Utah Grizzlies: Snowed In

If last night’s team looked a bit different from the team on Wednesday, that’s because it was, to some extent. After Tim McGauley and Griffen Molino were recalled to Colorado, Mitch Maxwell and Brandon Saigeon both returned to the lineup for game two against Florida on a very snowy Friday night. Meanwhile, in net, Brad Barone got his first home start for the Grizzlies.

Both teams got a couple of shots early, but Utah drew the first power play at 6:01. 48 seconds later, Saigeon scored his first pro goal goal to give Utah the 1-0 lead.

Just moments later, Peter Tischke was taken down, and the Grizzlies got another crack at the man advantage. This time, however, Florida kept them at bay.

The testy nature of Wednesday’s game continued, as crowds continued to gather following whistles, and at 11:35, Maxwell and Hunter Garlent both took roughing calls in front of Florida’s net.

No sooner had both teams returned to full strength, however, than Garlent got in one-on-one against Barone, forcing the latter to make a great save. Saigeon also found himself in the box for interference on the play.

Utah’s penalty kill had nearly as many good looks as the Florida power play, and Saigeon returned to the ice with no change in score.

With 38 seconds to go, Yuri Terao took a hooking call, but the Utah PK kept the Everblades chasing until the buzzer sounded.

Utah started the second period with 1:22 on the PK, but killed it off easily, and Barone continued to impress the home crowd with a great save.

Terao beat Cam Johnson on a snipe of a shot with 14:20 to go in the second, but the puck struck iron. Barone also had a couple of big saves as the period approached the eight minute mark.

Unfortunately, though Barone made the initial saves, Florida tied the game with 9:17 to go. That’s when the wheels came off just a bit. Utah got a good chance on one end of the ice, and on the other Florida scored two in quick succession. The Grizzlies called their time out to slow the game down.

On the next shift, Klotz laid a huge hit, and then clipped Michael Downing solidly up high, earning himself a game misconduct. Economos and Arvin Atwal also earned matching ten minute misconducts. So with only seven minutes left, all four players headed to the locker room.

The Everblades scored less than two minutes in to make it 4-1. As the PK continued, Joe Wegwerth got in on a breakaway, but a Florida player got back in time, forcing him to spin and fire wide. However, Florida had no answer for a flying Terao, who made no mistake, beating Johnson clean and one-on-one to cut the defect in half.

After 40, Utah trailed 4-2, out-shot 20-15, but had regained their composure.

Having scored his first pro goal in the first period, Saigeon sold Johnson on the pass, and then absolutely sniped one for his second unassisted. Shortly thereafter, Taylor Richart drew an interference penalty, and just four seconds later, Michael Downing (who fortunately seemed none the worse for wear after the hit) took a penalty in front of his own net, getting a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. Jack Jenkins also took two for roughing. Unfortunately, Utah wasn’t able to accomplish anything on the nearly two-minute advantage.

Unfortunately for the Utah comeback effort, Barone sealed the post at 8:43, but the puck still trickled just past him to make it 5-3 Florida, and then the Everblades scored again at 9:25.

After that, the Grizzlies spent a substantial amount of time in the offensive zone, taking over the shot lead once more, and drawing a penalty at 16:41.

Right as the power play came to an end, an absolute sea of bodies converged on the Everblades net, as well as possibly the puck.  The call on the ice was no goal, and the call stood after a review of the play, as it went into Johnson’s shoulder, not the back of the net.

Although they spent most of the rest of the game in the offensive zone, the Grizzlies were unable to cut the lead down, despite out-shooting the Everblades 19-5 in the third period.

Despite the 6-3 loss, Brandon Saigeon’s first and second goals of his pro career earned him the second star, while Yuri Terao’s short-handed marker, and an assist, gave him third.

“He played really well tonight,” Tim Branham said of Saigeon. “We’re trying to get him to be stronger on the puck. He’s got a good shot, which we saw tonight, and if he plays that consistent game, he’s gonna have a lot of success. Like we’ve talked with Felix, and those guys coming out of Major Junior, sometimes it’s a little bit of an adjustment and a learning curve, but they’ve definitely got the talent.”

“I thought we played a pretty good game, it’s just a couple of shifts in a row there that we took our foot off the gas, and it cost us” Saigeon said.

“It’s always nice to get the first, got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, they’re great out there. My linemates, we had some good o-zone shifts, it’s nice to get the first couple pro goals, but not it’s back to work. We’ve got a game tomorrow, so now we’ve gotta just focus on that.”

With Klotz kicked out mid game, the Grizzlies, who only had nine forwards to begin with, were forced to play even shorter once Klotz was kicked out, and Economos took a ten minute major.

“I thought we played a pretty good game all around,” said Branham. “It was never gonna be perfect. I thought our group worked really hard. We were short-benched a lot of the game. I thought we looked really good in the third, I thought we looked a little bit tired in the second, our forwards. But against a team like Florida,  you’ve got to manage the puck a little bit better than what we did. It’s never going to be a perfect game, but I actually thought we played a pretty good game. We gave up 25 shots, so I’d take that any night.”

Overall, the team has adjusted remarkably well in a short time to the amount of players that have been up and down from the American league on a game to game basis. When asked how they’ve been able to adapt so quickly, Branham gave all the accolades to his team.

“I’m going to give credit to my players on that one. We’ve got seven forwards in the American League, and our players have done an amazing job of coming in, filling roles, listening, working hard, sticking to the system. You’ve got to give credit to them through the changes, they’re the ones playing, we just tell them what to do. They’re the ones who have to go out there and execute, and I think they’re doing a great job with that, because there’s certainly been a lot of movement.”

The changeover will continue into Saturday’s game, as it has been announced that Klotz was given a suspension and a fine with a hearing to come.