Utah Grizzlies: Saturday Night’s Alright

The lineups saw a bit of a shuffle again on Saturday, Brendan and the Ryans getting a new lease on life with Brendan Harms, Ryan Walters, and Ryan Misiak. Todd Skirving centered Austin Ortega and Alex Dostie, while Brad Navin and Kyle Thomas were joined by Mitch Hults. C.J. Eick also drew in for Travis Howe, and Sean Maguire got the start.

The Grizzlies came out skating and shooting hard, jumping out to a 3-1 shot count, but Thomas was a little too overzealous, and took a cross-checking call at 1:33. The penalty trouble continued when Navin took a high-sticking call at 3:52, but Utah killed off both five-on-three and five-on-four. Brendan and the Ryans came flying in on a three-on-one, Ryan Faragher stopped it, and unfortunately, the Steelheads went the other way and scored one of their own.

Skirving was the next Grizz player to head to the box at 11:51, but Utah only allowed one shot, and got one of their own before it was killed off. Dostie and Ortega had a good chance, but they weren’t able to connect cleanly, and with five to go, shots were 9-8 for Idaho, who led 1-0.

Brendan and the Ryans did what they do best, running Idaho around their own zone, and getting shots, but were unable to convert.

Utah drew a penalty, as Hults was hauled down in the defensive zone, and then they got a second with 1:04 to go. Despite getting a couple of chances from Hults right before the buzzer, after 20, Utah still trailed 1-0, though now out-shooting the Steelheads 12-9.

The Grizzlies began the second with 43 seconds of five-on-three power play time, but if suffered that all-too-familiar fate of many early power plays. Although they didn’t capitalize, they picked up the first three shots of the frame, buzzing in the offensive zone after the power play.

They carried that momentum through, and at 2:28, Navin got his sixth of the year from Sam Windle and Hults to tie the game. James Melindy powered around Idaho’s net on the next shift, but took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a crowd gathered around Faragher.

Utah killed it off, and then Thomas got tied up and hauled down, giving Utah the power play. They got three shots, Ortega’s especially being a good one. After all that momentum, it was particularly frustrating that the Steelheads got the next goal. Max French shot the puck through a couple of Grizzlies to take the lead. It did not last long though. Windle threw a shot hard onto the net, and Ortega tipped it in to tie the game.

Melindy’s hard work around the net eventually paid off as well, as he made it 3-2 at 15:03 unassisted.

Utah ran into penalty trouble again later in the period, Ortega taking a slashing call at 16:22, and Eick getting a tripping call at 18:09 putting Idaho on the five-on-three for 14 seconds. Utah killed off the five-on-three, and took a 3-2 lead to the locker room.

Thomas and Jefferson Dahl tangled after the whistle, but when the teams came out for the third, there were no additional penalties. The Grizzlies killed off the final nine seconds of Eick’s penalty, but they looked shaky in their own zone. Fortunately for them, Connor Chatham went into Maguire and took a penalty, but less fortunately, Dahl got in short-handed, hounded by Ortega. Maguire got a pad on it, but Ortega went to the box for slashing. Both penalties expired with no change in score, Utah out-shooting Idaho 27-22.

The defensive issues re-surfaced however, as a clearing attempt didn’t make it all the way out, and Idaho pounced on the rebound to make it 3-3.

The animosity amped up a couple of levels as Ully and Jones got into it behind the Utah net, and then all hell broke lose. All the skaters on both sides piled in. When the dust settled, Jones, Hults, and Thomas went to the box for Utah, while Ully, Dahl, and Baldwin went for Idaho.

The chippiness continued, and Melindy drew another penalty. This one finally paid off, as Dostie wired it past Faragher’s glove. Rob Mann took an interference call at 12:34, but Utah’s penalty kill remained perfect, and they returned to full strength.

Idaho pressed hard in the final couple of minutes of the game, as Utah struggled to keep them out of their own zone, which was compounded when they pulled Faragher for the extra attacker.

However, with 1:33 to go, Joe Faust put the puck over the glass, and Utah went to a late power-play. The advantage almost backfired horribly when Maguire went to play the puck behind his own net, and bounced it over and directly in front of the empty cage. Somehow, he managed to get around the net, and stop the speeding Steelhead, and Brendan Harms sent the puck down the length of the ice, straight into the empty net.

Idaho once again pulled Faragher with 50 seconds left, but the two-goal cushion saw the Grizzlies to the end of the game.

Hults was the only Utah player to earn a star, first, with his two assists, but plenty of other players had terrific games as well. Dostie and Ortega, of course, continued to be forces to be reckoned with, but Melindy also had a particularly strong game. Richart and Navin led the team with six shots a piece, Navin picking up his fourth goal in five games. Windle also had two assists, and Maguire stopped 37/40 shots, while the penalty kill went a perfect 8/8.

Hopefully, the next step now will be consistency, and that they can bring the kind of game we saw on Saturday into their three game series against Rapid City.

 

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard

 

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Utah Grizzlies: Snowed Under

With snow falling, and the weather finally chilly in Utah, the Grizzlies found themselves buried by and avalanche of goals in Rapid City.

The roster was more or less the same, with the exception of Rob Mann in on defense in place of Travis Howe, while Chris Leibinger moved to forward

Utah got the first four shots of the night, holding possession almost without break through the first four minutes. Though it was not quite so one-sided thereafter, the Grizzlies continued to out-shoot Rapid City.

So of course, once again, the Rush struck first, Dante Salituro from Peter Sivak and Daniel Leavens. The game started feeling awfully familiar, as Riley Weselowski took a penalty at 7:30, and Utah went to the game’s first power playβ€”just as they had on Friday.

The momentum of the game decidedly evened out after the middle of the first, Leibinger took a hooking call, but Utah killed it off.

Things continued to go badly, as Kenton Miller scored on the breakaway, and Angus Redmond came in to relieve Sean Maguire.

At the end of the first, shots were 16-8 for Utah, who trailed 3-0.

Utah came out working hard, and still shooting everything, but the bounces continued to go against them. They killed off a Brendan Harms slashing penalty, but Tyler Deresky and Jack Walker scored in less than two minutes, at 6:56 and 8:38.

Things didn’t go any better after that either, as Erik Higby took a hooking call. Shortly afterwards Josh Elmes and Kyle Thomas dropped the gloves at 13:59. The minor to Higby was killed off, but Alex Komm made it 6-0.

With 58 seconds left in the period, Ryan FWalters and Anthony Collins got sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct, and with just .6 seconds left in the period, Jon Puskar made it 6-1 from Taylor Richart and Thomas.

Maguire took the net back over to start the third, but 33 seconds in, Salituro got the seventh goal of the game.

The Grizzlies answered right back though, James Melindy making it 7-2 on a sweet, sweet backhander at 1:56.Β Utah continued to play hard, getting chances all over the place, Melindy and Mann especially, looking strong

Higby and Leavens took matching slashing calls at 6:19, then Weselowski took a cross-checking call, but Salituro put the finishing touch on his hat trick at 8:30 short-handed.

Utah kept fighting, getting opportunities five-on-three, five-on-four, then four-on-four and four-on-three as well, but though the Grizzlies climbed over 50 shots in that time, Adam Vay still shut the door.

Austin Ortega made it 8-3, putting up his eighth point in eight games, and except for Brad Navin, of all people, losing his cool and taking a roughing call in the final minute, that was the game.

Losing 8-3, but out-shooting Rapid City 56-28β€”certainly a frustrating outcome. Looking at the score, you’d think that the Rush had run the Grizzlies around all over the ice. This was very much not the case. While it certainly wasn’t their best game, Utah played decently. On the other hand Rapid City scored on just about every chance they got, once again, capitalizing on every single mistake.

The most encouraging takeaway, from an otherwise thoroughly demoralizing evening, is that the Grizzlies never once stopped playing, which they well could have done down as many goals as they were.

Utah has one last chance to redeem the road trip this afternoon at 3 PM before returning home.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff