Utah Grizzlies: The Comeback Kids

If there was ever a non-playoff series that was a must win, it is this one. Alaska holds the last playoff spot, and is the only team currently in a playoff spot within striking distance. Now they’re in town for three straight games.

With Anaheim trading Kenton Helgesen, Tim Daly’s return to the lineup couldn’t have been more fortuitous. The game also marked Marc-André Lévesque’s first home game as a member of the Grizzlies, and the return of Brad Navin as both players were in the starting lineup against their former teams.

The early going favored Alaska, but a couple of saves by Ryan Faragher allowed Utah to get their legs going.

Jon Puskar drew a tripping penalty at 4:49, and Ralph Cuddemi made it 1-0 exactly five minutes into the first period, with his team-leading 26th of the season. Carlos Amestoy and Lévesque drew the assists, giving Lévesque five points in four games with Utah. Scarcely had play resumed than Navin took down Martin Nemcik at the Grizzlies’ blue line, and Utah went right back to the power play. The power play got some looks, but Navin returned to the ice with no change in score.

Alaska got most of the looks following the power play, as Utah struggled to handle the puck cleanly. With 6:13 left in the first, the Aces capitalized on the issue, tying it up as the Grizzlies got tangled up in front of the net.

Daly took a penalty with 3:14 left in the period, and the Aces took the lead thirty seconds later. Utah pressed hard through the final minutes of the frame, but after 20, they trailed 2-1, and were being outshot to the tune of 12-4.

Just seconds into the second period, C.J. Eick got in on a breakaway, but lost his footing and both he and Kevin Carr ended up in the back of the net, which came off it’s moorings.

The Grizzlies really hustled after that, and Cuddemi got another breakaway for Utah, but was also shut down by Carr.

Unfortunately for Utah, despite gaining ground in shots, and looking better through the early going, Brad Navin made it 3-1 14:21 into the period.

The Grizzlies kept pressing, and the defense made some really great plays to keep the puck away from Faragher, but they remained unable to solve Carr, despite some solid chances.

As the period progressed, it seemed increasingly clear that Utah had all the right ideas with their passes and plays, but seemed unable to execute properly, leading to a number of turnovers and tense moments.

Michael Pelech took a high-sticking call with 8:17 left in the second, and the Grizzlies’penalty kill did a terrific job, but no sooner did they return to full strength than they took a bench minor for too many men. The penalty kill proved to be rock solid, and Puskar drew a roughing call.

This time, when the Utah looked to kick the comeback into gear, it roared to life. Zac Larraza made it 3-2 on a seeing-eye shot that beat Carr with 3:03 left to go, giving the Grizzlies their second power play goal. Lévesque and Amestoy picked up the assists, giving them both multiple point games.

After 40, Utah had closed the gap in both shots (20-19 Alaska), and in score, and finished frame looking much better than they had all game.

Just 1:21 into the third, Erik Higby made it 3-3 from Mathieu Aubin and Erik Bradford, who now has six points in the last four games. Higby’s goal was his eighth point in ten games since his return from injury, and his fourth goal since moving to defence.

Just moments later, Larraza was taken down at the offensive zone blue line, and Utah went to their fourth power play of the night. Mathieu Aubin scored his 14th of the year on a nice shot below the hash marks to give the Grizzlies the 4-3 lead at 3:10. Pelech and Bradford got the assists, giving Bradford, Amestoy and Larraza all multi-point nights.

Faragher, in his turn, was spectacular when needed and the Grizzlies kept skating hard. All through the middle of the period, Utah continued to play well, whatever cobwebs they’d struggled with in the first entirely blown away.

With five minutes left in the game, the score remained 4-3, thanks in large part to Faragher.

Alaska took their time out and pulled their goalie with 1:31 to go, but Pelech took the puck at center ice, and scored into the empty net to give them the two goal lead with 1:10 to go.

Faragher made one last save for good measure, and the Grizzlies took a huge two points.

Aubin, Amestoy, and Lévesque were named the three stars of the game, each with multiple points.

When asked after the game what allowed the Grizzlies to hang on and come back with four unanswered goals Aubin said, “I think sticking together. We knew we had a bad start, not the start we wanted, in that huge game. After the first period, we just talked to each other, had a boost of energy, and then started playing the way we can, and it paid off at the end.”

“I think Tim (Branham) switched it up a bit,” said Aubin of Utah’s lethal power play, and his game winning goal. “Got us in a new power play tonight, put us at a spot where we’re comfortable, me and Pelly and Bradford, and Pelech just gave me an awesome pass. I just had to put it in, it was great.”

“It’s huge” he added, of Daly’s return. “He was our biggest weapon back there. He’s obviously getting back in shape here, he hasn’t played in a while, but he played a great game, and every game is gonna get better so it’s huge for us.”

“Obviously we know we need to win all those three games, we’re taking one game at a time, but for us, what we need is six points, and we’re not going to be happy if we don’t get that.”

Head Coach Tim Branham expressed similar sentiments.

“I wish we’d stop doing that. Give me a heart attack on the bench!” He began, to general chuckles, when asked about the Grizzlies’ continued ability to go down a few goals, and then come roaring back.

“The first period we just didn’t work for it, and we were down 2-1 for a reason. They out-shot us, they out-played us, they beat us to all the puck battles, and then as the second period rolled on, we gradually started to take over, and the second half of that second period was good. Obviously, our power play was really good tonight. Once we kind of got in a rhythm, once we kind of understood that hey if we work hard, do the right things, the things that we’ve talked about, we’re gonna have success. Don’t sit back. Don’t wait for the guy next to you to do it. Take it upon yourself to play your game, and once we start doing that, good things happen.”

With so much at stake in the next month and a half, Daly’s return couldn’t come at a better moment. “It’s very good to have Tim back. You look at him, he’s got a great stick, he makes plays, he has his head up. He’s so poised with the puck. You can tell he’s still ginger out there with his shoulder. He played over 30 minutes a night for us before he got injured, and in every situation, so he’s a huge part of this team, so it’s great to have him back.”

“Now we’re four points back with two games, so it’s huge. We did a good job up in Alaska, we’ve got to make sure we take care of business here at home. No matter what happens this weekend, it’s still not over. There’s a lot of hockey to be played, and we’ve gotta make sure we take it, like you said, one game at a time, and that’s all you can do. It’s one shift at a time, make sure you give  all that one shift and play the right way. If we do that, we’re going to be just fine. We hold our destinies in our own hands. All we have to do is win games. We just gotta take it one at a time.”

Puck drop for game two against Alaska is tonight at 7PM at the Mav.

Utah Grizzlies: War of Attrition

The Grizzlies came into this contest looking to take the third game of the series down Erik Bradford, Tim Daly, and Evan Stoflet, while Kevin Boyle got the start for the second straight night. These absences meant that Utah only dressed four defencemen and ten forwards.

Utah  got an early power play, as Ben Lake boarded Brad Navin 1:45 into the first. Utah got a few chances, but Alaska killed off the penalty.

Colin Martin, Erik Higby, and Michael Pelech all got big scoring chances, but it would be Navin who gave the Grizzlies the 1-0 lead at 9:35.

Utah killed off a holding penalty to Higby, and they continued to swarm, in no way looking like a short-handed team playing their third game in as many nights.

Cam Reid took a late penalty with less than a minute to go, but the Grizzlies headed to the locker room holding the 1-0 lead, outshooting Alaska 17-5.

The Grizzlies killed off the remainder of Reid’s penalty handily, getting the only shot on the Aces’ man advantage, and generally looking like the better rested and hungrier team.

Higby, Cuddemi, and Martin crashed the Aces’ crease, and Martin collared Higby’s rebound, beating Michael Garteig for his twelfth of the year at 3:56.

Half way through the frame, Travis Howe and Garet Hunt dropped the gloves, and after the longest staredown ever, Howe got the edge in the fight, landing quite a number of punches before they were separated.

With just under five minutes left to play, the Grizzlies capitalized on an Aces’ bobble at their blue line. Cuddemi made a spectacular pass, sending the puck behind Garteig to Martin who scored his second of the night into the wide open net.

Utah closed out the second with some great chances, and the period ended in absolute chaos, Tim Wallace tangling with Nemcik and Pietroniro at the buzzer before both teams came flying in.

As the mayhem continued, Pelech and Marc-Andre Levesque dropped the gloves, and it was all the officials could do to break up the fight and get everyone off the ice. Utah went to the room up 3-0, and outshooting the Aces 24-19, but that’s when the tables turned.

As the dust settled, it became clear that despite the 3-0 lead, getting through the third period was going to take a Herculean effort from the Grizzlies. Pelech and Levesque both got five for fighting and a game misconduct, while Nemcik and Laplante were assessed a double minor for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct each. Wallace, who started the whole mess, also got two for roughing.

Alaska, who got three fresh players back for the game, could shrug off the loss of two players. Utah, already down their leading goalscorer and two defenders, would now have to play with only three defencemen for all but six minutes of the third without yet another top six forward.

It didn’t get any better from there.

In the early stages of the third, Cuddemi scared Grizzlies fans everywhere, when he left the ice looking uncomfortable. Fortunately, he appeared to be alright, but that was only the beginning.

A few minutes later, Richart was sent head over heels by a pair of Aces players, and went to the bench before taking a few tentative spins during the break. It appeared that Utah had dodged yet another bullet when he returned to play, only for Pietroniro to take a tripping penalty at 5:46. Unfortunately, Tyler Shattock scored just ten seconds later to make it 3-1.

Although the Aces manhandled Helgesen in the middle of the frame, it was Puskar who went to the box with 11:08. A mere six seconds later, Wallace took a healthy swing at Pietroniro off the faceoff. Pietroniro went down to the ice, and Wallace joined Puskar in the box.

With both Pietroniro and Richart banged up, Nemcik still in the box, and Helgesen the sole healthy defenceman on the bench, the Grizzlies struggled, and at 9:07, Nolan Descoteaux put the Aces within one.

At 10:33 Shattock took a charging penalty on Helgesen, Martin took exception to the hit, and both got two for roughing. Navin also tangled with an Alaska player, but neither were given penalties. Thanks to these infractions, Utah had a brief 5-on-3 situation, before a returning to a 5-on-4 power play.

Each team returned to full strength with no change in score, but Utah got a few really excellent chances on the man advantage. Alaska got a power play of their own as Navin took a slashing call with 5:37 to go in the period. Austen Brassard had a great chance short-handed, and the Grizzlies got Nemcik and Navin back. However, the Aces tied up the game with less than four minutes left to go.

Utah and Alaska both pressed in the remaining minutes, but Boyle and Garteig made some big saves to send the game to overtime.

Just fifteen seconds into OT, Cuddemi was sent to the sin bin for hooking, but the Grizzlies killed the penalty off, even getting a 2-on-1 chance from Helgesen and Nemcik.

In the dying seconds of OT, Martin made a bid for a hat trick and the win with an incredible shift, but it was not to be, and the game went to the shoot out.

Boyle — who has received far too little praise in the recap for being instrumental in helping get Utah this far — allowed a lone goal in the shoot out. Reid and Aubin scored for the Grizzlies, and Utah took the extra point.

Martin and Cuddemi earned the first two stars, but there were no passengers in this game. The performances of Pietroniro, Richart, Helgesen, and Boyle especially were also essential in earning the win.

This was a huge game for the Grizzlies, not only because they won despite being down three to five players for significant stretches of the game, but also because the two points they earned put them three points behind both Alaska and Idaho.

At the end of the day, they’re well within striking distance of a playoff spot, and they have a whole week to recover from what was unquestionably their gutsiest performance of the season.

The Grizzlies are next in action in a three-game home-stand against the Steelheads, where they will hope to take possession of a playoff spot.

Utah Grizzlies: Total Domination

After last game, Tim Branham was confident that the Grizzlies would be ready for game two against Alaska, and they absolutely were, turning in what was perhaps their strongest and most complete game of the season against  a very good team – to the great delight of the 6,026 fans in attendance.

Utah came out flying, playing smart with the puck, and working relentlessly to get it back whenever they lost it – just as Branham had discussed the night before.  It took until about the five minute mark for either team to register a shot, but then the Grizzlies got the first four straight as they monopolized possession of the puck.

They rapidly picked up shots five through seven, and the number one line of Michael Pelech, Erik Bradford, and Ralph Cuddemi got their first of the game as Pelech put the puck home at 6:04 after a series of rebounds.

The Grizzlies didn’t take their foot off the pedal after the first five, and Alaska struggled to even gain Utah’s zone. Ten minutes into the period, Alaska had yet to register a shot, Puskar almost got in alone on a breakaway, and the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the night.

Unfortunately Alaska scored twice short handed on the same penalty to put them up 2-1 on three shots. However, the Grizzlies did not let that rattle them, as they came back with a vengeance, going right back to the strong play that had served them well before the first man advantage.

Alaska got called for hooking against Phil Pietroniro, and the Grizzlies’power play got a second chance, just under fifteen minutes into the period.

Cuddemi missed the wide open net, but Alaska put the puck over the boards on the ensuing clearing attempt, sending the Grizzlies to a 5-on-3 for 1:21. The Grizzlies set up strongly, but were unable to muster a shot on the two man advantage.

Tim Daly threw a big shot on net on the  following 5-on-4, and this time, Cuddemi made no mistake, tying it up at 17:23. Daly drew the first of what would eventually be three primary assists, and Cam Reid got the secondary.

The Grizzlies continued to press through to the end of the period, camping out in the Aces’ zone, and trying to capitalize off Daly’s shots from the point. After 20, the Grizzlies outshot Alaska to the tune of 14-5, and had vastly outplayed them.

Less than a minute into the second, Pelech took a holding call, but Utah killed it off, even getting a short-handed attempt from Cuddemi. Alaska held on to the advantage for a few shifts following the power play, but Utah came back, and Bradford got a pair of chances on Carr.

At 4:16 Martin Nemcik laid a big hit, but was sent to the box for tripping. On the ensuing penalty kill, the speedy duo of Cuddemi and Bradford got in again on one end, and Faragher made some strong saves on the other to kill it off.

Alaska looked a little stronger through the rest of the period, but Utah kept skating and working, and Alaska continued to struggle to get shots through swarms of Grizzlies, who also made it difficult for them to maintain the zone.

With roughly five minutes left in the period, Jon Puskar and Taylor Richart both laid glass-rattling hits, Faragher made a great save, and Alaska took a hooking penalty. Utah pressed the man advantage hard, but the Aces escaped.

Shortly thereafter, Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Ben Lake and got the take-down. Both players were sent to the locker room, and a few minutes later, Colin Martin beat Kevin Carr to take the 3-2 lead, with the assists going to Richart and Aubin.

Just moments thereafter, the Grizzlies drew another power play, finishing the period on the man advantage, outshooting Alaska 28-13, and holding a well deserved 3-2 lead.

Like most very short early power plays, the Grizzlies 25 second man advantage didn’t accomplish anything, but through the following two minutes, the Grizzlies carried play, and by the three minute mark, their shot lead increased to 30-15.

C.J. Eick made it a 4-2 game at 3:06 with assists from Navin and Pietroniro.

Alaska took a boarding penalty with 10:11 left in the third as Daniel Moynihan stapled Richart to the boards by the penalty box. Richart was very slow to get up, but remained on the bench, and later returned to the game.

At 9:49, Daniel Moynihan took a boarding penalty against Richart, and on the ensuing power play, Pietroniro’s perfect point shot put the Grizzlies up 5-2, capping off the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Martin and Hunt both took roughing penalties after the Aces mugged Faragher in a net front scrum, and Martin came to his goalie’s defence.

A few minutes later, Pietroniro and Trenz both were sent off with matching slashing calls, but Bradford got in all alone and drew a hooking penalty, and Utah went to a lengthy 4-on-3. A perfect bit of passing eventually put the puck on the stick of Cam Reid, putting the Grizzlies up a convincing 6-2 with just over five minutes left to play.

Eick took a tripping penalty, but the Grizzlies penalty kill kept Alaska scrambling for pucks, and running all the way back to their own zone throughout.

The lethal penalty killing duo of Bradford and Cuddemi kept Alaska on their toes, keeping it a 6-2 game, but with 1:11 left in the game, Alaska made it 6-3. But that was as close as they’d get. The Aces got one last chance on the penalty kill as the clock ticked down, but failed to threaten, and Utah took the win.

If the Grizzlies ever deserved a big win, this was it. Six different players scored, as Pelech, Cuddemi, Martin, Eick, Pietroniro, and Reid all filled the net, and five different players had multiple point games, Reid getting a goal and two assists, Daly getting three assists, Aubin picking up two, and Cuddemi and Pietroniro both picking up a goal and an assist.

Cuddemi’s 18th goal of the season ties him for first in goals among rookies, and Daly’s three points tie him for third in points amongst defensemen.

“We were definitely on it” Pietroniro said of the team’s performance. “We stuck to the game plan from the start, and we never gave up. It shows on the scoreboard, it shows as a win, so it’s a huge confidence boost for us here.”

“We’re very confident” he later added, “We’ve got enough time to move up, and I think teams know we’re on the move. I really think we’re going to get there.”

Of his Gordie Howe hat trick he said: “It’s awesome, it doesn’t happen too often, but I’ll definitely take advantage of it.”

Branham’s thoughts were similar. “I thought we played a really good game” he said, “We talked after the game yesterday, and before the game here how we want to play, the way we need to play in order to have success and climb back in the playoff standings.” He went on to say “It was one of the most complete sixty minutes that we’ve played except for one power play. You gotta tip your hat to the boys, they played a really good game, and they executed our game plan.”

The Grizzlies are still in for an uphill battle in the playoff hunt, but if any team can come roaring up from behind, it’s this one – especially if they keep playing the way they did on Saturday.

Utah will face the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday before squaring off against Danick Paquette and the Tulsa Oilers for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

Utah Grizzlies: Triumphant Return

After a crazy come-from-behind OT loss last night, the Grizzlies got some reinforcements in the form of Ryan Faragher back from San Diego. There was also a little bit of rejigging to the lineup, as Travis Howe took Kenton Helgesen’s spot at forward, and Helgesen took over Evan Stoflet’s spot on defense.

The Grizzlies gave up a few chances right off the opening faceoff, and proceeded to give up eight shots in the first eight minutes.

However, the they began pushing back after that, and Brad Navin stole the puck from the Rush, and Cam Reid scored to put the Grizzlies up 1-0 with 8:10 left to play in the first.

Rapid City pressured the other way, but the Grizzlies had got their feet under them better by that point, and managed to hold them off.

Michael Pelech took a hooking call at 15:17, and Ryan Misiak scored on the power play just seven seconds later to tie up the game.

With 2:16 left in the period, the Grizzlies drew a power play of their own, but their power play struggles continued. In a desperate attempt to negate a two-on-none Richart took a penalty to send the teams to a brief 4-on-4. The 4-on-4 went much better for the Grizzlies than the power play had, and they got a few more good shots off before the period ended. After 20, the score was still tied 1-1, and the shots were a far more even 12-11 for the Rush.

The Grizzlies’ penalty kill got off to a strong start, getting the first couple of chances of the period, including one of those exciting two-on-one rushes by Erik Bradford and Ralph Cuddemi. Utah established possession returning to full strength, and Mathieu Aubin put the Grizziles up 2-1 on a beautiful shot for his 13th of the year.

Pietroniro and Banwell had a pair of chances from the points with just under ten minutes left to play in the second, and the Rush had a few chances of their own going the other way, but both goalies made the necessary saves. The end of 40 saw Utah up 2-1, though Rapid City held the edge in shots 20-16.

The third period began really well for the Grizzlies, as Cuddemi scored 35 seconds into the period. Unfortunately, the momentum stuttered as Nemcik was sent to the box just seconds later.

Utah looked much better as the third period progressed, getting chances, and drawing a delayed penalty. Cuddemi scored his second of the period on the ensuing power play to give the Grizzlies their biggest lead of the weekend. The goal tied him up with Tyson Spink for first in the rookie goal-scoring race, and Reid’s assist gave him his third point of the night.

At 9:44, Jon Puskar scored his 11th goal of the year, Navin picked up his second assist of the night, and the Grizzlies went up 5-1.

Faragher continued to be magnificent in nets, making a number of great saves, including on a Bradford penalty. Through the second half of the period, the Grizzlies kept skating and getting chances.

Rapid City pressed in the dying minutes of the period, but the Grizzlies closed ranks, and Faragher stood tall.

The Grizzlies are now 5-1-1 against Rapid City this year, and Cuddemi has multiple goals in four out of the last five games.

Utah returns to the Mav for a six game homestand to close out January. They will host Idaho on Monday where the puck drops at 1:30 PM.

Utah Grizzlies: New Year’s Goals

The Grizzlies returned to the Mav on Friday night for their first game of 2017. Kenton Helgeson returned to the lineup after a lengthy stint in San Diego, and defenseman Martin Nemcik made his home debut. Phil Pietroniro again lined up as a forward drawing in beside Helgesen and Jon Puskar, and in the absence of both Ryans, Justin Masterman backed up Troy Redmann.

The Grizzlies picked up four shots to Rapid City’s one in the first five minutes, though the flow of the play was of a fairly back-and-forth nature.

Unfortunately, it would be Rapid City who struck first as they out-skated the Grizzlies’ defence and Michael Young made the perfect cross-crease pass to Nicholas Miglio, beating Redmann clean at 8:32.

Michael Pelech had his second big chance of the period immediately afterwards, but the Grizzlies were unable to put the puck past Adam Morrison. However, the offensive zone pressure drew an interference call, and Utah got the first power play of the game.

Utah drew two consecutive penalties shortly thereafter, first Sam Windle for holding, and then Evan Stoflet for putting the puck over the glass a minute later with just over five minutes left in the period.

The Grizzlies penalty killers came up huge, especially Pelech, who made several fantastic plays to keep the puck away from the net, before making the final clear, and of course Redmann, who was a very strong presence in Utah’s net all night.

At the end of 20, the Grizzlies outshot Rapid City 10-7, but the Rush led 1-0.

Just moments into the second, Puskar took a stick to the face, and Utah got a chance on the man advantage. The Grizzlies set up well in the offensive zone, and made some nice passes, but also gave up a chance against that Redmann was just able to smother.

The play through the early minutes of the second was fairly even, with Bradford and Pietroniro getting exciting up ice rushes, among others, resulting in Utah taking the edge in shots 15-12.

Utah had a beautiful shift in the offensive zone at about the thirteen minute mark, as Aubin, Pelech, and Bradford skated circles around the Rush, and Nemcik and Banwell held the line. It paid off as Bradford put the puck past Morrison to tie the game up.

About a minute later, Anthony Collins put Nemcik into the boards by the Rush bench, Nemcik objected, and the two dropped the gloves. It was more of  a wrestling match than a fight, though Nemcik got the takedown. Both got five, and Travis Howe was also sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct.

However, it would be the Grizzlies who scored short handed as Bradford sprang Ralph Cuddemi on a beautiful 2-on-1 with Mike Banwell. Cuddemi beat Morrison handily, and the Grizzlies killed off the rest of the penalty with relative ease.

Utah got a chance at a power play of their own as Michael Young got sent off for roughing with 2:15 left to play in the period. They got several good opportunities, taking a number of shots, but were unable to capitalise, and the period and the man advantage ended together. 40 minutes saw the Grizzlies up 2-1, outshooting Rapid City 21-18.

In the third period the Grizzlies, and especially C.J. Eick, came out flying. Puskar laid a huge hit, and on the same shift, Helgesen fired a shot on Morrison.

However, it wasn’t until nearly the halfway mark that things got really exciting.

With 12:51 left to go, Bradford got behind Morrison in some chaos around the net, and tapped the puck in for his second of the game.

Four minutes later, Utah caused mayhem in the offensive zone, yet again, and Morrison stumbled getting back to his net. Cuddemi spun in the slot and scored his second of the night, giving the Grizzlies a 4-1 lead.

The Grizzlies continued to largely carry play in the third, with brief stretches in their own end. In one such moment, Bradford showed that there’s more to his game than goal scoring, going down to block a shot before sending the play the other way. Troy Redmann also made a few key saves as the time ticked down.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Grizzlies remained up 4-1, and had outshot the Rush 28-24 despite having led through most of two periods, to start the new year in style.

As they have for several seasons now, the Grizzlies seem to really be coming together as a team around the holidays — hopefully just in time to dig in and make a push for the playoffs.

“These are big games, coming up,” said Bradford after the game, “The next four after this one tonight that we know we need to sort of win to climb back in the standings here and give us a chance down the stretch, so we’re definitely not taking it for granted, I think we’re starting to play good hockey here, minus the Allen game, a little run and gun there.  But the team has done well, and we’re all reaping the benefits of that.”

He later added that the Grizzlies are starting to find their identity as a team: “We’ve made a couple moves, and sort of have our identity now that we’re starting to come together, and we’re coming together at the right time. You don’t want to leave it till the last minute, we need these wins here, so I can’t say enough about the guys in there, they’re really pulling for each other, they’re playing great hockey, and hopefully we keep it going.”

On his two goal performance, Bradford said, “It’s sort of like an old cliche, go to the net and good things happen, you know, I found I hadn’t scored in a couple games here, and I hadn’t gone to the dirty areas, so tonight I tried to make it my goal to attack the net there, and of course two pucks pop out to me in front and made it easy, but good things happen when you go to the net, and I was thankful that happened to me tonight.”

Go to the net, and good things happen indeed. Both of Bradford’s goals, and Cuddemi’s second were results of chaos around the Rush net caused by a strong Utah presence.

Once again, the Bradford-Pelech-Aubin line came up big for the Grizzlies, having cemented themselves as a bonafide first line powerhouse, and collecting six points between them in the contest. “They’re best friends off the ice,” Bradford said of his line mates, “And they get each other on the ice, they’re really good together, they’re really smart players, they’ve been around in pro-hockey for a while now, so I’m just trying to learn off them as much as I can, try and be a sponge, they’ve got a lot of insight and a lot of skill plays that I can learn from them. So I’m trying to learn off them, read off them, and thankfully, they’ve been able to help me out here.”

Aubin, Pelech and Bradford are now tied for a team-leading 25 points on the season (though in the case of Pelech and Bradford, not all those points came with the Grizzlies).

If the evidence is anything to go by, the Grizzlies do indeed seem to be coming together right now, their top line is on fire, players like Cuddemi, Redmann, and Daly are going strong, and the team is playing some great hockey — and right now they’re doing it down some key players. Cam Reid, Colin Martin, and Erik Higby are all out with injuries, and Ryan Faragher remains with the San Diego Gulls.

The Grizzlies continue the marathon against the Rush with their second home game tonight at 7 PM before they head out to Rapid City for three games next week.