Utah Grizzlies @ Rapid City Rush: Uneventful

On Wednesday night, the Grizzlies found themselves facing the Rush for the ninth time this season, and the first of six straight games with something resembling a full lineup. Although they didn’t get Grayson Downing back, and Joey Raats was out with an illness both players traveled with the team, and they did get Jake Marchment back. Gabriel Verpaelst made his 2019 return to the Grizzlies as well, while Joe Cannata got the start.

First Period

  • Rush have the Grizz not quite on their heels, but RC has the first four shots.
  • Cannata has been quite sharp though.
  • Marchment gets the first shot for Utah, and it’s a nice one. Unfortunately, Adam Carlson is a good goalie.
  • First penalty of the game for Utah. Let’s see if they can keep their penalty kill streak going.
  • And again…
  • Better possession following that second penalty kill. Still only three shots though.
  • Great defensive move by Turner Ottenbreit to break up a one-on-none without taking a penalty.
  • Too much defensive zone time…lots of hitting on both sides though.
  • 9-3 are shots for RC after a scoreless first period. Cannata’s been good.

Second Period

  • You know who I miss? Austin Carroll. #ChaosOnSkates (Well, him and everyone else who’s been out for half a century.)
  • Dickinson wastes absolutely no time getting the Grizzlies’ first shot of the second. (Actually, Chris Leibinger won the face-off so hard it counted as a shot on his own net. Where have we heard this before…)
  • Not only is defenseman Leibinger playing forward, he’s playing center. How interesting.
  • Good offensive zone shifts for the Grizzlies to start here.
  • Can’t wait for the skills competition to see what that booming shot of Ottenbreit’s clocks in at.
  • Shots are now 11-10 for RC, and Gage Ausmus draws a power play by taking a stick to the face.
  • Take two on the power play is not going very well to start…
  • Shots are now 11-11, so that’s good.
  • This second period is much better for Utah than the first. Unfortunately, Carlson has been every bit as good as Cannata.
  • Watching Caleb Herbert stick-handle is mesmerizing.
  • Refs are definitely letting both sides play through what should probably have been penalties. At least they’re being consistent–which at the end of the day is all you can really ask for.
  • Please someone in white score a goal…
  • This game is gonna end 1-0 in the shoot out, isn’t it.
  • You guys…I said someone wearing white
  • 1-0 Rapid City after two.

Third Period

  • Please go play on the other end of the ice, boys.
  • Everyone falls down. Utah draws a power play though. I think that is the second penalty Eric Freschi has drawn this game.
  • Herbert gets hooked on what was nearly a breakaway, so they’re headed to the power play again.
  • This is definitely one of their better power plays tonight. No goal though.
  • Please someone tie this game up.
  • This game is turning into a bit of a track meet. Lots of up and down and up and down.
  • Some big hits from the Utah defensemen this game!
  • Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout
  • Not a lot of whistles this period. Lots of hard skating too.
  • Gah! Oh thank you, post.
  • It’s just one goal, but time is starting to run out…
  • Well, I guess we’re gonna close this game out radio style seeing as we’ve got a black screen…
  • Utah’s net is empty.
  • Well, no empty netter for RC, but no tie game for Utah either.
  • Grizzlies fall 1-0 in what might be the lowest scoring (and possibly most uneventful) game all season.

At the end of the day, both teams played strong defensive games, and Adam Carlson was just that one save better. It was good to get Marchment back, and Verpaelst looked very good on defense, which is certainly a good sign. Neither team gave up anything on the penalty kill (Utah is now 33/33 in the last six games), and the coming games should be good ones.

 

Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography.

 


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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.

 

 


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Utah Grizzlies: Return of the Jedi

With Kyle Thomas’ return, the formerly potent first line of Greger Hanson, Michael Pelech, and Thomas was reassembled, while Ryans Misiak, Olsen, and Walters remained together as the second line. Zach Saar, Charley Graaskamp, C.J. Eick, Brad Navin, and Erik Higby all dressed as well, with Utah icing eleven forwards and five defensemen. Rob Mann, Jon Puskar (reserve), Brendan Harms (reserve), and Travis Howe (serving a nine game suspension), were the scratches.

Kevin Carr got the start, while Walters wore the C, and Eick and Taylor Richart the As against Rapid City.

Tempers flared early and often for Rapid City, leading to a roughing minor drawn by Walters at 2:14, and a Utah power play. Walters took the best kind of revenge, taking a pass from Olsen, and hammered home the first goal. His goal sent a shower of stuffed animals to the ice on Teddy Bear Toss night. Misiak got the second assist, as the whole Ryan Line got in on the action against Walters and Misiak’s former team.

The Rush took another penalty as Richart was tag-teamed and thrown to the ice by two Rapid City players. Olsen jumped in in defense, and Utah got another power play on a roughing call. The Grizzlies got a couple of really good looks and possession from the Ryan Line, and Higby, but it ultimately came up empty.

Thomas pounced on a turn-over at 8:57, passed to Hanson, and Pelech put the puck past Adam Vay to get a 2-0 lead.

Rapid City took another roughing call as Tommy Maxwell tried to goad Walters into retaliating. Utah got a lot of space to make plays, but they were unable to get a second power play goal, and shortly after the Rush returned to full strength, Eick took a penalty.

After going more than 300 minutes, and a perfect 24/24 on the kill, the normally stellar Utah PK gave up a power play goal 13 seconds in as Pavel Jenys snuck the puck away from Carr and into the net.

The Ryan Line went to work immediately afterwards, and while their multiple chances didn’t come to anything, it was a good response.

With five minutes left in the frame, the Rush got some good offensive zone pressure, before the Grizzlies retook control of the game.

Higby took a tripping call with 2:52 to go, but Utah killed it off, and they sprang Higby out of the box. Unfortunately, Vay made the save, and the Grizzlies went into the first intermission up 2-1, out-shooting their opponent 14-8.

Utah got off to a good start in the second, and then at 2:17, Saar dropped the gloves with Josh Elmes. Elmes got more punches in, initially, after getting Saar’s jersey over his head, but Zach ultimately got the take-down in a quick bout.

Utah continued to dominate puck possession in the opening minutes of the frame, but Richart took a hooking call at 4:19, and once again, Jenys scored 15 seconds into the advantage. So, despite more or less controlling the play, and leading in shots 19-9, it was a tie game, and a familiar feeling of dread began to creep in.

Happily, it was not allowed to last for long. The third line had a strong shift in the Rush zone, followed by the Pelech line. Then Pelech sprang Thomas, who crossed the blue line all alone, and deked the pants off Vay to give the Grizzlies back the lead. Pelech and Hanson both got the assists. That’s more or less when Utah busted the game wide open.

Just over a minute later Windle sprang Higby with 12:37, and this time, Higby made no mistake on the breakaway, getting his second goal of the year on a gorgeous top-shelf snipe.

Garret Haar got a gorgeous chance, and drew a holding the stick call. Utah got a chance or two, including a gorgeous pair from Thomas, but all in all, it was not one of their better attempts. In the end, it didn’t matter, as Saar got the puck right as the PK ended, picking it up at the red line, beating both Rush defensemen, and displaying some seriously nifty hands, deking out Vay to give Utah the 5-2 lead. Graaskamp got his fourth assist of the season on Saar’s fourth, giving the Grizzlies three goals in just over four minutes.

Rapid City got a couple strong shifts in the Utah zone, but Olsen took a pass from Walters by the bench, danced into the offensive zone, split the D, and beat Vay glove-side for his seventh goal of the season. Walters and Leibinger were initially credited with the assists, though Misiak eventually got the secondary. The sixth goal set a season high for goals in a game, and there were still over five minutes left in the second.

Haar took a holding the stick call of his own with three minutes left in the second, and the Utah penalty kill continued to struggle uncharacteristically, giving up another goal at 18:40.

Hanson restored the four goal lead with 34 seconds left, after a spinning Pelech made a dandy of a pass to Thomas in the slot. His pass to Hanson fooled Vay, and Utah’s five goal second period set a season high there as well. After 40, Utah out-shot the Rush 30-18, leading 7-3.

After such a prolific second, the third was something of an anti-climax by comparison. Because Rapid City’s backup goalie was an EBUG, Vay remained in net.

Utah continued to control the game, playing (as Adrian Denny noted) some of their best structured hockey of the night, and continuing to hold a ten shot lead on the Rush.

Thomas and Navin got a two on one, as did Eick and Higby, though neither found the back of the net. Utah drew another power play at 9:24, but the Rush killed it off.

Leibinger got stung blocking a shot off the arm with just under eight minutes left, but he was back in short order, starting the rush that hit Olsen in the offensive zone. Olsen could have taken the shot, but passed instead to Misiak, who hammered home the eighth goal at point-blank range. It was the last goal of the night, and gave every member of the top six a goal.

After a whistle, Darian Dziurzynski grabbed Pelech, Eick jumped in in defense, and Tommy Maxwell dropped the gloves with Pelech. Once the dust settled, Dziurzynski got a double minor for roughing, as did Eick, while Pelech got a rough and a five for fighting, and Maxwell got five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. The Grizzlies killed off the penalty to Eick, and when the final whistle sounded, Utah led 8-3, and out-shot the Rush 36-24.

In a nice touch, the in-arena unofficial three stars of the game went to the entire team, who absolutely deserved it. The official three stars went to Hanson (1G, 2A), Pelech (1G, 2A), and Thomas (1G,1A).

Rapid City definitely targeted Walters an Richart all night, and the Grizzlies did a surprisingly good job of not getting suckered into retaliating, the last five minutes not withstanding.

Utah’s eight goal game was a season high, eclipsing their previous high of five set against Worchester. They got two goals from every line, including one from all six of the top six forwards. Misiak, Olsen, Hanson, and Pelech, all had a goal and two assists, while Walters and Thomas both had multi-point games as well. Additionally, Sam Windle was a team leading +7 on the night, breaking an all-time Grizzlies’ record that has stood since before they played in Utah.

Utah now has a five way tie for leading goal-scorer between Pelech, Hanson, Walters, Olsen, and Richart all at seven, while Pelech (23 points), Hanson (20 pts) lead the team in points, followed by the three Ryans, and Kyle Thomas.

After getting three goals in three games, Olsen now has six points in five games, Walters has ten points in seven, and Misiak has five in the last three, while the first line appears to be picking up right where they left off.

“I thought our guys were fabulous, did tremendous.” Tim Branham said of his team’s impressive outing. “Five on five, we were dominant. I really liked the way we drove the net, put pucks on net, we played with excitement, we executed, we scored on our scoring chances. I mean, when you can add a player like Kyle Thomas, it obviously makes your team that much more deep, and just completes that line again with Hanson, Pelech, and Thomas. Those guys were so good for us when they were together, and they were what, all three of them top ten or top fifteen in the league before they got called up. And then our other line is going too with Misiak, Olsen, and Walters, it’s a big difference, right? So kudos to the boys, sometimes it can be tough to play in a game like that when the other team takes runs at you, or the score gets out of hand, and we kept the foot on the gas, and we gotta keep this feeling inside, and want it again tomorrow. I think that’s the biggest thing for this group is confidence and execution, because we were playing some really good hockey, and just weren’t getting the results, cause we weren’t scoring goals. Obviously Kyle Thomas is huge, but everyone stepped up tonight. Higby, Saar, everybody stepped up. It was good to see.”

Michael Pelech echoed Branham’s sentiments on Thomas’  return. “I think he scored 30-something goals last year, so to get a player of that caliber back in the lineup, it definitely boosts the morale, and gets the guys going”

It may not have been Carr’s best night recently, but for a change, his team had his back. “He’s been standing on his head,” Pelech added. “So to put up eight for him, that’s huge.”

Friday’s game was the first of eight in fifteen against the Rush, and hopefully, they can carry this momentum through all eight of them.

Tonight’s game is the official Star Wars night, where the snazzy jerseys the Grizzlies have been wearing will be auctioned off.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: A Tale of Two Ryans

On the heels of a Cliff Watson call-up, a Jon Puskar suspension, and the absence of Brendan Harms (probably a result of the big hit he took in Colorado), the lineup saw yet another minor change. Ryans Misiak and Olsen skated with Brad Navin, while Zach Saar drew in on the third line with Erik Higby and C.J. Eick. Rob Mann returned to the lineup for the first time since November 10th, and Travis Howe was the tenth forward.

Ryan Walters and Taylor Richart wore the As, and Kevin Carr once again got the start.

The Olsen line got the first shot of the game, but the Grizzlies took the first penalty when Michael Pelech went off for slashing at 3:07. The penalty kill remained strong, even getting an up-ice rush or two of their own.

Idaho took an answering penalty just a few moments before the kill expired, and Utah went to the man advantage. It took the Grizzlies a while to set up in the offensive zone, and they ultimately came up empty.

As Idaho returned to full strength, the Grizzlies survived the first of several mad scrambles that occurred in front of the Utah net.

Goals off the face-off continue to be an ongoing problem for Utah, as Olsen got thrown out of the circle, Misiak lost the draw, and Shane Hanna scored on a nice shot at 11:03. The Olsen line, which had, up until that point, been having a strong night, followed up the bad face-off shift with a number of strong ones in the minutes that followed.

Good hustle from Eick drew a power play at 13:32 but though the Grizzlies maintained possession for a large majority of the five-on-four, with the exception of a chance from Walters in the blue paint that rang iron, and a lovely pass from Hanson to Misiak in the slot, they were largely unable to get the puck out of the perimeter.

With about three minutes to go, Idaho a two-on-one on a bad bounce, but shortly thereafter Navin laid a hit at the Idaho bench which forced a turnover, and Misiak hit a flying Olsen with the perfect cross-seam pass. Olsen’s fourth tied the game with 2:46 to go.

Richart got taken down with 35 seconds left in the period, and Utah went into the first intermission tied 1-1, shots 11-10.

The early power play went the way of so many others, even with Philippe Desrosiers missing his stick for a substantial stretch on one shift. Navin had a couple of good attempts, and Saar got off a good shot, but Idaho returned to full strength with no change in score.

Idaho came back three on two, and while Leibinger and Richart hand their hands full with the other two Steelheads, a wide open Hanna scored his second of the game and third of the year at 3:09.

Walters was hit up high with 14:35 left in the frame, but though he went down, and took a moment to get up, but he skated off, and didn’t miss a shift. No penalty was awarded on the play.

An Idaho turnover directly onto Olsen’s stick nearly sprang 13 on the breakaway, but the puck bounced, and Utah somehow ended up with a power play a moment later. Windle and Mitch Moroz jawed at each-other for a moment, and the Grizlies went to work. With the exception of the first 30 seconds or so, it was once again a strong possession power play, and Olsen got off a big shot, but it was blocked in front of Desrosiers, and Utah was not credited with a single shot.

There was another scramble around the Grizzlies net, and then the second line carried the puck up the ice, and Olsen got another grade A scoring chance.

Higby took a hooking minor half-way through the frame, but Idaho was similarly unable to muster any shots.

The two teams exchanged offensive zone time in the final couple of minutes of the game, Utah looking a little sloppy in their own zone, and Carr making an uncharacteristically bad play with the puck. However, luck went the Grizzlies’ way for a change, and a turnover by Alexander Dahl saw the puck go straight to the stick of Walters. He made no mistake, slinging the puck past Desrosiers for his fifth of the season, and third in as many games, with 1:26 left in the period.

The teams traded zone time to start the third again, while Branham alternated almost exclusively between the first and second lines, but Walters ran into Desrosiers driving hard to the net, and took a penalty. Pelech made one of those defensive plays that make him so valuable to the team, and Utah once again got lucky in yet another scramble around the net.

The Grizzlies had a couple of egregious turnovers in the defensive zone with just a bit over twelve minutes left, but Idaho was unable to sort themselves out enough to take advantage of them. Meanwhile, the Misiak-Olsen-Navin line continued to turn in a really strong performance, eventually putting up ten of the Grizzlies’ 23 shots.

Idaho’s Austin Fyten was assessed a ten minute unsportsmanlike conduct during a time out with 4:46 left to go. Idaho pressured in the final minutes of the game, but with 5.4 seconds left in the period, they iced the puck, and the Grizzlies took their timeout to get organized.

Olsen won the draw, and Hanson got off a shot, but at the end of 60, they were still deadlocked at two.

Utah played their league-leading 10th OT in a very controlled and conservative manner, getting only one shot to Idaho’s three, but carrying the puck for the vast majority of the time. In the end, OT wasn’t enough to break the tie either, and the game went to the shoot-out. It ended in all to familiar fashion. Carr let in a single goal on a crazy fake-out, and none of the Grizzlies answered.

“Tonight, I didn’t think we got the chances like we normally have.”Tim Branham said when asked about the team’s 23-shot performance. “Normally we create a lot more chances than that. But I still think you’re right. Structurally, we’re playing fine. Some guys, I think we had a few guys that maybe could have done a little bit more, but I thought for the most part we played some pretty good hockey. Would have been nice to have gotten two points against a depleted lineup there in Idaho, but I thought their goalie made some good saves, we hit the crossbar on a wide open net again. That’s been the story of our season so far, not scoring enough goals. I thought today was an anomaly though, we didn’t generate the chances like we normally do, but yet we still were in the game, and had power plays we could have scored on, and hit a crossbar on the power play on a wide open net. It is what it is. We’ve got to keep on playing the same way. We can’t deviate from the way that we’re playing, we’ve just got to try that much harder.”

One player who did do a little bit more was Ryan Olsen. The jump that has been missing from his game of late was back with a vengeance, and it wasn’t just him. After not making the trip to Colorado, Navin looked really sold. He was making plays look easy that he wouldn’t even have tried a few weeks back, while Ryan Misiak, who was on a four point roll before last weekend, led the team with four shots, as well as being instrumental in the first goal.

“I thought he did good tonight. I thought he stepped up.” Branham said of Olsen’s game. “Obviously scoring a goal early gets his confidence going. He’s very effective when he’s skating, and putting pucks on net, cause he’s very fast at this level, a big body, and he’s very good on draws. So when he sticks to what he’s good at, he’s very effective.”

Speaking of effective players, Chris Leibinger is neither flashy, nor a particularly prolific point producer, but he turns in a quietly consistent performance night in and night out. In fact, barring two middling games when he first arrived, he’s been terrific for the team. Likewise, Mitch Jones tends to fly under the radar, unnoticeable in the way good defencemen often are, before grabbing your attention with a great defensive play, or wicked shot.

 

When asked about the power play, which carried and possessed the puck well, but generated almost no shots, Branham said, “Against a PK unit like Idaho, they’re very aggressive, so passing it along the perimeter is good to settle them down, but then at some point, you’ve got to funnel pucks to the net, and I think we missed a couple opportunities to do that. I think that if we can kind of hone in on those small little opportunities—we worked on it a lot, showed a lot of video on it, we had quite a few plays in mind—it was jut one thing here, one thing there that messed it up. But we did a good job of gaining the zone, we did a job of possessing it, now it’s a matter of making sure we take that shot with traffic, and do a better job on those rebounds, of getting to those loose pucks so we get that puck back and we shoot. I thought you were right, we did possess the puck well we’ve just gotta do a better job of funneling the puck to the net.”

Kevin Carr was a little shaky at times, and it was nice to see the Grizzlies working hard to help him out around the net, when he’s been the one doing the rescuing on most nights this season. He was excellent in the shoot out, allowing only that one crazy fake-out goal. If anyone on this team deserves some wins, it’s him.

Speaking of wins (or a distressing lack thereof), last year at this time the Grizzlies were in the middle of a nine game losing streak, with an abysmal 7-13-1-1 record on December 4th. They then proceeded on their more-or-less annual post-Christmas tear, which saw them go 29-16-3-1 after that stretch. Meanwhile, this year’s team is 6-9-5-2, with standings points in 13 of 22 games. Highly frustrating, to be sure, but certainly better than it could be.

“They’re doing ok. Tonight was frustrating, because I thought we deserved better for the way we’ve been playing lately, but we’re collecting points. These are going to be huge later on down the road. We’re collecting points, we’re not getting losses, we’re collecting those points. We’ve got a lot of games within our division coming up still. This group is never out of it, my teams are never out of it. We’ve gotta fix a couple things, and we’ll be just fine.”

Utah plays the second of six games against Idaho tonight (Wednesday) at the Mav before heading out to Idaho for the weekend.

 

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Another Point, Another Loss

On the night before Thanksgiving, the lineup got a bit of a shakeup ahead of the game between the ECHL affiliates of the Ducks and the Kings.

In terms of personnel, Erik Higby drew in for Travis Howe, and Kevin Carr, sporting his new Grizz coloured gear, once again got the start. In terms of lineup, Ryan Olsen started the game on the wing with Greger Hanson, and Michael Pelech, Higby centered Brendan Harms and Ryan Misiak, while Zach Saar lined up with Brad Navin and C.J. Eick, and Ryan Walters took shifts on a number of different lines.

Olsen and Hanson led the charge shortly off the face-off, and Olsen drew a power play 35 seconds into the game. Utah did eventually get set up, but got no shots on the advantage. Misiak took a tripping call to head off an uncontested breakaway at 3:04 but the Monarchs were also unable to capitalize, thanks to a couple great saves from Carr.

Carr continued to be essential to keeping the game scoreless, as Manchester out-shot Utah 4-2 through the middle of the frame.

Towards the final five minutes in the first, Pelech got what looked like an absolute gimmie into an empty net, but somehow Charles Williams snagged the puck, leaving Pelech incredulous.

On the very next shift, Manchester came back and scored at 15:14, and the Monarchs won the possession game in the final five minutes of the period. At the end of 20, Utah led in shots 13-8, but trailed 1-0 where it counted.

The Grizzlies came out more aggressively in the second, throwing their weight around, and skating hard.

Pelech made a great pass to Olsen about four minutes in, but once again Williams was there to make the save. Carr continued to match Williams, save for save in his own end.

Hanson carried on his power play drawing ways, and Utah went to the advantage at 5:40. Navin was boarded on the power play, and the Grizzlies had a very brief five-on-three, and then another power play. Walters made a great defensive play on his own end, and the Higby, Harms, Misiak line got a good look, but Utah couldn’t capitalize.

The Monarchs had a lengthy stretch in the offensive zone, thereafter, leading to a Grizzlies penalty. The penalty kill was sharp though, and kept Manchester chasing the puck back down the ice. Walters even got a short-handed chance.

Colton Saucerman went into Carr at 13:32, so the teams played four-on-four for six seconds, and then Utah went to the power play. The first shifts of the advantage went well, and then the Grizzlies had to chase the puck around. Just when it looked like yet another power play would die with no change in score, Higby got his first of the year on a Harms rebound. Misiak got the secondary assist on the tying goal.

The shifts that followed the goal saw the Grizzlies flying around the Monarchs’ zone, but Misiak went to the box with less than four minutes left in the period. Harms clanged the post on a short-handed two-on-one, and the Grizzlies killed the rest of the penalty off.

Pelech got a high-sticking penalty shortly after the return to full strength, and the penalty killers went to work. Olsen and Higby started the kill well, and Utah got three clears in less than a minute, ending the period tied 1-1.

The Grizzlies had 1:08 of penalty kill time to start the third, and benefited from the Monarchs’ inability to capitalize on what looked like a couple of sure goals. Fortunately for Utah, these occurrences ended up being something of a recurring theme.

Jones was boarded at 1:41, and the first unit power play of Walters, Hanson, and Olsen created some nice chances, before Manchester flew into the Utah end. Higby got another look short side, but despite some good zone time, they spent much of the power play on the perimeter.

As the game progressed, the lines started to see some blending. Olsen was shifted back to the middle of the ice with Harms and Misiak, Walters taking his spot with Hanson and Pelech.

Manchester got one of those dangerous chances on the face-off after a time out with just about ten minutes left in the period, but the Grizzlies were better prepared than they have been in similar situations. Hanson made a heads up play to create a turnover, and Walters just barely missed the net on Pelech’s pass.

Haar had a good shot block, and Pelech had an even better play, being the only player who didn’t lose sight of the puck as it deflected high into the air in front of the net.

The Grizzlies dodged a major bullet when the Monarchs got in four-on-one but flubbed the pass with just over five minutes to go. Harms and Watson had a terrific shift, as Utah answered with a strong offensive zone push of their own.

The end of the period saw the Grizzlies tied once again, and once again headed to overtime.

Carr was phenomenal in OT as Manchester dominated the extra minutes. He made a huge save about one minute in, and then thirty seconds later, Manchester clanged the post. The Monarchs got a two-on-none, but Carr turned that aside as well, and then got help from another post. Watson took the puck away, and the next shift, Carr made another save as a Manchester player went into the net behind him.

The Monarchs got another two-on-none when a Grizzlies’ player blew a tire at the blue line, but once again Carr was there to take away the chance. Olsen pushed the puck just wide on a spin-o-rama in front of the net and the Grizzlies pressed furiously in the dying seconds, but the game went to a shoot out for the first time this season.

Carr was sharp in the shoot out, but Williams was sharper, and Utah fell 2-1.

Carr’s spectacular 25 save game earned him second star of the night, and the Grizzlies picked up yet another standings point in the loss.

“I thought Kevin Carr was phenomenal.” Tim Branham said of Carr’s outing. “He was just tremendous. Has been all year, and we’re lucky we have him. I thought Erik Higby was excellent today,” he added, “I thought our D-core played really well, and I thought C.J. Eick had a really good game.”

Navin was also very involved, as were Olsen and Harms. The team effort was there, once again, but the execution just wasn’t quite up to par.

Utah now have points in eleven of their last thirteen games and after their abysmal 0-4 start, they are 6-2-4-1. It would, however, be nice to come out on the winning side of these OT games.

What do the Grizzlies have to do to come away with the win in the next games against Manchester? Unsurprisingly, Branham says it all boils down to getting goals.

“We got a lot of scoring chances that we didn’t capitalize on. Guys gotta start putting the puck in the net, it’s a simple as that. I thought we were not very good structurally, I thought this was one of our worst games, structurally, that we’ve played this year, and we still hung around the game and had chances to win it, and didn’t put the puck in. That’s a good thing going forward, we’ve just got to focus a little more, and make sure that we bear down on our scoring chances.”

The three-game series against the Monarchs continues Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

 

 

Picture courtesy of Tim Broussard and Jess Fleming