Utah Grizzlies: Happy Homecoming

After going with some small tweaks here and there, the Grizzlies’ roster saw quite the shake-up prior to their first game against the Kansas City Mavericks. Joe Wegwerth and Diego Cuglietta are both out with injuries, Alex Lepkowski and Yuri Terao both were also out of the lineup, while Jared Pike, re-signed a few days ago, Tanner Jago and Matt Hoover all drew back in.

The game got off to a pretty quiet start, both teams getting two shots before play was briefly delayed to repair a stanchion, but things picked up first with Payton Jones shutting down a breakaway attempt, and then Teigan Zahn was given five and a game for an illegal check to the head.

Utah rose to the challenge, Kansas City only getting two good sets of opportunities on the five minute power play, and the Grizzlies getting one on a two-on-none breakaway. Jones also made at least one really nice save, and the Utah defense blocked several other shots.

A couple of shifts later, Utah got a great chance, the puck seemingly hitting the post, then trickling out from under the KC goalie. The officials reviewed the play, but there was no goal.

Matthew Boucher drew a power play at 15:19, but weren’t able to capitalize, and the Mavericks got a power play of their own as Utah got dinged for too many men.

Despite the multiple penalties and the five minute major, shots a nice, even 8-7 for Kansas City at the end of the first.

Utah got off to an excellent start in the opening couple minutes of the second, outshooting the Mavericks 3-1 to start. They continued hold the shot lead, and at 9:32 Miles Gendron opened the scoring from Horn and Pat Cannone. Unfortunately, KC answered about a minute later, when Brodie Reid put the puck over the shoulder of Jones from a tight angle.

Utah continued to work though, and at about the 15 minute mark, Bradley and Canonne flew in together, Bradley making a beautiful pass across the crease to Cannone, whose second of the year was as nice as you please.

At the end of a much more lively second period, Utah had established the shot lead 18-13 in addition to the 2-1 lead were it mattered most.

The first power play since the first period went to Utah at 1:36 into the third, and Cédric Paré rocketed an elevated pass from Cannone into the back of the net.

Abt caused a ruckus behind the Mavericks’ net with about five gone, and a couple of shifts later, Hoover was manhandled down to the ice and held there directly in front of a ref with no call. However, the Grizzlies decided that revenge was best served on the score sheet, Boucher getting his first pro goal at 6:41 from A.J. White and Bradley.

The Mavs showed significantly greater signs of life after their time-out following the goal, but they remained without a shot through the first ten minutes of the third, being outshot 14-0.

After that, it was just a matter of keeping Kansas City off the scoreboard, which Utah did without getting much push-back. The trio of Horn, Hoover, and Boucher looking especially good.

When the game ended to the cheering of the 1680 fans in attendance, Utah had outshot the Mavs 36-16. In a very convincing win.

Cannone’s goal and two assists earned him first star, while Boucher’s first pro goal and assist took second, and Bradley’s two assists took third. Jones made 15/16 saves for his fourth win of the season.

“Patty’s unbelievable,” Branham said of Canonne after the game. “Obviously, we’re lucky to have Patty. He doesn’t really belong at this level. You know, he’s got a brand new baby. And he didn’t want to make the trek over to over to Europe. He’s here to earn a call up to the American League. So we’re extremely lucky to have him. He’s an unbelievable person off the ice, a great leader in that room, and you see what he does on a nightly basis.

“Boucher is a great addition,” he continued, “young kid, who again, we’re lucky to have. If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t have him because he’d still be in school. His dad played in the NHL, and he’s a solid, solid defensive player. You see what he’s got offensively, but he’s so smart defensively. It’s nice. You can put him out there in any situation. He’s got a very, very high hockey IQ.

Trey Bradley had another good night. He was all over the map and making plays and stuff like that, Paré had a nice goal on the power play so those big guns came through for us tonight.”

“I am excited about this group of guys,” he said. “Next week, we’re gonna have a different group of guys because we have five or six guys leaving for the American League. So that’s gonna present a new challenge in itself.”

“We’ve got some injuries right now right with Wegwerth, Terao, Cuglietta” he added, “Those are three pretty good players out of the line-up. On the back end Lepkowski’s out, those are four high end players for us, so I don’t think our depth is as good as it could be right now. But we’ve got a lot of hard work up front, that’s for sure. Our D are pretty solid… It’s a big mobile D core, which I like, they’re not overly physical. They’re not super offensive besides Scheid. He’s a really special player, that’s for sure. Ian Schied, he’s really special.

“The other guys are good two-way D men that move the puck really well. And obviously we’re solid in net. You see Jones and you see Gahagen and Barone. They’re good goalies. So we’re extremely deep. We’ve got high hopes for this team.”

As is life in the ECHL though, especially with the AHL season starting up soon, the lineup is going to be shaken up further. But before that, they’ve got to play the next two games against Kansas City, a task which is going to be all about consistency.

“We need to play the way we did at the end of the game, play the same way tomorrow, get a day off, then find a way to play that same way on Monday.”

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Gendron (Horn, Cannone), Cannone (Bradley, Boucher)
  • Third Period: Paré (Cannone, Scheid) (PP), Boucher (White, Bradley)
    Jones: 15/16 saves

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

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