Coming off a big weekend against Alaska, the Grizzlies looked to keep the wins coming against stiff opposition. Ryan Faragher got the start in Utah’s first encounter ever against the Florida Everblades, while Gabriel Verpaelst made his Grizzlies’ debut in place of Sean Robertson.
The Everblades began well, but it was the Grizzlies who brought all the fire power early. Michael Pelech, Cam Reid, and Austen Brassard all scored in the first five minutes for Utah. Florida pulled Anthony Peters in favor of Alex Nedeljkovic, and the fireworks weren’t over yet. The Everblades an interference penalty, and Marc-André Lévesque dropped the gloves with Dalton Smith.
Faragher stopped a short-handed breakaway on man advantage, and the Grizzlies weren’t able to capitalize. Unfortunately, Florida had some terrific zone time afterwards, and scored at 10:31 when Utah was unable to clear the puck, making it 3-1.
The Grizzlies held off a swarming Florida, including on a power play following a Pelech holding call. Faragher absolutely stood on his head through the rest of the period, and at the end of 2o, the score was 3-1 Utah. However, Florida outshot them 11-5, and the Everblades’ most dangerous period, historically, was yet to come.
Utah came out of the gate quickly, and just 59 seconds into the second, Erik Bradford tipped in a big shot from Phil Pietroniro to restore the three goal lead. Jon Puskar’s work to keep the puck alive earned him the secondary assist.
The Grizzlies got another power play at 3:06, but it was negated shortly thereafter when Pelech took a tripping call at 3:37. Utah killed it off, and even got a breakaway chance of their own from Mathieu Aubin.
The Everblades cut the lead in half again with 11:02 to go, again after a prolonged shift in the Grizzlies’ end.
Utah thwarted what seemed like a sure recipe for disaster when Puskar, Brassard, Amestoy, Daly, and Pietroniro were trapped in their own zone for what must have been well over a minute. Shortly thereafter, Daly drew a power play with just under two minutes left to play, but though Utah got a few looks, they were unable to capitalize.
After 40, Utah led 4-2, but the Everblades continued to outshoot them 20-13.
Faragher made two enormous saves to start the third period, and at 3:46 Martin Nemcik took a slashing call, sending Utah to the penalty kill. C.J. Eick got in on a glorious breakaway, but Nedeljkovic turned him aside, and on the next shift, Gabriel Verpaelst took a boarding call, sending the Grizzlies to a lengthy 5-on-3.
The Grizzlies killed off the 5-on-3, but unfortunately, Florida scored after Pietroniro whiffed on the clearing attempt, and the puck went straight to a waiting Everblade to make it 4-3 at 6:46.
Utah held Florida off through the later minutes of the period, and with 1:30 left to go, Florida pulled their goalie. He had to return to the net 30 seconds later when Grizzlies drew a power play. Verpaelst took an elbowing call mere seconds after that, though, allowing Florida to pull their goalie yet again, and play 5-on-4 with the empty net.
Regardless, the Grizzlies hung on through the last minute, and they picked up a huge two points against one of the top teams of the ECHL. Unfortunately for the playoff race, Alaska beat Colorado, so instead of moving within one of the last spot, the Grizzlies remain three back.
Marc-André Lévesque remains a point-a-game with the Grizzlies, while Bradford’s multi-point game ties him with Ralph Cuddemi for the team lead with 13 multiple-point games this season. Bradford and Reid were named the first and third stars of the game, and while Faragher was not, he very well could have been as well after that performance.
Utah moves on to Orlando next where they will take on the Solar Bears on Friday and Sunday.