Utah Grizzlies: No Signs of Stopping

Going into the season, we knew in theory that Utah was going to be an offensive power house, and that it wouldn’t just be one guy carrying the team. Through out the season so far, they’ve showed that to a certain extent, but they always had Caleb Herbert blazing the way. So with Herbert and Travis Barron called up to the AHL, it wasn’t so much a question of whether or not the Grizzlies would continue to to score, but who would pick up the slack, and whether it would be enough.

The answer was a resounding yes.

With Herbert and Barron gone, R.T. Rice and Brendan Harms both drew back in, while Kevin Carr got the start.

Utah came out hot, getting a power play at 1:19. Matt Berry was a man on a mission from the moment the puck dropped, and made it 1-0 on the advantage, with an assist from Kevin Davis.

Less than five minutes later, as if determined to prove that the Grizzlies wouldn’t miss his line-mate Herbert, Austin Carroll took a beautiful pass from Gage Ausmus behind Wichita’s net, and made no mistake, putting the puck past a sprawling Dylan Wells. Ryan Walters got the secondary assist.

Less than a minute after that, Wichita took another penalty, Pierre-Cedric Labrie going to the box for interference, but Utah got nothing going.

It didn’t really matter though. Not only did the Grizzlies play well in the offensive zone, but they took care of Carr, keeping the Thunder to just two shots while picking up ten of their own through the first twelve minutes or so.

And they were just getting started.

At 13:40, Tim McGauley threw the puck at the net, and Berry got his second of the period. The goal saw the end of Wells’ night, and Stuart Skinner took over in net.

While the offense was clicking, the defense kept things under control in their end. Taylor Richart was especially noticeable towards the end of the first, blocking shots and gotting in the way of passes. Carr also was sharp, making three flashy glove saves in a row as the game progressed into the final four minutes of the frame.

After 20, the Grizzlies had a strong 3-0 lead, and had played as good a period of hockey as they had all season.

The second did not get off to a good start, though, as Carroll took a high-sticking call just 16 seconds in, and Ralph Cuddemi made it 3-1. Then Labrie boarded Nolan De Jong. Utah got a five minute power play. De Jong skated off under his own power, but did  not return.

The man advantage wasn’t really able to get anything going as Wichita was very aggressive on the kill through the first two minutes. As they approached the three minute mark of the power play, Utah established a good offensive zone cycle, but though they got a number of shots, they couldn’t capitalize.

After the lengthy power play, the Grizzlies pressed hard, and drew yet another man advantage at 8:33. Cole Ully sniped one past Skinner for his fourth goal of the year from Davis and Jake Marchment to put Utah up 4-1.

Unfortunately, Berry took a holding call less than a minute later. Wichita kept Carr pretty busy, as they put up seven shots on their power play and in the minutes that followed. Carr was up to the task, however, which was especially important when Teigan Zahn took a delay of game penalty with 5:11 to go. The Grizzlies allowed only one shot on their Captain’s minor, and closed out the period still up 4-1, out-shooting the Thunder 25-18.

Wichita came out hot to start the third, and cut the lead in half as Jeremy Beaudry beat Carr at 1:38.

Ully was hauled down on the breakaway at 3:31, and was awarded a penalty shot. The Grizzlies’ second leading scorer beat Skinner handily on a nice shot, and re-established the three goal lead.

Unfortunately, Greg Chase made it 5-3 nearly half-way through the period, but the Grizzlies kept their foot on the pedal. Berry was especially noticeable, getting three good shots in the middle stages of the third.

With about seven left in the game, Ryan Misiak also went to the locker room and didn’t return, putting the Grizzlies down both De Jong and Misiak.

Carroll got a tripping call shortly thereafter and a crowd gathered. Once the dust had settled, Carroll had collected a roughing call, but had taken Cuddemi with him. Rice served Carroll’s initial tripping call, and Utah killed it off thanks to a good effort from Jake Marchment and the penalty killers.

Wichita pressured hard in the final three minutes, pulling Skinner with about 1:30 to go, but Marchment put the game to bed with an empty netter from just around center ice.

At the final buzzer of the 6-3 win, Utah had out-shot the Thunder 37-28, and four players had multi-point games. Leading the way in that department were Ully (named first star of the game with two goals and five shots, and now with points in seven straight games) and Berry (second star with two goals and a team-leading seven shots).

Carroll also has points in seven straight games, Davis picked up two assists for the second straight night, Marchment, who has points in all four games since he returned, had his third straight multi-point game, and Carr stopped 25 of 28 shots he faced, improving to 3-0-1 on the year. Moreover, the power play remains lethal, clocking in at an impressive 30.2%, still easily the best in the league, and converting on two of their four chances in the game.

Utah returns home 3-1-1 (7-1-3-0 on the season) where they will take on the Fuel on Wednesday night.

 

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Holding On

In game two of the road trip, the roster remained the same, with the exception of the goalies, as Kevin Carr got his first start of the year. The lines did see a slight reconfiguration, as Matt Berry moved onto the line with Ryan Misiak and Tim McGauley, while Austin Carroll took his place with Brendan Harms and Ryan Walters.

Idaho came out hot, drawing the a power play less than a minute in. Utah killed it off well though, Carr making the two necessary saves. Things calmed down for a bit, until Caleb Herbert flew into the offensive zone, split the D, and then scored on a gorgeous backhander to make it 1-0.

Harms got a look alone as well, but passed back to Carroll, who was unable to get off a shot.

The Grizzlies picked up a power play at 10:06, and the potent first unit pounced again, making it 2-0 half way through the period. Utah got another power play at 15:22, but weren’t able to pick up another goal.

The first period ended with a big crowd as Berry took exception to a hit, and Carroll and Taylor Richart flew in. As a result, Berry, Carroll, and Brady Norrish all took roughing calls.

The Grizzlies comfortably killed off the early penalty kill, allowing only one shot, and getting a great short-handed look for Harms and Walters.

Utah got a look of their own on the power play 3:34 in, but disaster struck when Winquist collided with an Idaho player and went down hard, having to be helped off the ice. Out of all that, he was assessed a penalty too, served by Herbert, and didn’t return. Less than a minute later, tempers continued to flair and McGauley dropped the gloves with Jeff King.

Misiak and Herbert got in two-on-none right as the later emerged from the penalty box, but somehow he managed to get an interference call, and was sent straight back to the bin.

The Grizzlies only allowed two shots, and no sooner was Herbert freed than Teigan Zahn and Keegan Kanzig dropped the gloves at 8:28.

Cole Ully and Alexander Dahl took matching minors with about eight to go, and the teams played four-on-four. Kevin Davis drew a high-sticking call at 15:17, and Carr had to make a spectacular save on Justin Parizek who got in alone short-handed.

No sooner had the Steelheads returned to full strength than they took a delay-of-game penalty. Unfortunately, Parizek got a short-handed goal 11 seconds later.

The period once again ended in chaos.

Except for the first shift, Idaho dominated the first five minutes of the third, eventually forcing Carroll into a penalty. Fortunately, Utah killed it off.

Idaho continued to run play till the ten minute mark, after which things evened out a little.  Though the Steelheads spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, Utah did do a decent job of keeping the puck away from the net.

It was a fairly uneventful period in general, with just the one penalty, and eight shots (Idaho 6, Utah 2), as Idaho played largely in the offensive zone, but Utah kept them from doing anything dangerous with all their time.

With 1:20 to go, Idaho once again pulled their goalie and called a time out, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Grizzlies were the 2-1 victors.

Herbert, who still leads the league in points, was the game’s first star, while Carr’s 27/28 saves were good for third star.

The Good

  • Once again, Herbert was terrific, picking up his fifth goal in four games.
  • The power play continues to click (mostly), with Winquist getting yet another power play tally, even though they only capitalized on one of five chances.
  • Davis is a force to be reckoned with, both offensively and defensively.
  • Utah is 3-0-0-1 in the first four games of the year, picking up seven of a possible eight points in that time.

The Bad

  • Utah had only two shots in the third, and spent quite a lot of the period in their own zone. However, they only allowed eight shots against, and did a good job keeping Idaho away from Carr, so this is a bit of a wash.
  • Utah allowed two short-handed goals to Idaho this weekend, which isn’t great.

The Ugly

  • Winquist played only four minutes of the second period before leaving the game with a lower body injury. If he’s out for any amount of time, it could be a big loss for the Grizzlies, as he is their second most prolific point producer, and is relied upon in all situations.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard 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