Utah Grizzlies: Goals Return at Season’s End

On the first night of the last home-stand, the Grizzlies faced the Kansas City Mavericks, for the first time this season. It was a bit of a preview of what will be a Mountain Division match up next year. At the beginning of the night, the Mavericks were chasing a playoff spot, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from their early play.

“I think for the most part, I thought we played pretty well.” Tim Branham said of the game, “For the most part, I thought we’ve controlled the last bunch of games, except the one Idaho game. But I thought the boys played well. We have a problem keeping the puck out of our net. I thought we’ve controlled the play for the majority of this last month, we’ve just got to keep that up. It’s tough for these guys, I know they’re professionals and whatnot, but they’re pretty disappointed that they’re not in the playoff hunt, so for them to go out there and play the way they did, against Colorado, the fights that they had, and to come out here and find a win in front of this unbelievable crowd, you’ve gotta give them props.”

Through the first two periods, Utah out-worked, out-shot, out-hustled, and generally out-played the Mavericks, who also struggled to complete passes all game.

Brendan Harms got the game’s first shot at 1:24, and the Grizzlies proceeded to get the next five shots as well, as they more or less had their way in the offensive zone.

Joel Rumpel was left alone in the Utah end, making his first save 3:19 into the period. That’s the only one he saw until 8:14. There were no penalties, and very few whistles through the first half.

Ryan Walters rang the cross bar with eight minutes to go, and on the next shift, a really fast whistle robbed Sam Babintsev of what would probably have been a grade A chance.

In the end, it didn’t matter, as Kyle Thomas wired one past Parsons at 13:08 from Michael Pelech and Travis Howe.

Unfortunately, despite all that zone time, and all the dominant game the Grizzlies played, the Mavericks tied it up at 18:44 with the primary assist going to C.J. Eick after a turn over, and a good bit of Kansas City passing.

Utah went right back to work, but the score remained tied at one after 20, shots 16-6 for the Grizzlies.

Utah drew a power play 19 seconds into the second, but a shot from Thomas was the best chance they got on the advantage.

Pelech took an elbowing call at 2:42, but they killed it off, allowing only one shot.

However, despite continuing to look like the better team, Kansas City scored at 6:18 to take the lead as Utah couldn’t clear the zone. Once more, the Grizzlies went back to work.

Walters was hauled down about half-way through the period with no call, and Thomas racked up another couple of chances.

At 15:40, those chances paid off, and Thomas scored another on an absolutely sick backhand. Barely fifteen seconds later, on the very next shift, Matt Robertson beat Rumpel clean for their third goal.

With 56 seconds left in the second, Mitch Jones wired the puck at the net and missed, but James Melindy picked the puck up, and put it into the far corner past Tyler Parsons to tie it up again. So the teams went into the room tied once more, shots 23-16 for Utah.

The third got of to a wild start. Just 33 seconds in, Jake Marchment flew in, and scored his 17th of the year from Mitch Maxwell and Gage Ausmus. On the next shift, one of the Kansas City players put the puck into their own bench, hitting captain Tyler Elbrecht in the collarbone area. Fortunately, he ended up being ok. At 1:28 Brendan Harms blasted one in off the face-off. There was a little bit of a scare on that one too, as the puck went in off the throat or chest of Troy Donnay.

The goals kept coming, and Kansas City scored about a minute later, 5-4 Utah, and not even five minutes in. Utah got lucky a couple of times, as the Mavericks continued to have trouble completing passes.

The game calmed down a little after that, Maxwell taking a tripping penalty at 5:09, but thanks to big clears from Ausmus and James Melindy, the Grizzlies killed that one off without any change in score.

The Ryans got in two-on-one, but Parsons continued to make saves, making another one on the same two a few moments later, and then anther couple on Harms and Marchment.

At the half way mark, Rumpel went on a bit of an adventure, but made it back to the net in time to make a big save, which led to a two-on-one going the other way from Thomas and Pelech. Thomas went for the hat trick, but once again Parsons stopped it calmly.

Utah got a couple more chances on Parsons, but once again, it was Kansas City who scored, tying it up at 14:01. The goal came after an extended period of Mavericks pressure, who had woken up and finally seemed to remember that they were playing for their playoff lives. Eick got his second assist of the night on the marker.

Harms had a great shift, starting with a defensive play, and then ending with another scoring chance in the final five, and in true Grizzlies fashion, the game went to overtime for the 22nd time this season.

Unlike so many others, however, the Captain sealed the deal for Utah, and the 8,035 fans in attendance.

“I wouldn’t say a little scoring slump,” said Walters of his 12 game goal drought, “I’d say a pretty big one, probably the most in my career, actually, but it was a great win. It felt really nice to get that monkey off the back and score a goal for the team. We just want to play as hard as we can for the rest of the year. We’ve still got a job to do, and hopefully I can bring the same intensity tomorrow.”

When asked about the last game of the year, he said, “Like I said, we’ve still got a job to do, we’re still getting paid. Our fans have supported us all year, so we don’t want to come out and just throw an egg on the ice. We want to play hard for them, and give them a good farewell for the season.”

Branham’s thoughts were the same. “I just want them to be professionals. Come out, play hard, we owe it to these fans. We didn’t have the greatest record here at home, and that’s been pretty disappointing, because they’ve come out and supported us. We just want to go out and make sure we give it all we got until they tell us we can’t anymore. That’s the only thing I’m looking for. If every one of my guys gives it their all, we’re going to win. So I just want to focus on that.”

Utah took all three stars of the game, Thomas with two goals and two assists, and Marchment and Melindy with a goal and an assist each. Their win eliminated the Mavericks from post-season contention, and they hope to end the regular season in style tonight.

 

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

Utah Grizzlies: For Auld Lang Syne

With the Eagles moving to the AHL next season, Wednesday night’s game was Utah’s last trip to the Budweiser Event Center, at least for now. And as ever, the game did not disappoint.

Brandon Wildung made his fourth career start in goal, while Travis Howe, Michael Pelech, Kyle Thomas, Gage Ausmus, and James Melindy rounded out the rest of the starting lineup. Brad Navin and Nate Mitton remained the scratches.

The Grizzlies came out hot to start the first, out-shooting Colorado 4-1 though the first four minutes, and getting especially good looks from Brendan and the Ryans.

By the half-way mark, Utah outshot the Eagles 7-3, though Colorado had gotten a little more by way of zone time. At 8:57, Jake Marto put the puck through Wildung to open the scoring.

At 12:55, Howe, Pelech, and Ben Storm tangled by the benches, and all three were sent off, the two Grizzlies with two each for roughing, and Storm with a double minor also for roughing. The Eagles continued to press after that, and after a big hit on Harms, Jake Marchment and Teigan Zahn dropped the gloves with about four to go.

Melindy took a slashing call with 1:43 to go, and at the end of 20, the score remained 1-0 for Colorado, shots 12-8 in Utah’s favor.

About three into the second, the Grizzlies were incredibly sluggish coming back to defend an Eagles rush, and Brady Shaw made it 2-0. Utah continued to look slow, and though they continued to get shots, they didn’t create much by way of traffic or rebounds.

Walters took a hooking call, and Joey Ratelle made it 3-0. Utah got a lengthy power play at 10:29, when Brady Shaw took a double minor for high-sticking. Sam Babintsev drew another power play, and the Grizzlies had about 1:20 on the five-on-three, which then went straight into another power play, as Collin Bowman took a roughing call on Howe with about five to go.

The Grizzlies weren’t able to capitalize on either of the power plays, but Jake Marchment made it 3-1 at 17:24 to put Utah on the board.

When the buzzer went at the end of the second, the score remained 3-1, shots 24-15 for the Grizzlies.

Unfortunately, if you leave Ryan Olsen all alone with a rebound, he’s not going to miss from a couple of feet away from the net, and he made it 4-1 at 1:22.

Howe, Sam Windle, Gabriel Verpaelst, and Storm all dropped the gloves at 5:29. When the dust cleared, the four of them had picked up a whopping 54 penalty minutes Howe got a misconduct, while Verpaelst and Windle both got game misconducts.

Harms cut the lead in half at 7:20 from Graaskamp and Pelech, finally capitalizing on one of his multitude of great chances.

Misiak drew a hooking call at 11:58, and Mitch Maxwell did not miss by much on the ensuing power play, and Harms followed that up with a nice look of his own. However, when Colorado returned to full strength, the Grizzlies still trailed by two.

With three minutes to go, Utah pulled Wildung for the extra attacker, and Richart made a big save. In the end, though, Olsen scored into the empty net with about a minute left, and the Eagles took the final meeting in Loveland 5-2.

I once said that when the Grizzlies and the Eagles played, you might fear for the Grizzlies’ lives, but you’d never be bored. While this year Colorado left fewer Utah injuries in their wake, the games were no less exciting, and with one exception, as painfully close as ever. It’s been a fantastic rivalry, and a chapter we’re sorry to see closed.

As the Eagles move up and on, the Grizzlies return home to meet the Kansas City Mavericks, where they will end the season against next year’s division opponents.

 

 

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

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 ownย  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 beatย 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.