Going into the season, we knew in theory that Utah was going to be an offensive power house, and that it wouldn’t just be one guy carrying the team. Through out the season so far, they’ve showed that to a certain extent, but they always had Caleb Herbert blazing the way. So with Herbert and Travis Barron called up to the AHL, it wasn’t so much a question of whether or not the Grizzlies would continue to to score, but who would pick up the slack, and whether it would be enough.
The answer was a resounding yes.
With Herbert and Barron gone, R.T. Rice and Brendan Harms both drew back in, while Kevin Carr got the start.
Utah came out hot, getting a power play at 1:19. Matt Berry was a man on a mission from the moment the puck dropped, and made it 1-0 on the advantage, with an assist from Kevin Davis.
Less than five minutes later, as if determined to prove that the Grizzlies wouldn’t miss his line-mate Herbert, Austin Carroll took a beautiful pass from Gage Ausmus behind Wichita’s net, and made no mistake, putting the puck past a sprawling Dylan Wells. Ryan Walters got the secondary assist.
Less than a minute after that, Wichita took another penalty, Pierre-Cedric Labrie going to the box for interference, but Utah got nothing going.
It didn’t really matter though. Not only did the Grizzlies play well in the offensive zone, but they took care of Carr, keeping the Thunder to just two shots while picking up ten of their own through the first twelve minutes or so.
And they were just getting started.
At 13:40, Tim McGauley threw the puck at the net, and Berry got his second of the period. The goal saw the end of Wells’ night, and Stuart Skinner took over in net.
While the offense was clicking, the defense kept things under control in their end. Taylor Richart was especially noticeable towards the end of the first, blocking shots and gotting in the way of passes. Carr also was sharp, making three flashy glove saves in a row as the game progressed into the final four minutes of the frame.
After 20, the Grizzlies had a strong 3-0 lead, and had played as good a period of hockey as they had all season.
The second did not get off to a good start, though, as Carroll took a high-sticking call just 16 seconds in, and Ralph Cuddemi made it 3-1. Then Labrie boarded Nolan De Jong. Utah got a five minute power play. De Jong skated off under his own power, but did not return.
The man advantage wasn’t really able to get anything going as Wichita was very aggressive on the kill through the first two minutes. As they approached the three minute mark of the power play, Utah established a good offensive zone cycle, but though they got a number of shots, they couldn’t capitalize.
After the lengthy power play, the Grizzlies pressed hard, and drew yet another man advantage at 8:33. Cole Ully sniped one past Skinner for his fourth goal of the year from Davis and Jake Marchment to put Utah up 4-1.
Unfortunately, Berry took a holding call less than a minute later. Wichita kept Carr pretty busy, as they put up seven shots on their power play and in the minutes that followed. Carr was up to the task, however, which was especially important when Teigan Zahn took a delay of game penalty with 5:11 to go. The Grizzlies allowed only one shot on their Captain’s minor, and closed out the period still up 4-1, out-shooting the Thunder 25-18.
Wichita came out hot to start the third, and cut the lead in half as Jeremy Beaudry beat Carr at 1:38.
Ully was hauled down on the breakaway at 3:31, and was awarded a penalty shot. The Grizzlies’ second leading scorer beat Skinner handily on a nice shot, and re-established the three goal lead.
Unfortunately, Greg Chase made it 5-3 nearly half-way through the period, but the Grizzlies kept their foot on the pedal. Berry was especially noticeable, getting three good shots in the middle stages of the third.
With about seven left in the game, Ryan Misiak also went to the locker room and didn’t return, putting the Grizzlies down both De Jong and Misiak.
Carroll got a tripping call shortly thereafter and a crowd gathered. Once the dust had settled, Carroll had collected a roughing call, but had taken Cuddemi with him. Rice served Carroll’s initial tripping call, and Utah killed it off thanks to a good effort from Jake Marchment and the penalty killers.
Wichita pressured hard in the final three minutes, pulling Skinner with about 1:30 to go, but Marchment put the game to bed with an empty netter from just around center ice.
At the final buzzer of the 6-3 win, Utah had out-shot the Thunder 37-28, and four players had multi-point games. Leading the way in that department were Ully (named first star of the game with two goals and five shots, and now with points in seven straight games) and Berry (second star with two goals and a team-leading seven shots).
Carroll also has points in seven straight games, Davis picked up two assists for the second straight night, Marchment, who has points in all four games since he returned, had his third straight multi-point game, and Carr stopped 25 of 28 shots he faced, improving to 3-0-1 on the year. Moreover, the power play remains lethal, clocking in at an impressive 30.2%, still easily the best in the league, and converting on two of their four chances in the game.
Utah returns home 3-1-1 (7-1-3-0 on the season) where they will take on the Fuel on Wednesday night.