Utah Grizzlies: Sweet Revenge

Fresh off a spectacular road trip, and a quick holiday season, the Grizzlies returned home to host the Tulsa Oilers. With Patrick McGrath called up to Iowa, only J.C. Brassard, Garrett Klotz, and the goalies Brad Barone and Jeff Smith were not in the lineup.

Having suffered only one loss, 3-1 to this same Tulsa team on the road, Utah hoped to erase it from memory with a good performance, and bring their winning ways back home.

After a very short stint in their own zone, the Grizzlies got hustling, picking up the first five shots of the night. Their shooting and puck management led to Ty Lewis’ tenth of the season, which he made look absolutely effortless against Devin Williams at 3:34. The usual suspects in Tim McGauley and Griffen Molino picked up the assists.

There were a couple of close calls about twelve minutes in, but Martin Ouellette turned aside a wrap-around attempt, and then calmly shut the door after a turnover led to a bit of a scramble.

The Lewis-McGauley-Molino line continued to impress with their puck handling and rebound creation as shots hit 7-4 for the Grizzlies, and the period hit the half-way mark.

With so few stoppages in play, the flow of the game was allowed to continue unimpeded, and certainly showed off the Grizzlies’ speed and skill.

Yao had an especially memorable shift as he first flew in from the bench to cut off what was otherwise a one-on-none, and then later on the same shift swiped a puck away from an open net after Ouellette made the initial save, and then lost the puck in a sea of bodies.

Ouellette also continued to impress throughout, and the Travis Barron, Brandon Saigeon, Mitch Maxwell line closed the period out with a multi-shot shift.

After 20, Utah led 1-0, out-shooting Tulsa 12-8.

The Grizzlies drew the game’s first power play at 1;25, following a bit of nice puck-handling from Saigeon. They only picked up one shot, but it didn’t matter, for scarcely had the man advantage ended than Lewis once again made scoring look easy on a play from McGauley.

Shortly thereafter, Yau made a blue-line play from his knees to get the puck up to Lewis. After that, it surprised no one when Lewis passed the puck to McGauley, who hten passed it off to Molino. Williams made the initial save, but Molino backhanded the puck right over the Tulsa goalie to make it 3-0.

Unfortunately, a turnover from Richart eventually led to the Oilers’ first, and only, goal of the game almost immediately afterwards.

Travis Barron and Danny Moynihan got into a scrap at 7:58, Barron getting the better of the exchange, which never quite developed into a full-fledged fight, and Utah killed off the extra two Barron got for slashing.

Williams got a pair of chances just past the 14 minute mark, the first which squeaked just wide of the net, and the second which landed square on the stick of Joe Wegwerth and into the net.

Ouellette made a couple of big saves in the later stages of the period, and Utah drew another power play with under four to go. Although the Grizzlies didn’t actually capitalize on the advantage, it was hard to see their puck movement and think that it looked a little like they were toying with Tulsa.

Barron continued to get opportunities, but not goals, and at the buzzer, Mike McKee turnstiled McGauley, which led to a scuffle with Sasha Larocque and McKee in the thick of it. McKee was assessed a penalty for roughing. As a result, Utah headed into the third up 4-1, out-shooting Tulsa 21-13, and headed to the man-advantage.

The ensuing special teams were underwhelming on both sides, and included the least threatening start to a one-on-none short-handed breakaway ever.

The lacklustre power play was forgotten, however, when just about a minute later, Yao released a big shot on net, and Wegwerth once again tipped the puck home perfectly to put Utah up 5-1.

The game got a little out of hand after that, Wegwerth getting put into the boards, leading to three separate fights. That was more or less when the refs lost control of the game. The fights were all considered rouging calls, and the initial boarding that started it was never called.

On the next shift or so, Zahn dropped the gloves. Zahn got two for slashing, as well as the four and ten both received. The upshot, however was that Utah had nearly a minute of four-on-three to kill.

On the shift after THAT Cam Knight and Mitch Maxwell dropped the gloves, and Maxwell won decisively in a furious bout that was the only one of the game to actually be called a fight. Both got five and a game,  and Utah killed off the rest of their penalties.

Both teams got back to the business of playing hockey after that, though the Oilers did take a delay-of-game penalty at 13:57.

Joe Wegwerth completed the natural hat trick with just under three to go, and the Grizzlies avenged their only road loss in decisive fashion. The hat trick earned Wegwerth first star honors, while Lewis’ two goals, and McGauley’s three assists gave them second and third stars respectively. Flying much further under the radar though, were Yao’s two assists, and overall strong play.

Needless to say, Tim Branham was pleased with his team’s effort.

“We came out, we had something to prove. Last game we played against these guys, it was the one game we took off in the last 20. We had a statement to make. We played a good game, I thought Marty still made some big saves back there. That one goal, Pleskach can score. That’s a tough play to even defend. Really proud of how the boys stuck up for each other, policed the game when it wasn’t being policed. Overall, it was a really good effort.”

When asked about his white hot first line, he said, “It’s fun to watch those guys, every shift they’re pretty creative, pretty fast, stuff like that. And they play such a big part of the game, not only power play, they penalty kill, they give the other team fits. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. They play a fast game, and it’s good. It’s what they need to do, what we need them to do, and it’s fun to watch, that’s for sure.”

Yao’s performance also came in for a share of praise. “Very, very good game. Played defense, played forward. He gives you that effort though, he gives you that effort every night. He skates so well, he’s so smart out there. It’s tough. We’ve got a lot of contracted d-men, we’ve got a lot of good defensemen back there, and sometimes rookies gotta bide their time, give you that effort when it’s needed, and he’s done exactly that. He’s been there when we’ve needed that, and he’s a great teammate.”

However, Branham saved most of of his praise for Wegwerth. “He’s doing great.” He said, “We’ve got to understand where he’s coming from. His senior year, last year, his senior year at Notre Dame, I think it was November, December, he broke his leg, and he hasn’t played since then. He comes back out, and breaks his hand when he gets here, then he takes a puck to the mouth, loses teeth six weeks later, and for him to battle the way he has and develop, he’s got a bright future ahead of him, that’s for sure. He’s a big body, he’s tough to handle, he’s tough, he’s got great hand-eye coordination in front of the net, which we saw tonight, and a great human being, so definitely it’s a lot of fun coaching him as well because he’s a sponge out there. He comes from a good program, Jeff Jackson does a good job there at Notre Dame, and Joe’s a byproduct of that.”

The Grizzlies’ offensive game has obviously expanded exponentially recently, but it’s not the only area in which they have improved in the past month or so, something Lewis was quick to point out. “I think our defensive game has come a long way, I feel like we’ve really taken a next step in our d-zone, and our responsibility defensively in the past couple of weeks. Our d-core is really strong, probably one of the most solid d-cores in the league in my opinion, so hopefully we just keep that going.”

“I think everyone is feeling good in the room right now,” he added, when asked about the team’s overall mood, and success. “It’s nice when things go well, and guys are getting the bounces. We’re just trying to take advantage of what we’ve got going here, good mentality in the room, everyone’s prepared to do their job, and things are just working well.”

Wegwerth’s thoughts were similar. “I think it’s a ton of fun. Every night it’s a different guy, it seems like. Everyone is stepping up and doing the little things. It’s not about one person in the room right now, it’s about all of us, and that’s what’s special about it.”

After such a hotly contested game, Saturday’s rematch is certainly going to be one to watch.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies @ Allen Americans: The Oscar for best goal goes to…

With Jake Marchment joining the ranks of the wounded (in all seriousness, you could create the majority of a really great forward core out of the injured forwards), the Grizzlies once again found themselves pretty short of forwards in general, and centermen in particular in the final game of the road trip. Joey Raats once again dressed as a forward, and was joined for parts of the later stages of the game by Teigan Zahn, while Joe Cannata got the start.

 

First Period

  • This has been a surprisingly uneventful first period.
  • YIIIIIKEEEEEES. That was so close to disaster.
  • That poke check was disgustingly good from C.J. Motte.
  • Josh Thrower and Michael Economos drop the gloves!!
  • Speaking of disgustingly good…that’s what that Allen goal was. Screened too.
  • ….Where was any of the defense…
  • Not gonna lie, but “allegedly onside” is one of my favorite phrases.
  • Boooooooo.
  • That was no fun. At least shots have evened up considerably.

Second Period

  • I would really, really just like to get through this game without losing anyone else to injury…
  • Well Mr. Smith, if you were waiting for the opportune moment to score your first pro goal, that was it. Beautiful pass from Turner Ottenbreit too.

  • Well, that was definitely the right idea.
  • Caleb Herbert and Josh Atkinson get matching minors for skulduggery.
  • OH MY HOCKEY GODS. SAVE THAT FOR THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK. The Oscar for best goal goes to Ryan Walters. What a move. Spin-o-rama to elude the defenseman fools Motte too, and it’s 3-2!!!!
  • MAXWELL DROPS THE GLOVES.
  • Zahn with a terrific chance on the doorstep, and then Herbert with a great shot.
  • Cannata answering the call on the other end too.
  • Please do not break Michael.
  • WALTERS IS ON FIRE.

Third Period

  • Shots are now 40-28 for the Grizzlies.
  • Please go play in the other end…
  • Thanks Joey.
  • Well. Everyone was pretty much where they should be, but Cannata was completely screened. Boo again.
  • Josh Dickinson is getting worked over with no calls.
  • Motte is pretty pissed at his own guy as Atkinson shoves Dickinson into Motte.
  • ….oh geez, not Turner…Please be ok….
  • How was that slash on Ottenbreit not called, and yet that one Ausmus is.
  • Well, there’s blood, so can’t really argue with that high-sticking call…
  • Oh thank goodness. Ottenbreit is, at the very least, ok to stay in this game. Hopefully he’s actually ok, and not just hockey ok…
  • Zahn is DEFINITELY playing forward.
  • HOWWWWWW DID MOTTE MAKE THAT SAVE??????????????
  • ECONOMOS TIES IT UP.
  • To OT we go. Which will be Herbert-less, as he gets pitched for unsportsmanlike conduct.

OT

  • Thank you Joe.
  • Dickinson probably should have drawn a penalty there.
  • Cannata is down (panic), and we’re off to the power play.
  • (Cannata appears to be alright, everyone can stop panicking. What do you mean I was the only one?)
  • At the end of OT, Emerson Clark got 20 minutes of penalties (slashing and fighting/continuing altercation) and Curt Gogol got ten for fighting/continuing altercation as well. So things got a bit heated there!

Shootout

Allen: Pochiro (goal)
Utah: Herbert (no goal)

Allen: Salituro (no goal)
Utah: Dickinson (goal)

Allen: Miller (goal)
Utah: Walters (no goal)

Allen wins 5-4 in the shoot out, shots 55-41 for Utah.

Walters’ two goals and ten (yes you read that right, ten) shots earned him third star of the game, while Cannata saved 37/41. Ottenbreit had yet another great game, picking up two assists, as did De Jong. As noted at the time, Will Smith got his first pro goal, and Economos was one assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick.

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Smith (Ottenbreit), Walters (Raats, Ottenbreit), Walters (Herbert, De Jong) (PP)
  • Third Period: Economos (De Jong)

Utah: 1/3 (28 minutes)
Allen: 0/3 (60 minutes)

 

 

Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography and staff.

 

 


If you like the work I do on the blog, please consider supporting me by buying me a coffee!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com