Utah Grizzlies: Happy Homecoming

After going with some small tweaks here and there, the Grizzlies’ roster saw quite the shake-up prior to their first game against the Kansas City Mavericks. Joe Wegwerth and Diego Cuglietta are both out with injuries, Alex Lepkowski and Yuri Terao both were also out of the lineup, while Jared Pike, re-signed a few days ago, Tanner Jago and Matt Hoover all drew back in.

The game got off to a pretty quiet start, both teams getting two shots before play was briefly delayed to repair a stanchion, but things picked up first with Payton Jones shutting down a breakaway attempt, and then Teigan Zahn was given five and a game for an illegal check to the head.

Utah rose to the challenge, Kansas City only getting two good sets of opportunities on the five minute power play, and the Grizzlies getting one on a two-on-none breakaway. Jones also made at least one really nice save, and the Utah defense blocked several other shots.

A couple of shifts later, Utah got a great chance, the puck seemingly hitting the post, then trickling out from under the KC goalie. The officials reviewed the play, but there was no goal.

Matthew Boucher drew a power play at 15:19, but weren’t able to capitalize, and the Mavericks got a power play of their own as Utah got dinged for too many men.

Despite the multiple penalties and the five minute major, shots a nice, even 8-7 for Kansas City at the end of the first.

Utah got off to an excellent start in the opening couple minutes of the second, outshooting the Mavericks 3-1 to start. They continued hold the shot lead, and at 9:32 Miles Gendron opened the scoring from Horn and Pat Cannone. Unfortunately, KC answered about a minute later, when Brodie Reid put the puck over the shoulder of Jones from a tight angle.

Utah continued to work though, and at about the 15 minute mark, Bradley and Canonne flew in together, Bradley making a beautiful pass across the crease to Cannone, whose second of the year was as nice as you please.

At the end of a much more lively second period, Utah had established the shot lead 18-13 in addition to the 2-1 lead were it mattered most.

The first power play since the first period went to Utah at 1:36 into the third, and Cédric Paré rocketed an elevated pass from Cannone into the back of the net.

Abt caused a ruckus behind the Mavericks’ net with about five gone, and a couple of shifts later, Hoover was manhandled down to the ice and held there directly in front of a ref with no call. However, the Grizzlies decided that revenge was best served on the score sheet, Boucher getting his first pro goal at 6:41 from A.J. White and Bradley.

The Mavs showed significantly greater signs of life after their time-out following the goal, but they remained without a shot through the first ten minutes of the third, being outshot 14-0.

After that, it was just a matter of keeping Kansas City off the scoreboard, which Utah did without getting much push-back. The trio of Horn, Hoover, and Boucher looking especially good.

When the game ended to the cheering of the 1680 fans in attendance, Utah had outshot the Mavs 36-16. In a very convincing win.

Cannone’s goal and two assists earned him first star, while Boucher’s first pro goal and assist took second, and Bradley’s two assists took third. Jones made 15/16 saves for his fourth win of the season.

“Patty’s unbelievable,” Branham said of Canonne after the game. “Obviously, we’re lucky to have Patty. He doesn’t really belong at this level. You know, he’s got a brand new baby. And he didn’t want to make the trek over to over to Europe. He’s here to earn a call up to the American League. So we’re extremely lucky to have him. He’s an unbelievable person off the ice, a great leader in that room, and you see what he does on a nightly basis.

“Boucher is a great addition,” he continued, “young kid, who again, we’re lucky to have. If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t have him because he’d still be in school. His dad played in the NHL, and he’s a solid, solid defensive player. You see what he’s got offensively, but he’s so smart defensively. It’s nice. You can put him out there in any situation. He’s got a very, very high hockey IQ.

Trey Bradley had another good night. He was all over the map and making plays and stuff like that, Paré had a nice goal on the power play so those big guns came through for us tonight.”

“I am excited about this group of guys,” he said. “Next week, we’re gonna have a different group of guys because we have five or six guys leaving for the American League. So that’s gonna present a new challenge in itself.”

“We’ve got some injuries right now right with Wegwerth, Terao, Cuglietta” he added, “Those are three pretty good players out of the line-up. On the back end Lepkowski’s out, those are four high end players for us, so I don’t think our depth is as good as it could be right now. But we’ve got a lot of hard work up front, that’s for sure. Our D are pretty solid… It’s a big mobile D core, which I like, they’re not overly physical. They’re not super offensive besides Scheid. He’s a really special player, that’s for sure. Ian Schied, he’s really special.

“The other guys are good two-way D men that move the puck really well. And obviously we’re solid in net. You see Jones and you see Gahagen and Barone. They’re good goalies. So we’re extremely deep. We’ve got high hopes for this team.”

As is life in the ECHL though, especially with the AHL season starting up soon, the lineup is going to be shaken up further. But before that, they’ve got to play the next two games against Kansas City, a task which is going to be all about consistency.

“We need to play the way we did at the end of the game, play the same way tomorrow, get a day off, then find a way to play that same way on Monday.”

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Gendron (Horn, Cannone), Cannone (Bradley, Boucher)
  • Third Period: Paré (Cannone, Scheid) (PP), Boucher (White, Bradley)
    Jones: 15/16 saves

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: New Faces

It’s the very beginning of the second week of the year, and it turns out that there are, in fact, teams in the league other than the Rapid City Rush, contrary to all that the Grizzlies games have showed us this year.

Since the last series of games, there have been some roster changes. A.J. White and and Matthew Boucher joined the roster, which meant that Brayden Gelsinger, Edwin Hookenson, and Jared Pike were all released. Payton Jones once again got the start, while the line of Boucher, Cédric Paré and Yuri Terao and the pairing of Garrett Johnston and Miles Gendron started in front of him.

Utah drew a quick power play just 27 seconds into the game, and picked up three of the game’s first four shots in the opening five minutes, which they largely controlled.

They returned to the power play at 6:41 on a slashing call near the Tulsa net, Tulsa had a two-on-one short-handed, but didn’t get the shot off, and the Grizzlies returned to the offensive zone. Utah picked up two more shots, but the Oilers returned to full strength with no further changes.

Past the ten-minute mark, Tulsa began to even up the flow of play a little, but Utah largely kept them away from the center of the ice. Christian Horn took an offensive zone penalty at 16:25 and the Oilers evened up the shots 9-9.

The first period was definitely a feeling-out period for both teams, who have, obviously, not faced each-other yet this season.

Paré drew an early penalty in the second, but Utah was unable to capitalize, and Jack Badini got a breakaway straight out of the penalty box to make it 1-0. The Grizzlies didn’t let the lead stand long though, Gerard getting his third of the year from Pat Cannone at 3:59.

Tray Bradley took a hooking call and Tulsa scored, but Matt Abt protested that the play was made with a high-stick. Some review occurred, and the goal remained, though there was an angle played eventually that showed that Abt was probably right. Tulsa seemingly made it 3-1 on the next shift, but the net came off, and Jones ended up without his helmet, and it was waived off.

Alex Lepkowski was rocked in the defensive zone with about half the second to go, and Mitch Maxwell was not pleased, though play went the other way, and Utah evened shots up at 15 around that time.

Wegwerth took a penalty with about four to go, once again for hooking, but the Oilers only got a shot on the advantage.

After 40, Tulsa led 2-1, shots 18-17 in their favor.

Utah had a decent start to the third, outshooting Tulsa 4-0 in the first five minutes, and drew a power play. They did not score on the advantage, but they did establish the offensive zone time that led to two chances for Paré that were turned aside, and a third that beat Olle Eriksson Ek to tie the game.

By the half-way mark of the third, Utah was outshooting Tulsa 10-1, and looking far more focused overall. Despite that, they took yet another hooking call in their own end at 11:08, but killed it off.

Both teams got offensive zone time, Utah getting the better of it, but neither team was able to break the deadlock. Unfortunately, Ian Scheid took a delay of game penalty with five seconds to go, meaning that the Oilers got 1:55 of power play time to start OT. The pace picked up considerably following the return to three-on-three, which started out going in favor of Utah, but Tulsa ended the game with a goal from Bryce Kindopp.

Utah did pick up a point in the loss, and outshot Tulsa 28-25.

Gerard picked up third star. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible game, but the Grizzlies didn’t look quite so cohesive as they had previously — though that is understandable, considering the roster changes. Utah plays Tulsa again on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Gerard (Cannone)
  • Third Period: Paré (Johnston, Maxwell)
    Jones: 23/25 saves

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Ups and Downs

Well friends, against all odds, there’s ECHL hockey this year. It certainly is going to take some getting used to, both the fewer teams, and social distancing, and other things that make this season weird. But there’s HOCKEY, and that’s the best news we’ve heard in a while.

Payton Jones got his first start for Utah, joined by forwards Diego Cuglietta, Cedric Paré, and Charlie Gerard and defensemen Tanner Jago and Matt Abt. Yuri Terao and Denis Smirnov were both scratches, as they have not yet arrived in Utah, while Jack Jenkins, Matt Hoover, and Edwin Hookenson are all on reserve, and Teigan Zahn drew into the lineup as a forward, as teams are allowed to dress more skaters this season.

Rapid City got off to the stronger start, but Payton Jones was alert early, and 3:27 Paré scored his first of what will undoubtedly be many on assists from Wegwerth and Cuglietta.

Neither team looked terribly coordinated in the early going, as might be expected with no preseason games, but the Grizzlies sorted themselves out, and just a few minutes later drew a high-sticking double minor.

Wegwerth picked up his first goal and second point of the period half-way through the man-advantage to make it 2-0 for the Grizzlies. Paré made his second appearance on the scoresheet, this time going to the box on goalie interference just past the ten minute mark. Jones displayed his cool under pressure, and Utah returned to full strength unscathed.

The Rush maintained the shot advantage, through the second half of the period, but Utah got the best of play overall. Standouts in the first period, which ended 2-0 for Utah, shots 14-12 for the Rush, were certainly Wegwerth and Paré, with Jones getting an honorable mention.

Utah started the second by evening shots out at 15, but the Rush cut the lead in half at 2:27. Unsurprisingly in a meeting between these two teams, things got heated at 3:10 as the Grizzlies crashed the Rush’s net, and Eric Israel and Mitch Maxwell found themselves cooling their heels for two minutes.

Utah drew another power play, giving them 49 seconds of five-on-three. They didn’t capitalize on the two-an advantage, but Miles Gendron blasted one past Adam Carlson for his first goal and second point of the season once Rapid City were 5-on-4.

Utah drew another power play at 7:15, but Cedric Montminy made it 3-1 short-handed. The Grizzlies continued to draw power plays, but the skid continued with the Rush scoring short-handed yet again at 9:30.

Christian Horn took a penalty for Utah just past the half-way mark of the second period, and the Grizzlies were able to steady themselves before scoring a short-handed goal of their own. Charlie Gerard picked up his first of the year unassisted at the twelve minute mark.

The Grizzlies got into some penalty trouble of their own, Jared Pike and then Matt Abt heading to the box for 47 second 5-on-3 power play for the Rush.

Gerard’s goal stood for the go-ahead to end the second, shots 25-24 for the home team.

Unfortunately, Rapid City took control of the game in the third, tying the score 4:16 on a Wegwerth interference call.

Another fleury of penalties on both teams eventually led to a stint 4-on-4 and Brennan Saunier gave the Rush their first lead of the game shortly before the ten-minute mark.

Utah got a few looks in the final four minutes, but Rapid City held onto possession better, and made it 6-4 with about 1:30 to go. The Grizzlies pressured to end the game, but were unable to close the gap with an empty net. The Rush outshot Utah 9-5 in the third, and 33-29 overall.

There were definite positives to that game, especially early on, though the two short-handed goals definitely cost them. The first looks at Gerard, Pare, and Gendron were especially impressive, while Wegwerth was particularly poised looking in his return. Paré and Wegwerth led the team with five shots each, and Payton Jones went 28/34 in his first start for Utah. Wegwerth, Paré, and Gendron all had a goal and an assist, while Cuglietta picked up two assists.

There will certainly be growing pains, as always, but there are some good pieces on this team, and it’ll be great to see them come together over the course of the season.

Utah plays one more game in Rapid City tomorrow (Saturday), before returning to Utah.

Goals:
First: Paré (Wegwerth, Cuglietta), Wegwerth (Gendron, Cuglietta)
Second: Gendron (Paré), Gerard
Third: None