After the 5-4 OT loss in Kansas City, the Grizzlies went with the same lineup in Wichita, only starting Joe Cannata instead of Kevin Carr. Teigan Zahn wore the captain’s C for the first time this season, while Ryan Walters and Taylor Richart retained their As.
The game did not get off to an auspicious start, with the Thunder snapping a puck past Cannata just 3:42 into the period.
It had looked like the Grizzlies had scored, just under half-way through the period, but the net came loose before the puck passed the line. However, the Utah did get a power play. Though they didn’t capitalize, by the end of the advantage they had out-shot Wichita 11-3.
The rest of the period was fast-paced, but though the Grizzlies continued to out-shoot the Thunder 13-4, after 20 they still trailed 1-0.
Utah got an early power play in the second, and the most lethal weapon on the league’s most lethal power play struck once more, Caleb Herbert making it 1-1 from Jake Marchment and Cole Ully.
The power play got another look five minutes in, but Austin Carroll took a tripping penalty at 6:39, sending the teams to a brief four-on-four before the Grizzlies killed off the penalty.
Utah got another crack at the advantage, but were unable to draw ahead, and unfortunately after Tim McGauley was denied on the breakaway, Hayden Hodgson gave the Thunder the 2-1 lead.
Matt Berry went to the box less than a minute later, but the period ended with no change in score, Utah out-shooting Wichita 29-16.
Carroll scored at 6:05 of the third, tipping in a bomb from Richart, but Ralph Cuddemi once again gave the Thunder the lead a minute later.
Berry and Jared Wilson took matching roughing calls half-way through the third, and then Zahn took a slashing call. Nothing changed, and no sooner had Zahn stepped out of the box, than he dropped the gloves with Matt Schmalz.
Cuddemi took a hooking call with three to go, and McGauley made Wichita pay, tying the game from Walters and De Jong.
The remainder of regulation time solved nothing, Utah out-shooting the Thunder 41-24. You would have been forgiven for feeling anxiety going into extra time, considering the Grizzlies struggles thus far, but you would have been wrong in this game. John McFarland took a tripping call against Richart, and the power play remained white hot, when Herbert got his second of the night, once more from Ully and Marchment.
Honestly, what is there left to say about Herbert? He’s a scoring machine, and his two goals and ten shots of the game got him first star honors. Richart (initially credited with the tying goal that eventually was awarded to Carroll) was named second star, and appears to be rounding into form, playing what was perhaps his most obviously strong game so far. Jake Marchment appears to be settling in nicely, picking up two assists, and it would appear that McGauley is heating up.
In a rare morning game, the same two teams squared off once more on Wednesday in Wichita, Utah going with the same roster. The Grizzlies had clearly had their coffee, picking up the first couple of shots. in the opening minutes of the frame.
However, Ryan Walters took a hooking call, and the Thunder went to the power play. The kill remained strong though, and didn’t allow a shot.
Then the game got crazy. To start it all off, Caleb Herbert scored his eleventh for Utah, from Cole Ully and Kevin Davis.
Matt Schmalz answered right back, then Steven Iacobellis scored again for the Thunder. The lead did not last, however, and Tim McGauley tied it up once more.
All that action in less than two minutes!
Greg Chase took a high-sticking minor at 11:18, then tried to goad Ully into joining him in the box, to no avail. Chase also got a roughing call, and Utah got a four minute power play.
The best power play in the league came up empty, and Ralph Cuddemi made them regret it as he sniped one on Joe Cannata to give the Thunder the lead. Pierre-Cedric Labrie took a late tripping call on McGauley, but the period and the advantage came to an end together. Despite out-shooting Wichita 17-9, the Grizzlies remained behind 3-2.
Utah drew a power play at 3:44, but the power play continued to struggle, getting only one shot, and spending some time defending in their own zone. Cannata was up to the challenge though, and the Thunder returned to full strength.
Ryan Misiak and Travis Barron caused some chaos around the Wichita net about half-way through the frame, but neither put the puck past Stuart Skinner.
The Thunder got going in the Utah zone, but Jake Marchment’s line took back possession, and Marchment tied it up on a nice pass from Ryan Walters. Nolan De Jong got the secondary assist.
Barron took a high-sticking penalty with 1:37 to go, but when the period came to an end, the score was still 3-3, shots 29-18 for the Grizzlies.
1:23 into the third, Ully’s speed drew a tripping call. However, the unusual power play struggles of this game continued.
Another furious spate of action saw first Travis Brown making it 4-3 through a screen, then just 22 seconds later, De Jong scored his first of the season from Davis and Ryan Misiak, giving them both their second assists.
Ully took a cross-checking minor at 6:11, but on the next face-off, Iacobellis took a call, and the teams played four-on-four for 1:55.
Around the eight minute mark, the Grizzlies got some good offensive zone pressure, picking up four straight shots, unfortunately, the Captains tangled in front of the Utah net, and Teigan Zahn got an interference call for putting Dyson Stevenson into the net.
With just 1:55 to go, Marchment got his second of the game, and that’s how it ended.
Utah out-shot Wichita (known for giving up a lot of shots) 40-23, and picked up their second win against the Thunder.
Unlike in Sunday’s game, the power play really struggled, going 0/6, an giving up a couple of good looks to the penalty killers. However, it gave the Grizzlies an opportunity to get it done at even strength, which they certainly did. It was also great to see the secondary scoring come alive, as every line contributed at least one goal, and multiple players not named Caleb Herbert had multi-point games.
Misiak had one of his best games of the year, picking up two assists, and third star honors, Marchment, of course, had the two goals, including the game winner, which got him first star, while De Jong had a goal and an assist, Walters had two assists, as did Kevin Davis.
Then, of course, there is Herbert, who just hasn’t cooled down. He now has 18 points in ten games, and has only been held off the scoreboard once, in Utah’s lone regulation loss this season. He leads the league now in both goals (11) and points.
Whatever struggles the Grizzlies have had in keeping the puck out of their own net have been more then compensated for by their offense.
Utah plays Wichita once more on Friday before returning home.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.