Utah Grizzlies: Road Trip Woes

Friday night’s game was, in a word, disjointed.

Ryan Misiak was placed on reserve as the Grizzlies, Jake Marchment made his Grizzlies debut after returning to the team from San Diego, and Joe Cannata got the start against the Indy Fuel.

Teigan Zahn and Anthony Collins dropped the gloves just four minutes in, then the Fuel took a penalty less than a minute later. Utah was unable to make anything of it before Matt Berry took a slashing call, and sent the teams to some four-on-four time.

Indy prevented the Grizzlies from getting any kind of flow going, laying down hits any time a Utah player got any kind of speed going, and just generally looking like the more efficient team. It paid off for them at 14:07 when Robert Powers opened the scoring.

Austin Carroll did answer in the dying seconds of the first with his first of the year from Cole Ully and Nolan De Jong, but that was the only goal the Grizzlies would muster.

The second period did not begin well, the Fuel making it 2-1 just 42 seconds in. Utah got a power play chance about a minute later, but it almost ended in disaster as both Ully and Caleb Herbert got hit, leading to a three-on-one short-handed. Fortunately, Cannata turned that aside.

Things didn’t get better after that either, as Berry was given Utah’s first face-off violation penalty of the season at 3:30.

The Grizzlies took another questionable penalty at 5:36, and though initially they did a good job killing it off, Herbert even getting a couple of beautiful chances short-handed, a weird bounce made it 3-1.

The third didn’t see a lot of action in the early stages, and though Indy’s Connor Moynihan took a high-sticking call shortly past the half-way mark, Utah couldn’t capitalize.

Branham pulled Cannata with well over two minutes to go, and things looked promising when Herbert drew a penalty, but there would be no comeback. Matt Rupert scored his second of the game into the empty net, and the Grizzlies suffered their first loss of the season.

It was an uncharacteristic game from top to bottom, and while we did see flashes of the performances we’ve come to expect, it was easily the team’s worst outing of the season.


 

There was a bit of a switch up in the roster for Saturday’s game, with Misiak drawing back in, and Brendan Harms taking a seat while Kevin Carr got the start against the Kansas City Mavericks.

Herbert got right back to his scoring ways, making it 1-0 at 3:49 from Kevin Davis and Travis Barron. Ully drew a penalty on the very next shift, but though Taylor Richart got a couple of big shots off, the Mavs killed it off.

Misiak took a holding call at 8:21, but Utah killed it off thanks to a couple of quick saves from Carr. The remainder of the period was fairly uneventful until C.J. Eick’s speed scooted him in past the Utah defensemen, and he tied it up with 1:15 to go.

The Mavericks sped up after that, but the period came to an end with the 1-1 tie, Kansas City out-shooting the Grizzlies 11-7.

The opening moments of the second were a little sloppy from Utah, with the result that Kansas City got the first three shots, and Carr came up big several times.

The Grizzlies drew a power play, and after a little blip that saw the Mavericks in the offensive zone, Carroll extended his scoring streak to two games on assists from Herbert and Ully.

In an absolute scrum, the Mavericks made it 3-2, Teigan Zahn and Jordan Klimek dropped the gloves, before Kansas City scored again on a clean shot.

However, Richart picked the perfect moment to score his first of the year, tying it up once more at 8:17. Herbert picked up his third point of the game, while Berry got the second assist.

Utah got another look on the power play half-way through the period, but were unable to draw ahead on the advantage. Both teams got away with what probably should have been penalties before Berry was sent to the box for tripping with almost exactly two minutes left in the frame.

Ryan Walters took a high-sticking call with 30 seconds left, but the Berry penalty and the period came to an end together with no change in score, Mavs out-shooting Utah 25-18.

Utah began the third with 1:30 remaining on Walters’ penalty, which they killed off fairly comfortably.

Jake Marchment scored his first goal of the season at 3:51 to give Utah the 4-3 lead from Tim McGauley and Turner Ottenbreiti, but because that’s just the way the game went, the Mavericks tied it up again at 7:27. That’s how things remained for the rest of regulation, and because Herbert took a hooking call as time expired, the Grizzlies began OT on the kill.

Utah killed off the penalty in what was definitely their best OT showing so far, but it wasn’t enough, and Mark Cooper got the game winner.

It was a much better outing than the game against Indy, but though earning a point is certainly better than nothing, the Grizzlies inability to get it done in overtime is frustrating.

Herbert got the third star of the game with a goal and two assists, and Berry deserves an honorable mention with five shots and an assist. Carroll also continues to look good, all of which will hopefully continue and culminate in a win in Wichita.

 

Image courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Never a Dull Moment

Sometime in the third period, Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” boomed out over the Maverik Center ice. It was appropriate. This game had it all: fights (there were five), power play goals, short handed goals, even strength goals, saves, and general bad blood. Something about familiarity breeding contempt, and all that.

“I think we loved how we played both games,”Kevin Davis said when asked about the team’s play. “It was great how everyone stuck up for each other too, shows what kind of character we have in that room.”

After a successful home opener, the goal was to keep the momentum going, and boy did they ever.

The game didn’t get off to the most successful start, as Austin Carroll took a tripping call a mere 13 seconds in. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Rapid City took a high-sticking penalty of their own just 40 seconds later, and that was just the beginning of what seemed like an endless parade of players to the box.

Utah got a lengthy 6-on-5 on a delayed penalty after Carroll took yet another high-stick. The fans were treated to a beautiful moment of déjà vu when Davis and Caleb Herbert set up Josh Winquist for his second opening goal in two nights.

Ryan Misiak drew another penalty at 7:28, and the game got a bit chippy after that. Teigan Zahn and Andrew Radjenovic got into it at center ice, followed on the next shift by a scuffle around Joe Cannata that rapidly turned into a full fledged fight between Ryan Walters and Josh Elmes.

Both Zahn and Radjenovic returned to the ice with no change in score, and the Grizzlies caused some mayhem in the offensive zone with about five to go in the period.

The mayhem continued as, with six seconds left in the first, Zahn and Shaquille Merasty dropped the gloves. Zahn got the best of the fight, and the period ended with another crowd.

Winquist got a couple of looks on the first shift of the second, and though he missed, Davis did not, scoring his first of the season just 42 seconds into the frame.

Unfortunately, after that the Grizzlies ran into penalty trouble as first Gage Ausmus and then Herbert got sent to the box one right after the other. However, the Utah kept them cycling the puck, and Ausmus returned to the ice. Rapid City capitalized on the tail end of Herbert’s penalty, but the Grizzlies immediately went back to the advantage.

Cole Ully boarded Chris Leibinger at 12:22, sending the Utah to the kill. Leibinger looked a little shaken up, but returned to the ice part way through the advantage, which the Grizzlies killed off with style.

In the final minutes of the period, Taylor Richart, Willem Nong-Lambert, Turner Ottinger, and a whole crowd of Rush players tangled, and both Richart and Nong-Lambert went to the box. With just about 40 seconds left, Davis put a shot on net, and Matt Berry tipped it home to make it 4-1.

The rough stuff continued in the third with Merasty once again dropping the gloves, this time with Ausmus at center ice. Both got five, and Merasty got the extra two for instigation.

Scarcely had the game settled down after that than things got crazy all over again. Brendan Harms was plastered to the boards, Davis took exception, and he and Cedric Montminy both got sent off for the fourth fight of the game, Davis completing the Gordie Howe hat trick. Mason McCarty also went off for high-sticking.

Unfortunately, the Rush scored short-handed to cut the lead in half at 8:02. In the immortal words of Bob Cole, everything was happening.

And the Grizzlies were by no means done. When Rapid City took two consecutive penalties, the Grizzlies capitalized both five-on-three, and five-on-four, with goals from Herbert and Berry at 10:06 and 10:51 respectively. Richart and Ully picked up the assists on Herbert’s tally, while Misiak and Austin Carroll got the helpers on Berry’s.

In case anyone was in danger of getting bored in the few minutes of slightly less frantic action that followed, Carroll, who had once again been noticeable all game, dropped the gloves with Blake Heinrich at 14:02 in the fifth and final fight of the night.

Ully rang iron at shortly thereafter, and no sooner had the Rush returned to full strength than they went right back to the sin bin for slashing. Utah took one final penalty in the last two minutes of the game, and then it was all over.

The teams combined for a whopping 90 minutes of penalties, five of which went to Davis who, according to hockeyfights.com, has only ever fought twice before in his career. “Man, I’ve never had one.” Davis said of the Gordie Howe hat trick that earned him first star honors, “I don’t know, it kind of just happened. It was funny!”

Josh Winquist came in for his share of the accolades, after opening scoring once again, and picking up another assist for his fourth point in two games, while Matt Berry was awarded third star with two goals and five shots.

“It’s the start that we wanted to get off to,” Tim Branham said of the team’s winning effort this weekend, “We know we’ve got a good team, still missing a few pieces, but we’ve got a great team. We wanted to be firing on all cylinders here, and I thought offensively we were really good. I thought today we cleaned up a few things defensively, they had a couple of breaks there, they scored a power play and they scored a short-handed goal, it is what it is. I thought our power play is clicking again, and it’s pretty clear we’ve got a lot of fire power, so we just have to make sure we bring that work ethic each and every day, and this weekend we did.”

He was also quick to praise the exceptional work Joe Cannata, who didn’t get a star in the game, but who was a rock for the team, once again making 26 of 28 saves, including some big ones at crucial moments.

“Can’t tell [you] how good of a job Cannata has done. He made some big stops, stopped that breakaway early, he’s just so calm back there, and no one’s panicking on the bench when he’s in net. We’ve known for a long time what kind of goaltender he is. Every press conference I’ve had after every game I’ve said he doesn’t belong in this league, but it’s nice to have him on our team now. He did an amazing job for us, allowed us to get going there.”

With a highly successful opening weekend under their belts, the Grizzlies look ahead to next weekend where they will play the Idaho Steelheads on Friday and Saturday in Boise.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff

 

Utah Grizzlies: A Winning Note

It was a good night, a good game, a good crowd, and the rousing chorus of Happy Birthday addressed to first star and birthday boy Caleb Herbert was just icing on the cake.

“I thought it was nice to get out on the right foot there, especially here at home in front of the fans. They brought the energy tonight, and it definitely helped us. Congratulations to Coach on his all-time winning record there, that was awesome to get that out of the way for him” Herbert said after the game.

Utah picked up a 4-2 win against Rapid City on opening night, on the strength of two goals and an assist from Herbert, and a terrific 26 save showing from the newly arrived Joe Cannata, and it was a momentous one. Not only was it a good start to a new year and affiliation, but the win also gave Head Coach Tim Branham his 179th, and the franchise record for wins by a head coach.

“Obviously I owe a lot to the players, to my staff, to the organization for sticking with me and giving me the opportunity, so it’s nice.” Branham said after the game. “I’m glad we got to get it out of the way, and we can just focus on moving forward and getting as many wins as we can.”

Utah began strong, before Rapid City found their legs. Cannata made a few saves early, and then Josh Winquist found himself all alone in the offensive zone, and put Utah up 1-0 just 2:57 into the game. The whole line got in on the action as Caleb Herbert and Cole Ully drew the assists.

Austin Carroll made his presence felt early and often, but unfortunately a flubbed clearing attempt by Brendan Harms led to an uncontested look by Adam Marsh, who tied it up at 9:12. Moments later, yet another Rush player was once again left alone in front of the net, but Cannata was there to make the save.

R.T. Rice made an emphatic debut shortly thereafter, laying a couple of monster hits before the Grizzlies drew their first power play. The advantage struck just 33 seconds in. Herbert got his first goal of the night, Winquist picked up his second point, and Walters got the secondary.

At 18:39 Taylor Richart took a stick to the face, and Utah made Rapid City pay again, as Herbert got goal number two from defenseman Kevin Davis, and Walters about forty seconds into the power play.

The teams hit the rooms after an exciting period, advantage Utah 3-1, shots 10-9 in their favor.

Rapid City got a couple of offensive zone shifts to start the second, but both teams picked up a shot with no change in score. The Winquist, Herbert, Ully line continued to look dangerous every time they hit the ice, nearly combining for one a couple of minutes in.

Through the middle of the second, the Grizzlies and Rush traded penalties, but despite some big hits and a couple of scoring chances, neither team capitalized.

Rapid City nearly drew within one, pouncing on a turnover, and leaving Richart and Cannata to fend off a three-on-one. Fortunately, Cannata was more than up for the challenge.

Utah took two more penalties towards the end of the period as things got chippy, but after forty they maintained their 3-1 lead.

Ully continued to have a strong game in the third, along with Winquist and Herbert, and Winquist and Gage Ausmus nearly pulled off a two-on-one while killing off a Matt Berry penalty.

Teigan Zahn and Riley Weselowski were called for roughing at 13:05, but there was no change until Matt Pufahl took a hooking call with less than two minutes to go. The Rush called their time out and pulled their goalie, and at 19:24, Tim McGauley scored on the empty net.

With less than 20 seconds left in the game, Rapid City made it 4-2 on a scramble, but that was as close as they came.

Herbert, Cannata, and Walters were named the three stars of the game, but guys like Ully and Ottenbreit also impressed.

“That line is pretty exciting with Herbert and Ully and Winquist,” Branham said of the top line who put up a combined six points, “It’s an exciting line for the fans, that’s for sure. They like to get after it, push the pace, and get creative, so we saw how good those guys are, we just gotta make sure that those other lines are following suit and working hard to get their chances.”

Of the first star specifically, Branham added, “He’s a good player, he’s good in the face-off circle, he’s very talented, and he wants to do well, and when you’ve got guys like that that want to prove themselves and produce at this level so they can get to the next level it’s fun to coach. Good teammate right there, and he’s definitely got a good surrounding cast around him.”

“It definitely helps, just building that camaraderie, and confidence in the locker room, it definitely helps to get off to with a nice win at home,” Herbert said, but the overall message was clear. “We need to keep it going, it’s just one game, we need to string a few together and keep our foot on the gas.”

As Branham noted, there are still things to work on, but it was a promising start to the new season.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff