Utah Grizzlies: All Good Things…

With Sean Maguire out on injured reserve, and Charley Graaskamp back from injury for the first time in months, there were some lineup changes ahead of Saturday’s game. Out were Travis Howe and Mitch Maxwell, and in were Graaskamp and Mitch Jones.

Joel Rumpel once again got the start, behind the BAM Line, James Melindy, and Taylor Richart.

Allen jumped up to an early lead as Gage Ausmus tied up Vincent Arseneau, but then lost him again just 36 seconds in. Ausmus took the first penalty of the game as well, getting sent off for hooking at 3:15.

The Utah PK wasn’t able to get a clear, but Sam Windle blocked a couple of big shots, and Rumpel made several quick saves before Arseneau beat him on a nice bit of passing.

Kyle Thomas was noticeable early, throwing his weight around, which another large crowd was quick to appreciate.

Ryan Misiak, Brendan Harms, and Sam Babintsev got in three on one, but the Allen defender got his stick down on the pass just past the half-way mark.

At 13:08 Melindy got boarded, and Arseneau tried to take Richart with him to the box, to no avail. Utah got a two minute five-on-three, but it was negated about forty seconds later, as Austin Ortega was sent to the box for slashing.

Utah had a mad scramble around the Allen net right as the penalties expired, but largely had to spend the four-on-three chasing the puck.

Allen scored again at 16:43, putting Utah down 3-0 before the end of the first. When the period ended, Utah was out-shot 13-8, still down by three.

The second period started with absolute chaos. Jake Marchment and Josh Thrower dropped the gloves right off the face-off, then Dalton Thrower took an interference call, then Graaskamp took an interference call, not even 1:30 into the second, and the two teams got ready for some four-on-four.

Michael Pelech broke the shut-out at 1:42, picking up the puck turned over after a big hit on Richart, and beating Paterson. Mike Gunn took an elbowing call at 2:24, but Utah wasn’t able to muster up a shot, just after it looked like the Grizzlies had gotten going, Gunn scored right after leaving the box.

Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored 6:05 in, putting Utah down 5-1. However, after that, though the line blender was in full swing, the pace settled down considerably. Harms took a hooking call at 19:17, and at the end of the period, Utah trailed 5-1, out-shot 26-13.

The third began well; Utah killed off Harms’ penalty, Windle laid a terrific hit near center ice, and Thomas drew a power play at 6:19. But it didn’t go entirely to plan, Alex Guptil scoring short handed 8:00 in.

A minute and thirty seconds later, Thomas pounced on a breakaway, and made it 6-2 unassisted. For reasons unknown, Allen elected to pull Jake Paterson in favor of Stephon Williams after Thomas’ goal. Utah drew another power play at 11:08, and though they didn’t capitalize, the reunited BAM Line was back to their strong play, showing the Maverik Center just what kind of hockey they’d been playing over the winning streak. The momentum continued even after the Americans returned to full strength, and Babintsev cut the lead neatly in half at 14:02, Ryan Walters and Harms picking up the assists.

With improved possession, zone time, passing, and defense, Utah continued to press, and at 18:04 Brad Navin extended his point streak, scoring his 13th of the season from Windle and Ortega, who also extended his point streak. Down 6-4, Utah pulled Rumpel, and called their time out. Unfortunately, the combined efforts of Walters, Ortega, Richart, Navin, Pelech and Thomas were unable to put the team within one, and in the end, Allen put one more into the empty net.

It was a disappointing end to the frankly impressive winning streak, but the end of the third period was one to build on. Thomas, who had a bit of a rocky comeback up until that point, was named third star of the game. Navin extended his point streak to eleven straight games, and has picked up 24 points in the last 22 games, while Ortega extended his to 13, with 45 points in 29 games. Although Richart’s scoring streak came to an end, he now leads all defensemen with 16 goals. Walters put up eight goals and five assists during the streak, while Misiak had five goals, six assists, and Pelech put up 12 points in 11 games.

“First off, I want to say that I’m really proud of this team for going on the run that they just went on. It was really good, we saw what kind of hockey we can play. When you’re the hottest team in the league, teams are going to gun at you. I think we’ve been playing some really good hockey, and this is just a small little hurdle, we’ll get back at it and get on another run here.”

So now, Utah heads to the snow buried East for a series against the Manchester Monarchs and Worcester Railers, where even without Ortega (recalled to the Gulls) they hope to start a new streak that will lead them to the playoffs.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Closely Contested

With the playoff race so close, Allen the team directly ahead of Utah in the standings, and the Tulsa Oilers within one and two points respectively, the two teams squared off on Friday night with a lot on the line.

Allen came out with considerably more jump in their step, but the Grizzlies kept them away from Joel Rumpel, and eventually got the first shot of the night from Ryan Misiak. They took the first penalty of the game as well about four minutes in as James Melindy tangled with J.C. Campagna, but the power play was rapidly negated as Zach Pochiro took a hooking call seven seconds later. Taylor Richart made a diving play to prevent a breakaway, and both teams returned to full strength with no change in score.

At 7:13, Austin Ortega extended his point streak to 12 games, scoring the opening goal from Michael Pelech and Mitch Maxwell at the top of the blue paint.

Misiak got taken down without a call near the 8:30 mark, rightly or wrongly, and the crowd objected. Allen pressured briefly thereafter, but the BAM Line countered with a strong shift of their own.

Ryans Walters and Misiak motored in on a two-on-one with about nine to go, followed almost immediately by a two-on-one with Walters and Brendan Harms, but Walters missed high, and Harms missed wide as the Grizzlies got their feet under them and started to look more cohesive.

However, the Americans kept working, and both teams exchanged chances, Misiak, Richart, and the BAM Line all getting good looks.

Utah turned the puck over at around the 18:10 mark, and Vincent Arseneau scored off of a really nice bit of passing. The tie did not last long at all, though, as Richart scored his 16th of the season on a nice shot from the left wing that beat Jake Paterson top corner. Ortega’s assist gave him yet another multi-point game, and Brad Navin’s secondary assist meant that both he and Richart extended their point streaks to ten.

The Grizzlies took their 2-1 lead to the locker room, out-shooting the Americans 13-8.

The second did not begin well, as Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored just 37 seconds into the frame.

Brendan and the Ryans had a good shift in response, but with the exception of Walters getting thrown in front of the net, nothing came of it.

Allen scored again at 3:18 as Pochiro beat Rumpel on a really nice shot.

The Utah cycle game returned about seven minutes in, as Brendan and the Ryans camped out in the offensive zone, Harms wired a shot towards the net, and Misiak put it past Paterson.

Utah drew a power play at 9:03, but negated it 15 seconds later on a gentle hook from Navin.

Richart had a couple of absolute cannons from the point during the four-on-four, including one that rang the crossbar, and Jake Marchment came really close to giving Utah the lead as the Grizzlies returned to full strength.

The BAM Line backed by Gage Ausmus and Melindy had a really strong shift, Navin got a chance, and then Pelech and Ortega played ping-pong with the puck from behind the net, and on the doorstep. Pelech capitalized at 12:54 from Ortega and Ausmus to give Utah back the lead.

Utah continued to buzz following the goal, but Sam Babintsev got caught retaliating, and was sent off for slashing at 14:21. Despite playing one of the only uninterrupted power plays of the game, Allen wasn’t able to capitalize. Ortega was hit hard, but popped up, and Walters and Misiak nearly had a goal later on the same shift. In the dying seconds, Ortega was taken down again, and once again with no call.

At the end of the second, Utah once again led, 4-3 this time, out-shooting the Americans 26-16.

Ausmus bobbled the puck at the offensive zone blue line, and Arseneau pounced, beating out both flying defensemen to score the tying goal at 6:04.

Melindy took a holding call at 11:26. The Grizzlies killed it off, but immediately returned to the box as Windle took down an Allen player in front of the net. With one minute to go on the penalty kill, Misiak elected to carry the puck out rather than chip it, and drew a tripping call flying into the Allen zone.

During the four-on-four, the Americans put the puck over the glass, but what should have been a delay of game penalty was ruled tipped out.

The end of regulation solved nothing, and neither did OT. The shoot out did not go well for Utah, as Navin was the only player to score for Utah, while all three of Allen’s skaters capitalized.

Ortega and Pelech earned the second and third stars of the game, while Richart and Misiak both had strong games

“I thought we were really good with the puck.” Branham said after the game. “Obviously, any time you score four goals, you should win a hockey game, and any time you keep them to 22 shots you should win a hockey game.

We did not have one full power play today, which I thought was unacceptable, especially in that kind of game. We faced a lot of adversity, found a way to get a point, but it’s a crucial point that we didn’t get.”

In what was essentially a decent game, with a couple of egregious errors off lackadaisical play, Branham said: “I don’t think we need to really work on anything, we just need to make sure everybody comes ready. I felt we had a few guys straggling, those are the guys that made the mistakes. We gotta make sure that if a team is gonna beat us, they’re gonna beat us. We don’t need to be beating ourselves.”

With Richart, Ortega and Navin all extending their point streaks, Branham had nothing but good things to say about them. “All three of those guys, in particular, Ortega and Richart, have been phenomenal. Every single time they’re on the ice, they’re dangerous. Pelech’s line is pretty dangerous, and pretty special, they’ve got some good chemistry going. Richart has really had a break out year. We rely on him a lot, both offensively and defensively, and you can’t say enough about the job that he’s done for the team, that’s for sure. Navin has really come on strong … and he really complements Pelech and Ortega pretty well.”



Image courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: No Signs of Stopping

Why mess with a winning/point-acquiring lineup? The Grizzlies iced the same group of guys for game one of two in Indianapolis on Saturday, Joel Rumpel getting the start behind the BAM line (Brad Navin, Austin Ortega, and Michael Pelech), Taylor Richart, and James Melindy.

The beginning of the game went far better than Friday’s (though that’s not saying much), despite the first line getting stuck out on the ice for quite a long opening shift.

Both teams got their looks in the first five, including a nice look from Navin at around the five minute mark. However, the Grizzlies got a too many men on the ice call at 5:42, and the best power play in the ECHL went to work. They were unable to capitalize, Utah doing an excellent job running them around the neutral and offensive zones, allowing zero shots.

Utah got a power play of their own at 10:42 when Darian Dziurzynski boarded Richart. He was fine, and the potent, all forward unit of Ortega, Ryan Walters, Ryan Misiak, Brendan Harms, and Jake Marchment made Indy pay, Marchment opening the scoring from Ortega and Walters. The goal was Marchment’s fourth first period, game opening power play goal in eight games, and Ortega’s assist ensured that his now ten consecutive games point streak continued.

Utah continued to press, causing chaos around the Fuel net, and at 15:34 they scored right off the face-off on a blast from Richart. The goal extended Richart’s point streak to eight.

Unfortunately, Indy cut the lead in half at 16:36, as a mix up off a face-off of their own  end left no one but Rumpel between Matt Rupert and the goal. The Grizzlies went right back to work, however, and at the end of the first, shots were 22-15 for Utah, who led 2-1.

The Grizzlies lost no time at all picking up a two goal lead to start the second, as the BAM line charged in off the face-off, eventually leading to Pelech’s fourth goal (and seventh point since his return, Ortega’s seventh straight multi-point game, and Navin’s eighth straight game with a point.

The two goal lead did not last long, once again though, as Matheson Iacopelli made it 3-2 at 1:25. The Fuel got a great deal of the momentum back at that point, but by the five minute mark, Utah had settled down again.

By the half-way mark of the period, the game had gotten pretty loose, as the Grizzlies’ structure caved slightly to the more free-flowing structure of the Fuel’s game. Utah’s first two lines re-established some puck possession, though it was short lived.

At 13:22 Ortega drew a tripping call, and what had been a pretty quiet middle frame (after the opening two minutes) got a little more exciting. The Fuel killed off the power play, and then the Grizzlies found themselves on a kill of their own with 4:30 to go.

Utah’s penalty kill once again got the job done, even getting a couple of looks of their own, including a two-on-one from Marchment and Navin. By and large, the back half of the second period was much better structurally from the Grizzlies, and at the end of forty, Utah still led 3-2, out-shooting the Fuel 34-26.

The Grizzlies didn’t score right out of the gate to start the third, but it wasn’t far off. Walters made it 4-2 at 2:36.

Through the middle of the period, both teams got puck possession time, but the Grizzlies got the best of it, putting up six shots to Indy’s two, and Pelech made it 5-2 at 11:53, setting a new record for consecutive games with five or more goals.

The Grizzlies got hit with another too many men call at 16:26, but the penalty kill remained perfect, allowing no shots, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had a convincing 5-2 win under their belts.

The three stars of the game were a clean sweep for the Grizzlies, Pelech (two goals, five shots), Walters (one goal, one assist, seven shots), and Richart (also one goal, one assist). Navin (two assists, five shots), Ortega (three assists), and Marchment (one goal, one assist) also had multi-point nights, while Rumpel stopped 29-31 for his sixth win in eight games with Utah.

So the point streak continues, both for players and the team as a whole–a trend the Grizzlies hope to continue this afternoon before they head home.



Picture courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: A Flurry of Goals

On yet another snowy evening, the Grizzlies faced off against Jon Puskar, Ralph Cuddemi, and the Wichita Thunder, and absolutely buried them on the first half of the Grizzlies Fight Cancer weekend.

Wichita’s Johnny Daniels came flying in, and in fighting him off, Rob Mann took a tripping call 50 seconds in. Utah was very aggressive on the penalty kill, and Wichita only took two shots. A nice defensive play from Sam Windle kept the shots at 2-1 with about four minutes gone.

The Thunder took a too-many-men minor at 4:06, and the puck found it’s way onto Navin’s stick, but the power play was ineffectual. However, barely had the penalty expired, than Utah went back to the advantage as Daniels stepped out of the box, and was a little too enthusiastic in his play against Taylor Richart.

Utah wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play, but barely a second after they returned to full strength, Michael Pelech scored with assists from Richart and Mitch Maxwell, who got his first point with Utah.

The Grizzlies went right back to the power play again at 8:36 as Cuddemi went to the box for slashing. Utah wasn’t able to capitalize, Gage Ausmus took an interference call on Puskar, Sam Windle took a tripping call, and before Shane Starrett could get off the ice for the extra attacker, Cuddemi made it 1-1 at 11:51. Utah killed off Windle’s penalty, but the parade to the penalty box was by no means over.

A couple of minutes later, Travis Howe, and Samuel Thibault dropped the gloves, and Howe pummeled Thibault pretty thoroughly before the refs intervened. Howe got an extra two for removing his helmet, but in the end it didn’t matter, as Ryan Misiak took a perfect pass from Ryan Walters behind the net, and fired it home to restore Utah’s lead. Ausmus picked up his first point on the secondary assist.

Walters almost got a shorty of his own on the next shift, flying in, and getting a back-hander off on Starrett. Rumpel and Brendan Harms were big in killing off the rest of the power play, and they drew another power play in the offensive zone.

The Grizzlies initially had a little bit of trouble with the puck, but in the end it didn’t matter, as Brendan Harms beat Starrett top shelf from in the top of the blue paint to give Utah the 3-1 lead. It was fortunate that he did, as less than a minute later a shot from Puskar went off Rumpel’s glove and in.

It was a pretty sloppy period, but it had some of everything: a fight, a power play goal, a short handed goal, an even strength goal, good goals, bad goals, and lots, and lots of special teams. But Utah led 3-2 going into the first intermission, shots 8-6 for Wichita, and that’s as close as the game ever got.

The Thunder put on some pressure through the early moments of the second, but the Grizzlies re-established their game, and got some pressure of their own back around the four minute mark.

The Captain struck at 5:55, banking the puck off the post and in, on a really nice shot, making it yet another game where they put four past the generally very stingy Starrett. Sam Babintsev got his first point with the Grizzlies with an assist.

Utah went back to the power play at 6:39, but the Thunder killed it off, allowing no shots, and Howe went back to the box on a high-stick at 9:32. Harms didn’t miss by much on a chance for his second of the game with less than 30 seconds left on the Howe minor, and Utah returned to full strength.

The Grizzlies really got buzzing with over six to go, getting a couple of strong shifts swarming around Starrett, and the puck continued to follow Misiak around. Given the game Misiak was having, it perhaps came as no surprise when he pounced on a turnover, and scored his second of the game unassisted. Clearly, Misiak  likes playing the Thunder, as all four of his last goals have come against them.

It was Starrett’s last shot of the game, and Nick Riopel took over the net in relief.

Mann took a cross-checking call at 16:58, the Grizzlies blocked all kinds of shots, Pelech beat out Travis Brown on the short-handed breakaway, and then beat Riopel cleanly for the 6-2 goal. Again, the short-handed goal was fortunate, as Cuddemi scored his second of the game about twenty seconds later on another that Rumpel probably wanted back.

After 40, the Grizzlies led 6-3, and had barely edged out the Thunder 14-13 on the shot clock.

Despite leading by three goals, Utah didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the final frame.

Ortega went off for high-sticking eight seconds into the period, but despite getting four shots, Rumpel and the defensive effort shut them down.

Misiak made a bid for the hat trick about three and a half minutes in, but Walters’ pass rolled off his stick.

Harms got stapled to the boards hard with about six minutes gone with no call, and when Howe went out on the next shift, it looked like it might have been for another fight. Instead, however, on a night of first points, Howe scored his first of the year from Babintsev and Jake Marchment. Fortunately for the injury-bitten Grizzlies, Harms was out again, seemingly none the worse for wear pretty soon thereafter.

Misiak made yet another bid for the hat trick half way through the third, but Riopel turned that aside as well. James Melindy was taken down around the seven minute mark, and there was again no penalty. He took matters into his own hands against Nick Latta and got two for cross-checking, two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and was tossed from the game. The 5,751 fans in attendance were vehement in their disapproval, but the penalty kill was more than up to the task. Rumpel, Richart, and Walters were especially noticeable, but the entire squad stepped up.

Utah continued to play hard in the last couple of minutes after the penalty kill and with 1:46 to go, they had once last go at the power play. Navin and Pelech both got shots in the last minute, Howe made a couple of moves, and at the final buzzer, they were the 7-3 victors.

It wasn’t, perhaps, Rumpel’s best game, but he made some big saves when Utah needed them, and considering how much Monday’s victory was due to his performance, it was excellent that the team was able to respond with an outpouring of goals to return the favor. Misiak’s assist and two goals earned him first star honors, while Pelech (two goals) and Walters (one goal and one assist) picked up the second and third stars. Richart and Babintsev also had multiple points, both getting two assists, while all but four players picked up points.

“The changes we made, honestly, made a world of difference.” Tim Branham said after the game. “Getting a goalie like Rumpel, he’s played some great games for us. I’m sure he wanted a couple back out there tonight, but it was our turn to get him a win from the win that he got us against Idaho. The Colorado boys that we got, Ausmus and Marchment, those guys are just spectacular. We’re really rolling all cylinders right now, we’re a real confidant group, but we’re playing the right way. We’re seeing a lot of the little things that we’ve been preaching all year. We’re doing, whether a lot of shot blocking, winning your battles, chipping pucks up the wall, third guy high, or something, we’re doing a lot of things that successful teams do.”

Of the game’s first star, he added: “Ryan was great. When he’s moving his feet and being opportunistic, good things happen. He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. He loves here, and tonight he was definitely spectacular.”

The guys picking up their first points came in for a share of praise, and so did the rest of the team. “Those guys are a big part of our team. Babs [Babintsev] came in, has done real well, Maxwell, coming in from Canadian university, he’s really poised with the puck. He’s an older guy coming out of collage, so you can tell he’s real poised out there, real confident guy. Obviously Howie, we know what he’s all about. Everybody from top to bottom was really playing with a lot of confidence. They’re playing a team game. The most important thing is that we understand that yes, we’ve accomplished a little bit, but we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve just got to keep going, we’ve got quite a few games left in the season, and we just have to make sure that we’re playing well.”

“I think we’re just desperate.” Misiak said when asked about why everything has been coming together for the team. “We know the situation we’re in, we’re climbing in the standings, but we haven’t done anything yet, so we just have to continue to move forward.”

They will look to do that tonight (Saturday) and close out the series against the Thunder on another high note on the final Grizzlies Fight Cancer night.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and Staff



Utah Grizzlies: Weathering the Storm

In Utah’s return to the Maverik center, Chris Leibinger drew back into the lineup in place of Mitch Jones, while Nate Mitton (who was signed again to a standard player contract this morning) also returned. Joel Rumpel once again got the start, while Brendan and Ryans Misak and Walters took opening face-off backed by Taylor Richart and Sam Windle.

Shots were even through the first three minutes, 3-3, but despite that, Idaho kept the puck in the Utah zone for the majority of the of the time.

Rob Mann took a delay of game penalty at 4:16, and Idaho went to the power play. However, the Grizzlies’ defense, and Joel Rumpel gave the home crowd something to cheer for, stopping everything thrown at him.

Idaho continued to keep the Grizzlies in their own end, but that’s not to say that Utah didn’t play hard, earning cheers , and eventually returning play to the Idaho zone for a shift or two.

Cole Ully rang iron, and Walters put a blast over the net, and with nine minutes to go, the score was still 0-0, shots 9-8 for Idaho.

Utah gained momentum, and at 11:38, Brad Navin led a three-on-two rush up ice, and drop-passed to a late charging Leibinger. Leibinger passed to a wide open Austin Ortega, who wired it past Carmine Guerriero to give Utah the 1-0 lead.

Rumpel absolutely stood on his head towards the end of the period, somehow keeping the puck out of the net in an absolutely wild net-front scramble, and after the first period, Utah led 1-0, despite being out-shot 18-9.

The second period was far more even in terms of zone time, but Utah was not quite fast enough to jump on a rebound, and Max French made it 1-1 at 2:04

The tie did not last long though. Michael Pelech gave Utah back the lead at 3:42 from Navin and Ortega. Utah wasn’t done then either. Navin carried the puck into the zone, spun, passed to Richart, and he gave Utah the 3-1 lead.

Misiak was high-sticked at 6:43, and with the power play running down, Walters got the puck at the goal line, and slipped it past Guerriero. The goal spelled the end of his afternoon, and Philippe Desrosiers came on in relief.

Idaho cut the lead in half, however, less than two minutes later, Utah again coughed the puck up in front of Rumpel, and French scored exactly the same goal as he had earlier.

At 16:18 Connor Chatham slashed Rumpel, Walters took exception, and both went to the box, Walters for roughing, and Chatham for slashing.

With a minute to go, Misiak was hooked on a hard drive to the net, and Utah went to the power play. The Grizzlies kept possession of the puck, got a couple of good shots, and Utah went to the locker room up 4-2.

Utah began the third with 1:03 of power play time, but the advantage didn’t register a shot on it’s second half.

Pelech took a cross-checking penalty 1:30 into the third, but thanks to a good kill, and some big saves from Rumpel, it was killed off.

The Grizzlies had another bounce go their way with about five gone in the third, as the puck bounced around the crease, came to rest perilously close to the line, with Rumpel out of position. A Utah player swiped it just far enough out of harm’s way that he was able to get back into position in a massive crowd, and the danger was averted.

Idaho spent a lot of the third in the Grizzlies’ end, but Utah also made them work really hard along the wall and in the corners for the puck, and Rumpel remained a rock-solid last line of defense.

Will Merchant and Leibinger got tied up in the Grizzlies zone at 13:23, and both went to the box, Leibinger for playing without a helmet, and Merchant for holding the stick.

Both teams returned to full strength with no change in score, but with 2:34 to go, a bad bobble at the Idaho blue line led to a two-on-one, and the Steelheads drew within one.

However, despite Idaho pulling Desrosiers for the extra attacker and calling their time out, Utah hung on through the final minutes of the frame to extend their winning streak to three.

After stopping 46/49 shots, Rumpel was the well-deserved first star of the game, and showed all 6,092 fans in attendance just the calibre of goalie he is. Ortega’s goal and two assists got him second star of the game, while Navin’s three assists saw him earn third.

Quite a number of players picked up points in all three games over the weekend. Pelech had two goals and an assist, Navin had two goals and three assists, Misiak  four assists, Ortega two goals, four assists, Richart a goal and two assists, and James Melindy with assists in each of the three games. Not only has the team stepped it up offensively, but the defense has also improved vastly in that span, something Rumpel was quick to point out.

“[The puck] looked a little bigger today, that’s for sure,” he said after the game. “But the guys really helped out front, let me see it. I don’t think there were that many screens or rebounds that I had to make, so that was nice.”

“I remember playing against you guys quite a bit, I was always like, ‘this would be a pretty good spot to play’, so I’m excited that I got the opportunity.”

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Rumpel, who is looking forward to the opportunity the homestand will provide to allow him to get settled in: “Feels like I haven’t really had a chance to sit down at all, or get to get to see the city at all, so it’ll be nice to get to know each other here this week, get a few home games in, and get to know everybody a little better.”

When asked about the first star performance of his new goaltender, Tim Branham had nothing but praise. “He’s definitely the reason we won today. I mean, we scored enough goals, but he kept us in there. I thought Idaho brought everything they had. They were tenacious, they won the majority of the battles tonight. We found a way to score goals, we were good on the power play, good on the penalty kill, and our goalie won us the game. We’ve been waiting for that all year, so I’ll take that any time.”

It’s been three games now since Mitch Maxwell, Jake Marchment, Gage Ausmus, and Sam Babintsev joined the club, and they’re moves that have led to immediate results.

“When something bad happens on the bench, we’re confident enough to work through it.” Branham said. “The players that we brought in have done an amazing job of coming in and doing what they’re capable of. The guys that have been here are a little bit on edge. They know that the pressure is on and they need to perform. These last three games have been a world of difference. It’s everything that we’ve been striving for all season. Unfortunately it took a few changes to get there, but I’ll take it.”

But it’s not just the new guys who have stepped up and really gotten going. “Navin’s been great. I don’t know how many points he has in the last fifteen games, but it’s a lot (7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points). Same with Brendan Harms (5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points). Navin’s just playing with a lot of confidence, and good things are happening for him. For both those players, Harms and Navin, it was a struggle early on, but they kept with it, they battled hard, they stayed focused, and right now they’re being rewarded for it.

Ortega’s been good ever since he’s been here. He’s a player who’s pretty special. He has good hands and he competes, he wants to win, so those guys have really carried the load offensively for us.”

Utah looks to extend their winning streak to four against Rumpel’s former team when Jon Puskar and the Wichita Thunder roll into town on Friday night for the first game of Grizzlies Fight Cancer weekend.




Image courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.