After Thanksgiving, the Eagles assigned forward Josh Dickinson to the Grizzlies, and he drew in with Tim McGauley and Matt Berry to start. A white-hot Joe Cannata got the start once again.
Josh Anderson took the game’s first penalty, a cross-checking call at 3:20, and the Grizzlies headed off to what would be the first of many special teams situations. The kill did decently, though at the tail end, Cannata had to make some big saves, including one that looked like it was absolutely going in. When Anderson returned to the ice, Allen had jumped to a 7-0 shot lead.
Berry rectified that, absolutely flying in, taking a pass from McGauley, and getting a very nice look on Jeremy Brodeur.
Allen looked far more organized than they did on Wednesday, and as a result, both teams had trouble setting up in the offensive zone, battling it out in the neutral zone as the period drew towards the half-way point. However, after giving up those initial seven shots, the Grizzlies did much better job getting in the way in their own end.
As is becoming gloriously regular, Caleb Herbert and Cole Ully raced into the offensive zone, passed the puck back and forth en-rout to the net, and Herbert buried and absolute beauty for his 15th goal of the year right around the eight minute mark.
J.T. Henke just missed getting his first as a Grizz, and Cannata made a big save on the other end. Ully set up Taylor Richart for the perfect point shot with just over two to go, but Utah was just unable to snatch possession of the ensuing rebound.
After 20, Utah led 1-0, and had cut down Allen’s shot lead to 13-10.
After a vigorous, but clean first period, the second got off to a cantankerous start. Cannata made a huge save, trapping a perilously loose puck with his legs, and Teigan Zahn and Jacob Doty dropped the gloves as a crowd gathered. At the one minute mark, Josh Thrower took a tripping penalty against Austin Carroll, and then took an unsportsmanlike penalty on top of that, so the Grizzlies headed to a four minute power play.
Utah wasn’t able to get anything going in the early stages, but at 4:46 Ully put the puck on Matt Berry’s stick, and it was off again and in the back of the net before Brodeur could do anything about it.
Spencer Asuchak took a slashing call during the play, so Utah headed right back to the advantage. They were unable to capitalize, but immediately after Allen returned to full strength, Joel Chouinard held up Herbert, leading to another Grizzlies power play.
No sooner had that penalty come to an end then Josh Atkinson took a call, and Austin Carroll made the Americans pay on the delayed penalty. Ully got his fourth assist of the game, while Marchment picked up his ninth point in ten games.
Atkinson finally made it to the box, and Richart made it 4-0 on an absolute bomb less than a minute later. Berry picked up the first assist, and Josh Dickinson got his first point on the secondary.
Less than a minute after Richart’s goal, David Makowski took a clipping call against Carroll in what was dangerously close to knee-on-knee hit. Fortunately, Carroll was back on the ice to start the advantage, but the Grizzlies couldn’t capitalize.
Ryan Walters took a hooking call at 16:01 and Ully nearly added a short-handed goal to his three assists before Utah killed off the rest of the penalty.
Richart and the defenders shut the period down after that, and headed into the locker room up 4-0, shots 24-22 in their favor.
The Grizzlies didn’t take their foot off the gas into the third period, as Herbert scored his second of the game on Ully’s fourth assist. Nolan De Jong got the second assist on Herbert’s 16th.
Zahn returned to the box for holding at 3:13, but Cannata made some big saves on one side, and Berry had a speedy look short-handed on the other.
Utah got their seventh power play of the night at 7:15 when Greg Chase took an unsportsmanlike penalty. Allen killed it off, and Utah killed off the following penalty to Carroll.
Cannata made more and more saves as the end of the game approached, but was there for every one, and the Grizzlies’ defense made sure that even more never even made it to him.
When the final buzzer sounded, Cannata had picked up his third straight shut-out, Grizzlies taking the game 5-0, and out-shooting Allen 39-35.
In three games, nothing has gotten past Cannata, except a sliding Kevin Davis early in the third period. His phenomenal performance earned him the first star of the game, while Ully, who can turn on a dime, stick handle in a phone box, and create space when there simply isn’t any, took second star with four assists. Herbert (he of the league leading 16 goals and 28 points) took third star with the game’s opening and closing goals.
After three straight shutouts from Cannata, everyone is struggling for new words to describe him. “He’s an outstanding goaltender.” Tim Branham said after the game. “I said it all last year, he doesn’t belong at this level. He’s an unbelievable goaltender, an unbelievable person. He’s heating up, so what can you say about him? He’s cool, calm, collected, makes everything look easy, and we’ve just gotta keep going.”
After being a little quiet lately, the power play exploded again, going a lethal 3/7. When asked about the team’s success on the man-advantage, Branham explained, “We’ve got two talented units. On one of the units you’ve got a guy who’s over a goal a game, on the other unit you’ve got a guy who’s got seven points in two games. Those guys are talented, and they want to do well, and they can make plays. They know how to put the puck in the net. We went a little cold there, teams are going to start keying in on it and coming up with schemes to kill it, and we were able to break through tonight.”
Cannata himself was pretty low-key about the whole thing.
“I feel good. I think I’m seeing the puck, a lot of times there’s not too many second chances, so I think guys are doing a good job, whether it’s boxing out or blocking that second shot. Just enjoying being out there helping the guys win, hopefully we can continue tomorrow.”
As Cannata noted, the Utah defense once again had a very strong showing, and Taylor Richart was named defenseman of the game.
Utah and Allen meet for the third and final time in this home stand today (Saturday) when the Grizzlies look to complete the sweep, and the Americans undoubtedly will be looking to even the score.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff