Fresh off their first home loss of the season, the Utah Grizzlies looked to get back to their winning ways, backstopped by the ever reliable Ryan Faragher.
The game began with a literal bang as Utah and Allen players collided along the boards behind Faragher just after the faceoff.
Utah drew the first penalty, but were unable to muster a shot on the man advantage against a very tight Allen penalty kill.
Colin Martin took a penalty just past the eight-minute mark, but between a pair of beautiful saves from Faragher, and some first-rate stickwork from the Grizzlies’ penalty killers, both teams were kept scoreless. Allen carried the momentum coming off the power play, and for a significant stretch thereafter, before the Grizzlies got the ball rolling again in the back end of the period.
After being shoved, checked, slashed, and more over nearly four periods with no penalties called, the refs finally called a cross-checking penalty on Allen against Jon Puskar, sending Utah to the power play with just under 30 seconds left in the period.
The opening five minutes of the second were eventful, to say the least. The Grizzlies’ power play had some good moments, but didn’t capitalize, and then Travis Howe and Derek Mathers dropped the gloves. And then Allen found that sometimes revenge is best served hot as Jon Puskar absolutely victimized the Americans on the way to his fifth goal of the year.
Kenton Helgesen took a high-sticking penalty 5:32 into the second, but there is a whole different vibe when Faragher is in nets, and the two minutes were killed off without trouble.
At 15:30 Pietroniro took a penalty, which the Grizzlies killed off in style, including a fairly substantial period where Helgesen single-handedly kept Allen running around their own end, earning a rousing cheer of appreciation from the fans.
At the end of 40, shots were 22-18 for Utah, and Puskar’s remained the only goal of the night.
The first five minutes of the third were a furious affair, with both teams buzzing, and Faragher, Helgesen, and Higby coming up huge for Utah in their own end.
Allen was rewarded for their tenacity 4:38 into the third period, as Michael Brodzinski put the puck past Faragher.
After being sent flying near the Allen bench, Taylor Richart scored his first goal of the season, putting the Grizzlies up 2-1 just over 30 seconds into the power play.
Tim Daly took a hooking penalty halfway through the period in a desperate bid to stop a breakaway, but the Grizzlies penalty kill looked especially sharp.
The Grizzlies pressed hard in the final five minutes of the game, including one shift where they spent several seconds spinning Allen around their own end like a bunch of tops. However, They also needed Faragher to save their bacon on at least one occasion, as they held on to the lead by the slimmest of margins.
Despite the Grizzlies’ determination, Allen pulled their goalie, and with just 3.5 seconds left in the game, Aaron Gens scored the backbreaker.
Overtime solved nothing, though it did see some first-rate hockey from the likes of Pietroniro, who was instrumental in preventing several Allen shots from even reaching Faragher, and Eick and Higby who created absolute havoc around Gill’s net. Eick’s speed was even more on display than usual with all the extra space provided by 3-on-3.
Right before the buzzer sounded, Ralph Cuddemi beat Gill, but rang the puck off the crossbar, and the game went to a shootout.
Both Allen shooters scored on Faragher, and both Aubin and Higby missed the net, so Utah picked up a much needed point, but fell to 6-5-0-1.
After a road trip that saw the Grizzlies collapse in the third almost every game, the tenacity in the final frame of the game was good to see. But the loss was especially frustrating, given how well they’d played.
Utah will face the Adirondack Thunder on Monday, and very much need to get back in the win column.