Utah Grizzlies: Weekend Winnings

This weekend, the Grizzlies continued to pick up very much needed points, as they completed the three game sweep of the Steelheads in Boise. The games on Friday and Saturday were both very close contests, each decided by one goal, Saturday’s in overtime.

Friday night’s game was a high-scoring, penalty-filled affair that saw both sides dissatisfied with the calls – or in some cases, the lack of calls – throughout. Troy Redmann got the start, backed by Ryan Faragher, and had a very strong outing overall, while C.J. Eick had the night off in favour of a full complement of defencemen.

Erik Bradford opened the scoring 6:17 into the first, as the Grizzlies crashed the net and the assists went to Tim Daly and Cam Reid, the later of whom picked up his first of what would eventually be three assists.

The rest of the period was more or less a wash, thanks to the ten penalties that were assessed in total, an uncharacteristic three of them on Daly., The teams went to their dressing-rooms with Idaho out-shooting Utah by the slim margin of 9-8.

Bradford scored his second of the game less than five minutes into the second to put the Grizzlies up 2-0, and mere moments later, Phil Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Anthony Luciani. The bout was a spirited one, and both combatants got in several really excellent punches before they were separated and sent to the box. The fight was Pietroniro’s fifth of the season, and third in the last six games.

At 7:13, Daly erased any memory of the three penalty first period with an absolutely gorgeous rocket from the high slot, giving Utah the 3-0 lead. The Grizzlies ran into some penalty trouble in the second half of the period, allowing two power play goals, despite a couple of unbelievable saves from Redmann. However, they responded well both times, and closed out the period still leading 3-2.

The third period did not get off to the most auspicious of starts, despite an Idaho penalty, as Kyle Jean got behind the Grizzlies defence, and tied it up on a short-handed breakaway just under 4:30 into the frame.

However, the game did not stay tied for long, as Colin Martin tipped in Pietroniro’s shot from the blue line. It was not a lead Utah was destined to hold for long, with Corbin Baldwin beating Redmann a few minutes later.

The two teams traded chances and penalties through the later part of the period, with Martin Nemcik and Jefferson Dahl going off for roughing at 16:08.

With just over five minutes to go, the Grizzlies got the upper hand once more, as Kenton Helgesen scored his third of the season with assists from Taylor Richart and Jon Puskar. The Steelheads were irate, feeling that the officials missed a tripping call in the play immediately proceeding the goal, but they argued their case to no avail.

Austen Brassard and Brandon Anselmini took matching roughing calls with two minutes to go, and Utah held on to win 5-4.

Bradford’s two goals earned him third star of the game, extending his point streak to eight games, while Redmann stopped 31 out of 35 shots.

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Daly was hit hard along the boards part way through the third period, and played little, if at all after that point, while Idaho ran into troubles of their own when coach Neil Graham, and defenceman Travis Walsh were both given game misconducts at the end of the game. As a result, Walsh was fined, and Graham was suspended for a game, while Daly did not start on Saturday.


On Saturday, Kevin Boyle returned to the Grizzlies’ lineup after a lengthy – and largely successful – stint in San Diego, getting the start for Utah. C.J. Eick also suited up for the Grizzlies, as Daly’s absence freed up a spot. Consequently, Utah played eleven forwards and five defencemen, while Faragher backed up Boyle.

The first period was fairly uneventful, though by no means boring, both teams playing well, and fairly evenly. Boyle looked strong early, and Utah had the slight edge in special teams. Travis Howe and Jefferson Dahl went off with matching minors at 7:39, and about thirty seconds later, Brandon Anselmini went off after tripping up Cam Reid. After 20, shots were 12-11 for Idaho, and there was no change in score.

The second period saw a great deal more action, much of it not at all in the Grizzlies’ favour. Michael Pelech took a penalty 3:40 into the frame, and no sooner had Utah killed off that minor, then Erik Bradford also found himself in the box. Boyle made some terrific saves, but it was Idaho that scored first just past the half-way mark.

Utah came back strong, drawing a power play of their own a minute later, but nothing came of it. Shortly thereafter, Howe and Baldwin were sent off, and Travis Ewanyk made it 2-0 with under five minutes to go.

Things continued to go badly for the Grizzlies as Phil Pietroniro was shoved into the boards by Connor Chatham. He was sent to the locker room for repairs, while the ice crew cleaned up the blood, and the officials assessed Chatham five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct. Utah closed off the period on the man advantage, but after 40, they remained down 2-0, outshot  24-23, and missing a defenceman.

Unlike so many early period power plays, the remainder of the Grizzlies’ five minute power play proved lethal. Bradford extended his point streak to nine games, when Cuddemi took his feed from behind the Steelheads’ net and made it 1-o a mere 45 seconds in.

Pietroniro returned to the bench a few minutes later, and took the best kind of revenge, scoring the second goal on the Chatham penalty at 2:01 to tie the game.

Austen Brassard took the only other penalty of the third period at 5:26. Nothing came of it, nor of the nastiness that had been developing all game between Martin Nemcik and various Idaho players. Nor, unfortunately, did anything come of Eick’s glorious up-ice rush that saw him make two Steelheads appear as though they were standing still.

60 minutes was not enough to decide the contest, so the game went to over time. Utah dominated the extra frame, putting up five shots to Idaho’s zero, and Cuddemi gave the Grizzlies the win 1:13 into the extra frame.

In the absence of Daly, both Pietroniro and Richart stepped up in a big way, and were the two defencemen Branham relied upon in OT. Each picked up their third point in as many games, ensuring that Utah did not suffer from the loss of Daly’s production or defencive prowess.

Boyle, who had some struggles earlier in the year, looked very sharp, making 31 of 33 saves, as all three Grizzlies goalies picked up a win in Boise.

Cuddemi continues to display the prolific scoring touch that saw him named rookie of the month, picking up goals 21 and 22 to remain the leader in rookie goal-scoring. His two goal performance earned him third star of the contest. Bradford remains the Grizzlies’ leading scorer with 41 points in 33 games for Utah and 43 points in 38 games overall.

In taking all six points against Idaho, Utah is now only four points back of Alaska (though the Aces still have two games in hand), and five behind Idaho as the quest for a playoff spot continues. Moreover, their seven game win streak is currently the longest active winning streak in the league.

The Grizzlies very much need to keep the goals and wins coming as they travel to Alaska to play three straight against the team directly in front of them in the standings.

Utah Grizzlies: Fickle Fortune

If Fortune favoured the Grizzlies on Monday, she proved a fickle friend last night.

The first shift of the game began well for the Grizzlies, though they were quickly hemmed into their own zone for the next few shifts, as Adirondack got to work. Utah scrambled in their own end a little, but after four minutes, shots were tied 3-3, and the Grizzlies began to push back.

At 4:15, Jon Puskar turned and fired in the high slot, and Mathieu Aubin put the puck past Ken Appleby for his second of the year.

The play went back and forth with plenty of board battles and chances on both sides. There was a bit of a scare as Puskar went down after being hit up high with the puck, but he remained on the bench, apparently little worse for wear.

With 2:25 left in the period, Phil Pietroniro was called for holding, the Grizzlies’ penalty kill got down to business, and Kevin Boyle made several very good saves.

At the end of 20, Boyle and the Grizzlies were up 1-0, though the shots tipped in Adirondack’s favour, 13-12.

The Grizzlies came out flying in the second, and Brandon McNally just missed the wide open net, but it was the Thunder who scored first, as both Robbie Donahoe and the puck went into the net behind Boyle at 1:22.

Utah went to the power play shortly thereafter, as James Henry hooked Ralph Cuddemi, but the Adirondack penalty kill proved up to the task against a lacklustre power play. To make things worse, right off the power play, the Thunder came the other way, James Henry’s pass beat out a sprawling Grizzlies’ defenceman, and Peter MacArthur deked out Boyle.

The game got heated after that, as Keegan Kanzig and Travis Howe dropped the gloves with 13:03 left in the second, and the crowd roared their approval as Howe saluted them on the way to the box. Adirondack was assessed an extra slashing penalty, so the Grizzlies went back to the power play. The first half of the power play was pretty abysmal, but the second half had some signs of life, though it ultimately came up empty.

With about eight minutes left to play, Adirondack got in behind the Grizzlies’ defence, and Boyle made an outstanding save to keep the deficit to one goal.

For a couple of teams who almost never see each other, a fair bit of dislike has built up between them in the past two games, and the last five minutes saw two fights break out. the first between McNally and Phil Lane with 4:31 left, and the second between Mike Bergin and Kenton Helgesen, after Bergin took exception to a big hit of Helgesen’s. As the Thunder also took a slashing penalty together with the first fight, the Grizzlies got a power play, but were unable to make anything of it yet again.

Pietroniro took his second penalty of the night with 18.2 left to go in the period, but the Grizzlies ended the period buzzing around the Adriondack net. After 40, shots were 27-18 for the Thunder, who also maintained the 2-1 lead.


Then the game got a little weird.

Half way through the third, Boyle made a big save, the whistle went, the puck flew out, and Adirondack scored, but the goal was waived off.

A few shifts later, the puck rang the crossbar and bounced out to the slot, where the Thunder put the puck back in the net, but it was waived off immediately thanks to a distinct kicking motion, so the Grizzlies dodged yet another bullet.

With about 1:20 left to play in the period, the Grizzlies pulled Boyle in favour of an extra skater and called their time out. Unfortunately, despite some good pressure, the Grizzlies were unable to capitalize, and they fell 2-1, outshot 32-25.

It was good to see Boyle return to something like the form he showed in his first two games of the season. As head coach Tim Branham said, “He’s a competitor, and we saw when he first got here that he’s going to be a top goalie in this league…his first two starts were excellent…obviously there were probably some goals he would have wanted back, and we kind of put him under some pressure too in those three games that he lost, which is tough for a rookie goaltender. But today he responded. He was solid. We left him out to dry on those two goals against, and he made some big saves tonight, that’s for sure.”

As to what they need to do tonight to come  out on top in this three game series with Adirondack, Branham added “Guys just need to refocus, take a look in the mirror, figure out what they did right, what they did wrong, come back with a better effort. When the pucks aren’t going your way, you just have to work that much harder to make sure they go your way, and you can’t give up, can’t give in.”

The Grizzlies and the Thunder face each other again tonight at 7 PM for the last time until January, and will be wearing their specialty throw back Golden Eagles jerseys which will be auctioned off after the game with the proceeds going to the Angel’s Hands Foundation.


Utah Grizzlies: A Heartbreaker


Fresh off their first home loss of the season, the Utah Grizzlies looked to get back to their winning ways, backstopped by the ever reliable Ryan Faragher.

The game began with a literal bang as Utah and Allen players collided along the boards behind Faragher just after the faceoff.

Utah drew the first penalty, but were unable to muster a shot on the man advantage against a very tight Allen penalty kill.

Colin Martin took a penalty just past the eight-minute mark, but between a pair of beautiful saves from Faragher, and some first-rate stickwork from the Grizzlies’ penalty killers, both teams were kept scoreless. Allen carried the momentum coming off the power play, and for a significant stretch thereafter, before the Grizzlies got the ball rolling again in the back end of the period.

After being shoved, checked, slashed, and more over nearly four periods with no penalties called, the refs finally called a cross-checking penalty on Allen against Jon Puskar, sending Utah to the power play with just under 30 seconds left in the period.

The opening five minutes of the second were eventful, to say the least. The Grizzlies’ power play had some good moments, but didn’t capitalize, and then Travis Howe and Derek Mathers dropped the gloves. And then Allen found that sometimes revenge is best served hot as Jon Puskar absolutely victimized the Americans on the way to his fifth goal of the year.

Kenton Helgesen took a high-sticking penalty 5:32 into the second, but there is a whole different vibe when Faragher is in nets, and the two minutes were killed off without trouble.

At 15:30 Pietroniro took a penalty, which the Grizzlies killed off in style, including a fairly substantial period where Helgesen single-handedly kept Allen running around their own end, earning a rousing cheer of appreciation from the fans.

At the end of 40, shots were 22-18 for Utah, and Puskar’s remained the only goal of the night.

The first five minutes of the third were a furious affair, with both teams buzzing, and Faragher, Helgesen, and Higby coming up huge for Utah in their own end.

Allen was rewarded for their tenacity 4:38 into the third period, as Michael Brodzinski put the puck past Faragher.

After being sent flying near the Allen bench, Taylor Richart scored his first goal of the season, putting the Grizzlies up 2-1 just over 30 seconds into the power play.

Tim Daly took a hooking penalty halfway through the period in a desperate bid to stop a breakaway, but the Grizzlies penalty kill looked especially sharp.

The Grizzlies pressed hard in the final five minutes of the game, including one shift where they spent several seconds spinning Allen around their own end like a bunch of tops. However, They also needed Faragher to save their bacon on at least one occasion, as they held on to the lead by the slimmest of margins.

Despite the Grizzlies’ determination, Allen pulled their goalie, and with just 3.5 seconds left in the game, Aaron Gens scored the backbreaker.

Overtime solved nothing, though it did see some first-rate hockey from the likes of Pietroniro, who was instrumental in preventing several Allen shots from even reaching Faragher, and Eick and Higby who created absolute havoc  around Gill’s net. Eick’s speed was even more on display than usual with all the extra space provided by 3-on-3.

Right before the buzzer sounded, Ralph Cuddemi beat Gill, but rang the puck off the crossbar, and the game went to a shootout.

Both Allen shooters scored on Faragher, and both Aubin and Higby missed the net, so Utah picked up a much needed point, but fell to 6-5-0-1.

After a road trip that saw the Grizzlies collapse in the third almost every game, the tenacity in the final frame of the game was good to see. But the loss was especially frustrating, given how well they’d played.

Utah will face the Adirondack Thunder on Monday, and very much need to get back in the win column.




Utah Grizzlies: Snakebitten

Finally back from a gruelling road trip, the Grizzlies hoped to defend their perfect home record against the reigning Kelly Cup Champions. Alas, it was not to be.

The opening minutes of the game were a back and forth affair, with the Grizzlies pressuring first, and then the Americans, and both Boyle and Allen goalie Riley Gill were called to make a couple of saves.

With a few exceptions, the Grizzlies carried play in the first half of the period, and were rewarded as Carlos Amestoy picked the puck up in a crowd in front of the net at 4:20 for his first of the year. Alexandre Carrier and Kenton Helgesen were awarded assists.

With 10:39 to go in the first, Eric Roy scored on a lightning quick shot that went right through Boyle, tying the score up at one apiece. Just about a minute later, Chad Costello got in behind the Grizzlies’ defence, and scored on the breakaway, putting the Grizzlies down by one. Troubles continued for Utah as Tim Daly was called for interference shortly thereafter. However, the Grizzlies penalty kill went to work, and looked excellent.

Though they were thwarted on the power play, Allen continued to roll throughout the rest of the period, with only brief Grizzlies’ forays into the Americans’ end.

With 2:24 left in the period, Jon Puskar was called for boarding, and the Grizzlies again went to the kill. A sea of Utah sticks kept the Americans to the perimeter, and a fangless power play came to an end just seconds before the period. At the end of 20, Allen led 2-1, and out shot Utah to the tune of 12-9 – their only shot lead of the night.

The second period had scarcely begun when Allen took a penalty against Ralph Cuddemi, and the Grizzlies went to the power play. Utah had several chances, maintaining possession of the puck through the majority of the man advantage, but though they racked up a number of shots and nice chances, they were unable to solve Gill.

The intensity of the Grizzlies’ game picked up a few notches thereafter, and there were a flurry of chances around the Allen net. Unfortunately with 9:36 left in the second, Evan Stoflet took a hooking penalty, and Allen scored on the ensuing power play, giving them the 3-1 lead as Costello again beat out Boyle.

With 8:09 left in the period, Chris Crane highsticked Puskar in Allen’s blue paint, sending the Grizzlies to the power play. Allen killed off the penalty, but though the Americans swarmed the Grizzlies’ end for several shifts in a row, they were unable to get a shot through Utah’s defence.

Despite out-shooting Allen 18-2 in the second, and largely dominating play, Utah remained down a pair of goals after forty.

Just five minutes into the third, Spenser Asuchak scored, giving Allen a three goal cushion. Though the Grizzlies continued to pressure Allen, putting up fourteen shots to Allen’s six in the final frame, they remained unable to solve Gill, or to get a lucky bounce. The bad luck continued when Gregor Hanson put the final nail in the coffin just two minutes before the game ended, his shot just trickling past Boyle, who thought he’d stopped it.

It was a frustrating night, all around, that unfortunately came down largely to goaltending. Riley Gill is an excellent goaltender who had a very good outing, stopping 40 of 41, while Kevin Boyle struggled on his end, letting in five goals on 20 shots.

“The difference tonight was goaltending tonight for sure,” Grizzlies’ coach Tim Branham said after the game,  “We outshot them 2-1, I guarantee we outchanced them 2-1. We gave up a couple breakaways, but we had two or three breakaways as well…We’ve got to play well defensively and not give up that kind of opportunity, but at the end of the day we had enough chances to win, and we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”

While the Grizzlies did just about everything they could to get the win, creating traffic in front of the net and reaching their goal of 40 shots, sometimes there are elements outside a team’s control that simply have to be taken in stride.

“The hockey gods weren’t looking down on us very much there,” Branham added with a chuckle, “You just continue to press on…Like we said, there was a lot of good things, I think we had seven shots on the one power play, just couldn’t convert.”

Utah falls to 6-5 on the season, but has a second chance to beat the Americans, as these two teams square off tonight at 7:oo MT.

Utah Grizzlies: Weathering the Storm

With Brassard and McNally called up to the San Diego Gulls, the Grizzlies looked a little different than they have of late. However, if last night’s stinker was surprising, tonight’s rebound was not. Tim Branham teams don’t often drop two bad games in a row, let alone three.

Wichita came out hot again, but the Grizzlies were able to weather the early onslaught, before going short handed on a delay of game penalty 2:24 into the first.

Unfortunately, less than 30 seconds to go in the kill, a wildly bouncing puck got past the Grizzlies’defence, and trickled through Ryan Faragher’s five hole. It was a pretty bad goal all around, but the Grizzlies responded immediately, Colin Martin scoring on the very next shift. Evan Stoflet and Shane Walsh got the assists on Martin’s second of the year.

With 13:05 to go in the period, Travis Howe and Macoy Erkamps dropped the gloves, and were allowed to have a lengthy go at each other, before they were separated and sent to the box.

Just past the half-way mark, the Grizzlies were sent to the power play, and though they struggled to set up at first, they did eventually break Wichita’s perfect penalty kill record as Erik Higby put one past Drew Owsley. Helgesen got the primary assist, extending his scoring streak to five points in six games.

Taylor Richart made a fantastic play to break up a two-on-one a few minutes later, but took a penalty, negating a Grizzlies power play at 13:44. However, the Grizzlies pushed back, and a strong shift in the Thunder offensive zone led to a Thunder penalty in return.

Forced to take a  defensive zone draw, with mere seconds to go, and a one goal lead, Helgesen was one of the players Coach Branham trusted to get the Grizzlies out of the period, and they did just that, shots 14-6 in their favor.

Just under five minutes into the second, Nick Trecapelli checked C.J. Eick into the boards, sending the Grizzlies to the power play, and Ralph Cuddemi scored on a breakaway, putting one past Owsley for Utah’s second power play goal of the night. Tim Daly and Ryan Faragher got the assists on that one.

Several minutes later, the Grizzlies crashed Wichita’s net, and Travis Howe scored his first of the year, with Carlos Amestoy and Mike Banwell picking up the assists. It looked like Utah would escape the second up 4-2, but a bad turnover allowed Gerrad Grant to score with just two seconds left.

Utah has had rough third periods of late, being out scored to the tune of 18-7, so the goal in the final 20 was definitely to buck that trend, and so they did. At 7:24 Helgesen deflected Tim Daly’s shot into the net, giving the Grizzlies their third two goal lead of the game. With the goal, his second point of the night, Helgesen is is now one of four Grizzlies at (or above) a point-per game.

Nothing much of note occurred in the next few minutes until Alexandre Carrier and Logan Nelson dropped the gloves for the second fight of the night at about the 12 minute mark.

From there on out, the Grizzlies battened down the hatches, and rode out a few dangerous shifts from Wichita, though there were some uneasy moments down the stretch — including a strong shift from Alex Krushelnyski and his linemates.

With a little over 2:34 left, Faragher made a snappy windmill save, and with less than a minute remaining, and the Thunder net empty, Amestoy just missed the cage. Wichita called their time out with 13 seconds left, but were unable to capitalize, falling 5-3, out-shot 41-24.

The Grizzlies’ win halts a two game skid, and was a marked improvement over their last three games. They improve their record to 6-3, Faragher improves to 5-1, and ten different players registered a point. Helgesen (named first star of the game), Daly (third star) and Stoflet all picked up two a piece.

The defense and special teams looked much better tonight, with the power play scoring on two out of four chances, and hopefully they can continue the upward trend.

All in all, it was a much better game for the Grizzlies who will travel back to Tulsa tonight, and take on the Oilers in the afternoon tomorrow.