Utah Grizzlies vs Idaho Game Recap(s): Revenge Was Sweet

With Matt Berry, Austin Carroll, Kevin Davis, Josh Anderson, and Travis Barron all up with various AHL teams, Joey Raats and R.T. Rice drew back in. Ryan Misiak also returned from injury, and Kevin Carr got the start against Idaho.

Misiak made his mark early, putting Utah up 1-0 just 20 seconds in from Taylor Richart. Idaho tied it up at 7:49, as the Grizzlies defense faltered a moment. Kyle Schempp took a hooking call at 9:39, but the power play wasn’t able to come up with anything before Idaho returned to full strength.

Carr made a big save as an Idaho player got past the defensemen, and Josh Dickinson took a slashing call at 12:52. Utah killed that off, and Carr made some big saves to follow that up.

Overall, the period was pretty back-and-forth, neither team looking particularly dazzling. Idaho held the slight edge in shots, 16-13 after 20 in the 1-1 game.

By the five minute mark of the second, shots were tied 18-18 in what continued to be a pretty even game.

The officials let them play through some clutching and grabbing, and by the half-way point in the second, the shots were 20-20 with no change in score.

Elgin Pearce picked up the puck on a turnover, putting the puck past Carr at 13:15, but Walters struck exactly a minute later to tie it up on a tight angle. Cole Ully and Jack Walker got the assists.

Caleb Herbert drew some ire at the buzzer, leading a bit of a crowd, and after 40, shots were 24-23 for Idaho in the 2-2 game.

Mitch Moroz tripped up Taylor Richart in front of Carr, and Utah went to the power play. The man advantage looked pretty lackluster, and the Steelheads returned to full strength.

Kyle Schempp made it 3-2 at 7:01, but though a couple of players got some good looks (most notably a pair from Gage Ausmus) the Grizzlies were unable to get another goal on Scholl. With just over a minute to go, Carr went to the bench, but Steven McParland scored into the empty net.

Misiak didn’t look at all rusty coming back in his first game since November 9th. Ausmus had what was perhaps his most obviously good game of the year, and Richart was his steady self.

In Saturday’s game, the skaters remained the same, while Joe Cannata got the start.

The game got off to another good start, though it took longer for for Utah to get the goal. Cole Ully banged in Josh Dickinson’s rebound at 2:42, while Caleb Herbert picked up his 17th assist on the goal.

Two minutes later, R.T. Rice got a roughing call, but before he could be sent off, Kale Kessy challenged him and they dropped the gloves. What would have been an Idaho power play instead sent them off for fighting and Kessy got an instigation penalty which kept the game at even strength.

Though the Grizzlies looked pretty good, Idaho broke in and Herbert picked up a hooking call. Exactly half-way through the period, and just seven seconds into the advantage, Idaho beat Cannata to tie the game.

Both teams got chances, as the period continued and once again, the officials let them play through things on both sides.

With 1:05 to go, Ryan Walters hauled down an Idaho player at center ice and was sent to the box for holding. The Grizzlies prevented the Steelheads from threatening, and after 20, the game was tied 1-1, shots 14-11 for Idaho.

Utah killed off the remaining 55 seconds of Walters’ penalty to begin the second, allowing no shots on the advantage. Idaho did get the first four shots of the period thereafter, however, as the Steelheads attacked early.

Rice cross-checked an Idaho player at 3:28 after a whistle, and went to the box, but Idaho was unable to get anything going, and he returned to the ice with no damage done. Utah got a power play of their own at 7:56 when Clint Lewis cross-checked Ryan Misiak, then got 1:12 of 5-on-3 when Elgin Pearce tripped up Taylor Richart.

The Grizzlies set up well initially, but were unable to turn the advantage into anything substantial on the board.

It didn’t matter though, as Herbert made it 2-1 on a nice centering pass from Dickinson, Ausmus getting the secondary assist on Herbert’s 18th.

Absolute mayhem broke out behind the Utah net at 13:06, and it took them some time to sort everything out. Rice got two for roughing, while Mitch Moroz got four for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct. Once again the power play came up empty, though this one looked a little more organized, and led to some good Utah momentum through the end of the second.

In the final moments of the second, Tim McGauley was hit up high and though he headed off under his own steam, he went down the tunnel and didn’t return in the third.

Herbert opened the period with a picture perfect, back-hand, five-hole goal just 42 seconds into the third. Spurred on by the lead, the Grizzlies put up five shots to Idaho’s none in the first five minutes of the period. Joey Raats took a holding call at 5:18, but the penalty killers were very active and killed it off well.

At 9:20, J.T. Henke flew in on a two-on-one with Jack Walker for his first in a Utah uniform. Marchment made it 5-1 from Teigan Zahn at 12:14 to complete the unexpected rout, and Rice and Moroz ended their nights early. Rice got five for fighting, while Moroz got two ten minute game misconducts for instigating in the final five, being the aggressor, and two for instigating in addition to his five.

Walters took a slashing call with less than two to go, but it made no difference to the score.

Herbert (2 goals, 1 assist, 6 shots) and Dickinson (2 assists) got first and second stars of the night and Cannata made 30/31 saves. Turner Ottenbreit also put up six shots, while Ausmus was +4 on the night and R.T. Rice got 16 penalty minutes.

Herbert (36 points) and Ully (31 points) now lead the league in points, Herbert also holding the lead in goals scored while Ully leads in assists. Additionally, Utah closed out the weekend series on a high note, taking over sole possession of the top spot in the Mountain Division, and tying the Toledo Walleye for first in the Western Conference. Moreover, they improved to 14-4-3-1 and ended Idaho’s winning streak.

The Grizzlies are off until Wednesday when they will take on Rapid City at home.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.

 

 

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Cran-Berry Sauce

The day before Thanksgiving saw the first meeting of the season between Utah and the formerly mighty Allen Americans. J.T. Henke drew in for his first game in a Grizzlies uniform, while Brendan Harms and Ryan Misiak sat out, and Joe Cannata once again got the start.

The Grizzlies struck first, Matt Berry scoring his seventh of the season at 5:03 from Caleb Herbert.

Alexandre Ranger took a slashing call against Cannata after a whistle, and though the Grizzlies’ power play didn’t strike, Berry got his second of the game at 10:26, this time from Tim McGauley.

Not to be outdone by his line-mate, Herbert scored his 14th of the season at 11:58 from Berry and Cole Ully.

In the dying seconds of the first, Ryan Walters and McGauley got in on a two-on-one, and in a fast becoming familiar move, McGauley was hauled down. Allen got a tripping call, and the period came to an end.

In a period that was all Utah, offensively, the Grizzlies also did an excellent job cutting off passing lanes, getting in the way of shots, and generally keeping pucks away from Cannata, such that at the end of the first, shots were 7-3.

The power play to start the second was unable to muster a shot. Allen beat Cannata, but was unable to beat the crossbar with about three gone in the second. Herbert was hauled down at 8:06, and though the Grizzlies got a shot, the most notable moment of the advantage was Cannata and Jeremy Brodeur playing long distance ping pong with the puck.

Walters continues to be snake-bitten, getting his second point-blank look on Brodeur in the period. Going the other way, a sprawling defenseman was unable to break up the pass on a two-on-one, but Cannata turned the puck aside, and the Grizzlies whisked the rebound out of danger.

Berry picked up the team’s first hat trick of the year, when he buried a play from Ully. Herbert got the secondary assist as the hats rained down.

Following the goal first Teigan Zahn then Turner Ottenbreit took hooking calls, leading to almost a minute of five-on-three time, but Cannata and the Utah killers killed both penalties off.

Herbert went off the ice very gingerly with about five minutes left in the period, and went straight down the tunnel.

Shortly thereafter, there were a couple of big hits, and Jacob Doty tangled with Zahn. The only outcome was that Doty was assessed a two and a ten for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Grizzlies went to the power play. They were unable to capitalize, though on the plus side, Herbert returned to the ice.

With 14 seconds left, Josh Anderson and Josh Atkinson tangled beside Cannata’s net, but only Anderson was sent to the box to end the period. After 40, Utah outshot Allen 16-8, and had a commanding 4-0 lead.

Allen got their first offensive pressure of the game early in the third, and at  Ryan Walters took a very soft tripping call. Austin Carroll had a dandy jaunt into the offensive zone all by himself that culminated in a very glorious short-handed chance, and Utah killed it off.

Mike Gunn took a high-sticking call at 13:01, and goaded Carroll into matching roughing calls. Allen killed off their penalty, though the Grizzlies got a couple of looks. Cannata continued to be a rock in net, and Utah continued to be very sound defensively.

The game got a bit nasty after that, Doty taking a roughing call with exactly two minutes to go, followed by Gunn exactly a minute later. In the dying moments of the game, Dalton Thrower socked R.T. Rice in the face, and got thrown out with a ten minute penalty for attempt/deliberate injury, and the game ended in chaos.

Matt Berry was named the first star of the game with the hat trick and an assist, while Herbert got the second star, and Ully the third. Joe Cannata got his second shut out in a row, and Taylor Richart had one of his more obviously stand-out performances.

“It feels pretty special. I’ve never done that before,” said the first star after the game, “So it feels good, and it was just good for our team to get the win out there today,”

“Obviously that top line is pretty dynamic, speed, skill, goal scoring ability, they’re unbelievable when they’re playing.” Tim Branham said of his first line’s nine point performance. “Joe, he’s Joe Cannata. What can you say. He’s just an unbelievable goaltender. He had more shots than 18, that’s for sure, I think they missed a bunch. It was a good effort by the boys. I thought we did a lot of good things, and when we had breakdowns, Joe was there to back us up. All in all, it was a good effort.”

When asked specifically about the first star of the game, he said “Matt was buzzing. When we had him three years ago, he was probably our best player in playoffs. He can skate, he can score, when he plays with pace he’s tough to handle. And then you put him on a line with Herbert and Ully, and it’s just, those guys are special,” he added with a chuckle. “Those guys are special. They have good chemistry together, and we’re lucky to have them on our team.”

It was by no means a perfect game, but overall the team played a strong defensive game. “We got up early in that game, and at that point,  you’re trying to stay in it. Allen, Allen’s got potential, so we knew there was gonna be some kind of push, or at least physical play, so we had to be on our toes. There were some breakdowns. You’re not gonna play a perfect game, that’s true. Could we have done a few things differently? Yeah. But overall, I thought it was a good team effort. I mean, any time you get back-to-back shut outs in this league, at this level, it’s a good thing. I know we have Joe in net, which helps, but I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Berry’s thoughts on the defensive effort were similar. “The D zone is a five-man, or a six-man unit, so everyone has to come back and help out, and I think everyone is getting used to the system or getting more acclimated with it, so we’re all playing all the same way and playing together, and I think it’s showing there out on the ice.”

Regardless of the cause, whatever the Grizzlies are doing is certainly working for them, as they are now 10-2-3-0 on the year.

They will face Allen on Friday and Saturday, and all signs point to a very chippy weekend ahead.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Flemming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: A Good Thing

With four games behind them, Utah saw a bit of an injection of new blood in their third game against the Steelheads. Travis Barron (forward) and Nolan De Jong (defense), newly arrived from Colorado, both drew into the lineup, Barron taking the place of the injured Josh Winquist. The Grizzlies went with nine forwards and seven defensemen, and Kevin Carr got the start.

Utah took an early penalty as Ryan Walters went to the box for hooking, but the Grizzlies killed it off handily, allowing no shots on the disadvantage. De Jong got his first shot of the game, but though Austin Carroll mixed it up with a few Steelheads by the Idaho net, the first half of the period was fairly uneventful.

Unfortunately, in a scrambly shift, the Steelheads struck first Steven McParland getting the opening goal. Utah got a number of good looks, including a gorgeous pass from Caleb Herbert to Cole Ully, but though they put up an 8-1 shot advantage by the 11 minute mark, they continued to trail.

However, at 12:42, McParland took a hooking call of his own, and Ully wasted no time, making it one all at 13:32 from Carroll and Kevin Davis.

Utah played a very defensively responsible game, allowing only three shots through the period, all while picking up 13 of their own.

Utah came out hot to start the second, spending the first minute in the offensive zone.

Carroll and Herbert flew in on a two-on-none about five minutes into the second, but Philippe Desrosiers stopped the puck, and everyone went crashing into the net.

The third time was the charm though, as they say, and only a few minutes later, Herbert and Carroll got a two-on-one. This time, Herbert made no mistake at all.

Unfortunately, Idaho scored on the very next shift to tie it up again.

The Grizzlies had a a few defensive bobbles through the first half of the second, but always managed to come out in the right spot to prevent danger.

The first line continued to be absolutely white hot, as Herbert nonchalantly came around the back of the Idaho net, passed the puck to Ully, and picked up the primary assist on the absolute rocket Ully unleashed for his second of the game.

Idaho tried to mix things up a little next to Carr, despite Teigan Zahn standing right next to him, which led to four roughing calls on Zahn, Josh Anderson, Elgin Pearce, and Keegan Kanzig with about four to go.

At the end of the period, Barron and Jeff King decided they’d had enough, and got into a furious scuffle by the Utah bench that saw them both get roughing calls to start the third.

The third period saw the Grizzlies tighten up defensively again. After allowing 13 shots in the second, they allowed only eight in the third. Both teams played with more intensity, the dislike that always springs up between these two teams making itself known. Although it didn’t erupt into any official fights.

Carroll got crosschecked at 11:56, and the Grizzlies went to the advantage, but were unable to add to their lead. Idaho pulled Desrosiers with just under 1:30 to go, and called their time out at 1:19.

Utah attempted multiple chances at the empty net, including a bid by Ully for the hat trick, and in the last thirty seconds, Carr saved the lead in a mad scramble around the net.

When the final buzzer sounded, Utah once again held on to the lead, picking up yet another win.

Though they had some struggles in the second period, the team’s over all defensive effort stood out.

“Honestly, I think it’s just defending fast and getting the puck out of our zone as quick as we can,” said Ully. “If we get caught out there, is when they start getting looks but if we can make one simple play, get it off the glass, or whatever it takes to get it out, and then kind of pressure them and let them make the mistakes, that’s what we did in the third tonight. We didn’t sit back like we did the first night there in Idaho. They didn’t get too many looks, and obviously it frustrates a team when you can do that.”

Not only did the defense deliver tonight, but the offense shows no signs of stopping, as Ully and Herbert continue to put themselves on the score-sheet.

“What can you say about Herbert, Ully, and it doesn’t matter what player we put on there.” Tim Branham said of the potent first line, “Carroll’s on that line tonight, and he played a heck of a game, you know, those guys are leading the way.”

Ully’s assist and two goals nabbed him first star of the game against his former team, while Herbert, who has picked up at least one goal in every game, was named second star. Carroll picked up the third on the strength of three assists.

“Really proud of the way the boys clamped down there, I challenged them again between the second and third to play the right way like we did up in Idaho. We played the whole third period in their end. We understand what kind of team we have, and we’re finding ways to win because we’re a good hockey team. Then you put on top of that our goal tending, it’s a good thing.”

The Grizzlies have yet to lose in regulation, picking up nine of a possible ten points in the first five games. A good thing indeed.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.

 

 

 

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Bring on the Thunder

With three disappointing losses under their belts, Utah came into Wichita looking to bounce back, especially on the defensive end of things. With Travis Howe out with a two game suspension, and James Melindy scratched with a day-to-day injury, Utah went back to ten forwards but played only and five defensemen, Mitch Jones drawing back in on the blue line. Kevin Carr once more got the start.

The first line of Ryan Walters, Jon Puskar, and Kyle Thomas started for the Grizzlies, and were followed by a strong shift from Brendan Harms, and the other two Ryans, who got the first shot of the game.

Misiak, Olsen, Zach Saar, and Sam Windle had a great shift, crashing the Thunder net, and Saar dropped the gloves with Cory Melkert at 3:21. Five minutes into an 0-0 game, shots were 8-2 for the Grizzlies.

Wichita had a brief stretch of possession shortly thereafter, but Utah responded well, and the Thunder took a delay of game penalty with 13:09 to go. They didn’t capitalize, but they held possession for nearly the entire advantage.

The Grizzlies’ strong, structured play continued through the first half of the period, out-shooting Wichita 11-4.

The defensive woes of the Pelech and Ortega line continued, and after a strong shift from the Thunder in the offensive zone, Evan Polei roofed it on Carr to give them the 1-0 lead, despite the 12-6 shot advantage for Utah.

It looked like Wichita had scored again moments later, but the linesmen went racing in, and after a brief conference, the goal was waived off with 5:13 to go.

Olsen made a couple of good plays, which ultimately culminated in a pass to Misiak through some bodies. Misiak pulled it around Shane Starrett, and into the net to tie the game up at 17:42. Ortega got the secondary assist.

After 20, Utah out-shout Wichita 20-8, goals one apiece.

The Grizzlies came out buzzing to start the second, getting the first three shots of the frame. Windle got a nice shot 16 seconds in, and then Brendan and the Ryans had a strong shift.

It eventually payed off. Olsen dished to Higby, and Higby batted it past Starrett, giving Utah the 2-1 lead.

Wichita then took two penalties in quick succession, and Puskar made it 3-1 from Ortega and Walters on the two-man advantage. Carr kept it a two goal lead, shutting down a one-on-none with roughly eight minutes gone, and Utah drew yet another power play.

They were unable to capitalize, and Chris Leibinger just missed scoring a gorgeous goal, as he flew in, and sniped on Starrett. Unfortunately for Utah, though he beat Starrett, the puck hit the post, and rolled to the wrong side.

Misiak took an offensive zone penalty with 3:15 to go, and after lengthy offensive zone possession, Wichita drew within one.

Brendan, the Ryans, and Cliff Watson buzzed around Starrett after he goal, but after 40, Utah headed out with a 3-2 lead, and a 38-18 shot lead.

Wichita took a face-off violation just 17 seconds into the period, but Utah was unable to beat the determined kill, and the Thunder returned to full strength.

Momentum swayed back and forth, first Colin Martin and the Thunder varying play, then Higby and Pelech, then the Thunder again through the first ten, as Wichita pressured, and Utah’s structured play briefly fell apart under it.

Jones took an elbowing call at 8:19, but Utah gave up relatively few looks, Walters got in on a short-handed breakaway, and Carr made a save right as the kill expired.

Another unforced error from the Thunder (too many men this time) led to another Utah power play, but the Grizzlies struggled again, Olsen and Harms having to hustle back to break up a good  Wichita short-handed look.

With 5:49 to go, Jones took another penalty, but fortunately, the penalty kill looked far more dangerous than their power play had in its last two outings, and Carr held down the fort.

With less than two minutes to go, Starrett went to the bench, but the Grizzlies controlled play in the offensive zone, holding the puck for almost fifteen seconds. The Thunder got a little too excited and got caught with seven men on the ice with 46 seconds to go.

Wichita once more pulled their goalie to skate five on five, and held possession of the puck, but for the second time that night, Walters pounced on the puck at the Utah blue line, and despite the best efforts of Jeremy Beaudry, pulled away, and scored into the empty net with ten seconds to go. Olsen got his third assist of the night

It was a fitting end to a pretty strong game, in which Utah out-shot Wichita 42-27 to halt the skid at three.

Olsen appeared to be more engaged than he had been for several games past, shooting more in the first period than he had in the four previous games combined. It certainly payed off, as he got three primary assists, and made some big moves on both ends of the ice, as well as playing a role on the power play and penalty kill.

The play of Misiak and Olsen earned them both stars, Misiak picking up the first star, while Olsen received the third.

The same two teams square off tonight before Utah returns home for their Monday afternoon match against Rapid City.

 

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