Utah Grizzlies: By the Skin of their Teeth

After fighting back to get a point in last night’s game, Utah came out hoping to build on the strong third period showing. Brad Barone once again got the start, and the forward crew saw some reinforcements in the form of the return of Yuri Terao. Kevin Carr was loaned to the Eagles, and as such, Evan Buitenhuis backed Barone up.

The Grizzlies got off to a quick start, flying into the offensive zone, and spending several shifts there. It paid off too, as the Cedric Paré, Christian Horn, and Jack Jenkins crashed the net, and Paré netted his fourth of the year from Horn and Jenkins. On the very next shift, Jenkins dropped the gloves with Colby McAuley, a fight which the advantage must be said to have belonged to McAuley, and then at 3:59 the Americans took a slashing call to send the Grizzlies to the advantage.

Utah spent almost all the man advantage in the offensive zone, and though they didn’t score on the power play, Hunter Skinner slapped home his first pro goal just as the Americans returned to full strength.

The Grizzlies continued to keep their foot on the pedal, at one point outshooting Allen 9-2 before the half-way mark.

Riley Woods drew another penalty with 7:04 to go, then a scuffle broke out between the benches, Allen getting a double minor, Utah only a single, sending the Grizzlies to five-on-three — which lasted almost no time at all as Woods was sent to the box for “slashing”. All the penalties were killed off, however, and by the end of the period, Utah had decidedly outplayed the Americans, outshooting them 12-4.

Utah started well, but gave up a penalty shot goal to Spencer Asuchak at 2:01, and the Americans buzzed a bit thereafter. By the four minute mark, the Grizzlies had exerted their will on the proceedings again. Terao was run over at 3:47, drawing a power play. Deflections finally went the Grizzlies’ way, as a shot from Matthew Boucher deflected in off an Allen skater and into the net for their first power play of the day. For reasons unknown, Allen complained afterwards, but it did not effect the outcome.

Lowny took a slashing call at 6:48, and some significant complaining from the Americans followed that as well, and they scored on the advantage. They headed to the power play again at 11:10 on a supposed high-sticking call, and then again on Hoover for interference against Paterson. Utah did a spectacular job of killing off both the five-on-three and the five-on-four, returning to full strength. Thanks to the penalties, Allen took over the shot lead in the period 13-10, but Utah still led 22-17, and maintains the one goal lead into the final couple of minutes.

With just over two to go, Paré took a hooking call, but Utah killed that off too, and headed to the locker room with the slim lead in shots and goals.

Utah drew a power play less than a minute into the third, but it suffered the fate of many early man-advantages. Turner Ottenbreit found himself in the box a few minutes later for pulling Paré to the ice. Utah had some really nice moves, but they were unable to net an insurance goal.

They got one later though, as Woods won a face-off clean, and Skinner scored his second goal of the game (and his pro career) on a blue-line blast.

Utah continued to play hard, keeping Allen away from Barone, largely (and Barone continued to smother the shots he did see).

Terao took a holding call at 13:45, and Allen scored on the advantage. There was a bit of a scare shortly afterwards as Johnston went down in front of the Utah net, but he skated off under his own power and remained on the bench.

Allen pulled their goalie with two to go, but Utah held on for dear life, taking the 4-3 win in regulation.

Hunter Skinner took first star with his two first pro goals and team leading eight shots, Matthew Boucher took second with a goal and an assist, and Barone’s 25/38 save performance earned him third. It was a terrific end to the home stand, and while Utah wasn’t able to keep the level of polish they showed in the first going through all three periods, they did enough to overcome the badly run second period, and hold on in the third. No mean feat against a cranky Allen team.

Utah heads out to Kansas City next weekend, where hopefully they will be able to keep the wins coming.

Goals

  • First Period: Paré (Horn, Cannone), Skinner (Gendron, Boucher)
  • Second Period: Boucher (Woods, Lowny (PP)
  • Third Period: Skinner (Woods)
    Barone: 25/28

Photos courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Slow Starts and Bad Bounces

The Grizzlies returned from Rapid City with three of four possible points (one win, and one OT loss) to face the Allen Americans for the first time this season. Short-handed again, it would be a stiff task against the Conference leading Americans. Kevin Carr got his season debut at the Maverik Center, behind Cédric Paré, Riley Woods, Matthew Boucher, Tiegan Zahn, and Alex Lepkowski, who returned to the lineup for the first time since January 8th. Diego Cuglietta, Mitch Maxwell, Trey Bradley, Joe Wegwerth, Yuri Terao, and Evan Buitenhuis all were sidelined.

Both teams came out a bit slow, feeling each other out, but Lepkowski lost his footing in the defensive zone, and gave the puck up to Corey Mackin. Mackin scored from a tight angle to put Allen up 1-0 2:52 into the first. The Grizzlies got going a bit after that, putting up a couple of nice shifts, including a nice one from Woods, and outshooting Allen 7-2 in the first six minutes.

Utah got the best of the chances as the period hit the half-way mark, but remained scoreless. With about eight to go, Cameron Kielly got in on a two-on-one, and gave the Americans a 2-0 lead. A.J. White had a memorable shift, still getting a shot off as he fell over while contesting his net-front spot. Though the Grizzlies continued to hold the offensive zone, and outshot Allen 9-5 in the first fifteen minutes, they weren’t able to turn the zone time into anything.

With four to go, Allen nearly made it 3-0, but the puck hit the bar and went out of play. Pat Cannone and Boucher both had good chances, Cannone ringing iron, in what was probably Utah’s strongest shifts of the period.

Through the first, overall, Utah played pretty well, especially in the second half, but got burned by Allen’s speed.

The Grizzlies came out with much more zip in their step to start the second, and drew the game’s first power play. Their work paid off as Jenkins sauced the puck across to Woods, who in turn beat Jake Paterson. Miles Gendron got the second assist.

Jenkins nearly added a goal to his assist with about six gone, as Utah kept their foot on the gas, and Horn followed that up with a thwarted look of his own. A bad change from Utah saw them pick up yet another too-many-men penalty with 11:16 to go in the second. They were able to kill it off well though, and Hunter Skinner and Matt Hoover got in two-on-one before the penalty ended. Carr also made a save on a weird hop.

Hoover got a golden opportunity to tie the game on a pass from Woods, as Paterson had committed to covering Woods. The puck went off the bar and back into play, and although they did stop to look at it, it did not count.

Jenkins was hit in the final five, drawing a Utah power play. Skinner got a chance on a rocket of a shot, and Utah set up some zone time, but they weren’t able to tie it up. Allen got a chance on the power play again with less than a minute to go. There was some pushing and shoving around Carr’s net in the final seconds, but when the buzzer sounded, the score remained 2-1, Utah outshooting Allen 21-17 in a much better effort.

The third period opened with 1:08 of power play time for the Americans, which Utah killed off, but Turner Ottenbreit made it 3-1 at ? as Carr made the initial save, but then the puck trickled past him. Utah took another penalty, and though they killed that off, Allen again scored just moments after they returned to full strength, the puck possibly deflecting in off a defender’s skate.

Utah got a chance on the power play of their own, just about five in, and Ryan Lowney cut the Americans’ lead in half with a blast from the top of the right face-of circle. They had a good shift leading to the half-way point of the third, and Jared Pike drew a hooking call. The Grizzlies weren’t able to build off their play before it.

Utah probably got away with a few after returning to full strength, and Gendron came close to putting Utah within one twice on one shift. Branham pulled Carr for the extra skater with 3:11 to go. Unfortunately, Cannone bobbled the puck at the line, and Colby McAuley scored into the empty net.

Despite the loss, a number of players continued to look good, Woods has points in every game since he signed in Utah, while Boucher has eight points in nine games, as well as regularly leading the team in shots (six tonight). Gendron picked up two assists. Special times went well for the Grizzlies as well, as they killed all three penalties, and scored on two out of four power play opportunities. At the end though, it was the inability in the first period to keep Allen from breaking in past the defensemen, and in the third to keep pucks from going in on deflections. Not for nothing is Allen the best team in the conference.

These same two teams meet again tomorrow and Sunday afternoon.

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Woods (Jenkins, Gendron) (PP)
  • Third Period: Lowney (Cannone, Gendron) (PP)
    Carr: 17/22 saves

Photos courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Closely Contested

Same teams, slightly different roster for the Grizzlies in game two of the series against the Rapid City Rush, with Christian Horn and Trey Bradley joining Diego Cuglietta (IR), Yuri Terao (IR), Alex Lepkowski (IR), Mitch Maxwell, third goalie Evan Buitenhuis on the scratch list. Kevin Carr got his first start of the season. Several of the defensemen all took shifts at forward. All this meant that Utah was skating one skater short of what used to be the roster size, but three short of this year’s expanded one.

Utah got the first shot of the frame, but unfortunatley, there was a scramble around Carr, who got taken out of position by his own defenseman, and the Rush struck first at 3:04. Rapid City continued to be alert, picking up four shots to Utah’s two in the first five minutes, and six to Utah’s two in the first nine.

The Grizzlies were able to get more zone time than the very lop-sided shots showed, however, they weren’t able to do much with that it. That was not the case for the Rush, who got another goal at 12:43 off a two-on-one opportunity by Cedric Montminy.

Utah got two chances on the power play, first at 15:39, where they took an 11-7 shot lead, and again at 18:46. However, neither man-advantage came up with anything, and they headed to the locker room down 2-0, though outshooting the Rush 11-7, and with 47 seconds of a power play remaining to start the second.

Unsurprisingly, Utah didn’t capitalize on the power play to start the second, but they did find the scoresheet at 3:47, Ryan Lowney scoring his first for Utah from Hunter Skinner and Matthew Boucher.

Though Utah continued to hold the overall shot lead, the Rush outshot Utah 8-7 in the first 11 minutes, while the teams took turns chasing each other up and down the ice.

Zahn took a cross-checking penalty on Garrett Klotz at 12:53, but the Grizzlies killed it off pretty comfortably. Riley Woods and Boucher had a pretty good shift towards the end of the period, and on the next shift Jared Pike put a shot on net, and the Grizzlies celebrated, thinking he put the puck in past Gordie Defiel. The play was sent to review, and it was indeed good, giving Pike his first pro goal.

Zahn went to the box again at 17:54, Pat Cannone made an important play to clear a puck away from an uncomfortably open net, and the penalty and the period came to an end together. A much better second saw the Grizzlies tied 2-2, shots 21-20 in their favor.

There were very few whistles in the first half of the third period, as both teams continued to get their looks. Unfortunately, the Rush scored to take the lead at 12:02, and though the Grizzlies struck back to tie it up (Boucher from Woods and Paré), the Rush returned the favor a minute later to retake the lead yet again.

Utah refused to go away, however, and at 17:37 Pat Cannone scored his forth of the season from A.J. White, who hit Cannone from behind the Rush net.

With exactly 11 seconds to go, they beat Defiel, but the goal was emphatically waived off. They reviewed that one as well, but sadly the call remained no goal, and the game went to OT.

Boucher got an incredible chance one-on-none, but was turned aside by Defiel, and the puck went the other way. Carr got the initial shot, but the rebound went straight to the stick of Hunter Garlent, lurking all alone on the other side of the net, and he put the puck past a lunging Carr to win the game 5-4.

Once again, Utah got off to a little bit of a slow start (though not as bad as they had in some of their games against Tulsa), but they battled back every step of the way, made it interesting, and came away with a point for their efforts.

He didn’t get an official star, but Boucher picked up a goal and two assists and led the Grizzlies with six shots. Woods also played very well again, and Jared Pike got his first pro goal.

“He’s done great,” Coach Branham said of Pike several games ago, “He’s a role player who you know, keeps it simple and finishes checks, and makes good plays. He’s done really well for us!” Though it’s an older quote, it very much remains true, and it was great to see him be rewarded for his play.

Utah is off until next weekend when they will face the conference leading Allen Americans at the Maverik Center — hopefully with some bodies back in the lineup.

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Lowney (Skinner, Boucher), Pike (Woods, Boucher)
  • Third Period: Boucher (Woods, Pare), Cannone (White)
    Carr: 25/30 saves

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Growlin Grizzlies

In the first game with practice after the roster got a massive shakeup, the Grizzlies returned to Rapid City with Brad Barone in net, backed up by newly returned Kevin Carr. Teigan Zahn also returned to the lineup after serving his two game suspension, and Hunter Skinner made his pro debut.

The Grizzlies drew an early penalty, courtesy of boarding by Garrett Klotz, just forty-four seconds in, but were unable to capitalize and Jack Jenkins went to the box a few minutes later also for boarding. Neither team scored on the advantage, though the Grizzlies had a short-handed jaunt into the offensive zone that looked promising.

Though Utah built up an 8-4 advantage in shots through the first ten minutes, the Rush began to apply some pressure. Matthew Boucher took a penalty at 12:51, but Utah’s previously excellent penalty kill returned somewhat, escaping a close call, and managing to extend their zone time.

The Grizzlies built up a little momentum as the end of the period approached, and with 2:13 to go, they drew a power play. Trey Bradley made it count, scoring through traffic 13 seconds in.

Utah held onto the lead through the final two minutes, and headed into intermission up 1-0, shots 13-7 in their favor.

The period got off to a good start for the Grizz, Riley Woods scoring his first for Utah at 1:39 from Boucher and Skinner. The assist was Skinner’s first pro point, and Utah continued to hold the edge both in shots and zone time.

They made the most of it, Bradly getting his second of the game from Skinner and Woods at 5:55. Barone held down the fort after that, making two big saves just around the elven-minute-mark, with help from Skinner who came flying back to help corral the rebound.

Barone saw a lot of shots after that, as the Rush made a determined effort to even up the score. The teams traded chances through the back-half of the frame, and the Rush were rewarded at 17:51 on a really nice toe-drag goal from Tyler Coulter. Utah took a delay of game penalty in the final minutes, and Utah headed into the second intermission up 3-1, outshooting the Rush 25-19.

The Grizzlies started the third with the tail end of the penalty from the second, and killed that off. The game again went back and forth for both teams, Utah continuing to maintain the shot lead by a narrow margin.

The Grizzlies got dinged for too many men half way through the frame, and the Rush made it 3-2 on the advantage, and eventually evening out the shots 29-29.

Utah held on for dear life through the final two minutes with an empty net on the other end and, at the end of the day, squeaked away with the 3-2 win in regulation.

The former Newfoundland Growlers teammates Bradley (2G) and Woods (1G, 2A) were named first and second star, and Skinner picked up his first two pro points. Additionally, Boucher now has points in each of the last four games. Overall, it was a better game for the Grizzlies, though against a weaker team than Tulsa. They looked much more comfortable as a team, and had better luck completing passes — both because they weren’t challenged as constantly and because they seemed to be better aware of where their teammates would be. Barone was solid in net, especially considering this was his first start all year.

These same two teams will be back at it again tomorrow.

Goals

  • First Period: Bradley (Woods, Cannone) (PP)
  • Second Period: Woods (Boucher, Skinner), Bradley (Skinner, Woods)
  • Third Period: None
    Barone: 27/29

Photo courtesy of Rob Church.

Utah Grizzlies: Too Much to Overcome

Ahead of AHL camps starting up, and facing the likelihood of losing at least some (if not all) of the five players in Utah on contract with Colorado, the lineup saw even more shakeups. Tanner Jago was released, and Riley Woods, Ryker Killins, and Ryan Lowney all signed and dressed to play. Despite the extreme makeover, the Grizzlies hoped to bring some stability to their game, and get back in the wins column.

Utah got an early chance to try to redeem their penalty kill after allowing quite a few on the power play on Saturday. It did not go to plan, as Luke Scheidl scored at 1:58. The Grizzlies got in a little zone time after that, getting some shots in on Matt Greenfield, but the Mavs picked up their second goal on three shots at 4:50. Though he didn’t get a lot of help from his team, neither goal was great on Payton Jones’ part.

Once again following the goal, the Grizzlies spent some time in the offensive zone, but the Mavericks did a good job of clogging the lanes. Charlie Gerard got a mini breakaway, and shortly thereafter, Kansas City took a slashing penalty, and an additional two for unsportsmanlike conduct. The power play saw passing improved from Saturday, but though they got some chances, they weren’t able to get a much needed goal.

The parade to the penalty box continued as Willie Corrin exited the box, and Gerard entered it. Utah dodged a bullet as, with eight seconds left in the penalty, the puck went into the Utah net. However, upon review, it was clear that it went in off his foot, and the goal was called back.

Unfortunately, Bradley went to the box for interference at 15:02, and this time the goal the Mavericks scored counted. The Mavericks scored again at 17:10, and Jones got pulled in favor of Parker Gahagen to finish the period.

An inglorious first saw Utah down 4-0, shots tied 10 a piece.

The second period did not begin very auspiciously, with Matt Abt heading to the box for holding. However, the penalty kill looked much more like itself, and spent more time in the offensive zone than the Mavericks did. Though Utah looked much better as the second progressed, the Mavericks were able to hold the zone for longer stretches of time, and outshot the Grizzlies 5-2 in the period through the first five minutes.

Cedric Paré was slow off the ice shortly thereafter, and Jenkins was at the heart of another scuffle around the Mavericks’ net which drew a power play. Grizzlies fans got a good look at new guy Woods, as he was at the center of some really nice passing a couple of times on the advantage. But, once again, they came up short.

Fortunately, Paré returned to the ice, and seemed alright, but the penalty problems continued, Pat Cannone heading to the box for goaltender interference. Jenkins again chased the power play into the offensive zone, and the Grizzlies proceeded to score short-handed, Bradley from Woods in a former Growlers teammates connection goal.

Utah continued to look more organized as the period continued, getting some good goaltending from Gahagen when they still found themselves in the defensive zone, including one where he got knocked down and made the save anyway. A scuffle between Scheidl and Gerard sent them both to the box, and with a little more open ice, A.J. White made it 4-2 with slightly over three to go.

Boucher drew a cross-check penalty in front of the Mavs net with seconds to go in the second sent Utah into the intermission outshooting Kansas City 24-22.

Bradley made life interesting on a Utah power play about five into the period when Greenfield left his net to play the puck, and put it right on Bradley’s stick. Greenfield dove back to make the save, and the power play came to an end without a change in score. However, Utah also took the shot lead 30-25.

They got another crack at the power play with just under nine to go, but weren’t able to capitalize. The Grizzlies played well through the end of the period, but were unable to cut down the score, despite outshooting the Mavs 38-28 into the last couple of minutes.

They pulled Gahagen with 2:30ish to go, but unfortunately the Mavs scored into the empty net to complete the victory.

Gahagen was a perfect 19/19 at the end of the game, and the Grizzlies played much better in the second and third, but that dreadful first period proved too much to overcome.

Bradley led the team with eight shots, while Boucher and Horn had four a piece. Overall, it was an improvement on Saturday’s game, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

“Obviously, it’s tough to climb out of a four nothing hole, right?” Coach Branham said. “I thought in the second and third, we played extremely well and played our kind of game. And, you know, I think it’s an adjustment adding so many players all the time. Hopefully, we can just manage the roster here a little bit and get some chemistry amongst guys. I thought we finally got a little better on the penalty kill as the game went on. But our power play goes one for six, that’s not a good thing. We’ve been getting on special teams all year, it’s just too bad that we didn’t carry it through at all this weekend. We’ve got a little bit of work to do. And we’ll get back at ‘er.”

When asked what needed to happen to get that complete sixty minutes that has eluded the Grizzlies, some of it’s about experience, and some of it is just a matter of time.

“When you when you look at our roster, we’re pretty young, when you look at our guys up front, we’ve got a couple of veteran guys, but a lot of first year players. You look at our back end with Scheid and Myllari, and even Gendron and Johnston, there’s gonna be some ups and downs, and there’s gonna be some inconsistencies. That’s something that we’ve talked about every game, playing a full 60 minutes, and that’s part of being that professional.”

“Here’s one thing I know,” he added, “We’re off to a decent start. Decent. There’s a couple of games there where we could easily have won. I think it’s an unbelievable group of guys. They’ve got a ton of character and they want to do well. So we just got to find a little bit of consistency and a little bit of chemistry amongst each other — and keep working. I think this is a special team, and once again, we’re losing five guys, tomorrow to the American League, and we’re adding six guys, so there’s a little bit of movement here. But we got a couple days of practice to try to get on the same page and a big weekend against Rapid.”

One of the biggest challenges the team has faced is the above mentioned turnover of personnel. Currently they have what amounts to an entire starting lineup and then some either injured or on reserve, and then some in Diego Cuglietta, Joe Wegwerth, Mitch Maxwell, Yuri Terao, Garrett Johnston, Alex Lepkowski, Teigan Zahn, and Brad Barone, and it’s not about to slow down. Such is life in the ECHL, so it’s not an excuse, but it does effect the game.

“It’s a huge challenge. I mean, we already had three guys tonight that have no idea what kind of systems we play, and two of them are defenseman. But you know, it’s what I was telling them, we’ve got three losses, we’re above 500. We’re doing okay. We’ve won a few games. It’s a long season, we’ve got 60 something games to go, so, like I said, it’s a good group they want to do well, they’ve got the ability to do well. I like our chances.”

There were a couple of bright spots in the game as well, as players like Woods teased a little of what he has to offer the Grizzlies.

“Woodsy’s a good player, he’s good on the face off, he’s tenacious, he’s a good penalty killer, which you can never have enough of, he’s gonna be a special player. That’s for sure. That’s one guy you want to keep an eye on.”

The other new additions, defencemen Ryan Lowney and Riker Killins had quiet nights, but Coach had good things to say about them too.

“Ryan, he’s a proven player at this level. You can tell he’s a savvy vet back there who can move the puck, he’s a good two way guy. Riker is a young kid, still trying to find his way in this league and bring a consistent game, but he’s very talented offensively, which we didn’t really use a whole lot tonight. We just didn’t want to throw too much at these guys, we wanted to kind of get their feet wet. But I thought they both had a real strong game today. They haven’t skated a whole lot at all, so for them to jump in and have a strong game that was pretty good.”

Fortunately with all this roster turnover, they’ve got a week to spend getting guys familiar with each other and with the system before they head out to Rapid City to hopefully return to their winning ways.

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Bradley (Woods) (SH), White (Boucher)
  • Third Period: None
    Jones: 6/10
    Gahagen: 19/19

Image courtesy of Rob Church.