With Cole Ully getting a stint in Colorado, the Grizzlies were down to eight forwards, activating defenseman Joey Raats from reserve to slot in on the third line. This caused quite a bit of a line shuffling, and Joe Cannata got the start.
Things got chippy immediately, both teams coming out flying, and hitting, hard. There was a fair amount of snarl as well, Josh McArdle boarding Austin Carroll, and sending the Grizzlies to an early power play.
The team looked a little disorganized in the early going, perhaps understandable without Ully, and with Raats playing forward.
Indy and Utah traded penalties, McArdle taking a boarding at 3:20 and Turner Ottenbreit taking a slash at 6:50 but neither team capitalized, or even looked particularly organized.
At Matt Rupert took an interference call, and Matt Berry put away his fifth of the year from Carroll and Kevin Davis to put the Grizzlies up, but Teigan Zahn took down an Indy player and was sent off for roughing. The Fuel tied it up on the ensuing power play.
The Indy continued to out-shoot Utah through the opening 15 minutes 10-6.
Caleb Herbert had what was perhaps the most flashy chance of the period, intercepting a shot in the crease and spinning around to get the shot off with about two minutes left.
At the end of a cantankerous opening 20, the teams were all tied up 1-1, shots 11-9 Indy.
Both teams appeared to tighten up at the beginning of the second, neither team allowing a shot until about four minutes in. They both belonged to Indy, but Cannata shut the door no problem.
Ryan Walters had a very nice rush up the ice with Brendan Harms, but Matt Tomkins turned it aside.
Ottenbreit had a very impressive shift, laying a hit in the offensive zone, then breaking up a play in the neutral zone, and the Utah momentum led to Caleb Herbert drawing an interference call. Marchment got high-sticked in front of the net 23 seconds later, and Utah got 1:37 of 5-on-3 time, with which they were unfortunately unable to do anything.
After the failed power play, Utah had quite a bit of offensive zone time, pulling ahead in shots finally, before Matt Berry decided to keep things interesting and cleared the puck so hard it went into the press box. He sat for two minutes, but Utah killed off the penalty.
In the last minutes of the period, Ottenbreit took a high-stick to the face from an Indy player, but no penalty was assessed, and the Fuel scored. The tensions that had been simmering between Carroll and various members of the Fuel came to a bit of a head, and he and Connor Moynihan tried to fight over the refs. To add insult to injury, Carroll got an extra two on the roughing calls, putting the Grizzlies down a man for 1:20 to start the third.
Utah killed off the power play well, thanks in part to a big block by Zahn that led to a good clear.
Unfortunately, things continued to go against the Grizzlies, as McGauley and his line mates had a good chance before the puck went the other way, the pass beat a sprawling Nolan De Jong, and Kevin Dufour beat Cannata.
Walters, who had a number of good looks throughout the game, continued to pick up shots, but was unable to put one past Matt Tomkins, while Gage Ausmus flew back to turn what was rapidly developing into a two-on-one against into a negated scoring chance about half way through the third.
Indy did get a two-on-one shortly afterwards, but Cannata nabbed the ensuing shot with ease.
Berry drove the net at 11:42 and drew a penalty, but the Grizzlies were unable to get much through a determined Fuel kill.
Branham pulled Cannata with 2:49 to go, and an Indy attempt at the empty net hit the post and went out. At 18:20 Herbert scored his 12th of the year, putting Utah within one with 1:40 to go. Cannata once again made a beeline to the bench for the extra attacker, but it just wasn’t to be.
Berry’s initial goal and four shots earned him third star of the night, while Walters led the team with five shots, and Cannata made some big saves, especially some towards the end of the game.
“We were too inconsistent, left our goalie out to dry too many times.” Branham said, “We passed up too many scoring chances, too many shot attempts. With the lineup we have right now, we gotta get second chance opportunities on this goaltender. He’s a good goalie, he makes some unbelievable saves every night, so we gotta get second chance opportunities, be willing to play that way for a consistent 60 minutes. Too many mistakes, which led to too many scoring chances against. Joe didn’t see a lot of work, but some tough saves he had to make, left him out to dry.”
A disappointing outcome, to be sure, and frustrating, as both regulation losses Utah has suffered this season have come against the Fuel. But they have another chance to even the score on Saturday night, when they will be wearing some very nice specialty jerseys in support of the Angel’s Hands foundation.
Images courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff