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: Gone Streaking

Considering the schedule lately, you’d be pardoned for thinking that the Grizzlies will never play anyone other than the Rapid City Rush this season, but after tonight, it’ll actually be a couple of weeks before they meet again. The line of Diego Cuglietta, Pat Cannone, and Charlie Gerard started for Utah, backed by Ian Scheid and Alex Lepkowski, while Parker Gahagen got his first start in net as the Grizzlies looked to close out the series sweep. Cédric Paré drew in at forward in place of defenseman Edwin Hookenson, but otherwise the lineup remained the same.

The Grizzlies lost no time in bringing the energy, picking up the game’s first four shots in the first minute and a half, and Cédric Paré made sure everyone was awake with a big hit. Gahagen went on an adventure to the blue line just pas the half-way mark during a period of Rush pressure, but though there continued to be a number of whistles, the first half of the period passed relatively uneventfully.

At almost exactly the ten minute mark, the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the game, but weren’t able to convert, despite building their shot lead to 12-4. They got a second crack at it, thanks to the mobility of Trey Bradley at around the five-minute mark. Diego Cuglietta took a shot at the net from the right point, Adam Carlson made the save, but the puck went straight to Pat Cannone on the left side of the blue paint, and the veteran forward made no mistake to put Utah up 1-0.

Pat Cannone scores the 1-0 goal against Adam Carlson as Charlie Gerard looks on.

Joe Wegwerth picked up again on his scoring ways, thanks to some absolute chaos with about two to go. Jack Jenkins ended up on top of Carlson, and in the scramble that followed, Wegwerth put the puck into the open net. The goal was reviewed originally, but allowed to stand, presumably because — though it looked like Jenkins was literally on top of Carlson at one point, by the time the puck was in the net, Jenkins was next to rather than on top of the Rush goalie, and they were well outside the blue paint.

Wegwerth and Jenkins fight for the puck prior to Wegwerth’s 2-0 goal.

At the end of 20, shots were 20-5 for the Grizzlies, who led 2-0, and didn’t at all look like a group of players who were in the process of playing their third game in as many days.

The Grizzlies iced the puck twice in a row in the early going of the period, but Gahagen and the Grizzlies weathered the storm. Griffin Luce found himself in the cross-hairs again, this time hitting Terao and drawing the attention of Matt Hoover, but nothing significant came from it.

After the net came off yet again behind Carlson, there was a slight delay as the referees conducted some repairs.

Terao took a holding penalty with 13:33 to go in the second, which proved unfortunate, as the Rush struck just six seconds into it. He drew a penalty a couple of minutes later, however, but despite Cuglietta’s best efforts, the score remained the same when the Rush skater exited the box.

As the period progressed, the Rush took over the play more than they had previously, and it paid off. They tied it up with just under a minute to go, on a nice move from none other than Brennan Saulnier. So once again, the game was tied 2-2 after 2, shots 32-20 for Utah.

The Rush came out hot in the third, but Yuri Terao picked off a pass from Mark Auk, and sniped it five-hole at 1:32 for his first since returning to the Grizzlies.

Cédric Paré, Yuri Terao, and Matt Hoover celebrate Terao’s 3-2 goal.

Play slowed down a bit following to Rush icings, the third game in three days finally catching up with both teams. Gahagen saw a little more action through the stretch that followed, but play evened out again as they passed the half-way mark of the third.

The Grizzlies narrowly averted disaster with about 5:30 to go, but Matt Abt took a slashing penalty on the play, giving the Rush a power play. Gahagen was sharp, though and Utah killed it off.

Carlson was pulled for the extra skater with around 1:30 to go, but despite besieging Gahagen, before the time ran out, the Rush were unable to tie it up, and Terao’s goal stood for the game winner.

So the Grizzlies were able to complete the three game series sweep, Terao earning first star, Gahagen second with 28 of 30 saves in his Utah debut, and Cannone picking up third star with the first goal of the game.

With five games under their belt, the Grizzlies have multiple point-per-game players. Cuglietta (1G, 5A) has put up points in every game this season, while the line of Wegwerth (4G, 2A in five games), Jenkins (2G, 1A in five games), and Bradley (3A in three) have been prolific. Cannone (1G, 3A) and Ian Scheid (3G, 1A), as well as Jenkins, Wegwerth, and Cuglietta, put up points in each of the last three games against the Rush. Overall, the Grizzlies improved to 4-1, which is good for fifth in the league, and second in the Mountain Division.

Now the Grizzlies will head off to Tulsa, hoping to keep their winning streak going against a team not named the Rapid City Rush.

Goals

  • First Period: Cannone (Cuglietta, Scheid), Wegwerth (Jenkins, Lepkowski)
  • Second Period: None
  • Third Period: Terao
    Gahagen (28/30 saves)

Images courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Ringing In the New

After last night’s smashing success, the line of Joe Wegwerth, Jack Jenkins, and Trey Bradley started the game off for Utah, together with Tanner Jago, Garrett Johnson, and Payton Jones. However, there were some shuffles to the rest of the lineup. Cedric Paré and Jared Pike both were out in exchange for Matt Hoover, while on defense, Miles Gendron sat out for Edwin Hookenson.

It didn’t take the Grizzlies long to get the offense going again, Charlie Gerard striking first just 1:20 into the game from Diego Cuglietta and Pat Cannone.

Utah had a couple of good shifts in the offensive zone towards the end of the period, but it was Rapid City who got on the scoreboard next, tying it up with just under seven to go in the period.

Things started to heat up a couple of minutes later, as Bradley was knocked down by the Rush bench. Wegwerth stepped in originally against Griffin Luce, but Cedric Montminy stepped in, and the two got double minors for roughing. Wegwerth also got an additional ten for continuing the altercation. On the very next shift Brennen Saulnier and Alex Lepkowski also dropped the gloves.

Things continued to be tense between the two teams through the end of the period, which ended 1-1, the Rush outshooting the Grizzlies 7-6.

Utah started the period strong, but Avery Peterson got his second of the game 2:06 into the frame. The two teams traded penalties, but neither team ended with anything to show for it.

However, half-way into the period, no one tied up Christian Horn sufficiently, and he scored the equalizer, just before Wegwerth returned to the ice.

The Grizzlies took a delay of game penalty a couple of minutes later, but they killed it off handily, and the period ended with little of note, save that Wegwerth threw a huge hit on Luce.

Utah had taken the shot lead 17-16 at the end of 40, game still tied 2-2.

Abt took another tripping penalty at 3:23 but Jenkins, who had been flying around all game, streaked up the ice on a two-on-one, delayed, and then sniped it in for his second of the year. Unfortunately though, Rapid City tied it up yet again about 30 seconds later on the tail end of their power play.

The home team drew the next three penalties, including a brief 5-on-3, and Ian Scheid continued his hot streak by blasting one home for the 4-3 goal from Cannone and Wegwerth. Cannone took a tripping penalty with 2:44 to go. The Rush got a point blank chance as their goalie headed to the bench, but Jones calmly snagged it. That was ultimately their best chance of the advantage, and despite the extra man, the Rush weren’t able to tie the game up yet again, giving Utah their second win in as many days.

Scheid (1G, GWG), Jenkins (1G), and Gerard (1G) were named the three stars of the game, while Cannone deserves an honorable mention with two primary assists.

The Jenkins line had another strong night, as did Ian Scheid, but they also got contributions from the other lines, and another good game from their goalie. In addition, this iteration of the Grizzlies have shown, on multiple occasions now, that they are willing and well able to get physical, throw their weight around, and drop the gloves when necessary. Something that we will no doubt see more of on Saturday.

Goals

  • First Period: Gerard (Cannone, Cuglietta)
  • Second Period: Horn (Abt)
  • Third Period: Jenkins (Jago, Jones) (SH), Scheid (Cannone, Wegwerth) (PP)
    Jones: 23/26

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: A Stylish Send-off

After the Grizzlies’ original home opener was pushed back, Utah finally got to skate in front of a small, socially distanced home crowd for the first and last time in 2020. There were several new additions and several subtractions since the two games that started the season.

Brayden Gelsinger, Diego Cuglietta, and Yuri Terao opened the game at forward, together with Alex Lepkowski and Ian Scheid, while Payton Jones made his third start for Utah.

Utah controlled play through most of the first five minutes of the game, but the Rush had evened things up by the five minute mark or so. By and large, the first half of the period was uneventful, though Jones calmly turned aside a shot from Brennan Saulnier one-on-one, and guys like Garrett Johnston and Cedric Paré stood out.

Approaching the ten minute mark, Joe Wegwerth had an outstanding shift, getting a couple of terrific shots before finding the back of the net at 9:25 for his second of the season from Jack Jenkins and Trey Bradley. Unfortunately, the Rush tied it up almost immediately afterwards, as they seem to do quite frequently.

Utah took back the lead with about five to go, however, Jenkins neatly putting the puck into the top right corner of the net on a spectacular backhand pass from Bradley. Christian Horn then proceeded to draw the first penalty of the game with 4:13 to go.

Utah made good at the end of the power play with one second left, Scheid freezing a screened Adam Carlson for his first of the year

Mitch Maxwell and Tyson Empey dropped the gloves at center ice with two minutes to go, both getting in some punches before being sent to the dressing room to cool down.

By the end of the period, in addition to the 3-1 score, Utah had opened a 22-7 shot lead. Entertainingly, Wegwerth (3) and Charlie Gerard (4) led the Grizz in shots, with as many combined shots as the entire Rush team.

The Rush got the first goal of the second period, lifting it over Jones from the blue paint at 3:08, but Wegwerth refused to let the one goal game stand, picking up his second of the game less than a minute later, Jenkins picking up yet another point on the assist.

Jones got to see some more rubber as the period hit the half-way point, shots reaching 27-17 for Utah with about nine to go, and at 11:56. He remained the less busy goalie however, and Scheid got his second of the game at the half-wall, chasing Carlson from the Rush net on the 5-2 goal.

Gerard took a hooking call with just over five to go in the second, but Utah killed it off pretty comfortably.

Rapid City outshot Utah in the second 15-12, as might be expected considering the score, but the Grizzlies continued to hold the lead both in shots and where it mattered most.

Utah controlled the first couple of shifts of the third, and the Grizzlies eventually drew a power play with 17:02 to go. It almost went poorly as the Rush got the puck at the blue line, but Terao hustled back to keep the them from getting to Jones uncontested.

Although they didn’t capitalize on the advantage, Rapid City’s Peter Quennville beat Horn and Jones, making it 5-3 at 5:25. Gelsinger drew a power play a little over a minute later though, but despite Pat Cannone’s best efforts to get Wegwerth the hat trick, the Rush returned to full strength with no change in score. Abt took an interference penalty of his own shortly thereafter, but that too changed nothing.

Terao and Gelsinger led a dazzling rush with about eight to go, showing off their quick feet and quick passing, and Jones continued to hold off Rapid City. Wegwerth continued to get chances to cap off the hat trick, but Tendek stood firm.

The Rush pulled Tendek for the empty net with 2:14, and Diego Cuglietta took a penalty, leading to a six-on-four for two minutes. In the end, it didn’t matter, as Abt sailed the puck into the empty net with 49 seconds to go.

When the buzzer sounded Utah had outshot Rapid City 40-30, and took the 6-3 victory into the new year.

Bradley was spectacular in the first period, as were his other line-mates, Wegwerth and Jenkins. Wegwerth’s two goals (including the game winner), and Jenkins’ one goal and two assists earned them first and third stars respectively, while Scheid’s two goals also saw him named second star of the game. Abt also picked up a goal and an assist.

The Grizzlies have clearly put their off time since December 12th to good use, as they looked far more like a cohesive team with quite a bit of chemistry, and not at all like one that hadn’t played a game in several weeks.

They start off 2021 with a New Years Day game tomorrow, also against the Rush.

Goals

  • First: Wegwerth (Bradley, Jenkins), Jenkins (Bradley, Myllari), Scheid (Cuglietta, Bradley) (PP)
  • Second: Wegwerth (Jenkins, Abt) (GWG), Scheid (Maxwell)
  • Third: Abt (Cannone) (EN, SH)

Jones: 28/31

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Take Two

In game two of the season and the set in Rapid City, the Grizzlies iced the same crew, though the lines and pairings saw some shuffling. Peyton Jones once again got the start.

The start of the game was more measured than Friday’s match, both teams doing a lot of passing, and neither team holding onto possession more than the other until about the four minute mark. Utah held onto the puck for large parts of a shift, and eventually drew the game’s first power play, but didn’t capitalize.

The Rush struck first following their return to full strength, but Utah didn’t let them rest on their laurels, Brayden Gelsinger scoring his first of the year from Diego Cuglietta and Charlie Gerard.

The ice started to tilt in Utah’s favor heading into the last six minutes of the period, the Grizzlies spending several minutes in the offensive zone. However, with three to go, the Rush pushed back, penning the Grizzlies in their own zone for the last minute. Utah narrowly escaped a goal into a gaping net, but fortunately for them, the Rapid City shooter whiffed on the shot.

At the end of 20, however, shots favored Utah 13-7 with the score tied 1-1. Interestingly, while the Grizzlies put up a decent amount of shots, only Gelsinger had more than one.

Gendron got hit along the boards about three minutes in, and was slow to get up, but he remained on the bench. Utah struggled to get anything going, but both teams found themselves missing passes and scrambling for pucks.

By the ten minute mark, Rapid City had outshot the Grizzlies 6-3 in the period. As the final five minutes of the period approached, Utah got more zone time, overtaking the shot lead 11-9 by the end. It was a very quiet period, and lacked cohesion, neither team possessing the puck for prolonged periods of time.

Matt Abt took a hooking call at 3:16, but just three seconds later off the face-off, Tyler Coulter took an interference call to kill the Rush advantage.

At 8:18 Gelsinger set up a nice pass to Cuglietta, who wired it past David Tendeck for his first goal of the season. Gelsinger’s assist gave him a goal and an assist as well.

Shortly thereafter, with a mess of players in front of the net, Michael McNicholas and a couple of other guys in the slot started celebrating as play got called. The officials reviewed it, and it was, indeed, a good goal, McNicholas getting his first goal of the year from Tanner Jago.

The Rush took a penalty at 16:40, but killed it off and pulled their goalie with 30 seconds to go. Utah held on though, taking the game 3-1, shots 34-22 in their favor.

If last night was the Paré, Gendron, Wegwerth show, tonight definitely belonged to Cuglietta and Gelsinger who both got a goal and an assist, Cuglietta’s holding up for the game winner. Jones got his first pro win, and another standout included Garrett Johnston, who definitely comes as advertised, and was a steady, skilled presence on the blue line. McNicholas and Gerard both led the team with 4 shots, while Gendron, Gelsinger, and Besinger all had three.

While the game wasn’t maybe as exciting as Friday’s from a sheer goals perspective, it was great to see the Grizzlies respond, and to see other players step up and show what they’ve got, especially since this early in the year, most of us still don’t know what to expect from this team.

Utah won’t be in action again until next weekend, when they will welcome the Tulsa Oilers to town.

Goals
First Period: Gelsinger (Cuglietta, Gerard)
Second Period: None
Third Period: Cuglietta (Gelsinger, Lepowski), McNicholas (Jago)

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard.