Game one of the first home stand of December saw some new faces in the lineup for the Grizzlies Julien Nantel joined the team, Jack Walker made his home debut, Tim McGauley sat, possibly as a result of the play that saw him leave the game on the 22nd, and Joe Cannata got the start.
The new Cole Ully, Caleb Herbert, Julien Nantel line rang iron and looked dangerous in their first shift, but Ryan Misiak’s cross-crease pass landed square on the stick of Andrew Radjenovic, and though Cannata got the first shot, Radjenovic put the puck over him and into the net.
Utah got a power play at 3:20 and got a number of great looks, but the Rush returned to full strength with no change in score.
The Rush took over the shot lead about half-way through the first period, and made it 2-0 with exactly eight minutes to go after a sprawling Turner Ottenbreit was completely unable to break up the pass.
Ryan Walters took a hooking call exactly 46 seconds later and Richart took a puck up high. The bad news was that Rapid City immediately made it 3-0, but the good news was that Richart returned to the ice pretty quickly. With about 5:30 to go, Zahn elbowed a Rush player and dropped the gloves with Shaquille Merasty. Both got five, and Zahn got an additional two which Utah killed off.
The end of the period, the Rush led 3-0, out-shooting Utah 13-6. Although the Grizzlies’ defense certainly was lacking in the period, Joe Cannata was also uncharacteristically bad, seeming to have difficulty finding the puck on multiple occasions.
The second period saw the Grizzlies come out with some speed and physicality, and they did a better job of bottling things up in the neutral zone.
The speed of Jack Walker drew a hooking call at 2:39, but turnovers continued to plague the team, and Rapid City returned to full strength with no change in score.
Ottenbreit dropped the gloves with Josh Elmes at 7:42 and the two headed to the box, Ottenbreit receiving some enthusiastic cheers for his efforts.
In the following minutes the Grizzlies got some of their best looks of the game. Unfortunately, however, they weren’t able to beat Rush players to the puck on the rebounds or beat Adam Carlson.
After the Utah pressure, De Jong took a delay of game penalty at 13:42 but the penalty killers played very aggressively and kept the man advantage from looking dangerous. Once De Jong got out of the box, the Grizzlies kept pressuring, and it paid off at 16:48. Cole Ully wired the puck past Carlson for his tenth of the year from Ryan Walters and Joey Raats.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies looked more cohesive through the second, out-shooting the Rush 13-6 in the period.
The Grizzlies came out buzzing in the third, Walters, Ully, and Herbert coming just inches away from beating Carlson in the opening moments.
The early hustle drew an interference call at 1:09, and by the time the Rush returned to full strength, the Grizzlies had jumped out to a 7-0 shot lead in six minutes.
Utah continued to pressure, but Ully took a high-sticking call at 10:38 in the offensive zone. It didn’t really matter though, as the penalty killers kept the Rush fighting for the puck in their own zone.
Despite continuing to play better, a late power play, and pulling Cannata for the extra attacker, the Grizzlies were unable to beat Carlson again, falling 3-1.
In the end, it was the egregious turnovers in the first period that doomed Utah, together with their inability to get more than one past Carlson. However, it was good to see them pull together in the second and third and look more like the team we’re accustomed to seeing, even though they didn’t score.
The team looks to rebound tonight and Saturday in the next two games of the home stand.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.