Utah Grizzlies: Into the Storm

The Grizzlies came out flying against the Thunder on Monday night, and were rewarded almost immediately, as Ralph Cuddemi pounced on a rebound at 2:45, and Shane Walsh deked out a lone Adirondack defenceman before putting a laser of a backhand past Mason McDonald at 5:10.

Just before the half-way mark, first Colin Martin and then Phil Pietroniro were hit hard, and were slow to get up. Pietroniro remained on the bench, and Martin returned to it before the penalty was even over.

The Grizzlies took full advantage of the power play, and Cuddemi scored his second of the night at 11:51.

Adirondack pushed back a bit after that, but Utah ended the period on a strong note with excellent pressure around the Thunder net. At the end of 20, Grizzlies led 3-0, and outshot the Thunder 11-7.

The first five minutes of the second were pretty scramble-y, and the puck remained in the Utah zone for long stretches of time, but between Faragher, and the Grizzlies’ defensive play, they were able to remain on top in both shots and on the board. That is also not to say that they spent the entire stretch in their own zone, as Cuddemi nearly capped off his hat trick early on.

At 6:53, new acquisition Robbie Donahoe found himself in the penalty box for hooking, but the Grizzlies’ penalty kill was more than up to defending against an unexciting power play. Right after Utah returned to full strength, however, Faragher was called on to make a huge save as a Thunder player got in all alone, and Utah went right back to the penalty kill as Mike Banwell took a seat for hooking. The power play was unable to generate anything as the Grizzlies were quick to jump on every puck.

Just over 12 minutes into the period, the Grizzlies stormed into the offensive zone en mass, and C.J. Eick scored his fourth of the year to put the Grizzlies up 4-0.

Not long thereafter, Walsh got taken down, and Brandon McNally made his return to the lineup felt, as he took on Phil Lane. They both would be assessed double minors for roughing, but as Adirondack took an additional slashing call, the Grizzlies went to the power play. They got a few chances on the man advantage, but Adirondack stemmed the tide.

Unfortunately, with just under two minutes to go, Mathieu Aubin took a highsticking penalty, and the Thunder scored at 18:50. After 40, Utah was up 4-1, but Adirondack had taken the lead in shots, 18-16.

The first half of the third was spent largely in the Grizzlies’ end, but between Faragher’s strong play, and Utah largely keeping Adirondack pinned along the boards, the Grizzlies maintained their lead. At 7:14, Cuddemi was penalized for closing his hand on the puck, but between some well timed clears, and tight defensive play saw them through.

With 6:18 left to play, the Grizzlies had only turned two pucks on McDonald, but rapidly remedied that in the next minute, as Puskar and Amestoy both got chances, putting the shots up to 25-22 for Adirondack.

Going with the bold strategy, Adirondack pulled their goalie down 4-1 with roughly five minutes to go, and the Grizzlies took a number of icing calls as various players, including Faragher, took shots at the empty net that missed by the slimmest of margins, including one that just clanged the post, before Evan Stoflet scored his first of the season into the empty net.

Just seconds thereafter, Adirondack added a second goal, but despite pulling their goalie again, that was as close as the Thunder got.

Faragher, Cuddemi and Stoflet were named the three stars of the game.

It wasn’t a great game, by any means, what with the long stretches hemmed in their own zone, and some general sloppiness, but after two great games against Allen that were lost in such a frustrating manner, sometimes you need a break like this game to get back on track. “We’ll take the two points,” said Coach Branham after the game, “Much, much needed two points, that’s for sure, a big win here at home in front of our awesome fans, and a few things we just gotta clean up, but we’ll definitely savour the moment.”

The same two teams will face off again on Friday and Saturday at 7pm.



Utah Grizzlies: Weathering the Storm

With Brassard and McNally called up to the San Diego Gulls, the Grizzlies looked a little different than they have of late. However, if last night’s stinker was surprising, tonight’s rebound was not. Tim Branham teams don’t often drop two bad games in a row, let alone three.

Wichita came out hot again, but the Grizzlies were able to weather the early onslaught, before going short handed on a delay of game penalty 2:24 into the first.

Unfortunately, less than 30 seconds to go in the kill, a wildly bouncing puck got past the Grizzlies’defence, and trickled through Ryan Faragher’s five hole. It was a pretty bad goal all around, but the Grizzlies responded immediately, Colin Martin scoring on the very next shift. Evan Stoflet and Shane Walsh got the assists on Martin’s second of the year.

With 13:05 to go in the period, Travis Howe and Macoy Erkamps dropped the gloves, and were allowed to have a lengthy go at each other, before they were separated and sent to the box.

Just past the half-way mark, the Grizzlies were sent to the power play, and though they struggled to set up at first, they did eventually break Wichita’s perfect penalty kill record as Erik Higby put one past Drew Owsley. Helgesen got the primary assist, extending his scoring streak to five points in six games.

Taylor Richart made a fantastic play to break up a two-on-one a few minutes later, but took a penalty, negating a Grizzlies power play at 13:44. However, the Grizzlies pushed back, and a strong shift in the Thunder offensive zone led to a Thunder penalty in return.

Forced to take a  defensive zone draw, with mere seconds to go, and a one goal lead, Helgesen was one of the players Coach Branham trusted to get the Grizzlies out of the period, and they did just that, shots 14-6 in their favor.

Just under five minutes into the second, Nick Trecapelli checked C.J. Eick into the boards, sending the Grizzlies to the power play, and Ralph Cuddemi scored on a breakaway, putting one past Owsley for Utah’s second power play goal of the night. Tim Daly and Ryan Faragher got the assists on that one.

Several minutes later, the Grizzlies crashed Wichita’s net, and Travis Howe scored his first of the year, with Carlos Amestoy and Mike Banwell picking up the assists. It looked like Utah would escape the second up 4-2, but a bad turnover allowed Gerrad Grant to score with just two seconds left.

Utah has had rough third periods of late, being out scored to the tune of 18-7, so the goal in the final 20 was definitely to buck that trend, and so they did. At 7:24 Helgesen deflected Tim Daly’s shot into the net, giving the Grizzlies their third two goal lead of the game. With the goal, his second point of the night, Helgesen is is now one of four Grizzlies at (or above) a point-per game.

Nothing much of note occurred in the next few minutes until Alexandre Carrier and Logan Nelson dropped the gloves for the second fight of the night at about the 12 minute mark.

From there on out, the Grizzlies battened down the hatches, and rode out a few dangerous shifts from Wichita, though there were some uneasy moments down the stretch — including a strong shift from Alex Krushelnyski and his linemates.

With a little over 2:34 left, Faragher made a snappy windmill save, and with less than a minute remaining, and the Thunder net empty, Amestoy just missed the cage. Wichita called their time out with 13 seconds left, but were unable to capitalize, falling 5-3, out-shot 41-24.

The Grizzlies’ win halts a two game skid, and was a marked improvement over their last three games. They improve their record to 6-3, Faragher improves to 5-1, and ten different players registered a point. Helgesen (named first star of the game), Daly (third star) and Stoflet all picked up two a piece.

The defense and special teams looked much better tonight, with the power play scoring on two out of four chances, and hopefully they can continue the upward trend.

All in all, it was a much better game for the Grizzlies who will travel back to Tulsa tonight, and take on the Oilers in the afternoon tomorrow.