With Matt Berry, Austin Carroll, Kevin Davis, Josh Anderson, and Travis Barron all up with various AHL teams, Joey Raats and R.T. Rice drew back in. Ryan Misiak also returned from injury, and Kevin Carr got the start against Idaho.
Misiak made his mark early, putting Utah up 1-0 just 20 seconds in from Taylor Richart. Idaho tied it up at 7:49, as the Grizzlies defense faltered a moment. Kyle Schempp took a hooking call at 9:39, but the power play wasn’t able to come up with anything before Idaho returned to full strength.
Carr made a big save as an Idaho player got past the defensemen, and Josh Dickinson took a slashing call at 12:52. Utah killed that off, and Carr made some big saves to follow that up.
Overall, the period was pretty back-and-forth, neither team looking particularly dazzling. Idaho held the slight edge in shots, 16-13 after 20 in the 1-1 game.
By the five minute mark of the second, shots were tied 18-18 in what continued to be a pretty even game.
The officials let them play through some clutching and grabbing, and by the half-way point in the second, the shots were 20-20 with no change in score.
Elgin Pearce picked up the puck on a turnover, putting the puck past Carr at 13:15, but Walters struck exactly a minute later to tie it up on a tight angle. Cole Ully and Jack Walker got the assists.
Caleb Herbert drew some ire at the buzzer, leading a bit of a crowd, and after 40, shots were 24-23 for Idaho in the 2-2 game.
Mitch Moroz tripped up Taylor Richart in front of Carr, and Utah went to the power play. The man advantage looked pretty lackluster, and the Steelheads returned to full strength.
Kyle Schempp made it 3-2 at 7:01, but though a couple of players got some good looks (most notably a pair from Gage Ausmus) the Grizzlies were unable to get another goal on Scholl. With just over a minute to go, Carr went to the bench, but Steven McParland scored into the empty net.
Misiak didn’t look at all rusty coming back in his first game since November 9th. Ausmus had what was perhaps his most obviously good game of the year, and Richart was his steady self.
In Saturday’s game, the skaters remained the same, while Joe Cannata got the start.
The game got off to another good start, though it took longer for for Utah to get the goal. Cole Ully banged in Josh Dickinson’s rebound at 2:42, while Caleb Herbert picked up his 17th assist on the goal.
Two minutes later, R.T. Rice got a roughing call, but before he could be sent off, Kale Kessy challenged him and they dropped the gloves. What would have been an Idaho power play instead sent them off for fighting and Kessy got an instigation penalty which kept the game at even strength.
Though the Grizzlies looked pretty good, Idaho broke in and Herbert picked up a hooking call. Exactly half-way through the period, and just seven seconds into the advantage, Idaho beat Cannata to tie the game.
Both teams got chances, as the period continued and once again, the officials let them play through things on both sides.
With 1:05 to go, Ryan Walters hauled down an Idaho player at center ice and was sent to the box for holding. The Grizzlies prevented the Steelheads from threatening, and after 20, the game was tied 1-1, shots 14-11 for Idaho.
Utah killed off the remaining 55 seconds of Walters’ penalty to begin the second, allowing no shots on the advantage. Idaho did get the first four shots of the period thereafter, however, as the Steelheads attacked early.
Rice cross-checked an Idaho player at 3:28 after a whistle, and went to the box, but Idaho was unable to get anything going, and he returned to the ice with no damage done. Utah got a power play of their own at 7:56 when Clint Lewis cross-checked Ryan Misiak, then got 1:12 of 5-on-3 when Elgin Pearce tripped up Taylor Richart.
The Grizzlies set up well initially, but were unable to turn the advantage into anything substantial on the board.
It didn’t matter though, as Herbert made it 2-1 on a nice centering pass from Dickinson, Ausmus getting the secondary assist on Herbert’s 18th.
Absolute mayhem broke out behind the Utah net at 13:06, and it took them some time to sort everything out. Rice got two for roughing, while Mitch Moroz got four for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct. Once again the power play came up empty, though this one looked a little more organized, and led to some good Utah momentum through the end of the second.
In the final moments of the second, Tim McGauley was hit up high and though he headed off under his own steam, he went down the tunnel and didn’t return in the third.
Herbert opened the period with a picture perfect, back-hand, five-hole goal just 42 seconds into the third. Spurred on by the lead, the Grizzlies put up five shots to Idaho’s none in the first five minutes of the period. Joey Raats took a holding call at 5:18, but the penalty killers were very active and killed it off well.
At 9:20, J.T. Henke flew in on a two-on-one with Jack Walker for his first in a Utah uniform. Marchment made it 5-1 from Teigan Zahn at 12:14 to complete the unexpected rout, and Rice and Moroz ended their nights early. Rice got five for fighting, while Moroz got two ten minute game misconducts for instigating in the final five, being the aggressor, and two for instigating in addition to his five.
Walters took a slashing call with less than two to go, but it made no difference to the score.
Herbert (2 goals, 1 assist, 6 shots) and Dickinson (2 assists) got first and second stars of the night and Cannata made 30/31 saves. Turner Ottenbreit also put up six shots, while Ausmus was +4 on the night and R.T. Rice got 16 penalty minutes.
Herbert (36 points) and Ully (31 points) now lead the league in points, Herbert also holding the lead in goals scored while Ully leads in assists. Additionally, Utah closed out the weekend series on a high note, taking over sole possession of the top spot in the Mountain Division, and tying the Toledo Walleye for first in the Western Conference. Moreover, they improved to 14-4-3-1 and ended Idaho’s winning streak.
The Grizzlies are off until Wednesday when they will take on Rapid City at home.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.