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. 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’t 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

Utah Grizzlies: The Road Home

On Sunday afternoon, in the last of three games in three days, the Grizzlies scratched Brad Navin for Travis Howe, and started Kevin Carr in nets.

Wichita carried the play early, and Carr had to make some big saves in the first half of the period.

C.J. Eick scored the first goal of the game at 7:42, his first of the season assisted by Zach Saar and Erik Higby.

The Thunder scored glove side with just about ten minutes left to tie the game. After a stretch of good play from Utah, Wichita pushed back again, and made it 2-1 with 2:43 to go in the frame.

Mitch Jones made an absolutely gorgeous play to defuse a 3-on-1 to end the first, Wichita outshooting Utah 14-9.

The second period did not get out to an auspicious start, as Wichita came back with numbers…on the penalty kill, and scored. The next couple of minutes didn’t go very well either, though the Thunder didn’t score.

Utah killed off a penalty in the first half of the period, but Wichita drew another power play with 6:58 to go, and scored on the advantage, making it 4-1. They also got an odd man rush to end the period, and after the buzzer, Jeremy Beaudry dropped the gloves with Travis Howe. While Beaudry certainly started the fight, he most decidedly did not end it. Howe laid into him with a will, and Beaudry got very few punches in before the two were separated.

In a way, it was a preview of the Grizzlies’ third period.

Jones scored 2:04 into the frame, Ryan Walters and Ryan Olsen getting the assists on his first of the year. The momentum kept rolling in Utah’s favor, and they drew a penalty at 5:09. Both Kyle Thomas and Ryan Misiak had terrific plays on the advantage, but the Thunder returned to full strength.

However, Zach Saar made it 4-3 on a gorgeous shot, Chris Leibinger getting his second point with the Grizzlies, and Jones picking up his second of the night on the assists.

The tying goal came just over two minutes later from Michael Pelech , Thomas and Misiak getting the assists, and for the second time in two games, the Grizzlies erased a three goal deficit. Once again, they pressed hard in the final minutes, Walters getting a sweet little spin-o-rama chance on one end, and Carr continued to hold down the fort, and once again the game went into overtime.

Once again, unfortunately, Utah fell in overtime, but first period issues aside, it was a good end to a successful road trip.

Saar earned the third star of the game with the goal and the assist, the Ryans once again had a great game, and Kevin Carr remained a rock.

So, after five days, four games, 129 saves, and 13 goals, the Grizzlies are coming home with six points.

Not a bad road trip at all.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

It All Begins Tonight

It’s a new season, and a new look Grizzlies.

Well, not altogether new. C.J. Eick, Brad Navin, Taylor Richart, Erik Higby, Michael Pelech, Travis Howe, Garrett Haar, Sam Windle, Rob Mann, Ryan Misiak (who played with the team during the 2015-16 season), and Jon Puskar have all returned for the 2017-18 campaign.

Among the most notable newcomers are Greger Hanson (Allen Americans), Peter Sivak (Alaska Aces), Kyle Thomas (Fort Wayne Komets), Mitch Jones (Alaska Aces), and Kevin Carr (also Alaska Aces) for some potent offensive flair, and strength at all positions. Zach Saar, Kyle Thomas, Angus Redmond, and Cliff Watson all come to the team via the San Diego Gulls this preseason (though only Redmond is a Ducks prospect).

The rest of the team are no slouches either, with the potential for some impressive firepower, and it should be fun getting to know this new group over the course of the season.

Garrett Haar will begin the season on the injured reserve, Sam Windle and Travis Howe are currently on reserve, while Redmond, Brendan Harms, and Charley Graaskamp were all scratches tonight.

In case you missed it, Eick was named the Grizzlies’ captain this summer, while Navin, Richart, and Higby all wore As during the preseason. Tim Branham remains at the helm as Head Coach and GM as the Grizzlies set their sights on an 11th Kelly Cup appearance, and the trophy that awaits the winner.

