The first Wednesday night of the season saw the Grizzlies looking for their first win. Jeff Smith got his first start of the season, backed up by Mason McDonald after Hunter Miska got called up to the AHL. Connor Yau and Felix Lauzon returned to the lineup, while Colin Jacobs, Patrick McGrath, Michael Economos, Ryan Black, and Mitch Maxwell all sat.
Wichita was not as hot out of the gate as Idaho, and the Grizzlies picked up the first three shots, as well as a goal from Josh Dickinson that fluttered softly past Mitch Gillam at 2:08. Griffen Molino and Eric Williams got the assists.
Utah continued to get the best of the situation, drawing a power play as Dickinson took a slashing call. The Grizzlies wasted no time capitalizing, Dickinson getting his second of the period from Kevin Davis and Yuri Terao.
Molino was left all alone about half-way through the frame, and easily outmaneuvered Gillam. Barely had the goal been announced when Travis Barron scored his third of the season assisted by Yau and Cole Cassels, and the Grizzlies’ offensive onslaught continued. It wasn’t even so much that they were playing so very well (though they did have a better start than in the previous games against Idaho) than Wichita allowed them to control play, and didn’t challenge them.
Smith didn’t have much to do, but did make a nice positional save on Wichita in the last five minutes of the period on the Thunder’s fourth shot.
The Grizzlies weren’t particularly tidy through the first, but in comparison to Wichita, they looked stellar, and ended the first up 4-0, outshooting the Thunder 14-4.
Utah had a couple of sloppy passes in the opening moments of the period, but the Thunder were unable to make the most of them. Although they did get a point-blank shot at Smith, who turned it aside handily.
Dickinson got the hat trick goal at 2:10 from Tim McGauley, and the Thunder got on the board eleven seconds later. The goal put some life back into Wichita, and they spent a little more time in the zone, picking up a couple more shots.
As the half-way point of the period passed, the Thunder had more chances, but fumbled passes, or were met by the calm presence of Smith.
Utah got a power play with 4:33 to go, and Barron once again made it count, making it 6-1.
Cassels took an interference penalty with 2:09 left in the frame, but Barron took a stick to the face, and the Grizzlies ended with 3:42 of power play time to work with in the third.
They were unable to get anything past Gillam on the power play, but headed right back to the advantage when Riley Weselowski took a tripping penalty just moments after the Thunder returned to full strength. Barron took a boarding penalty as the Wichita penalty expired, but the Grizzlies killed it off without a shot.
Eric Freschi took a helmet violation penalty, and Ryan Wagner took a slashing penalty shortly thereafter, but Joe Wegwerth pounced on a turnover, and capitalized short-handed.
As the final five minutes approached, Wichita started throwing their weight around, which led to a parade of penalties, Freschi and Starrett going off for unsportsmanlike conduct and interference respectively, while Tischke and Barron both followed for for the same.
At final count, shots were 30-14 for Utah, who picked up their first win of the season.
Dickinson’s first pro hat trick and assist earned him first star, while Barron (2G) and Molino (1G, 1A) took second and third star honors. Davis picked up two assists, and Jeff Smith got his first pro win.
Now the team hits the road, where they hope to take their new found chemistry and consistency to Allen this weekend and Rapid City next.
- First Period: Dickinson (Molino, Williams), Dickinson (Davis, Terao) (PP), Molino (Davis, Dickinson), Barron (Yau, Cassels) (PP)
- Second Period: Dickinson (McGauley), Barron (Cassels, Saigeon)
- Third Period: Wegwerth (SH)
Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.