Well, it’s here. Game 72 of the regular season, and what a season it’s been. Injuries, win streaks, losing streaks, the most prolific goalscorer in nine years, fighters, point-per-game waiver pickups, speed demons, more injuries (have we mentioned the injuries?) all leading to a spot in the playoffs against these same Idaho Steelheads.
The lineup remained the same with Taylor Richart and Captain Teigan Zahn both playing in game 72/72, while Kevin Carr once again manned the net, facing down Ryan Faragher and the Steelheads.
- First three shots go to Idaho.
- Power play Utah! Good start!
- ….Short handed goal Idaho two-on-one, beats Carr clean. Less good start.
- They keep getting into the zone, and then either turning over the puck, bobbling passes, or otherwise not getting anything going.
- 8-1 shots for Idaho after eight minutes. That’s not ideal, to say the least!
- Good speed and hustle though.
- Carr with some nice saves as well.
- Gabriel Verpaelst and Mitch Moroz drop the gloves! Verpaelst got in way more punches, but Moroz gets the take-down. Both cool their heels for five.
- Much better second half of the period.
- Turnovers not so much though.
- We were at a hockey game, then a rugby scrum broke out! That was a really lengthy puck battle along the boards.
- Ondrej Vala and Austin Carroll tangle at center ice. They both get slashing minors, though it looked more like roughing than slashing. They’re both shown the door as there’s only 1:19 to go.
- Utah draws a power play!
- After 20 Utah trails 1-0, out-shot 15-4. However, they’ve got a power play coming up to start the second.
- Faragher with an unfortunately familiar glove save on that shot.
- POWER PLAY GOAL.
- Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but Ty Lewis makes it 1-1 from Kevin Davis and Caleb Herbert as the puck trickles through Faragher 43 seconds into the period!
- That’s the…uh…fourth slashing call this game.
- Idaho scores. Of course it’s Kale Kessy.
- Power play for Utah, HUGE save from Carr on a short-handed breakaway!
- WALKER WITH THE POWER PLAY GOAL! Really sweet pass from Michael Economos too.
- Josh Dickinson with a nice shot to beat Faragher five-on-five!.
- The Grizzlies have taken the bit between their teeth this period.
- Spoke too soon. Idaho ties it riiiiight back up. Puck took a bounce off the Utah defenders in front of Carr and went in.
- Ooof. Definitely spoke too soon. Idaho takes the lead seven seconds into the power play.
- Caleb Herbert is sent sprawling, and we’ve got another power play opportunity for Utah…
- Furious defensive play from Kevin Davis there. Kept a the Idaho player from getting a shot.
- ROCKET RICHART.
- And another slashing penalty this game! That’s number five!
- Utah takes over the shot lead with five to go.
- Four shots for Utah in the first, 21 for them in the second!
- 25-24 for Utah are the shots after 40, and we’re tied 4-4!!
- TAYLOR WASTES NO TIME! That’s goal number eight for Mr. Richart, scored just 18 seconds in!
- VERBEAUTY! What a snipe on a tight angle shot from the bottom of the face-off circle! And just like that, it’s 6-4!
- Slashing penalty number six.
- Idaho now with some determined offensive zone time.
- Pretty back and forth now.
- Walker lays the boom!
- Idaho takes a penalty, and then Utah takes a penalty with 4:19 to go.
- GORGEOUS short-handed look from Economos. With those wheels, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was Walker, if he wasn’t sitting in the box!
- Walker takes the puck up ice out of the box, and after a lengthy battle around the net, Mitch Maxwell makes it 7-4!
- And that’s all she wrote!!
Richart scored goals number seven and eight, earning first star of the game for the game winner, while Lewis took second star with his continued scoring bonanza (1G, 3A on Sunday, 5G, 8A in seven games), and Walker was named third star with a goal and two assists. Carroll picked up three assists, Herbert picked up two, Economos led the team in shots with six, and Carr stopped 33/37 for his 20th win of the season.
It was definitely a team win from goal-tending on out, and it was pretty much everything you could hope for from a final game. “Obviously we want to get wins,” Tim Branham said afterwards, “But more importantly we want to be playing the right way going into playoffs, so for all the reasons that we talked about yesterday, adding new players and whatnot, really proud of the way this group battled these last two games, just gaining confidence and understanding the way you have to play in order to have success in the playoffs.”
There may have been a few little hiccups in the first half of the game, but some of them were just down to the Steelheads being a very good team. “You’ve got to give Idaho credit, they lost a heartbreaker last night and they wanted to probably come out and have something to prove so they had a little jump in their step. We had to weather the storm, and then it was our turn to play our game. Special teams battle tonight, our power play did a great job, and at the end of the day we found a way to win.”
Importantly, the Grizzlies got goals from players all through the lineup, both on offense and defense. “It’s huge,” said Branham, “You can’t just have contributions from one line or one player, it’s gotta be throughout your lineup if you want to have success, so back end, as well scoring goals, it’s a big help.”
“It’s always good to play 72 games,” said Richart, “It means obviously you’re not in and out of the lineup, you’re not having major injuries, a few bumps and bruises, but I think the whole year I just wanted to focus on playing good, solid two-way hockey, good defensively, good offensively. We had a lot of power up front, so I kind of focused a little bit more on the defensive side, and the offense would come, just getting pucks in like tonight, and they happened to go in.”
“We did have a hot start,” Richart continued, “Which obviously really helped us when that slump kind of kicked in, but it was nice, obviously injuries are part of the game, so we kind of had to battle a little bit there, just kind of shows what we have in that locker room right now, just battling night in and night out. Getting ready for playoffs we knew we had to settle everything down these past couple of weekends, kind of getting in the playoff mode, it’s been playoff hockey the past three weeks, and teams are playing playoff hockey as well, so we just had to keep it together.”
Richart and Zahn both finished the season without missing a single game, despite playing big minutes, and throwing themselves in front of everything, whether it be pucks, or punches–something that Branham praised highly. “[Richart] and Teigan Zahn, both playing every game, they both just eat pucks. We talked about those guys a little bit yesterday, what they mean to this team, as a coach you know what they’re gonna bring every single game, and that’s easy to coach. The leadership that those guys bring is tremendous, it’s invaluable, can’t put a price tag on it, and we’ve got sixteen more wins.”
“Every game you gotta bring it. It’s win or go home now.” Richart concluded. “It’s a new season now, so every day you’ve gotta be ready to go, can’t take any games for granted.”
The Grizzlies will begin the first round of the playoffs against the Steelheads in Idaho on Friday night.
- First Period: None
- Second Period: Lewis (Davis, Herbert) (PP), Walker (Economos, Lewis) (PP), Dickinson (Carroll, Anderson), Richart (Walker, Carroll) (PP)
- Third Period: Richart (Carroll, Herbert), Verpaelst (Lewis, Ausmus), Maxwell (Walker, Lewis)
UTA: 3/6 (17 PIM)
IHD: 2/5 (19 PIM)
Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography.
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