Another night, another game against Rapid City, but with a slight difference. Both J.T. Henke and Jack Walker returned to the lineup for the first time since February 9th and January 30th respectively, and Kevin Carr got the start. The returns meant that for the first time in forever not only did Utah dress sixteen skaters, but they dressed sixteen skaters all playing their actual positions.
- A LOT of offensive zone pressure for RC here…
- Jack Walker getting a great chance very early on in his return game.
- Oh man, Caleb Herbert didn’t miss by much there.
- Carr with a big save.
- Everyone seems to be showing a lot more offensive creativity than we’ve been seeing lately.
- It’s really nice to have all three lines able to create offense again.
- WHAT A SAVE FROM KEVIN.
- After that first shift or so, Utah’s definitely been more dangerous and spent less time in their zone.
- That and Kevin Carr is ON tonight.
- Did you know Micahel Economos had mitts like that? (Unfortunately, Adam Carlson is up to his usual tricks.)
- WILL SMITH BEATS CARLSON. There will be no RC shutout tonight.
- Assists go to Jake Marchment and Gabriel Verpaelst. Does that make them that 20s line like the Kings had that 70s line a while back? (Verpaelst being a defenseman aside…)
- Hey Schorny, did you sew Velcro to Carr’s jersey? He’s pretty much allowing nothing by way of rebounds.
- The Rush have had most of the shots since Smith’s goal. That does not bode well.
- Taylor Richart objects to the traffic around Carr and is sent to the box for roughing.
- Carr makes a bunch of big saves on one side of the net, but the Rush slip one past him on the other to tie it up on the advantage.
- Shots are 13-9 for RC after 20, tied 1-1.
- Henke with a nice shot for the first of the period.
- …Why is it ALWAYS Cedric Montminy?
- Please go play in the other zone for a while.
- Perfect pass from Smith to Eric Freschi, Carlson stops it though.
- Smith is having himself a game. A couple of good moves from him in the defensive zone.
- Really though, please go spend more time in the offensive zone.
- Economos with a snappy little shot there. Unfortunately, Carlson.
- Another beautiful save from Kevin there.
- So you know that thing we said about Will Smith? It’s relevant again.
- I would not want to be anyone watching a Turner Ottenbreit shot coming towards my head.
- Oy, do not elbow Moose! Go sit in the box and feel shame.
- Freschi’s got a couple of pretty good looks tonight as well.
- Walker with those WHEELS almost ties it up. Except Carlson. Again.
- That Herb Brooks speech, except about Carlson.
- Carr with a couple more nice saves.
- Walker with a bad giveaway, and a great and immediate takeaway.
- Herbert with a nearly nifty play there.
- Hero block by Richy leads directly to a great chance from Ryan Walters.
- That’s the offensive zone pressure the Grizzlies have needed this game.
- Shots are 6-1 for Utah through the first six minutes.
- Josh Anderson has improved so much from the start of the season.
- Very few whistles this period. Shots are now 8-2 for Utah with 8:40 to go
- They’re getting more shots, but it feels like fewer dangerous chances.
- And then, of course, Carlson.
- That’s the third minor Taylor Crunk has taken this game.
- Ottenbreit’s reach is seriously impressive when he extends himself all the way.
- Grizz pull Carr for the extra skater, but no dice, despite hitting 43 shots, and limiting the Rush to just three shots in the third.
- Utah falls 2-1.
“We gotta work, we gotta work like we did in the third period.” Tim Branham said after the game. “I thought we played a really good first ten minutes and then a good last 20. SO we took thirty minutes off there in between, and when you play half a game, you leave it to chance, so we’ve got to make sure we play a full sixty minutes, and play motivated hockey.”
There might have been some lapses throughout the game, but several players definitely stood out. One of them was obviously Carr, and another was Will Smith. “He’s getting better and better every day, that’s for sure,” said Branham of the lone goal scorer. “We talk about it with him all the time, he’s getting more and more confidence and doing what he needs to do, and he scored our goal tonight. We need our best players to be our best players, but it’s nice to get the scoring from our depth guys.”
Josh Anderson’s play has been more and more noticeable as he’s gotten more ice time through the back half of the season, and last night was no exception. “That’s what he needs to do, he needs to play. He’s a young D-man, not even old enough to drink! He’s here to play hockey and to learn, and to get better, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
So they’ve been playing better against Carlson, but the Grizzlies are going to have to do something about him in the next two games. “It seems like he’s got our number right now” Smith said about Carlson. “It’s pretty tough to get pucks by him, he’s a really good goalie. I think what we talked about is getting more traffic in front of him so he can’t see it. Just keeping it really simple, just throwing pucks at him, at his feet, whatever we can do, having guys there. Coach said it in between periods today. It may not necessarily be the first shot that goes in, but it might be the second or third or even fourth rebound that might go in. So we’ve just gotta get in front of him and cause havoc there.” That is, in fact, exactly what Smith himself did on his third goal of the season.
When asked about the noticeable uptick in the quality of his play, he said, “I think the first few games I was here I was a little bit tentative. Any time you get to a new team you try to fit in where you fit in, just in the locker room. It was actually nice coming here cause I played with Economos last year and he really helped smooth things over for me, but first couple of weekends, I just didn’t feel like I was playing to my full potential, I was a little bit nervous. Then in the last little while here, I feel like I’m fitting in a bit more with the guys on the team and that just changes everything — it changes the way you play on the ice, and feeling more comfortable for sure.”
This is the first time in quite a while that the Grizzlies have dressed six defensemen and ten actual forwards thanks to the return of Henke and Walker, and while they didn’t score, you could definitely notice the increase in offensive opportunities that their return brought all the way through the lineup. Of their return, Smith said, “That’s huge, cause we’ve got a lot of really talented guys who have been out. Since I’ve been here I haven’t really seen them, to be honest. But Henke, I’m living with him, and I checked his stats, and he’s got over a point per game, 30 in 30 or whatever it is, so he’s a guy who would obviously help our offence, and when you don’t have a guy like that in the lineup it definitely affects the outcome for sure, and guys playing out of position, playing with a limited number of guys, it just adds a little bit of adversity to what we’re trying to do. Those guys are coming back and you see them in practice and they’re getting better, it’s exciting for our team.”
Utah’s got two more meetings against Rapid City on Saturday and Monday, and from the post-game comments, it’s clear they know what they need to do. It’ll just be a matter of execution.
First Period: Will Smith (Verpaelst, Marchment)
UTA: 0/4 (6 MIN)
RC: 1/2 (10 MIN)
Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography.
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