards were full of jump early, but after five minutes both teams had three shots each. The teams continued to exchange zone time, but it was Utah who struck first, Brad Navin extending his points streak to six games with a big shot for his tenth goal of the year. Austin Ortega and Sam Windle got the assists. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes later, Quad City tied it up on a huge shot of their own.

The Grizzlies got the first power play of the game, but were unable to get anything going. However, Ryan Walters gave them back the lead moments afterward.

Windle got an elbowing penalty at 16:49, but the Grizzlies killed it off, and after 20, they led 2-1, out-shooting the Mallards 11-7.

Navin sprang Ortega on a glorious breakaway 3:16 into the second, giving them a brief two goal lead. The Mallards drew within one again just over a minute later, however.

Walters went down with 11:45 to go either from a stick or the puck, but he remained on the bench, and ended up not missing a shift.

Brendan Harms had a couple of  great looks one one shift around the half-way mark of the period, while Sam Babintsev and Mitch Maxwell both had great opportunities to get their firsts of the year.

All three lines had an amazing couple of shifts shortly after the fifteen minute mark, but weren’t able to beat Ivan Kulbakov, who had himself quite a game.

Harms and Kulbakov took matching minors at 18:39, and at the end of the second, Utah had out-shot the Mallards 23-12 in the frame, hitting the locker room up 3-2.

Ryan Misiak got in all alone about four minutes into the third, and made no mistake, giving Utah their second two goal lead of the game.

After what had been a pretty good shift, Nate Mitton took a tripping call at the seven minute mark, which Utah killed off. The action went back and forth through most of the rest of the period, Rumpel making a number of big saves, and Ortega nearly getting a second goal.

James Melindy took a high-sticking call with 2:19 to go and the Mallards pulled Kulbakov to skate six-on-four. With less than a minute to go, Walters put the cap on the victory, scoring short-handed into the empty net from Richart.

Ortega (one goal, one assist), and Walters (two goals) earned the first two stars of the night, while Navin (one goal one assist), and Richart (two assists) also picked up multiple points. Moreover, Navin (ten points) and Richart (nine points) extended their streaks to six straight games, while Ortega (seventeen points) extended his to eight. Though they didn’t come in consecutive games, Misiak has eight and Walters has six points over the span on the winning streak.

Utah looks to keep rolling, and start March off on the right foot with their seventh straight win tonight against the Mallards.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.