Utah Grizzlies: The Unexpected

Two top notch goalies gave up 4+ goals each, a goal scorer dropped the gloves twice in one period, and an enforcer turned play-maker with a pair of glorious assists as the Grizzlies took on the Monarchs.

The new look BAM line (Brad Navin, Kyle Thomas, Michael Pelech) got of to a flying start as the Grizzlies picked up three of the first four shots in the opening four. Unfortunately, when Manchester had a strong shift in the offensive zone, Joel Rumpel was forced far to the right of the goal mouth to cover a shot. The cross crease pass was put into a wide open net, as the Grizzlies were unable to box out Michael Doherty.

Utah picked themselves up after the goal, as the Pelech line had a good offensive zone shift, followed by Brendan and the Ryans. At 8:28, a seemingly harmless shot from Ryan Misiak bounced off Charles Williams’ glove, and into the net to tie it up.

The Grizzlies took the first penalty at 9:55 on a hooking call against Sam Babintsev. The penalty kill worked hard in their own zone, and went to the four-on-four as Taylor Richart was boarded at 10:48. The shenanigans didn’t end there, as Pelech and Matt Leitner dropped the gloves with 8:08 left. It wasn’t a whole lot of a fight, and it was broken up quite quickly, both sent off for five.

In the brief power play that followed, the Grizzlies doubled up their shot count, 10-5, and continued to look good, collecting a really nice shot from Brendan Harms off a face-off, and Misiak almost snagging his second of the frame on the rebound. On the very next face-off, Walters also got a good look on Williams.

The third line had a hardworking offensive zone shift with just over four minutes to go, and boy did it ever pay off. Travis Howe made a really nice pass to Mitch Maxwell, and Maxwell put it emphatically past Williams to give the Grizzlies the 2-1 lead.

Pelech laid a huge hit at about 18:50, which wasn’t penalized, but Keegan Iverson took exception, and Pelech dropped the gloves for the second time in the game, and fourth time this season.

The Grizzlies ended the period in the offensive zone, after (with the exception of the one very bad shift) a strong road period, out-shooting Manchester 14-9 with the 2-1 lead.

The Monarchs pressured to start the second, but took a holding the stick call at 1:06 in the offensive zone, sending Utah to the advantage. The Grizzlies got a couple of looks from Thomas, and at least one good one from Marchment, and they continued to press after the penalty.

However, the play went the other way, Ryan Walters took a hooking call, and just seven seconds after he went to the box, Manchester tied it up.

At 8:12, Walters drew a tripping call after another stretch of Grizzlies offensive zone time (and another shift from Howe). This time, Utah got some of their own back, as Harms pounded the puck past Williams from Taylor Richart just six seconds in.

Walters continued to miss by inches, getting in on a mini breakaway for at least his fourth look of the night. Chris Leibinger took a slashing call with 5:45 to go. Utah failed to make the final clear of the kill, and once again, the Monarchs tied it up.

With about a minute left, the puck bounced over Navin’s stick on one end of the ice, and at the other, Rumpel made a big save, and the two teams got into a brief shoving match.

At the end of the second, the teams were once again tied 3-3, but Manchester had the 22-19 lead on the shot clock.

Navin started the third flying, first off the opening face off, and then into the wall, giving the Grizzlies the first shot of the frame.

The third line once again created some buzz, backed by the skill of Richart, but on the next shift, Rob Mann turned the puck over, then in the ensuing defensive zone shift, took a hooking call.

Fortunately, Utah killed it off, and at 5:29, Melindy and Jake Wood dropped the gloves.

The third line’s strong showing continued, as Howe and Marchment got in two-on-one. Howe looked like he was going to shoot all the way, but at the last moment, he passed it off. Williams was helpless to stop the shot that Marchment put in over him.

Unfortunately, Manchester once again tied it up at 8:06, and despite Rumpel immediately being up in arms calling interference, and a very, very brief consultation, the goal counted.

Melindy took a delay-of-game penalty at 11:45, but Utah killed it off, and just over two minutes to go, the Grizzlies drew a power play. The first and second units both had some good looks, but weren’t able to beat Williams, and the advantage expired just moments before the third came to an end.

Once again, the Grizzlies went to OT, but 1:45 in, the Monarchs scored to get the extra point.

Harms (one goal, one assist), Howe and Babintsev (two assists each) all had multiple points, Howe’s the first of his career. Although Navin’s eleven game point streak came to an end tonight, he remains over a point a game, having put up 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 23 games since January 20th. Meanwhile, Misiak now has 14 points in the last 14 games, while Harms is on a point streak of his own, with five in the last four straight.

