Utah Grizzlies: Costly Lapses

After a wild comeback fell just short on Wednesday, and after Alex Dostie was assigned from San Diego, parts of the lineup were shuffled up, and parts remained the same. Angus Redmond got the start, the potent line of Ryan Walters, Brad Navin, and Kyle Thomas remained together, Dostie replaced Jon Puskar, and Rob Mann drew in for Chris Leibinger. Tim Branham put the three AHL guys together, Mitch Hults centering Dostie and Austin Ortega.

The two teams exchanged chances, Navin and Dostie right in the thick of the action for the Grizzlies, as Dostie looked right at home, and Navin continued to look dangerous. Idaho put the pressure on after the half-way mark, but Redmond looked sharp and calm, snatching up shots and rebounds alike.

Taylor Richart drew the first power play of the night, a tripping call on Steven McParland. It did not take them long to draw first blood with a first wave of Dostie, Hults, Ortega, Thomas, and Cliff Watson. Dostie put the Grizzlies up 1-0 with his first on the team, and the first of the night.

Redmond continued to look strong, and the Grizzlies got into a tussle in front of him. Mitch Jones got a cross-checking penalty at 10:24, but Utah killed it off.

Idaho continued to hold the pressure, jumping out to a 13-4 shot count with about six left, but the puck went the other way, Thomas and Navin making Idaho (Faragher included) run around, and the line drew a power play with 4:50 to go. It was short-lived, Ortega taking a cross-checking minor mere seconds later.

The negated power play didn’t matter, however, as Dostie rushed in two-on-one with Hults, who got his second on the four-on-four marker.

Unfortunately, Idaho scored on their 15th shot of the night with a couple of minutes left to play in the first. At the end of the period, Utah led 2-1, despite being out-shot 17-7.

The second did not begin well. Watson took a penalty 19 seconds in, and Idaho capitalized on a bad bounce of the boards. Then Utah drew a power play, that spent half their time in their own end.

The Grizzlies got another crack on the advantage at 5:12, but though it went much better, they still couldn’t muster up more than the one shot. On the positive side, unlike their prior advantage, it didn’t effectively kill their momentum.

Utah continued to be opportunistic when they had the puck, were out-shot and out-possessed through the middle of the frame.

Hults took a cross-checking penalty deep in the offensive zone, but the Grizzlies killed it off, getting a really terrific shift from Richart and Brendan Harms in the process.

Navin caught Hults with a nice pass out of the box at 13:57, but Faragher stopped the puck. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes later, a misjudged pass turned into a bad turnover, and the puck ended up behind Redmond once again.

The second line threw themselves into the breach, creating chaos around Faragher, and the third line followed that up, as the Grizzlies cut the shot lead down to 26-18. From there on to the end of the period, Utah worked hard, and did a better job of holding onto the puck, drawing another power play with two seconds left.

Utah won the face-off, and Richart yet again did not miss the net by much. The Grizzlies went to the room having pulled within 6 shots, trailing by one goal, and with 1:58 of power play time waiting for them.

The power play suffered the fate of many early period advantages, though the second half certainly went much better than the first. Harms got the first shot of the third just after the Steelheads returned to full strength.

In the next three minutes, the teams exchanged icings, and play, but Hults took a holding call at 5:05. Utah killed it off, Idaho getting two shots, and Utah getting one. Moments after it was killed off, it looked like the puck was behind Redmond, but it was immediately waived off. Idaho didn’t protest very much, and from the replay, it looked like the puck may have popped over the net and rolled down the back, or something. Either way, the Grizzlies were happy to take it.

Todd Skirving beat out an icing, set up two great looks from Harms and James Melindy, and then drew a power play at 9:33. This advantage went far better, as the top power play unit established a good cycle, lost possession, and then regained it. Navin won the draw for the second unit, spun and fired. Both units got two shots, but came up empty.

The Grizzlies hustled after that, and after a strong shift from Misiak, Walters, Harms, and Richart, Richart drew a power play. It was rapidly negated as Thomas went to the box. Once again, however, Utah pounced four-on-four, as Watson’s blast made it past Faragher. Ortega and Walters got the assists.

The Steelheads responded though, Redmond sprawled to reach the puck, and Will Merchant got in a couple of good whacks which eventually freed the puck, and put it in over Redmond’s shoulder.

Dahl got in with Merchant on a two-on-one, but Redmond snatched the puck out of the air with a flashy save that plucked it out of harms way.

With 40 seconds left, Utah pulled Redmond for the extra skater, idaho iced the puck, Utah took their time out, Dosti got a blast, Connor Chatham missed the empty net, icing the puck again. The final shift of the game was a determined one from the Grizzlies, but they were unable to beat the buzzer, falling 4-3, out-shot by an ultimately respectable 34-28.

It was really too bad that the Grizzlies weren’t able to reward Redmond for his most consistent outing of the year, and in the end, it was a couple of little things that cost them. Sloppy defence, a really bad bounce, and an ill-advised pass led to three of the four goals. Once again, Utah played just short of of a complete 60, and it cost them.

On the bright side, it is very clear that Dostie and Hults are going to be great fun to watch as long as they’re here, and putting Ortega with them gives the Grizzlies an incredibly lethal first line, that already has familiarity from their time together in the AHL. The other two lines were no slouches either, Thomas getting a team-leading six shots, while Navin had three. Harms was a man on a mission as well. It seems like, for now at least, offense is no longer the issue. Utah will really need to sort out the defensive issues going forward, without sacrificing the offense, if they’re going to bare down and get any kind of run going.

They get another crack at Idaho Saturday night.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard

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Utah Grizzlies: Uphill Battle

Wednesday’s game saw the Grizzlies debut of new center Todd Skirving, as well as the second games from Mitch Hults and Nate Mitton. Brad Navin centered Ryan Walters and Kyle Thomas, while James Melindy and Cliff Watson started in front of Sean Maguire. Ryan Faragher got the start for Idaho.

The game got off to a fairly leisurely start, neither team coming out particularly energized. Idaho skated more, but Utah passed much more cleanly.

The Steelheads held Utah in their own zone around the four minute mark, but Utah allowed only two shots to get through to Maguire, and Jones getting Utah’s first shot shortly thereafter against Faragher. That shift seemed to wake the Grizzlies up, as they took the game to the Steelheads with much ore vigor after it.

Utah drew the first power play of the game at 8:56, but Idaho scored shorthanded when the puck trickled just past Maguire’s out-stretched toe. Idaho returned to full strength, and just under a minute later, made it 2-0.

Unfortunately, they gave up another at 15:27, and Maguire’s night was over. Angus Redmond came in, and on the next shift, Navin just missed putting the Grizzlies on the board.

With just a couple of tenths of a minute to go, Redmond drew a goaltender interference call, and Utah limped out of the period, out-shot 11-7, and down 3-0.

They opened the second with nearly a full two minutes on the advantage, and the Grizzlies capitalized. Hults isn’t exactly flashy, but he does little things that just put him on another level, and that was very much in evidence as he quarterbacked the advantage. He held the puck in the zone, and his play eventually led to the power play tally from Walters..

Utah got their third straight power play opportunity as Eric Sweetman put the puck over the glass. They did not capitalize. Birthday boy Kyle Thomas flew into the zone at 7:36, but had his gorgeous opportunity taken away with a slash across the hands. It probably could have been a penalty shot, but Utah drew another power play.

In the end, the result was probably the same. Austin Ortega took a cross-ice pass right on the tape and wired the puck past Faragher to make it 3-2. The lead did not last along. On the next shift, Utah took a penalty, Faragher sprinted off for the extra skater, and Zach Bell made it 4-2.

Utah continued to work, however, Redmond made a snappy glove save, Ortega made a really nice play, and Utah drew another power play. They were unable to capitalize, though Walters rang iron, and at the end of 40, shots were 20-20, 4-2 for the Steelheads.

Idaho got the best of the first couple of minutes of the third, but thanks to a couple of nice defensive plays from Watson, they got through with apparently no shots.

2:23 into the period, the Grizzlies got set up in the offensive zone, and Navin caught the Steelheads completely by surprise, scoring from the slot, completely unobstructed in front of Faragher.

Utah got another power play opportunity, but were unable to get going, and in a scramble around the net, Redmond lost his footing, and the puck went in off his back.

Thomas drew another power play at 11:03 as he was tripped up, and an absolutely insane scramble around Faragher sent the puck right onto Navin’s stick. Once again, uncontested, he put the puck past Faragher to put Utah within one.

With 4:03 to go, Thomas flew into the offensive zone, and the Captain tied the game. Walters’ second goal sent the game to overtime tied 5-5, shots 31-30 for Utah.

It was certainly a high-intensity OT, both teams flying about, and players on both sides making some great plays. Idaho took a too many men penalty with just 57 seconds to go, but at the buzzer, the game was still tied.

An equally nerve-wracking shoot-out followed, in which Richart scored, Thomas was allowed to shoot twice as a result of interference from Faragher, Redmond turned in a strong showing, but Idaho scored two to Utah’s one.

It was a disappointing result, but considering how grim things had looked at the end of the first period, and how entertaining a game it became as the Grizzlies drew ever closer.

All three stars went to Utah, Navin and Walters getting the first two with two goals a piece, and Redmond being named the third for his relief and shoot-out performance.

When asked about the effort displayed in the comeback, Tim Branham said, “That’s what I just told them. Very proud of coming back and getting a point. We actually started out the game really good until that first power play. Then we decided to take it easy when you have to out work them. When we decided to outwork them, we scored three power play goals right? So at the end of the day, we got a point, but we’re going to play the guys who want to be here, and want to put in a full sixty minute effort.”

“He gave us a chance to win there in the shoot out.” Branham said of Redmond’s third star performance. “I thought he did a good job coming in in relief. He kept us in it, and allowed us to come back and get a point. We had four chances to win it in the shoot out, so can’t fault him at all.”

Navin’s thoughts on the game were in the same vein. “Like Coach said after the game, we came out and we thought we were playing well, then all of a sudden, the power play came, and kind of depleted us as a team, then we had to fight back. Like he said after the game we gotta be sick of making it hard on ourselves and come back like that. But it shows what kind of group we’ve got, the willingness of guys to go in and win battles, make a comeback, make an effort, it shows guys are still trying, we’ve guys who want to win.”

Tonight (Friday’s) game in Idaho kicks off a lengthy road trip that will see the Grizzlies play in Idaho, Rapid City, and Allen before returning to the Maverik Center on Monday the 19th.

Wednesday’s highlights/Friday’s game preview

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: The Phantom Menace

After winning 8-3 against the Rush on Friday night, the Grizzlies’ line-up remained unchanged, with the exception of Angus Redmond getting the start.

Utah got the first two shots of the game, but the Rush answered quickly, getting the next four, and throwing their weight around. The Grizzlies got some looks in the first five minutes, but by-and-large, Rapid City kept the play moving towards the Utah zone.

With 14:08 to go, the Ryan Line charged the net, Ryan Olsen got the shot, and they drew the first power play of the game. They drew another power play when Peter Sivak got a throwing-the-stick call. The Grizzlies got a couple of shots on the minute long five-on-three, re-establishing their shot lead, but they were unable to put the puck past former Utah goalie Shane Owen.

One thing the power play did, however, was allow the Grizzlies to take back momentum from a Rush team working hard after the 8-3 drubbing. Olsen got a shot off one-on-one against Owen on a tight angle with 9:52 to go, but Owen kept it scoreless.

Chris Leibinger made a couple of huge blocks in the defensive zone, that led to an odd-man rush between Kyle Thomas and Ryan Misiak. Misiak put the puck past Owen, and gave Utah the 1-0 lead from Thomas and Redmond. The goal energized the team, and they started to absolutely fly. Michael Pelech got a gorgeous shot of his own, and Tommy Maxwell got sent to the box with 6:31 to go in the frame.

On the power play, Olsen got slashed, and then stapled to the boards, but Utah kept control of the puck. Kyle Thomas got into it with a Rush player in front of the net, and got sent off to the box with 4:50 to go, and 20 seconds left on the Maxwell penalty. The penalty kill returned to its former state, however, Hanson getting a short-handed chance, and then killing it off.

With 2:26 to go, Kenton Miller boarded Taylor Richart, and Erik Higby made him pay. Richart and Olsen got the assists on Higby’s second in two games.

After 20, Utah led 2-0, shots 20-13 tying their season high. Redmond’sΒ  play definitely held the Grizzlies in it early on.

The teams traded opportunities and zone time in the first five minutes, but once again, Owen and Redmond were up to the challenge. Utah drew a power play with 15:24 to go, but were unable to capitalize.

The Grizzlies did not exactly make Redmond’s life easy in the second period, and he came up pretty big for them. With almost exactly 10 minutes left in the period, Sam Windle rang the post.

That post could have been haunting, as Richart took a delay of game penalty with 8:40 to go. They were able to kill it off, but an egregious turn over left Maxwell all alone in the slot. He beat Redmond, and cut the lead in half with 6:25 to go in the second.

Shortly thereafter, they had another bad turnover, but fortunately, nothing came of that one. Utah returned to their puck possession game with about four minutes to go from all their lines.

Owen stood on his head on a flurry of shots from a determined first line jumped on some rebounds. At the buzzer, Misiak got bumped at the boards, and Walters and Olsen objected vehemently. Olsen and Maxwell took matching roughing calls, and the refs herded the teams to the locker room. After 40, shots were 28-21 for Utah (but 8-8 in the frame), and the score 2-1.

The third period opened with two solid minutes of four-on-four, but then the Rush pressured. The third line got the engine going again, but Owen made a couple of big saves on Zach Saar and C.J. Eick, and Redmond was called upon to make a save of his own as the puck went the other way. Misiak and Walters got an odd-man rush as well, but again Owen shut the door.

With 13:13 left, Rapid City once again capitalized on Utah sloppiness, erasing the lead.

Greger Hanson restored the lead, 1:14 after the Rush tied it, once again started by a Leibinger play. The assists on Hanson’s eighth went to Leibinger and Pelech.

Rapid City continued to skate hard, Misiak got a break-away that went wide, and at 10:08, Thomas restored the two goal lead on a dazzling display of skill. Hanson and Olsen got the assists 1:51 after the game was tied.

Maxwell went back to the box for roughing immediately after that, but they didn’t extend the lead. Unfortunately, Utah was unable to get the puck out of their own end shortly after that, and Rapid City closed the lead again with seven minutes to go, as they refused to go away.

Navin, Higby, and Saar got a two on one, and helped re-establish puck possession.

With just a bit over four minutes to go, Hanson beat out an icing, and threw the puck across crease to Pelech, who put the puck past Owen for his eighth of the year.

Rapid City got in on a breakaway, Redmond made a terrific save, and Richart whisked the rebound out of harm’s way with less than two minutes to go.

The Rush pulled Owen with a minute to go, Utah held possession, but were unable to get a shot on the empty net. With 23 seconds to go, the Rush drew within one, scoring short-side, and then taking their time out.

Olsen won the face-off following the time out, keeping Owen stuck in his net. Redmond made the save with nine seconds left. Olsen again took the draw in the defensive zone, as Rapid City pulled Owen once more. The Rush got control of the puck, but Redmond pounced on the puck. With four seconds to go, Branham called his time out. Olsen won the final face-off, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had held on for their second straight win.

Thomas (1G, 1A, 3 shots), Pelech (1G, 2A, 5 shots), and Olsen (2A, 4 shots) were named the three stars of the game, while Redmond got his second win of the season. Misiak now has goals in consecutive games, and seven points in the last six, while Olsen now has eight points in six games, including five over the weekend. The first line, meanwhile combined for a total of seven points on Saturday, and a total of 15 in the last two. Higby also has goals in two straight.

“I thought our guys did a good job of creating scoring chances,” Coach Branham said after the game. “It was good to see. I mean, we were on a huge scoring drought, and playing good hockey, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. Now we’ve done eight and five. We just gotta keep that rolling, we’re playing a good team next week in Colorado, we’re gonna need that same effort out of everybody to come out with the win.”

When asked what the team needs to do to carry on their winning ways against Colorado–who they have yet to beat this season–he added:

“Just play the same way, all the games have been one goal, except for one or something, but it’s a different story when you have Thomas down, and you’ve got that fire power, those two lines that are playing with a lot of confidence right now. I like our chances. I thought our D were a little tired out there today, going two nights back-to-back going with five D I thought put a little stress on them, but Colorado is good, we gotta be disciplined. They’re good on the power play, we’ve just gotta make sure we play a solid game, and score on our scoring chances the last two games.”

Utah will play the Eagles twice in Loveland, before finishing off the year at home against Colorado and Idaho.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Branham’s 12

In the second weekend series of a lengthy November home stand, Greger Hanson returned from San Diego for Friday night’s game against Colorado. As a result, the Grizzlies shuffled the lines a little, keeping Brendan and the Ryans together, but with Hanson taking Charley Graaskamp’s spot on Michael Pelech and Ryan Walters’ other wing. Erik Higby and Zach Saar were the scratches, while Jon Puskar and Rob Mann remained on reserve. Cliff Watson and Taylor Richart wore the As, and Angus Redmond got the start.

Utah played well early, picking up six shots to Colorado’s three, all the later of which were stopped in authoritative fashion by Redmond. Brendan and the Ryans, and C.J. Eick had some especially good shifts early on.

There were not many whistles, but one of the first signaled a Utah power play, drawn by Hanson at 8:30. Mere moments later, Teigan Zahn laid a huge hit on Ryan Olsen, which drew another Utah power play, giving them 1:38 on the five-on-three.

The Grizzlies were able to get set up, but were unable to capitalize, and Michael Pelech went to the box after a net-front scuffle. All the penalties were killed off, and the score remained 0-0, thanks to some really positionally solid saves from Redmond.

The two teams traded chances through the remainder of the period, but Hanson drew yet another power play, as Gabriel Verpaelst took a interference call with 3:43 to go.

Though the Grizzlies didn’t capitalize on the power play, Hanson scored the game’s first goal, unassisted at 19:14 off a turn-over.

Things got crazy after the buzzer, as Ben Storm laid a huge hit on Chris Leibinger. Mitch Jones jumped in in defence, and then Leibinger and Verpaelst dropped the gloves and had a lengthy bout. Verpaelst got the best of it, and when the dust settled, the two had gotten five for fighting, and Travis Howe got a ten minute misconduct.

It was an excellent first period from more or less the entire roster, as each line had multiple stand-out moments in the period. Utah led in shots, 15-8, as well as on the score board, thanks to Hanson’s goal. While the first two lines continued to be solid as usual, Eick and Navin played one of their best periods of the season.

The second period saw a couple of good shifts for Colorado in a row, Redmond very much held Utah in it as they struggled defensively.Β A speedy Eick got the Grizzlies’ first shot of the second about two minutes in, and it began a shift in momentum.

The Grizzlies began to absolutely fly around shortly thereafter, as first Hanson got in ahead of the Eagles, but had the puck stolen at the last moment. Then Graaskamp, Eick, and Navin charged in three-on-two, and just missed an opportunity there as well.

Unfortunately Joey Ratelle made it 1-1 at 6:09, yet again, just off a face-off on a great shot from the point. Navin took a holding penalty shortly thereafter which Utah killed off.

Olsen rang the crossbar on a nice up-ice shift from Brendan and the Ryans, but Colorado went the other way and took the 2-1 lead.

The Grizzlies responded with a couple of strong shifts from the Navin and Pelech lines.

Utah drew a power play at 14:28, and Hanson scored his second on the power play to tie the game with 4:14 left in the period.

After 40, shots were 26-23 for Utah, and the game was, once again, tied.

The Grizzlies and the Eagles traded chances through the first half of the third, but both teams played some pretty sloppy hockey throughout the period.

Utah pulled it together a bit towards the middle of the frame, and the Pelech, Hanson, Walters line got a couple of good shifts. As a result of their work, the line drew a power play at 11:19. Although they didn’tΒ score, Hanson got a couple more looks.

The back half of the third was much the same as the first half, both teams having chances, but regulation time wasn’t enough to break the deadlock.

As they had in regulation, both teams exchanged opportunities, but Verpaelst got the win two-on-one. Utah took one point with the 3-2 OT loss, shots 34-32.

“That’s extremely frustrating for me.” Tim Branham said of yet another goal off the face-off. “I felt that we played one period of hockey, and had we outworked that team you could completely dominate them.”

“When you get scored on off face-offs, you’re just not ready.” He added. “The overtime goal? Just not ready to go. I thought Redmond was pretty good, I thought he made some good saves, I thought their goalie made some good saves. We need to make sure that we can sustain our work ethic for a full 60 minutes plus, ’cause we only played one period tonight.”

With three penalties drawn, two goals, and three shots, Greger Hanson was the game’s first star, like Ryan Walters, scoring two in his return from the AHL.

While Utah struggled at times throughout the second and third, there were still some bright spots.

Brad Navin, C.J. Eick, and Travis Howe all had good shifts, playing well on both sides of the puck. Navin and Howe both set up nice scoring chances, and Eick’s speed, as always, helped shift momentum several times during the game.

Angus Redmond had possibly one of his best games in the Grizzlies uniform, holding the team in it at several points throughout the game, and making some solid saves.

The Grizzlies and the Eagles will face off again tonight (Saturday) at the Mav. The Grizzlies will be wearing their Mighty Ducks/Angel’s Hands jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game, and it’s also Pooch on the Pond night!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard & Jess Fleming