Utah Grizzlies: Swagger

Saturday night’s game was likely the last to ever be played between the Alaska Aces and the Utah Grizzlies, and it did not disappoint.

Ryan Faragher got the start for the third straight game, and the only roster change saw Sean Robertson draw in in place of Zac Larraza.

Utah came out flying in the opening minutes of the period, and Jon Puskar scored his 19th of the year at 3:37, making it 1-0 on a beautiful shot. Ralph Cuddemi drew the only assist.

About a minute later, Phil Pietroniro put the puck over the glass, and was sent to the box for delay of game. There were some tense moments to follow, as C.J. Eick joined him shortly after for interference, drawing a crowd of ticked off Aces players. Between some beautiful saves from Faragher, and the Grizzlies’ excellent penalty kill, however, the 5-on-3, and subsequent 5-on-4 were both killed off.

Both teams collected chances in the following few minutes, but it would be Utah who capitalized. At 10:45, The Grizzlies came flying into the Aces’ zone, and Colin Martin made it 2-0 on Pietroniro’s rebound.

Martin took a penalty at 13:02, and though Utah did an excellent job of killing it off, Alaska cut the Grizzlies lead in half mere seconds after it expired.

Both teams got good chances in the last four or so minutes, but Utah decidedly carried the play, throwing a flurry of shots on net in the last three seconds, and the period came to an end with Utah up 2-1, outshooting Alaska 9-7.

The Grizzlies continued to buzz right out of the gate in the second, as Erik Bradford rang the post mere moments into the frame.

Brad Navin took a goaltender interference penalty at 2:34, and the Grizzlies got a few chances early, but Alaska also got two breakaways. Ultimately, however, Martin made Alaska pay, scoring his second of the night at 3:49 after absolute mayhem around the net. Cam Reid and Marc-André Lévesque drew the assists, and Utah reclaimed their two goal lead.

Despite being up by two goals, the Grizzlies stayed hungry, continuing to skate hard and get chances. Alas,, that’s when the questionable penalty troubles began. Mathieu Aubin was pulled down in the defensive zone at 9:22, yet it was Pietroniro who was sent to the box for tripping.

Unfortunately, Nolan Descoteaux scored on the suspect penalty, and the game was made 3-2. Alaska put the pedal to the metal after their goal, and with 8:31 left to go, they tied it up.

The Aces continued to press, but Faragher made a pair of big saves, and the momentum slowly began to shift back in Utah’s favor.

Mitch Jones tried to goad Ralph Cuddemi into a retaliatory penalty, but with no luck after the Grizzlies continued to crash the net.

The crease crashing paid off as the Grizzlies went to the net hard, and Martin’s wrap-around slipped past Kevin Carr for the hat trick. Martin’s hat trick makes him the third Utah player this year to put up a three goal game, joining Cuddemi and Puskar. Reid picked up his third assist of the night – all three coming on Martin’s goals.

The missed calls continued to pile up, as Erik Higby was taken down with no call. A few minutes later, Brassard was sent into the back of the net at 16:45, and took justice into his own hands, dropping the gloves with Mitch Jones. Brassard won the bout emphatically, Jones got an extra two for roughing, and Utah went to the power play.

The Grizzlies’ power play generated some chances, including two from Martin, but the most dangerous attempt of the play went to Alaska who jumped on a bad line change, and got a 2-on-0 on Faragher. Faragher made a phenomenal save, and the Grizzlies went into second intermission up 4-3.

Alaska got a big scoring chance eighteen seconds into the third on their sixteenth shot of the night, but Faragher shut the door.

Puskar took a shot up high along the boards with no call with 14:31 to go, and Reid took a holding call moments afterwards. Once again, Descoeaux scored on the power play, to tie the game at 6:02.

The Grizzlies responded emphatically as Bradford, Aubin, and Michael Pelech capped off a terrific shift with a goal from the Rocket at 9:08.

Alaska countered, but the Grizzlies did a terrific job blocking out shots, and responding with offensive zone shifts of their own. With roughly five minutes to go, Alaska twice got away with blatant calls against Tim Daly, but Utah continued to battle

The Aces finally took a penalty as Stephen Perfetto all but hitched a ride on Daly through the neutral zone with 2:18 left in regulation. The power play was not so much a power play as a time killer, Utah playing keep-away in the offensive zone as much as possible.

When the final horn sounded, Utah had outshot Alaska 28-24 en route to the 5-4 victory, while Martin, Reid, and Faragher were the well-deserving three stars of the game.

“This whole series, I don’t think we put together a full 60 minutes until tonight.” Martin said after the game. “We took it to them from puck drop right to the last buzzer there. That’s what we need to do every night. It’s playoff hockey, starting now, and it’s time to go.”

Coach Branham had similar thoughts on the team’s game. “Definitely proud of the effort. I’m sure it was exciting for the fans, but we would have liked to keep the puck out of our net a few more times, but I thought we did a pretty good job. We did a good job of answering every time. Alaska did a good job of responding, and then we would respond back. It was just great. No matter what got thrown at us — we were talking on the bench — no matter what gets thrown at us, we’re not losing this game. I thought we could have had quite a few calls there at the end, that weren’t called. I don’t know what was going on there. But we did get the one at the end, and we were able to seal the deal.”

“Our destiny is in our hands” Branham continued. “We’ve gotta just win. Win games, and we’ve got a tough stretch here, but so do they. Missouri lost again tonight, so we’re two points up on them, and they make up a game in hand tomorrow, so we’ll be watching the scoreboards, but at the end of the day we’ve gotta just worry about what we gotta do, and focus on continuing to win hockey games.”

“It’s pretty crazy” Martin said, reflecting on the future of the Aces, “Every time you think about this league, one of the teams you obviously think about is the Alaska Aces. It’s sad. I feel sorry for the guys down there, but at the same time, it’s hockey. Stuff happens, and you’ve just gotta do what you can.”

As much as Martin may sympathise with their fate, he, and the Grizzlies, are focused on their own play, and the task ahead. “We’re confident. That’s what we need. We need confidence, we need guys going to the net, we need guys scoring goals, that all comes with confidence. I think we have that right now, we’ve got some swagger, and it’s time to go to Florida and get six points.”

Confidence and swagger were the watchwords of the day as Branham echoed Martin’s words:”It’s all about confidence and swagger. It’s a confident group in there, so we’ve just gotta build on that, and keep that rolling.”

With the win, Utah improves to 9-0-0-1 when they score first, and a staggering 13-1-1-2 when Puskar scores.

They’ll look to take their winning ways to Florida in the coming week, where they will face the Florida Everblades, and the Orlando Solar Bears, both of whom have been hot as of late.

Photo courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

Utah Grizzlies: Death by Special Teams

After Wednesday’s close contest which saw them fall in overtime, the Grizzlies looked to keep the offense going. Carlos Amestoy drew into the lineup as they elected to play eleven forwards and five defencemen. Kenton Helgesen and C.J. Eick were both scratches as a result.

Utah got the game’s first two shots, but Jake Marto opened the game as he’d ended the previous contest, scoring at 3:01 as Utah was unable to shut down a three-on-two.

The Grizzlies continued to collect some good chances though, including a breakaway as Phil Pietroniro sprang Erik Bradford all alone. Lukas Hafner shut the door, and Faragher was called upon to make a couple saves in a row.

Martin Nemcik had a good chance on the doorstep, which led to some sustained offensive zone pressure through the middle portion of the first frame.

Utah drew the first power play of the game as Matt Register put the puck over the glass at 12:17. They had a very good first shift from Larraza and Brassard. The second shift had it’s moments, setting up Pietroniro’s shot from the point, before running into some trouble in their own end.

Jon Puskar was tripped up by Register with 1:55 left in the first, and it looked like Colin Martin had scored his 15th of the year 33 seconds later, but despite the initial call being a good goal, it was eventually overturned. The Grizzlies went right back to work, but were unable to capitalise despite a few good looks as the period came to an end.

Although the very brief man advantage to start the second wasn’t enough to get Utah going, their subsequent shifts continued to be quite good.

At 4:57, Larraza was boarded by Matt Garbowsky, Puskar and Brassard took exception, and the officials were obliged to break them up. Puskar and Garbowsky both got two for roughing, while Garbowsky got an additional two for boarding.

And this is where all the special teams struggles began. Bradford lost control of the puck at the blue line on the ensuing power play, and Casey Pierro-Zabotel beat both Pietroniro and Faragher to make it 2-0 short handed.

Utah did not let that stop them though, as Cuddemi cut the deficit in half at 14:05, and Higby tied it up less than a minute later.

Things seemed to be looking up for Utah as they avoided what probably should have been a penalty, and then drew a power play of their own at 12:59, but it was not to be.

Jackson Houck got in on a short-handed break away, and was tied up by Higby in a desperate bid to negate the breakaway. Houck was awarded a penalty shot, and beat Faragher to put Colorado up 3-2. The remaining power play got some really good chances, but was unable to erase the deficit.

Colorado got dinged for too many men with just over four minutes in the period, but in the midst of a strong shift, Pelech took a hooking penalty. Colorado scored 4-on-4 to make it 4-2 with less than two minutes left.

Puskar took an interference call with 18 seconds to go, and at the end of a wild second period, shots were 22-20 for Utah, but they trailed by two.

The opening moments of the third period saw a handful of key saves from Faragher, and some big clears from Pietroniro as the Grizzlies killed off the rest of Puskar’s penalty.

Utah got another crack at the man-advantage as Aubin was sent to the ice at 4:04. Martin got a good look, but Faragher was also forced to turn aside yet another short-handed breakaway before all was said and done.

Pietroniro took a retaliatory penalty at 8:21, and Colorado made it 5-2, and more or less continued to carry the play through the rest of the period.

Higby scored his second of the game with just under two minutes to go, but though the Grizzlies pulled Faragher for the extra attacker, they were unable to draw any closer, ultimately falling 5-3.

Special teams definitely hurt Utah in this game, as they allowed two short handed goals, one power play goal, and one four-on-four, and were only able to convert on one of their seven opportunities. They played quite well through large stretches of the first two periods, but the Eagles made them pay for every little break in concentration.

This game was doubly unfortunate, as the Missouri Mavericks beat Idaho, and now are ahead of Utah by one point, as the fight for the last playoff spot intensifies. However, they are by no means out of contention, remaining well within striking distance of Alaska.

Moreover, special teams aside, there were definitely some positives. The new-look lines of Larraza-Reid-Brassard, and Cuddemi-Pelech-Bradford looked excellent. Cuddemi picked up his 25th goal of the season, and his fourth point in the last two games, while Pelech had a two assist performance.

Likewise, the Utah defence has stabilized considerably now that they’ve had time to adjust. Higby especially has been impressive as a defenceman, picking up two more goals tonight, while Pietroniro continues to eat up big minutes on the blue line, and has looked especially good quarterbacking the power play. Marc-André Lévesque also picked up his first point in a Grizzlies’ uniform, and appears to be fitting in well.

Utah is back in action tomorrow against the Eagles, where they look to pick up two all important points and come home with the series split.

 

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Storm’s End

Wednesday’s tilt against the Wichita Thunder saw the return of Austen Brassard, who played 20 games with the Ducks’ AHL team after eight games with the Grizzlies at the beginning of the year.

The Grizzlies and the Thunder traded chances through the opening five minutes or so, with Wichita holding a slight advantage until Taylor Richart was high-sticked behind the Grizzlies’ net. Utah got a four minute power play as a result at 6:48. The first half passed with Utah chasing the puck, several times back into their own zone, but they did eventually get themselves sorted out. Erik Bradford, Cam Reid, and Ralph Cuddemi camped out in the offensive zone, and while Bradford was unable to beat Kent Patterson on two half-wall passes from Reid, the line kept possession, and Cuddemi buried the puck.

After that, the teams traded a series of penalties, and the Grizzlies survived a rocky stretch of play around their own net, but between some good shot blocking, wild bounces, missed shots, and the phenomenal play of Faragher, the puck remained out. Utah pressured at the end of the period, but were unable to add to their one goal lead.

The beginning of the second went well for the Grizzlies, as they picked up a few more shots. However, on the very next rush down the ice, Wichita came back, and Blake Tatchell beat Faragher with an unfortunately beautiful wrist shot.

The Grizzlies didn’t ease off, and – as they so often do – C.J. Eick and Jon Puskar, together with Travis Howe got the Grizzlies going.

With 14:45 left to play, Howe made the second of several really nice plays to set up Navin, but the score remained 1-1.

Phil Pietroniro got called for interference a little past the five minute mark, and the Grizzlies’ penalty kill got to work. It remained strong, as it has of late, and Utah spent at least as much time in the offensive zone as they did in their own end. With seconds left in the penalty, Brad Navin blocked a shot, and then took off down the ice, getting a nice chance on Patterson, who shut the door.

Pietroniro also had a chance seconds after exiting the box, but for the time being, the Grizzlies remained unable to solve Patterson.

Brassard, Puskar, and Navin, had a strong shift in the offensive zone, and at 9:53 Evan Stoflet’s shot from the slot trickled through Pattersen on Puskar’s tip. Stoflet and Brassard both picked up the assists

On the very next shift Michael Pelech put the puck off the back of Patterson and into the net to give the Grizlies a 3-1 lead.

Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Wichita’s captain Ian Lowe at 12:35 for his second fight in as many games, and his third in six, and both were sent to the box.

Mere moments later, Cuddemi put Utah up 4-1 as the puck also slipped through Patterson’s pads thanks to an unforced error by a Wichita defenseman.

After allowing three goals in such rapid succession, Patterson  was yanked in favour of Drew Owsley.

Puskar took a holding penalty, at 14:14, joining Pietroniro in the box, but Utah put on a clinic on penalty killing, keeping Wichita on the outside, and chasing the puck down the ice.

No sooner had Puskar exited the box, than he was high-sticked by Vincent Arseneau, and the Grizzlies got a power play of their own. Despite a strong power play, however, they were unable to pick up another goal, and with 58.8 seconds Brandon Carlson cut the lead in half.

Puskar didn’t think much of that though, responding with his second of the game ten seconds later, this time from Brassard and Colin Martin. Puskar’s 15th of the year sent Utah to the dressing room up 5-2, outshooting the Thunder 26-11.

Despite their lead, Utah never sat back, buzzing around Wichita’s net for large stretches of the early third, with both Puskar and Cuddemi looking to complete the hat trick.

With 10:35 left in the game Owsley absolutely robed Travis Howe point blank as Utah continued pressing. Likewise, every time the Thunder ventured into the Grizzlies end, they were met by the spectacular play of Faragher, and Grizzlies’ defensemen.

Puskar became the second player this season to complete a hat trick a with 4:44 left to play as he tipped Tim Daly’s shot past Owsley.

Faragher made a huge save with 3:56 left in the period, and another one with 3:09 to go.

Pietroniro drew a high-sticking call with 1:59 left to play, and Utah finished the game on the man advantage. That was not the end of the excitement though. Seconds from the end of the game, Arseneau sucker punched Travis Howe, and Howe was sent off to the dressing room early with a ten minute misconduct.

At the final buzzer, the Grizzlies were the 6-2 victors, having outshot Wichita 38-20.

The Grizzlies are now an astounding 19-1-3-1 when either Cuddemi or Puskar score.

“It feels great” said Puskar of his hat trick.  It’s something I’ve never done in my pro career, and it’s exciting for that to happen.” Just as a few games ago, he was quick to credit the hard work of his linemates:”In this one again, two tips, and open net on an unbelievable play, that’s my teammates.”

The praise didn’t stop with his linemates. “That was a huge guy to have come back.” he said when asked about Brassard’s return to the lineup. “That kid can play some great hockey. He works every time he comes to the rink. And with energy like that, skill like he’s got, you just build off him. When you’ve got guys that good, you want to be up there at his level when he’s playing at that elite level – and a lot of guys are like that on this team – you want to build off those guys, that’s where we’re getting it from.”

Branham’s comments on Brassard’s return were along the same vein: “He started the season really well for us, he deserved a call up, he deserves to play in the American league, that’s for sure.”

With Brassard now in the lineup as well, the Grizzlies have added another weapon to their considerable arsenal, and despite the scoring coming largely from Puskar and Cuddemi on Wednesday, the entire team continues to roll along as a very impressive unit.

“We’ve got a lot of talent up front. Lot of good players up there,” Branham said. “I’m lucky behind the bench there. I can’t really go wrong putting anybody on the ice. That’s a good feeling to have, it’s a lot like our team last year. Our boys are playing great, they’re playing with a lot of confidence, they’re sticking to the system, they’re working hard. That’s the biggest thing. We didn’t let up all game. I thought maybe the last half of the first period we were a little slow, but other than that, I thought we played a really solid game, and we need that. We’ve dug ourselves a huge hole there in November, so we’ve got to slowly climb our way back out.”

The Grizzlies will hope to keep stringing wins together on Friday and Saturday where they will finish the homestand against Danick Paquette and the Tulsa Oilers.

Photo courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

Utah Grizzlies: Thunderstruck

After getting off to a rocky start on the road on Wednesday, the Grizzlies looked to get back to their winning ways against the Wichita Thunder. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The game began well for the Ducks’ prospects, as Kevin Boyle made some good saves early, Keaton Thompson had a key shift, blocking shots all over the place, and Kenton Helgesen looked good, finding himself in the thick of the action all over the ice.

C.J. Eick and James Melindy both went to the box with matching minors about halfway through the period, which kicked off a steady stream of penalties in the following three minutes. There were so many penalties that both teams were playing 3-on-3 for a brief stretch. The Grizzlies did eventually have a 45-second power play, but the Thunder returned to full strength with no change in score. Utah got a proper power play as Logan Nelson was sent to the box for making head contact with Erik Higby. Towards the end of the period, Phil Pietroniro took a tripping penalty, and  Alexis Loiseau scored right after the penalty expired. At the end of the first, shots were 9-9 and the score was 1-0, Wichita.

The Grizzlies started the second period well, crashing the net right off the first shift,  though Drew Owsley turned the puck aside. However, Helgesen was back just seconds later, taking the puck deep into the Wichita zone, which led to a goal from Tim Daly. Alexandre Carrier picked up his first point for Utah with the primary assist. The Eick – Helgesen – Carrier line was a bright spot throughout the second period, ending most of their shifts crowded around Wichita’s net. Unfortunately, the tie was short lived, as the Grizzlies failed to complete a pass in the neutral zone, and the Thunder struck again.

With 11:41 left in the period, a scuffle at the Grizzlies’ bench resulted in a Utah power play, as Brandon McNally, James Melindy and Landon Oslanski were all sent to the box. The Thunder have had a stellar penalty kill all season, and despite a strong looking power play, the Grizzlies were unable to tie it up.

With just over seven minutes left to go, the Grizzlies let Wichita walk in uncontested on Boyle and they scored from the bottom of the left circle. Utah came right back on the next shift and Austen Brassard cut the deficit back down to one with 7:02 left. They followed up the goal with several strong shifts in Wichita’s end, but the Thunder were able to keep them at bay.  Though the Grizzlies continued to pressure, the score remained 3-2 Wichita, shots 23-20 Utah after 40.

Right off the third period opening face off, Boyle was forced to make a huge save, but the puck then hit a Thunder player driving to the net and went in anyway, putting them up 4-2 mere seconds in. Wichita continued to press their advantage through the third period, and they were rewarded with yet another goal, largely uncontested, at 6:09.

The difficulties continued as Alexis Vanier fired off a laser past Boyle’s shoulder for their sixth goal and second power-play tally of the night just past the 12-minute mark. Alex Krushelnyski picked up an assist against his former team. Although the Grizzlies had a few really good chances and a power play to end the game, they were unable to capitalize and fell 6-2, dropping their second in a row on the road. They are now 5-3 on the season.

The Good

Helgesen, and his linemates Eick and Carrier, had some really great shifts all through the game, Helgesen picking up his fourth point in five games, with Carrier picking up his first in a Grizzlies jersey. Also, as much as I dislike plus-minus as a stat, Pietroniro managed to come out of a 6-2 loss as a +2 (though he was on the ice for the final power-play goal against, which just goes to show why goal differential is a tricky little bugger).

The Bad and the Ugly

Kevin Boyle was not good tonight, but neither was the defensive play of the team in front of him, who were often nowhere to be found on sequences that led to Thunder goals. Defensive breakdowns have been an issue in a number of games running now, which is definitely a cause for concern.

Utah’s power play continues to struggle, having managed to score only four times on 31 chances. They were held off the board tonight on the man advantage as well, though they did have at least one strong looking power play tonight. Their penalty kill, usually a strength of theirs, allowed two goals on four tries.

This is the second time in as many nights that a one-goal game at the end of two periods has slipped away from the Grizzlies in the third period.

On the plus side, it could always be worse. The NHL leading Montreal Canadiens were blown out and shut out, losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets 10-0…

The Grizzlies will face Wichita tomorrow at 6:05, before heading back to Oklahoma to face the Oilers on Sunday.

Utah Grizzlies: A Scrappy Affair

 

After two long weeks, the Grizzlies are finally back home. It’s been too long.

With Kevin Boyle and Zac Larazza called up to the AHL, Ryan Faragher was backed up by Ryan McKay, Kenton Helgesen drew back into the lineup, and new acquisition Ralph Cuddemi also made his Grizzlies debut.

The last time the Grizzlies and Eagles met, Utah swept Colorado in the first round of the playoffs  in a matchup that was as tightly contested and hate-filled as a series sweep could be. It is in no way an exaggeration to say that these teams do not like each other.

Cuddemi, who joined the team in exchange for Jordan Samuels-Thomas, wasted no time in making his mark. Just over three minutes into the first, a Colorado defenseman lost control of the puck at the Grizzlies’ blue line, and Austen Brassard pounced. Just about shaking off the Colorado player, he rang the puck off the bar. However, the rebound came straight to Cuddemi, who wired it into the back of the net for his first goal.

Unfortunately, Colorado tied it up at 6:45 as league-leading scorer Casey Pierro-Zabotel got one past Faragher.

About a minute later, Derek Rodwell boarded Eric Springer behind the Grizzlies’ net. Though Springer got up and skated off under his own power, he went straight to the dressing room, and didn’t return for the rest of the period. Fortunately, he returned to the Grizzlies bench half way through the second.

With a little over two minutes left in the period, Phil Pietroniro laid a hit on Cole Sanford,  and the two squared off by the Grizzlies’ blue line, but were broken up before a full-fledged fight could break out. Both players were sent to the box for roughing, and the period would end 4-on-4. After twenty, the score was tied 1-1, and the shots were 14-8 for the Grizzlies.

At 5:54 of the second, Mathieu Aubin took a slashing penalty, and the Grizzlies’ penalty kill went to work. Helgesen, who got some time as a defenseman after Springer went down, drew a tripping call half way through the PK.

As the game progressed, it got steadily chippier. With 5:51 left in the second, Pietroniro and Jesse Mychan dropped the gloves for real, and went down swinging behind the Grizzlies’ net. They were both sent to their respective dressing rooms, and just over a minute later, Brassard got sent to the box for tripping. However, the Grizzlies killed the penalty off without trouble.

With a minute left in the first, the Erik Higby beat Nathan Lieuwen, giving the Grizzlies the 2-1 lead going into intermission. Helgesen’s strong play throughout was rewarded with the assist.

The third period did not open in an auspicious manner for the home team, as Faragher got out of position trying to make a save, and Luke Salazar banged the rebound into the empty net.

After that, Colorado’s already tenuous hold on discipline slipped. Michael Sdao was sent off for tripping at 3:24, followed by Matt Register for roughing against Jon Puskar at 4:53. The Grizzlies called a timeout, and got themselves sorted out for the ensuing 31 seconds of 5-on-3.  Puskar got taken down yet again in front of the Eagles’ net, and another scrum ensued. Brassard and Sdao both got sent to the box as a result, getting double minors for roughing, Sdao was joined 18 seconds later by Pierro-Zabotel for cross-checking Tim Daly at the Grizzlies bench, and Jake Marto for roughing against Brandon McNally. McNally joined Brassard also for roughing against Marto.

Puskar took the best revenge possible for the abuse he suffered by scoring just seconds into the power play, tipping in Mike Banwell’s shot from the point. He almost got a second shortly thereafter, but the puck rolled away from him, and the rest of the Grizzlies’ power play expired without incident.

At 13:01, Sdao and Amestoy dropped the gloves, and wound up in the Eagles’ net, each getting five for fighting. With 5:22 left in the game, the Grizzlies coughed up the puck in their own end, and Cole Sanford tied the game up after being left all alone in the slot. Though Brassard got a pair of quality chances in the dying minutes, the game went to overtime.

Three-on-three hockey is amazing to watch. It’s wild, it’s five minutes of non-stop nail biting and end-to-end rushes, and this OT was no exception. The Grizzlies opened with Brassard, McNally and Pietroniro, and after three minutes and 39 seconds of anxiety, Brassard picked off the puck in the neutral zone, motored back into the offensive zone, and was allowed to get off a beautiful backhander all alone in front of the Eagles’ net.

Amestoy, Cuddemi, and Brassard were named the three stars of the game, and Faragher got the win, saving 28 of 31 shots, and improving to a perfect 4-0.

Bumps and Bruises

Games against Colorado often turn into wars of attrition, and a lot of guys were banged up in this game. Taylor Richart got run quite a few times, and Pietroniro hobbled off after blocking a shot in the second. Springer missed parts of both the first and second period after getting hit, and has since been put on the injured reserve. Puskar was the victim of quite a few hacks and slashes as the game progressed, and Daly was plastered to the boards in front of the Grizzlies bench. Tonight is likely to be no different.

Putting up Points

After tonight, two Grizzlies are at (or over) a point-per-game rate. Puskar leads the team with four goals and three assists in five games and rookie Shane Walsh has three goals and two assists. C.J. Eick has three goals and an assist, while Brassard, Aubin, and McNally all have a goal and three assists apiece.

Helgesen Shines

After having been scratched for two games, Helgesen was excellent. He was prominent on the first wave of several penalty kills, and was even on the ice in the final minute of a tied game. Thanks to Springer’s absence for a large part of the game, and Pietroniro’s five-minute penalty during that time, the Grizzlies were short two defensemen. Fortunately for them, Helgesen was drafted as a defenseman, and he stepped up in a big way, filling in on the back end several times during that stretch. He was rewarded for his efforts with an assist on Higby’s goal, and now has two points in three games.

These same teams play tonight at 7 PM MT. As Kevin Boyle is still in San Diego, there is a good chance that we will see Ryan McKay make his debut. Regardless of who plays, it’s bound to be a wild game.