The two teams face off again at 4 PM today (Saturday) before they head to Worcester to face the Railers on Sunday.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.


Utah Grizzlies: No Signs of Stopping

Why mess with a winning/point-acquiring lineup? The Grizzlies iced the same group of guys for game one of two in Indianapolis on Saturday, Joel Rumpel getting the start behind the BAM line (Brad Navin, Austin Ortega, and Michael Pelech), Taylor Richart, and James Melindy.

The beginning of the game went far better than Friday’s (though that’s not saying much), despite the first line getting stuck out on the ice for quite a long opening shift.

Both teams got their looks in the first five, including a nice look from Navin at around the five minute mark. However, the Grizzlies got a too many men on the ice call at 5:42, and the best power play in the ECHL went to work. They were unable to capitalize, Utah doing an excellent job running them around the neutral and offensive zones, allowing zero shots.

Utah got a power play of their own at 10:42 when Darian Dziurzynski boarded Richart. He was fine, and the potent, all forward unit of Ortega, Ryan Walters, Ryan Misiak, Brendan Harms, and Jake Marchment made Indy pay, Marchment opening the scoring from Ortega and Walters. The goal was Marchment’s fourth first period, game opening power play goal in eight games, and Ortega’s assist ensured that his now ten consecutive games point streak continued.

Utah continued to press, causing chaos around the Fuel net, and at 15:34 they scored right off the face-off on a blast from Richart. The goal extended Richart’s point streak to eight.

Unfortunately, Indy cut the lead in half at 16:36, as a mix up off a face-off of their own  end left no one but Rumpel between Matt Rupert and the goal. The Grizzlies went right back to work, however, and at the end of the first, shots were 22-15 for Utah, who led 2-1.

The Grizzlies lost no time at all picking up a two goal lead to start the second, as the BAM line charged in off the face-off, eventually leading to Pelech’s fourth goal (and seventh point since his return, Ortega’s seventh straight multi-point game, and Navin’s eighth straight game with a point.

The two goal lead did not last long, once again though, as Matheson Iacopelli made it 3-2 at 1:25. The Fuel got a great deal of the momentum back at that point, but by the five minute mark, Utah had settled down again.

By the half-way mark of the period, the game had gotten pretty loose, as the Grizzlies’ structure caved slightly to the more free-flowing structure of the Fuel’s game. Utah’s first two lines re-established some puck possession, though it was short lived.

At 13:22 Ortega drew a tripping call, and what had been a pretty quiet middle frame (after the opening two minutes) got a little more exciting. The Fuel killed off the power play, and then the Grizzlies found themselves on a kill of their own with 4:30 to go.

Utah’s penalty kill once again got the job done, even getting a couple of looks of their own, including a two-on-one from Marchment and Navin. By and large, the back half of the second period was much better structurally from the Grizzlies, and at the end of forty, Utah still led 3-2, out-shooting the Fuel 34-26.

The Grizzlies didn’t score right out of the gate to start the third, but it wasn’t far off. Walters made it 4-2 at 2:36.

Through the middle of the period, both teams got puck possession time, but the Grizzlies got the best of it, putting up six shots to Indy’s two, and Pelech made it 5-2 at 11:53, setting a new record for consecutive games with five or more goals.

The Grizzlies got hit with another too many men call at 16:26, but the penalty kill remained perfect, allowing no shots, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had a convincing 5-2 win under their belts.

The three stars of the game were a clean sweep for the Grizzlies, Pelech (two goals, five shots), Walters (one goal, one assist, seven shots), and Richart (also one goal, one assist). Navin (two assists, five shots), Ortega (three assists), and Marchment (one goal, one assist) also had multi-point nights, while Rumpel stopped 29-31 for his sixth win in eight games with Utah.

So the point streak continues, both for players and the team as a whole–a trend the Grizzlies hope to continue this afternoon before they head home.



Picture courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Playing Catch-Up

Looking to pick up their seventh straight win, Utah turned to Sean Maguire in nets, and Mitch Jones returned to the lineup after missing seven straight games. With Jones’ return, Nate Mitton sat out as the Grizzlies returned to ten forwards and six defensemen.

It was not Utah’s best start, as they looked a little wobbly off the face-off, and it cost them, as the Mallards scored 43 seconds into the game on a huge shot. They settled down considerably after that, the third line helping tremendously in that regard.

Sam Babintsev drew a power play about five minutes in, and the Rookie of the Month wasted no time in getting yet another goal. Austin Ortega’s power play marker from Michael Pelech and Taylor Richart tied the game.

Sam Windle took an interference call at 8:28, but the Grizzlies killed it off. However, at 11:27 Kyle Bigos scored off the face-off on a lightning shot to once more give the Mallards the lead. At that point, things certainly looked less than ideal, as they trailed 2-1, and were being out-shot by a count of 15-3.

At 17:59 the Grizzlies pounced on a lose puck in the offensive zone, and Jake Marchment sniped on Ivan Kulbakov to restore the tie.

Ortega took a slashing call with 21 seconds left, but after twenty, the game was tied 2-2, the shots a far more respectable 16-10.

The second didn’t get off to a great start either, as Pelech took a cross-checking call 32 seconds in, putting Utah on a five-on-three for over a minute. The Grizzlies were able to kill off the five-on-three, but Ortega had barely made it out of the box when Tristan King gave the Mallards the 3-2 lead.

The usual scoring suspects went charging into the offensive zone, Kulbakov went on a wild adventure, and before Ortega could pounce on the mistake, the whistle was blown on a supposed hand pass.

The defense lost the puck behind the Utah net, and at 3:29 the Mallards made it 4-2. Joel Rumpel came in at that point for Maguire, who really couldn’t be blamed for the state of the game.

The Grizzlies drew a power play following a brief scrum in front of Rumpel, and just five seconds in, Walters made it 4-3.

Unfortunately, the Mallards pounced immediately, and made it 5-3 abuot a minute later.

After such a fast and furious opening six minutes, the back half of the period was slightly less eventful. The BAM line had a couple of shifts that came painfully close to finding the net, and Rumpel made a number of big saves.

Rob Mann and Brayden Low got into a net-front skirmish, Mann getting a double roughing call, and Low getting just two. However, Utah killed it off.

Despite another strong shift from Ortega, Pelech, and Navin, and a rocket from Richart, the Grizzlies went into the second intermission down 5-3, out-shot 29-24.

The third opened with a bang, Walters scoring unassisted 55 seconds in. On the very next shift, Misiak made it 5-5.

They weren’t allowed to rest on their laurels, however, as Low made it 6-5 a little over a minute later. The action didn’t stop there, as Misiak was sent somersaulting, and Utah got their third power play of the night.

They weren’t able to convert this time, but they followed that up with a couple of strong offensive zone shifts.

Harms dropped the puck off for Richart, who blasted it into the net, but supposedly the net was off, despite no whistle, and they called it off.

With the BAM line once again causing trouble around the Mallards’ net, Ortega drew a tripping call at 9:36. Navin tied it for real on the ensuing power play, extending his scoring streak to seven games with assists from Ortega and Pelech.

Richart took a puck up high shortly afterwards, but got up and remained under the bench, and took his usual shift afterwards.

Quad City kept things interesting, robbing Walters of a hat trick, and then beating Rumpel, but not the post.

The Grizzlies took over the lead in shots 36-34 with three minutes left, but despite a big shift from Misiak, the game went to OT after a big third goal period. Both teams came close, Misiak and Harms especially, but the extra five once again solved nothing. Babinsev and Navin both beat Kulbakov on perfectly placed backhanders, but neither Walters nor Ortega capitalized, and Utah fell 7-6.

So the winning streak is over, but the point streak continues, as do Ortega’s, Navin’s, and Richart’s scoring streaks. Moreover, Walters, who earned second star of the game with two goals one assist, is over a point a game on the season (53 points in 48 games), and has eight points in the last five. Likewise, Misiak has twelve points in the last ten, and Marchment has seven points in the seven games he’s played with the Grizzlies.

The playoff race has become very interesting, as the Oilers, Americans, and Grizzlies are all fighting for the final spot, currently sitting at 59, 58, and 57 points respectively. With fifteen games left in the season, the Grizzlies post season push is bound to be an exciting (if stressful) one.

In a quick turn around, the Grizzlies play the Indy Fuel tonight and tomorrow before returning home for a home stand against Allen.




Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Worth Fighting For

With the exception of Sean Maguire in for Joel Rumpel, the winning lineup remained unchanged on the second and final night of Grizzlies Fight Cancer weekend. On the other end of the ice, after his Utah related struggles, Wichita didn’t go with Shane Starrett, instead starting Nick Riopel. As everyone knows, familiarity breeds contempt, and there was a great deal more chippiness in the last game of the season between the Thunder and the Grizzlies.

The game did not get off to the most auspicious of starts, as Utah lost control of the puck, and the Thunder got the first couple of shots of the night.

However, the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the game at 2:41, and their special teams success continued, as Jake Marchment made it 1-0 at 3:38. Sam Windle took a tripping call almost immediately afterwards, as the previous game’s trend of a tightly called match continued. The kill was strong though, and they returned to full strength.

Brad Navin and Austin Ortega got in on a two-on-one at about the eight minute mark, but Riopel calmly gloved Ortega’s shot.

The chances continued to go both ways, but Utah eventually took over the shots, going from down 5-1 on the shot counter, to up 6-5 by the half-way mark.

Gage Ausmus took a bit of a bump behind the Grizzlies net at 11:06, and dropped the gloves with Travis Ewanyk. He hauled him down emphatically to the great delight of the home crowd. Both got sent off for five minutes to cool their heels.

A mere couple of minutes later, Travis Howe and Etienne Boutet got tangled up between the benches, and dropped the gloves, eventually joining their teammates in the box with 5:28 to go.

Unfortunately, it was the Thunder who struck next, as the puck skipped over Maguire’s glove and in at 15:29. The goal came off a pretty lengthy shift in their own end for the Grizzlies.

However, the game did not stay tied for long. Ralph Cuddemi went to the box for slashing, and Ortega beat Riopel on a perfectly placed laser of a shot from Taylor Richart and Sam Babintsev.

Wichita pressed hard in the final moments of the first, but after 20, shots were 12-9 for Utah, who led 2-1.

Mitton took a high-sticking call at 4:16 in the second, but Jon Puskar negated it moments afterwards on the trip. The Thunder tied it up as Jeremy Beaudry capitalized on a defensive lapse, swept around a swarm of players, and put the puck past Maguire.

Brendan Harms had a lovely look on the four second power play that followed, beating the Wichita defenseman, but Riopel was unphased. Rob Mann and Puskar got into a bit of a jousting match, but separated before anything was called.

Navin got a good shot off, and Michael Pelech tangled with Kevin Patterson at 7:42. Pelech got two for cross-checking, two for roughing, while Patterson got two for high-sticking and two for roughing.

Cuddemi came flying in alone on the next shift, and tried to slip one past Maguire five-hole, but he shut the door. For all that, though the Grizzlies were by no means hemmed in their own zone, the Thunder continued to roll along in a concerning fashion.

Ortega got hauled down on what should have been a clean breakaway, and though it could have been a penalty shot, it did result in a power play. The advantage got a couple of good looks, but ultimately came up empty.

There was a bit of a lull in the pace of the game, as it entered the back half of the frame, and in that lull, Wichita pounced on a breakdown, and took the lead. As the period ran out, the mood was grim, despite only being down a goal. It didn’t improve when Mann went to the box for tripping at 17:50. Utah killed it off, however, but after two periods, they trailed going into intermission for the first time during the winning streak.

Utah looked a little flat to start the third, though Harms and Richart teamed up for an exciting moment, as Harms pounced on a turnover by Riopel behind the net. Riopel tripped him up, but there was no call, and the puck did eventually get out of danger.

Gage Ausmus made a gorgeous stick-lifting play to keep Cuddemi from getting a shot on the breakaway, but unfortunately, Utah got a too-many-men penalty at 4:24. They killed it off, and Utah started showing signs of life in the minutes that followed. Ortega woke the crowd with an up ice rush, and when Richart buried it, the 8,594 fans in attendance erupted. Navin got the secondary assist, getting his eighth point in five games.

Ortega got sent off for interference at 9:40, but once again, Utah killed it off, and built on the momentum. Maguire was especially instrumental short-handed, making an eye-catching save early, and holding down the fort. On the very next shift, the Grizzlies took the lead as Navin set up Mann for his first pro goal, and his first multi-point game. Ortega was again in on the action with Navin, getting the secondary assist as that line once more got the puck to a defenseman for the goal.

Maguire stood tall after that, but with 1:44 to go, Wichita pulled Riopel, and Pelech took a cross-checking call 33 seconds later. The Thunder called their time-out, and the penalty kill gave up their first of the game with a crushing nine seconds left.

Pelech drew a power play at the very end of regulation, and the Grizzlies started overtime on the power play. 3-on-3 OT. Because there was no whistle for quite a while after Wichita returned to full strength, very little of OT was actually played 3-on-3. Regardless, OT solved nothing, and the game went to the shoot out.

Babintsev scored the only goal in the shoot-out, as Maguire calmly stoned all three of the Thunder’s skaters, and the second largest crowd of the season went wild. Utah extended their winning streak to five with their second shoot-out win of the year.

Maguire got the the third star of the game, Ortega’s goal and two assists got the second star, and with his first pro goal, and first multi-point game, Mann was named first star of the night.

“I thought they played with more energy and passion than us for the majority of that first forty minutes, or say fifty minutes,” Tim Branham said after the game, “But at the end of the day we’ve been on a roll here, and good teams find a way to win. Everybody is pulling the rope—today it was Maguire, big in the shoot out, Ortega getting us going on that one, Rob Mann, what a time to get your first goal—at the end of the day, you find ways to win. That’s what good teams do.”

Ortega (three goals, seven assists), Navin (two goals, six assists), and Richart (two goals, five assists) all picked up points in each of the five games, while Pelech (four goals, one assist), Mann (one goal, four assists), Misiak (two goals, five assists), and Marchment (three goals, two assists) have also racked up points over the course of the winning streak.

The auction of the beautiful cancer night jerseys raised over $21,000 for charity, and the Grizzlies look to close out February on a winning note tonight in Quad City.


Cover photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Two for Two

After a strong game on Friday, Saturday’s roster was unchanged, with one exception. Utah played five defencemen with Mitch Jones out after getting banged up in the game before.

The game got off to an eventful start, Zach Saar got hit close after the opening face-off, but the Allen player bounced off him, Brad Navin got hit, Allen was sent off for charging, and Jake Marchment made it 1-0 on the power play less than two minutes in. Michael Pelech took an interference call at 2:36, but the Grizzlies killed it off comfortably.

Allen had quite a push after the power play, but Utah pushed back before things got rather sloppy in Utah’s own end. They did pull themselves together again with around seven minutes to go.

Richart took a slashing call, and the Americans tied it up on a scramble in which Casey Pierro-Zabotel poked the puck into the net past a lunging Joel Rumpel.

Saar drew the ire of the Allen players running into Stephon Williams, and got sent off together with Gage Ausmus, and Colby McAuley who got unsportsmanlikes each.

The Americans negated their power play when David Makowski tripped up Ryan Walters, and the Grizzlies made no mistake. Austin Ortega fed Brad Navin for their second goal and assist combo in two games, while Taylor Richart got the secondary assist.

So after three combined power play goals, Utah went into the first intermission leading 2-1, shots 13-13.

Utah drew an early power play a couple of minutes in, but though they had some good possession for the majority of the advantage, they were unable to capitalize against Jeremy Brodeur, who took over in nets for the second and third periods.

Ryan Misiak took a tripping call at 7:28, which was frustrating, as they had picked up four shots to Allen’s one, and had looked like the much more engaged team. That continued to be the theme, as the penalty kill avoided danger. Richart got called for interference at 11:21, but between a good kill, and a lethargic power play from Allen, the score remained 2-1.

Allen once again woke up briefly after their power play, but Rumpel made the necessary saves, and Utah pulled themselves together again, thanks in part to a great shift by Brendan and the Ryans.

With 10 seconds to go in the frame, Sam Windle got boarded, and the period ended on a Utah power play, shots 23-22 for the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies ran into issues getting set up, but then Navin got in one-on-one against Brodeur, and Utah got a decent amount of time five-on-three, then five-on-four, but weren’t able to capitalize.

They played better through the middle of the frame, and with around eleven to go, Allen wasn’t able to get the puck out of their own end, and the rebound from a Melindy blast went straight to Ortega’s stick. All alone in front of Brodeur, Ortega made no mistake to give the Grizzlies the 3-1 lead.

Allen pressured again after the goal, but Rumpel again held down the fort, and despite the Americans pulling Brodeur and the Grizzlies taking a late slashing call, Navin’s 2-1 goal held up for the game winner, and the Grizzlies swept the weekend in Texas.

Navin, Marchment, and Rumpel were named the three stars of the game, and were certainly deserving. But they were by no means the only ones who played well. Ortega picked up a goal and an assist, and is one of seven players who had points in both games (one of three with multiple points in the series). Maxwell hasn’t got his first point with Utah yet, but he’s been great for the Grizzlies, going hard into corners, retrieving pucks, and gaining fans with his grin and chat approach to scrums. Ausmus and Marchment continue to add stability and strength up and down the roster, as well as offensive flair, and Rumpel has definitely given Utah the saves they’ve needed. Really, the whole team played well, especially guys like Melindy, Pelech, Mann, Richart, and Misiak who were all rewarded with points.

It is much to be hoped that with two really strong wins under their belt, the team has turned a corner, and can continue to pick up wins (or barring that, honest losses) starting with the matinee today against Idaho.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming, and staff.