Utah Grizzlies: A Heartbreaker

 

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.

 

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Snakebitten

Finally back from a gruelling road trip, the Grizzlies hoped to defend their perfect home record against the reigning Kelly Cup Champions. Alas, it was not to be.

The opening minutes of the game were a back and forth affair, with the Grizzlies pressuring first, and then the Americans, and both Boyle and Allen goalie Riley Gill were called to make a couple of saves.

With a few exceptions, the Grizzlies carried play in the first half of the period, and were rewarded as Carlos Amestoy picked the puck up in a crowd in front of the net at 4:20 for his first of the year. Alexandre Carrier and Kenton Helgesen were awarded assists.

With 10:39 to go in the first, Eric Roy scored on a lightning quick shot that went right through Boyle, tying the score up at one apiece. Just about a minute later, Chad Costello got in behind the Grizzlies’ defence, and scored on the breakaway, putting the Grizzlies down by one. Troubles continued for Utah as Tim Daly was called for interference shortly thereafter. However, the Grizzlies penalty kill went to work, and looked excellent.

Though they were thwarted on the power play, Allen continued to roll throughout the rest of the period, with only brief Grizzlies’ forays into the Americans’ end.

With 2:24 left in the period, Jon Puskar was called for boarding, and the Grizzlies again went to the kill. A sea of Utah sticks kept the Americans to the perimeter, and a fangless power play came to an end just seconds before the period. At the end of 20, Allen led 2-1, and out shot Utah to the tune of 12-9 – their only shot lead of the night.

The second period had scarcely begun when Allen took a penalty against Ralph Cuddemi, and the Grizzlies went to the power play. Utah had several chances, maintaining possession of the puck through the majority of the man advantage, but though they racked up a number of shots and nice chances, they were unable to solve Gill.

The intensity of the Grizzlies’ game picked up a few notches thereafter, and there were a flurry of chances around the Allen net. Unfortunately with 9:36 left in the second, Evan Stoflet took a hooking penalty, and Allen scored on the ensuing power play, giving them the 3-1 lead as Costello again beat out Boyle.

With 8:09 left in the period, Chris Crane highsticked Puskar in Allen’s blue paint, sending the Grizzlies to the power play. Allen killed off the penalty, but though the Americans swarmed the Grizzlies’ end for several shifts in a row, they were unable to get a shot through Utah’s defence.

Despite out-shooting Allen 18-2 in the second, and largely dominating play, Utah remained down a pair of goals after forty.

Just five minutes into the third, Spenser Asuchak scored, giving Allen a three goal cushion. Though the Grizzlies continued to pressure Allen, putting up fourteen shots to Allen’s six in the final frame, they remained unable to solve Gill, or to get a lucky bounce. The bad luck continued when Gregor Hanson put the final nail in the coffin just two minutes before the game ended, his shot just trickling past Boyle, who thought he’d stopped it.

It was a frustrating night, all around, that unfortunately came down largely to goaltending. Riley Gill is an excellent goaltender who had a very good outing, stopping 40 of 41, while Kevin Boyle struggled on his end, letting in five goals on 20 shots.

“The difference tonight was goaltending tonight for sure,” Grizzlies’ coach Tim Branham said after the game,  “We outshot them 2-1, I guarantee we outchanced them 2-1. We gave up a couple breakaways, but we had two or three breakaways as well…We’ve got to play well defensively and not give up that kind of opportunity, but at the end of the day we had enough chances to win, and we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”

While the Grizzlies did just about everything they could to get the win, creating traffic in front of the net and reaching their goal of 40 shots, sometimes there are elements outside a team’s control that simply have to be taken in stride.

“The hockey gods weren’t looking down on us very much there,” Branham added with a chuckle, “You just continue to press on…Like we said, there was a lot of good things, I think we had seven shots on the one power play, just couldn’t convert.”

Utah falls to 6-5 on the season, but has a second chance to beat the Americans, as these two teams square off tonight at 7:oo MT.