Considering the schedule lately, you’d be pardoned for thinking that the Grizzlies will never play anyone other than the Rapid City Rush this season, but after tonight, it’ll actually be a couple of weeks before they meet again. The line of Diego Cuglietta, Pat Cannone, and Charlie Gerard started for Utah, backed by Ian Scheid and Alex Lepkowski, while Parker Gahagen got his first start in net as the Grizzlies looked to close out the series sweep. Cédric Paré drew in at forward in place of defenseman Edwin Hookenson, but otherwise the lineup remained the same.
The Grizzlies lost no time in bringing the energy, picking up the game’s first four shots in the first minute and a half, and Cédric Paré made sure everyone was awake with a big hit. Gahagen went on an adventure to the blue line just pas the half-way mark during a period of Rush pressure, but though there continued to be a number of whistles, the first half of the period passed relatively uneventfully.
At almost exactly the ten minute mark, the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the game, but weren’t able to convert, despite building their shot lead to 12-4. They got a second crack at it, thanks to the mobility of Trey Bradley at around the five-minute mark. Diego Cuglietta took a shot at the net from the right point, Adam Carlson made the save, but the puck went straight to Pat Cannone on the left side of the blue paint, and the veteran forward made no mistake to put Utah up 1-0.
Joe Wegwerth picked up again on his scoring ways, thanks to some absolute chaos with about two to go. Jack Jenkins ended up on top of Carlson, and in the scramble that followed, Wegwerth put the puck into the open net. The goal was reviewed originally, but allowed to stand, presumably because — though it looked like Jenkins was literally on top of Carlson at one point, by the time the puck was in the net, Jenkins was next to rather than on top of the Rush goalie, and they were well outside the blue paint.
At the end of 20, shots were 20-5 for the Grizzlies, who led 2-0, and didn’t at all look like a group of players who were in the process of playing their third game in as many days.
The Grizzlies iced the puck twice in a row in the early going of the period, but Gahagen and the Grizzlies weathered the storm. Griffin Luce found himself in the cross-hairs again, this time hitting Terao and drawing the attention of Matt Hoover, but nothing significant came from it.
After the net came off yet again behind Carlson, there was a slight delay as the referees conducted some repairs.
Terao took a holding penalty with 13:33 to go in the second, which proved unfortunate, as the Rush struck just six seconds into it. He drew a penalty a couple of minutes later, however, but despite Cuglietta’s best efforts, the score remained the same when the Rush skater exited the box.
As the period progressed, the Rush took over the play more than they had previously, and it paid off. They tied it up with just under a minute to go, on a nice move from none other than Brennan Saulnier. So once again, the game was tied 2-2 after 2, shots 32-20 for Utah.
The Rush came out hot in the third, but Yuri Terao picked off a pass from Mark Auk, and sniped it five-hole at 1:32 for his first since returning to the Grizzlies.
Play slowed down a bit following to Rush icings, the third game in three days finally catching up with both teams. Gahagen saw a little more action through the stretch that followed, but play evened out again as they passed the half-way mark of the third.
The Grizzlies narrowly averted disaster with about 5:30 to go, but Matt Abt took a slashing penalty on the play, giving the Rush a power play. Gahagen was sharp, though and Utah killed it off.
Carlson was pulled for the extra skater with around 1:30 to go, but despite besieging Gahagen, before the time ran out, the Rush were unable to tie it up, and Terao’s goal stood for the game winner.
So the Grizzlies were able to complete the three game series sweep, Terao earning first star, Gahagen second with 28 of 30 saves in his Utah debut, and Cannone picking up third star with the first goal of the game.
With five games under their belt, the Grizzlies have multiple point-per-game players. Cuglietta (1G, 5A) has put up points in every game this season, while the line of Wegwerth (4G, 2A in five games), Jenkins (2G, 1A in five games), and Bradley (3A in three) have been prolific. Cannone (1G, 3A) and Ian Scheid (3G, 1A), as well as Jenkins, Wegwerth, and Cuglietta, put up points in each of the last three games against the Rush. Overall, the Grizzlies improved to 4-1, which is good for fifth in the league, and second in the Mountain Division.
Now the Grizzlies will head off to Tulsa, hoping to keep their winning streak going against a team not named the Rapid City Rush.
- First Period: Cannone (Cuglietta, Scheid), Wegwerth (Jenkins, Lepkowski)
- Second Period: None
- Third Period: Terao
Gahagen (28/30 saves)
Images courtesy of Tim Broussard.