The Grizzlies got a good long look at the Cup in Colorado as the Eagles raised their 2016-17 championship banner before the game.

The Grizzlies got off to a decent start, getting the first two shots of the period. Puskar and Misiak got a 2-on-1 about five minutes in, drew a power play, and Melindy fought Joey Ratelle less than five minutes in.

Utah struggled to establish offensive zone time on the advantage, and Colorado scored on a breakaway just two seconds after their penalty expired.

The back half of the period saw the Grizzlies pick up a number of good looks, and their work paid off, as Drayson Bowman went to the box for slashing with 5:04 to go. The second man advantage looked far more commanding than the first, but did not capitalize. However, 22 seconds after the power play expired, Navin threw the puck on net, and the Captain put it past Lukas Hafner. Eick’s first of the year was, once again the opening goal of the Grizzlies’ season, and it sent Utah to the locker room with a 1-1 tie.

The Eagles and Grizzlies traded penalties to start the second, and Utah had a very strong penalty kill, but just four seconds after they returned to full strength, Colorado scored. All three goals of the game, up until this point, being scored 30 seconds or less after a penalty expired

Utah didn’t back off, though, getting a 17-10 edge in shots.

The two teams traded zone time though the later stages of the second, but it would be the Eagles who scored the next goal after a prolonged Utah offensive zone shift with less than two minutes to go in the frame. After 40, Utah trailed 3-1, holding the 28-20 edge in shots.

Four minutes into a somewhat lackadaisical third, Puskar came flying down the wing, cut to the middle, and put a back hand through traffic, making it 3-2, with assists from Taylor Richart, and Ryan Misiak.

Despite amassing 13 more shots over the course of the period, some of them on really good scoring chances, Utah couldn’t find the back of the net.

With four minutes left in the game, Saar and Teigan Zahn dropped the gloves, and though Zahn wound up getting the best of the scuffle, he also took an extra two for instigating, and the Grizzlies went to a big power play. They were, unfortunately, unable to tie the game up.

Coach Branham pulled Carr with less than a minute to go, but Utah took a penalty, and despite a last ditch attempt from Richart 5-on-5 with an empty net, they were unable to score the equalizer.

The loss was disappointing, but it wasn’t a bad first game. Puskar showed every bit of the offensive flair and foot speed that he displayed last season, while players like Thomas (6 shots), Olsen, Jones, Melindy (5 shots each), Saar and Misiak (both with 4) all had good chances throughout the game. Hanson and Watson also had some pretty good moments. Saar impressed in other areas as well, with a fight, and a +2 on the night.

In his post-game show comments to Tyson Whiting, Branham expressed some concern over the Grizzlies’ lack of goal scoring—a problem with which they struggled in the preseason. However, he also reiterated the fact that this is an offensively proven group of players, and that he liked how they played for the most part.

After all, it’s only the first game of the season, and many of these guys have never had the chance to play together before. It might take some tinkering, but the scoring combinations and chemistry are in there somewhere.

The Grizzlies and the Eagles are headed to the Maverik Center for Utah’s home opener tomorrow at 7PM.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and other staff photographers

Utah Grizzlies: All Tied Up

After having lost game one in a disappointing fashion, the Grizzlies looked to even up the series in game two against Allen. Kevin Boyle once again got the start, Colin Martin returned to the lineup, and Rob Mann drew in for Martin Nemcik. The Grizzlies were also without Zac Larraza who was called up to play for San Diego.

The early minutes of the first period were a fairly back and forth affair, with only three shots total through the first five minutes. It became evident quite early on that the C.J. Eick-Jon Puskar-Austen Brassard line had come to play, getting several of the Grizzlies’ best chances.

Marc-André Lévesque got shoved into Boyle with 13:19 to go, and took exception to it, starting a scrum that sent him to the box together with Greger Hanson.

Brassard and Eick had a terrific shift on the four-on-four, Brassard out-muscling the Allen defense, and Eick just narrowly missing a chance on the net. Boyle made a nice save on the other end, and both teams returned to full strength with no change in score. Lévesque got a one-on-one chance right out of the box, but Riley Gill made the save.

Spencer Asuchak took a roughing minor with 11:04 to play, but though the Grizzlies retained possession for almost the entire two minutes, and got a few shots, nothing substantial came of it.

Brassard and Eick made yet another a lovely play with 4:56 left in the first, but Gill again shut the door, shots 8-6 in Utah’s favor, while the refs largely left their whistles in their pockets.

Boyle, Gabriel Verpaelst and an Allen player all collided with 4:17 to go, and there was some concern for Grizz fans as Boyle remained down for a long moment, requiring assistance to stand up. However, after taking a spin, he remained in net, and fortunately appeared none the worse for wear.

Puskar got a shot right off the draw, and Brassard beat Allen to the rebound, making it 1-0 Utah at 17:17.

With just 8 seconds to go, Erik Bradford had an absolutely terrific chance, but Gill jumped on it. The Grizzlies definitely looked sharp throughout the first frame, picking up 15 shots to Allen’s eight and once again taking a lead into intermission, clearly outworking the reigning Kelly Cup champions.

Utah began the second period well, nearly capitalizing on an Allen miscue in the early going. The Americans struggled a little, icing the puck several times in a row, and looking a little tentative for the division leader playing the team that squeaked in to the playoffs in the eleventh hour.

The Puskar line remained the most obviously dangerous throughout, but the Grizzlies in general continued to control the game. Bradford got a nice chance, as did Tim Daly on the same shift with about thirteen minutes to go in the second.

Just moments later, Puskar sprang a flying Eick, and Eick once again deked out the goalie, making it 2-0 on a gorgeous play at 7:28. Daly was boarded about a minute later, and Utah went to the power play.

Allen got one of the better chances on the Grizzlies’ man advantage, and the Americans returned to full strength with no change in score.

With just over eight minutes to go, the Americans thought they’d scored, but the puck had glanced off the post crossbar, the refs waived it off, and play continued.

Puskar forced Gill to make a big save on one end, and Boyle answered on the other, robbing Alex Krushelnyski at 5:43.

The Martin-Cuddemi-Bradford line had a number of really good chances as the period drew to a close, but it was Puskar who scored on a rebound at 17:54 from Eick and Brassard.

Less than a minute later, Josh Brittain boarded Phil Pietroniro, and Pelech made it 4-0 on a pretty passing play with 31 seconds left in the period.

After 40, Utah held a commanding 4-0 lead, and was outshooting Allen 25-20.

Allen played a much better third period, and at 5:49 Martin took a hooking call against Krushelnyski. The Americans responded by pulling Gill to play six-on-four with an empty net.

Though the Grizzlies spent nearly the whole kill in their own zone, they did a terrific job of frustrating Allen. Pietroniro blocked a big chance, Higby took another, and Boyle turned aside or smothered all the others, including an absolutely spectacular stick save in the dying seconds of the kill.

Unfortunately, after killing off the penalty, Brittain scored with 11:11 to go. However, that would be the only goal Boyle allowed, and the Grizzlies were not at all deterred, despite the Americans finally waking up.

Brittain took an interference call against Cuddemi with 5:19 remaining, and Utah once more went to the power play. The Grizzlies didn’t so much try to get another goal as to keep the puck as far away from the Americans as possible. Allen had a short-handed chance, but otherwise, time continued to tick away.

Verpaelst took a holding call with 3:22 left, and Allen once again pulled Gill for the extra attacker. Once again, though, the Grizzlies’ penalty kill came up huge, and Boyle was absolutely rock solid. Allen kept Gill pulled after the penalty to Utah expired, but they remained unable to solve Boyle, and David Makowski got an elbowing call against Brassard to end the game.

Boyle was named first star of the game with 36 out of 37 saves, while Eick got second star with the game winning goal and an assist, and Puskar was named third star with a goal and two assists of his own.

The Puskar line, as mentioned previously, was spectacular throughout, picking up ten of the team’s 30 shots, while Cuddemi had five all on his own. It was, in general, a really strong effort from Utah top to bottom. The power play, which struggled mightily at times throughout the regular season, made a contribution, while the penalty kill continued its run of excellence.

Utah comes back home with the series split 1-1, having kept up with – or even out played – Allen for large parts of two games in enemy territory. The Grizzlies will definitely look to continue that momentum through the home stand.


Image courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming

Utah Grizzlies: Game One

The fight to make the circus is over, and now the battle begins in earnest. Sixteen teams, four rounds, one prize. Garrett Haar returned to the lineup for the Grizzlies, while Cam Reid and Colin Martin remained sidelined, and Kevin Boyle made his seventh straight start.

Which did not exactly begin well, as Allen scored two minutes into the first period.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Austen Brassard drew the first penalty of the game, as Mike Gunn took an interference call at 5:36, and just moments later, Riley Gill put the puck over the glass, sending Utah to the 5-on-3.

The Grizzlies weren’t able to capitalize on the power play, but Erik Higby made it 1-0 just after it expired, and Marc-André Lévesque struck again for good measure at 9:09 to make it 2-1. Ralph Cuddemi and Mathieu Aubin got the assists on Higby’s goal, while Lévesque’s was unassisted.

Gill took a roughing penalty against Michael Pelech, and Utah went back to the power play. Allen killed off the penalty, and Pelech took a tripping call of his own at 12:00.

Utah kept the Americans scoreless, and the Grizzlies went the other way. A shot from Jon Puskar hit Gill up high, and he left the game replaced by Jamie Murray. Pelech took another penalty with 3:57 to go.

Utah killed that penalty off as well, and Larraza and Brassard caused havoc around the Allen net.

After 20, Utah led 2-1, and outshot the Americans 11-6.

The second period began in a much more sloppy fashion, and with 15:19, Puskar and Brian Moore got into a shoving match after the whistle. No penalties were called, and Allen began to put some pressure on the Grizzlies. Fortunately, Boyle stood tall.

At 7:17, Puskar threw a shot on net, and a huge rebound came right to the stick of C.J. Eick, who made it 3-1. Unfortunately, the Americans came the other way, and made it 3-2. Allen continued to pressure, and Martin Nemcik took a holding call at 11:20.

Utah’s penalty kill remained perfect, on the penalty kill, thanks in large part to Boyle. Phil Pietroniro took a hooking call and a stick full in the face with 1:15 to go, and Travis Howe served the penalty, while Pietroniro went to the room for repairs.

At the end of forty, the Grizzlies still held the 3-2 lead, but the Americans had taken over most of the momentum and a 16-15 edge in shots.

Utah killed off the remainder of the penalty to start the third, but Allen carried most of the momentum, and at 7:28, Wade MacLeod tied the game. Howe had a terrific chance with just under eleven to go, but the Grizzlies were unable to tie it up.

Gabriel Verpaelst got involved in a scuffle with 4:29 to go, and Joel Chouinard made it 4-3.

About a minute later, Tim Daly and Alex Krushelnyski got tangled behind the Utah net, and Boyle came to Daly’s defense. Marc-André Lévesque fought Bryan Moore in the resulting chaos, and once the refs sorted everything out, Boyle got two for roughing, Krushelnyski got two for slashing, and two for cross-checking, while Lévesque and Moore got five for fighting.

With a minute to go in the game, Utah pulled Boyle, but despite a valiant effort from the Grizzlies on the 6-on-4, including one especially heartbreakingly close chance from Ralph Cuddemi, they weren’t able to tie it up. Allen seemingly scored into the empty net, but it was called off.

So Utah dropped Game 1 4-3 after relinquishing a lead, which is certainly very frustrating, but one thing we did find out. The Grizzlies have what it takes to skate with the Americans.

Higby was named third star of the night, Cuddemi had two assists on the night, and Utah looks to tie up the series on Friday.

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard.