With four games behind them, Utah saw a bit of an injection of new blood in their third game against the Steelheads. Travis Barron (forward) and Nolan De Jong (defense), newly arrived from Colorado, both drew into the lineup, Barron taking the place of the injured Josh Winquist. The Grizzlies went with nine forwards and seven defensemen, and Kevin Carr got the start.
Utah took an early penalty as Ryan Walters went to the box for hooking, but the Grizzlies killed it off handily, allowing no shots on the disadvantage. De Jong got his first shot of the game, but though Austin Carroll mixed it up with a few Steelheads by the Idaho net, the first half of the period was fairly uneventful.
Unfortunately, in a scrambly shift, the Steelheads struck first Steven McParland getting the opening goal. Utah got a number of good looks, including a gorgeous pass from Caleb Herbert to Cole Ully, but though they put up an 8-1 shot advantage by the 11 minute mark, they continued to trail.
However, at 12:42, McParland took a hooking call of his own, and Ully wasted no time, making it one all at 13:32 from Carroll and Kevin Davis.
Utah played a very defensively responsible game, allowing only three shots through the period, all while picking up 13 of their own.
Utah came out hot to start the second, spending the first minute in the offensive zone.
Carroll and Herbert flew in on a two-on-none about five minutes into the second, but Philippe Desrosiers stopped the puck, and everyone went crashing into the net.
The third time was the charm though, as they say, and only a few minutes later, Herbert and Carroll got a two-on-one. This time, Herbert made no mistake at all.
Unfortunately, Idaho scored on the very next shift to tie it up again.
The Grizzlies had a a few defensive bobbles through the first half of the second, but always managed to come out in the right spot to prevent danger.
The first line continued to be absolutely white hot, as Herbert nonchalantly came around the back of the Idaho net, passed the puck to Ully, and picked up the primary assist on the absolute rocket Ully unleashed for his second of the game.
Idaho tried to mix things up a little next to Carr, despite Teigan Zahn standing right next to him, which led to four roughing calls on Zahn, Josh Anderson, Elgin Pearce, and Keegan Kanzig with about four to go.
At the end of the period, Barron and Jeff King decided they’d had enough, and got into a furious scuffle by the Utah bench that saw them both get roughing calls to start the third.
The third period saw the Grizzlies tighten up defensively again. After allowing 13 shots in the second, they allowed only eight in the third. Both teams played with more intensity, the dislike that always springs up between these two teams making itself known. Although it didn’t erupt into any official fights.
Carroll got crosschecked at 11:56, and the Grizzlies went to the advantage, but were unable to add to their lead. Idaho pulled Desrosiers with just under 1:30 to go, and called their time out at 1:19.
Utah attempted multiple chances at the empty net, including a bid by Ully for the hat trick, and in the last thirty seconds, Carr saved the lead in a mad scramble around the net.
When the final buzzer sounded, Utah once again held on to the lead, picking up yet another win.
Though they had some struggles in the second period, the team’s over all defensive effort stood out.
“Honestly, I think it’s just defending fast and getting the puck out of our zone as quick as we can,” said Ully. “If we get caught out there, is when they start getting looks but if we can make one simple play, get it off the glass, or whatever it takes to get it out, and then kind of pressure them and let them make the mistakes, that’s what we did in the third tonight. We didn’t sit back like we did the first night there in Idaho. They didn’t get too many looks, and obviously it frustrates a team when you can do that.”
Not only did the defense deliver tonight, but the offense shows no signs of stopping, as Ully and Herbert continue to put themselves on the score-sheet.
“What can you say about Herbert, Ully, and it doesn’t matter what player we put on there.” Tim Branham said of the potent first line, “Carroll’s on that line tonight, and he played a heck of a game, you know, those guys are leading the way.”
Ully’s assist and two goals nabbed him first star of the game against his former team, while Herbert, who has picked up at least one goal in every game, was named second star. Carroll picked up the third on the strength of three assists.
“Really proud of the way the boys clamped down there, I challenged them again between the second and third to play the right way like we did up in Idaho. We played the whole third period in their end. We understand what kind of team we have, and we’re finding ways to win because we’re a good hockey team. Then you put on top of that our goal tending, it’s a good thing.”
The Grizzlies have yet to lose in regulation, picking up nine of a possible ten points in the first five games. A good thing indeed.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.