After a spirited end to Friday’s game, the tilt on Saturday promised to be a a good one, complete with specialty jerseys for Epilepsy night. Mason McDonald got his first regular season start in a Grizzlies’ jersey, while Mike Economos and Teigan Zahn drew in for Connor Yau, Ryan Black, and Colin Jacobs.
Although the Grizzlies looked much more together from the get-go, Idaho struck first, 1:26 into the frame.
However, Utah got right back on their collective horse, and were able to string together several shifts in the offensive zone. Despite the zone time, by the five minute mark, Idaho held the shot lead 5-0 as well as the score lead.
Kevin Davis kept his feet moving, and drew a power play shortly thereafter. Although it wasn’t reflected on either the shot counter or the scoreboard, the team looked more cohesive.
Despite all that, Idaho made it 2-0 before the Grizzlies had hit their third shot on goal.
Economos tried to get something going after Taylor Richart got into a little bit of a shoving match, but Idaho declined, and Economos was sent to the box for roughing.
Utah killed off the penalty off, but Joe Wegwerth took a roughing call in the after-buzzer crowd.
The Grizzlies spent large portions of the kill in and around the offensive zone to start the second, and Travis Barron continued to have a second strong game, earning some cheers following a big hit.
Barron followed that up by drawing a power play, and Utah got a couple of really nifty chances, but were again unable to beat Tomas Sholl. They were able to narrow the shot deficit however, 18-14 after the 16-9 first period.
Just when it looked like the Grizzlies were getting themselves sorted out, and playing some solid hockey, they coughed the puck up right in front of McDonald, and Spencer Naas made it 3-0.
Zahn took a boarding call with four to go, and Barron continued to be the Grizzles’ most standout all-around player going into second intermission.
Less than a minute into the second period, Barron drew another power play, and then ruined Sholl’s shut out by banking the puck off an Idaho defenseman and in.
The Grizzlies drew another power play at 7:06, and took over the shot lead shortly thereafter.
The players had a couple of great ideas in the minutes that followed, but shot just wide, or were just out of reach. Tischke took a cross-checking penalty with about six minutes left and the cantankerous spirit escalating.
Utah pulled McDonald with 1:30 to go, but they were unable to draw within one, falling 3-1 regulation.
Barron was, once again, one of the more noticeable Utah players, drawing power plays, laying hits, and driving play throughout the game.
Overall, it was a better start than Friday, and once again improved greatly in the second and third periods, but the slow start and the second period turnover proved costly.
“Same script as last night, except I thought we played better.” Tim Branham said after the game. “Not the first period. First period was terrible. Second period was fabulous until we had one turnover, one shot, goal. And that’s what happens. That’s what happens when you think…I don’t know if you think it’s gonna be easy, but the way you play you think it’s gonna be easy. This league will kick you in the butt. And that’s a good team over there. That’s a goalie that’s always one of the best in the league every single year, and he proved that this weekend for sure. He was their number one star. But you’ve got to find ways, you’ve got to take his eyes away, be more tenacious. I thought we did a lot of good things in the second and third period, we had that fire in our gut, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got that fire in our gut from the drop of the puck.”
Travis Barron continues to impress, and came in for some high praise from his coach.
“He’s really stepped it up, that’s for sure. I thought both games he was our best player. We’re challenging him to be our best player every single night, and that’s what it’s gonna take to move up. He’s done really well, from penalty killing to power play to the physical aspect of the game, making plays, great attitude, leading on the bench, leading in the dressing room, he has done a really good job so far.”
Barron stood head and shoulders above the rest, but he wasn’t the only one who has shown flashes. One such player is Cole Cassels, who has two assists, and Griffen Molino. Another has been Yuri Terao, who isn’t always the most noticeable player, but always seems to appear exactly where he needs to be.
“Yuri competes. He’s a good player. For a language barrier, it’s tough sometimes, and he does a really good job. A lot of good things out there. He’s got good cut backs, good skill, and I think he’s just gonna get better the more he gets used to this North American style.”
As has already been said, the pieces are all there, and they’re starting to come together, but there’s still work to be done. Fortunately, it’s only game two, so there’s still plenty of time yet to sort it all out.
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff