Utah Grizzlies: Snowed In

If last night’s team looked a bit different from the team on Wednesday, that’s because it was, to some extent. After Tim McGauley and Griffen Molino were recalled to Colorado, Mitch Maxwell and Brandon Saigeon both returned to the lineup for game two against Florida on a very snowy Friday night. Meanwhile, in net, Brad Barone got his first home start for the Grizzlies.

Both teams got a couple of shots early, but Utah drew the first power play at 6:01. 48 seconds later, Saigeon scored his first pro goal goal to give Utah the 1-0 lead.

Just moments later, Peter Tischke was taken down, and the Grizzlies got another crack at the man advantage. This time, however, Florida kept them at bay.

The testy nature of Wednesday’s game continued, as crowds continued to gather following whistles, and at 11:35, Maxwell and Hunter Garlent both took roughing calls in front of Florida’s net.

No sooner had both teams returned to full strength, however, than Garlent got in one-on-one against Barone, forcing the latter to make a great save. Saigeon also found himself in the box for interference on the play.

Utah’s penalty kill had nearly as many good looks as the Florida power play, and Saigeon returned to the ice with no change in score.

With 38 seconds to go, Yuri Terao took a hooking call, but the Utah PK kept the Everblades chasing until the buzzer sounded.

Utah started the second period with 1:22 on the PK, but killed it off easily, and Barone continued to impress the home crowd with a great save.

Terao beat Cam Johnson on a snipe of a shot with 14:20 to go in the second, but the puck struck iron. Barone also had a couple of big saves as the period approached the eight minute mark.

Unfortunately, though Barone made the initial saves, Florida tied the game with 9:17 to go. That’s when the wheels came off just a bit. Utah got a good chance on one end of the ice, and on the other Florida scored two in quick succession. The Grizzlies called their time out to slow the game down.

On the next shift, Klotz laid a huge hit, and then clipped Michael Downing solidly up high, earning himself a game misconduct. Economos and Arvin Atwal also earned matching ten minute misconducts. So with only seven minutes left, all four players headed to the locker room.

The Everblades scored less than two minutes in to make it 4-1. As the PK continued, Joe Wegwerth got in on a breakaway, but a Florida player got back in time, forcing him to spin and fire wide. However, Florida had no answer for a flying Terao, who made no mistake, beating Johnson clean and one-on-one to cut the defect in half.

After 40, Utah trailed 4-2, out-shot 20-15, but had regained their composure.

Having scored his first pro goal in the first period, Saigeon sold Johnson on the pass, and then absolutely sniped one for his second unassisted. Shortly thereafter, Taylor Richart drew an interference penalty, and just four seconds later, Michael Downing (who fortunately seemed none the worse for wear after the hit) took a penalty in front of his own net, getting a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. Jack Jenkins also took two for roughing. Unfortunately, Utah wasn’t able to accomplish anything on the nearly two-minute advantage.

Unfortunately for the Utah comeback effort, Barone sealed the post at 8:43, but the puck still trickled just past him to make it 5-3 Florida, and then the Everblades scored again at 9:25.

After that, the Grizzlies spent a substantial amount of time in the offensive zone, taking over the shot lead once more, and drawing a penalty at 16:41.

Right as the power play came to an end, an absolute sea of bodies converged on the Everblades net, as well as possibly the puck.  The call on the ice was no goal, and the call stood after a review of the play, as it went into Johnson’s shoulder, not the back of the net.

Although they spent most of the rest of the game in the offensive zone, the Grizzlies were unable to cut the lead down, despite out-shooting the Everblades 19-5 in the third period.

Despite the 6-3 loss, Brandon Saigeon’s first and second goals of his pro career earned him the second star, while Yuri Terao’s short-handed marker, and an assist, gave him third.

“He played really well tonight,” Tim Branham said of Saigeon. “We’re trying to get him to be stronger on the puck. He’s got a good shot, which we saw tonight, and if he plays that consistent game, he’s gonna have a lot of success. Like we’ve talked with Felix, and those guys coming out of Major Junior, sometimes it’s a little bit of an adjustment and a learning curve, but they’ve definitely got the talent.”

“I thought we played a pretty good game, it’s just a couple of shifts in a row there that we took our foot off the gas, and it cost us” Saigeon said.

“It’s always nice to get the first, got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, they’re great out there. My linemates, we had some good o-zone shifts, it’s nice to get the first couple pro goals, but not it’s back to work. We’ve got a game tomorrow, so now we’ve gotta just focus on that.”

With Klotz kicked out mid game, the Grizzlies, who only had nine forwards to begin with, were forced to play even shorter once Klotz was kicked out, and Economos took a ten minute major.

“I thought we played a pretty good game all around,” said Branham. “It was never gonna be perfect. I thought our group worked really hard. We were short-benched a lot of the game. I thought we looked really good in the third, I thought we looked a little bit tired in the second, our forwards. But against a team like Florida,  you’ve got to manage the puck a little bit better than what we did. It’s never going to be a perfect game, but I actually thought we played a pretty good game. We gave up 25 shots, so I’d take that any night.”

Overall, the team has adjusted remarkably well in a short time to the amount of players that have been up and down from the American league on a game to game basis. When asked how they’ve been able to adapt so quickly, Branham gave all the accolades to his team.

“I’m going to give credit to my players on that one. We’ve got seven forwards in the American League, and our players have done an amazing job of coming in, filling roles, listening, working hard, sticking to the system. You’ve got to give credit to them through the changes, they’re the ones playing, we just tell them what to do. They’re the ones who have to go out there and execute, and I think they’re doing a great job with that, because there’s certainly been a lot of movement.”

The changeover will continue into Saturday’s game, as it has been announced that Klotz was given a suspension and a fine with a hearing to come.

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: A Game to Be Thankful For

On the day before a snowy Thanksgiving, with yet another Florida team in town, the Grizzlies got reinforcements from Colorado in the form of Tim McGauley. With Hunter Miska back with the Eagles, Mason McDonald got the start, backed up by Brad Barone.

From their very first shift, Griffen Molino and Tim McGauley made things happen. Taking that into consideration, it was perhaps not surprising that a strong defensive zone shift about four minutes into the game led to an up-ice charge, and Molino’s fifth of the year.

That line continued to be dangerous, creating another chance on a rebound from Sasha Larocque several minutes later.

With 11:59 to go in the first, Utah drew a power play, and Eric Williams continued his scoring ways with a snipe just ten seconds into the advantage.

Unfortunately, less than ten seconds after that, Michael Huntebrinker shot the puck straight through a crowd to put the Everblades within one on their second shot of the game.

The cantankerousness between Utah and teams from Florida continued, and about 12 minutes in, Garrett Klotz dropped the gloves with Kyle Neuber behind Florida’s net. It was a lengthy bout, and shortly thereafter, Utah drew yet another power play.

The Grizzlies didn’t capitalize on the advantage, and at 15:39, they were unable to break up the perfect tick-tack-toe goal. While McDonald probably would have wanted that one back, he turned right around and made a huge, if somewhat unorthodox save one-on-one against an Everblades player on the next shift. Unfortunately, Patrick McGrath took a cross-checking call immediately thereafter. Though Florida briefly took the shot lead, they were unable to capitalize on the advantage, and the period ended 2-2, shots 9-9.

Utah got an early power play when at 1:35, John McCarron got Taylor Richart with an elbow to the face. Though the Grizzlies were able to pick up a couple of shots, they were unable to beat Ken Appleby.

Utah had a couple of good shifts, following the man advantage, but Florida got two skaters behind the Utah defense, and a clean shot beat McDonald to make it 3-2.

Molino continued to get great chances that, for one reason or another, just managed to stay out of the net, both on the breakaway, and in close quarters at the goal mouth, and the home crowd showed their appreciation for both McGauley and Yuri Terao, roaring in anticipation any time either of them led the up-ice rush in possession of the puck.

With 1:12 to go in the second, Feliz Lauzon went bar down from the edge of the blue paint, tying up the game once more. Richart got the assist, and after 40, Utah out-shot Florida 22-18.

Utah jumped into the defensive zone early, and with Mike Economos battling behind the net with an Everblades player, Garrett Klotz snuck around the net, and slipped the puck between Appleby and the post to make it 4-3 just 22 seconds in. Lauzon got his third point of the game, and Economos got the second assist.

Florida counterattacked, and drew a power play at 3:36, but the Utah penalty killers were well up to the task.

However, while they were up for the PK, they were unable to fend off a nearly identical Florida goal scored on yet another cross-crease pass.

The Everblades continued to control the play, getting the lion’s share of offensive zone time through the third period, and tying the shots up.

With under 1:30 to go, Florida rang iron, then Kyle Neuber high-sticked Yuri Terao, which drew a crowd. Teigan Zahn dropped the gloves with Neuber, and then Jack Nevins fought him immediately after. Zahn and Neuber both got two and five, for unsportsmanlike conduct and high-sticking respectively, and Nevins got five and a game for continuing the altercation. The kerfuffle led to a five minute Utah power play, 3:37 of which carried over to OT.

The Grizzlies didn’t need that long. Just 22 seconds into the extra frame, Joe Wegwerth put the puck past Appleby for the game winner.

Wegwerth’s game winner earned him first star honors. “I thought we had a really good start,” he said. “That’s been one of our objectives lately to come out of the gates quick every period. Obviously we had some lulls there in the first and second period, but I thought we battled through it. We’re gonna have some adversity. Not every game is going to be perfect, but we found a way, and when you start to put a streak together, that’s what you have to do, you have to find a way, and that’s what I thought we did.”

Having found success even without their top scorers, the answer to how they’ve got there is simplicity.

“I think we had a lot of success when we kept it simple, chipped pucks by people, I think when we try to skate pucks out of our own end or do too much, that’s when we get in trouble, so I think just simplifying our game, having everyone commit to chipping the pucks out, being hard on the forecheck, finishing checks, I think that’s what really gave us success tonight.”

“Obviously with the way things have been going down here, with guys getting called up, we needed different guys to step up.” Wegwerth continued. “Obviously [Williams] has been doing that right now, and ever since [Klotz] has been here he’s been performing, and being a leader and a big presence for us. It’s great to have guys like that, and obviously [Zahn], he’s a great captain, just a great guy. We’re lucky he’s on our team, he makes guys feel safe out there, that’s for sure.”

While there were moments that left something to be desired, overall Tim Branham was pleased with his team’s effort. “I thought we did a good job to get that good start, and then we kind of got complacent” said Branham. “We didn’t have the same hate on as we did for Orlando. I thought we really let our guard down and didn’t dictate the pace, didn’t dictate play. That first period they didn’t get a shot until eight minutes into the period. Second period, same thing though, and then the flood gates kind of opened. We’ve got to make sure that we’re able to control the game a little bit better. Our game plan was obviously play hard, play physical, but play that puck possession game because they have so many dangerous weapons over there that can score. So we want to make sure that we play that puck possession game. And I thought we did to start the first two periods. You know what, at the end of the day, our power play was great, our penalty kill was great, we were able to get the two points. It was a character win, we learned a lesson — you can’t let your guard down, you’ve got to make sure you play hard. Especially the team we have now. We have a blue collar, hard working team, and we saw that when we play that way against a good team like Orlando with great goaltending, we’re able to have success. We didn’t quite play that full 60 minutes tonight, but we still found a way to get the two points, and good teams do that.”

With two unfamiliar, and talented teams in town recently, every player on the team has stepped up. “Depth scoring, whether it’s from the back end or the forwards, we’re doing a really good job with that. I thought our D carried the play last weekend, tonight our forwards chipped in and scored some goals for us. It’s a fun group to coach. They want to do well, they have each other’s backs, and we’re finding ways to have success. That’s what it’s all about.”

It hasn’t just been the goaltending either. After Terao got taken down and Zahn stood up for him, the team made sure to get the win done on the power play he earned. “We wanted to make sure we had [Zahn’s] back there with the power play, and getting the game winner. When he does stuff like that it gets everyone going, and we want to make sure we repay him for doing that. It’s a tough job, [Klotz], it’s a tough job, but they’re used to doing it, they wouldn’t want it any other way, they’d do it all over again to get another win. This one feels good. That’s a good team over there, that’s a really good team, and we found a way to get two points. We’ve got to enjoy it, enjoy tomorrow with our families and our friends, and regroup again for Friday.”

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard