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.

Utah Grizzlies: RicHart and Soul

With the NHL looking ahead to the trade deadline on the 26th, the Grizzlies made a bunch of moves of their own. Cliff Watson and Ryan Olsen went to Colorado, while forward Jake Marchment and defenceman Gage Ausmus. Mitch Maxwell was signed to a contract, as was Sam Babintsev, while C.J. Eick was sent to Kansas City for futures, and Nate Mitton was returned to his SPHL team. Michael Pelech and Zach Saar also made their returns to the lineup.

Pelech took an early penalty, going off at 3:35 for high-sticking. The Grizzlies’ penalty kill went to work, however, and killed off the disadvantage, and Joel Rumpel made a couple of good saves.

James Melindy and Bryan Moore got into a fight at 8:21, both getting five and ten for continuing the altercation, but Utah got a power play, as a tripping call had been assessed to Allen prior to their fight.

Utah wasn’t able to capitalize, but they picked up in momentum following the power play, and took the lead in shots 10-8 after a great shift from Marchment, Babintsev, Ausmus, Austin Ortega and Taylor Richart.

Some good defensive hustle from Rob Mann and Sam Windle drew a power play with 6:33 to go, to the disgruntlement of the Americans fans. Utah ran into some trouble in their own end, leading to a save by Rumpel, before they went the other way, and Marchment scored his first goal for the Grizzlies from Brendan Harms and Ryan Misiak.

Marchment took a penalty about a minute later, but Utah killed it off in an authoritative fashion, and after 20, the 1-0 lead held, shots 15-10 in their favor.

Allen was strong in the offensive zone through the first two minutes, but didn’t register an official shot on goal through that time, and Utah followed that up with some hard-working offensive zone shifts of their own.

The hard work paid off, as Utah continued to crash the net, and create opportunities. Saar scored at 3:57 from Mitch Jones and Mann.

Maxwell got a tripping call at 4:46, but Allen negated it very shortly afterwards, putting the teams on more than a minute of four-on-four. Unfortunately, the Americans scored at 6:32 though, cutting the lead in half.

Harms got a look on a two-on-one on the next shift, but was slashed, sending the Grizzlies to the power play. They weren’t able to capitalize, but did generate some really good traffic and movement in front of Jeremy Brodeur.

Towards the end of the period, Allen continued to bear down, playing really long stretches in Utah’s end. However, the Grizzlies did a really good job of keeping pucks away from Rumpel.

Ryan Walters took a hooking call at 19:08, but the Grizzlies won the draw, Pelech and Richart rushed in, Taylor shot, and Pelech put the puck in the net. The short-handed goal gave Utah back the lead.

There was some chaos in the final seconds of the period, as Brad Navin was crosschecked to the ice, and the two teams tangled. Ausmus, Alex Guptill, and Zach Pochiro all went to the box, the first two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Pochiro for boarding.

Maxwell let loose a big shot in the final second, and Utah went to the room leading 3-2, and despite Allen’s dominance in the second, out-shooting them 14-8 in the frame.

Richart started the third absolutely flying, getting his team leading seventh shot, coming out of nowhere to break up a four-on-one, and generally being the most noticeable player in the first three minutes.

Utah got a two-on-one with about five gone in the third, Ortega made a really nice pass, and Navin scored his eighth goal, picking up his tenth point in twelve games.

The Grizzlies were able to capitalize on another Allen breakdown at 7:35, making it 5-2 on a gorgeous tick-tack-toe goal by Walters from Harms and Misiak. Allen came back on the very next shift though, beating Rumpel to make it 5-3.

Richart was boarded with 7:49 to go, sending Casey Pierro-Zabotel to the box for two minutes. Richart was ok, if his later play was anything to judge by, but the Grizzlies weren’t able to get their three-goal lead back.

Allen was able to come within a goal after pulling Brodeur with 40 seconds to go, but that is as far as it got, Walters’ goal standing for the game winner.

All in all it was a really strong game, Utah looked good on both sides of the ice. Babintsev, Maxwell, Marchment, and Ausmus all fit right in, and added a great deal of stability to the roster. Likewise, the return of Pelech and Saar to the lineup gave them a strong, and much needed net-front presence. Only five players didn’t get on the board, while Misiak and Harms both had two assists, and Marchment got a goal and an assist. He was named third star of the game, while Walters got the first star. Navin and Harms continued their point streak, and Richart had his best game in a long time. He was prominent on the rush, prominent on defense, and led the team with seven shots.

After a series of disappointing losses, this was a much needed win against a strong opponent. Whether they can keep it going and establish some consistency remains to be seen.

 

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

 

 

Utah Grizzles: From Bad to Worse

From start to finish, it was a bizarre affair.

To begin with, Utah came out sluggishly on Friday night, but still managed to score a trio of goals against Rapid City, the first an excellent jam-in from Jon Puskar, the second from Ryan Olsen, and the third also from Puskar. It wasn’t so much that they played well, as that they were opportunistic, and Adam Vey struggled.

Former Grizz Peter Sivak also scored, but the luck seemed to be tipped entirely in the Grizzlies’ favor.

Then, just when it seemed that the second period was about to get underway, they discovered issues with the ice in front of the Grizzlies’ bench and also behind the net. After a lengthy delay in which they attempted to repair the ice, it was decided that the best course of action was to postpone the end of the game.

So the game was re-scheduled for Sunday, Utah leading 3-1, and outshooting the Rush 13-8.

The second pass at the second period saw Brendan Harms, Ryan Olsen and Rob Mann out for Austin Ortega, James Melindy and Zach Saar.

The team looked decent at the start, Ortega looking more comfortable and making a few nice moves, while Puskar made an early bid for the hat trick.

Unfortunately, Charley Graaskamp went hard into the boards shortly thereafter, had to be helped off the ice, and did not return (he was later placed on injured reserve). That’s more or less when the issues started.

The Grizzlies gave up a number of breakaways on defensive breakdowns, most of which Kevin Carr turned aside until just after the seven-minute mark. Utah gave up an unassisted goal to Tyler Deresky on a bad turn over.

Utah had a few decent shifts afterwards, sparked by a strong one from Puskar, together with Erik Higby and Travis Howe. Their work eventually led to a power play at the half-way mark of the period. However, Michael Pelech took a roughing call a minute or so later, and despite some strong shifts from Utah, and Ryan Misiak especially, the various penalties came to an end.

Despite a strong effort from Garrett Haar, and Mitch Jones, the next goal went to the Rush with five minutes left, followed less than a minute later by the go-ahead goal.

When the second period came to a merciful end, Utah had been utterly out-played their top line an abysmal -3, and a two-goal lead squandered.

The third period did not begin any more auspiciously, Jones taking a penalty less than two minutes in. That was killed off, but then first Saar and then Pelech went to the box, and Rapid City scored on both the five-on-three and five-on-four to give them the 6-3 lead. That was the end of Carr’s night.

His departure seemed to serve as a wake-up call the Grizzlies needed, and their play improved.

It seemed like it was destined to be derailed, however, after Melindy went down to a spear. At first it seemed that Melindy alone was going to go off for unsportsmanlike conduct, but in the end he got two and ten, while Pavel Jenys got five for spearing, and a game misconduct.

Pelech made it 6-4 at 16:10 on the power play, giving Ortega his first point in a Utah jersey, and Ortega followed that up with a power play goal of his own at 18:37 with the net empty, and the Grizzlies playing with the extra skater.

Unfortunately, that’s as close as they got, and Sivak capped off his hat trick into the empty net with ten seconds to spare.

“I think it’s a classic example of not coming ready to play.” Tim Branham said after the game, “Built a 3-1 lead there on Friday, maybe thought, once again, that it was going to be easy, and didn’t have that killer instinct. Too little too late at the end, and gave up too many scoring chances.”

Of the struggles the Grizzlies had in the second, he said, “Your best players have to be your best players. You can’t have that top line be -3, they’re the ones that dug us into that hole, whether it was their fault or not, they were on the ice for it. I think a lot of different guys were at fault for those goals in the second period, but we just, not enough time to get ourselves out of that one. Learn from it, get out on the road here, and have a good road trip.”

So what do they need to work on besides being more prepared? “Our power play needs to improve, we’ve been saying that all season, it’s tough to defend there that five on three. I thought our penalty kill was doing pretty good, the two power play goals that they got, one’s a five-on-three, one’s just a bad, broken play. Our five on five play, it was disappointing that we couldn’t take more advantage of Rapid City five-on-five. I think that was the story of the weekend, and we’ve got a little bit of a tough hill to climb.”

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming & staff

Utah Grizzlies: Holiday Cheer

Coming back from a brief Christmas break, the Grizzlies looked to erase the memory of a tough OT loss against Colorado on the 23rd. With Brendan Harms and Ryan Olsen back in the lineup, C.J. Eick, and Brad Navin went on reserve, while Howe served the second to last of his nine game suspension, and Kevin Carr got the start.

The whole evening did not begin well, what with the anthem singer momentarily forgetting the words, and the zamboni having to come out after the ceremonial puck drops to repair some ice behind the Grizzlies’ net.

Then, once the game started, a bad second shift allowed Jefferson Dahl to wheel around the net uncontested to make it 1-0 on a wrap-around :58 seconds into the game. Considering how bad the Grizzlies’ record is when the other team scores first, how the last home game against Idaho went (5-2 for the Steelheads), and how dominant Idaho looked early, there were definitely some causes for concern.

The weirdness didn’t stop there, as Idaho held possession through the first four minutes, and a hard shot got the head referee right in the head. Fortunately, he appeared to be none-the-worse for wear.

Utah had a few good shifts, but largely struggled to establish possession in the zone. There were signs of life though, from Leibinger, and the Ryan Line most noticably, but from the rest of the line-up as well.

However, off another long stretch in the defensive zone, Michael Pelech took an unforced delay of game penalty, putting the puck over the far glass at 9:14. The penalty kill got the job done, and the score remained unchanged.

Kyle Thomas and Corbin Baldwin got into a scuffle with just over five minutes to go, following a strong shift from the first line, but nothing came of it. That was about the time, however, that the Grizzlies came alive.

At 15:16 Ryan Olsen chipped the puck up to Ryan Misiak, Misiak fed Ryan Walters the perfect pass, and he converted to tie the game. Olsen got the secondary assist.

57 seconds later, Leibinger wired the puck from the point to give Utah the lead from Hanson and Thomas.

Idaho made a push to answer, and Harms took a penalty with 1:59 to go, as the third line continued to have a rough first period. Richart got tripped up with 1:13 to go, and the teams played four-on-four.

Thomas just missed Hanson on a two-on-one, and the Steelheads were likewise unable to tie it up in the final moments of a weird first period. Although Utah led 2-1, shots were 12-9 for the Steelheads.

 

The Grizzlies got off to a decent start in the next frame, following the 46 seconds of power play time. Leibinger almost got his second of the night on a beautiful move, and Carr flashed the leather on the other end. Unfortunately, Idaho tied it up right off the next face-off at 1:29.

The Grizzlies dodged a major bullet shortly thereafter as Carr made a huge save, and was out of position for the rebound. Fortunately, the Utah defensemen stopped the puck in the blue paint, and the Grizzlies got a chance of their own on the other end.

In the end, it was another rocket from a defenceman that gave Utah back the lead, as Sam Windle scored from center ice at 4:24 with assists from Leibinger and Erik Higby.

The third line had a great shift with around twelve minutes to go, but on the next shift, Misiak went down at the blue line. Already mysteriously down Zach Saar (later revealed  to be an apparent illness according to the broadcast), and with Misiak gone, Idaho scored on the shift after that. The good news was that despite being helped off the ice, Misiak was back in short order, and Baldwin’s illegal contact to the head penalty at 11:30 on Higby sent Utah to the power play.

The second half of the period (and indeed the game) was far more characteristic of the Grizzlies and Steelheads, playing a much more structured, and less sloppy game.

Olsen gave up a bad turnover at the offensive zone blue line, but got it back before the puck crossed the Grizzlies’ blue line, and set up Hanson on a breakaway. Unfortunately, Philippe Desrosiers shut the door with about 4:30 to go in the frame.

The second ended with the Ryan Line buzzing, and after 40, shots were 23-18 for Idaho, tied 3-3.

“Just win the third” said Sam Windle in the intermission interview, and boy did the Grizzlies ever. Though, not so much in the first three minutes.

Utah got into gear after that though, and with 11:53 to go, Leibinger sprang Puskar on a gorgeous breakaway. That was the game breaker, and less than two minutes later, Higby forced a turnover, and Pelech scored off the cross-bar and in.

Taylor Richart put the cap on the night with another big shot from the blue line, giving the Grizzlies the 6-3 lead at 13:45, and breaking a goalless streak dating back to November 18th.

 

Puskar went to the box at 14:25, and again with 1:18 left in the third, but other than a net-front scuffle around Carr after a whistle, and another breakaway chance for Thomas and Hanson, they were both fairly uneventful.

With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Richart and Charlie Dodero tangled at center ice, and Mitch Jones and Corey Durocher dropped the gloves. Both got five for fighting, Dodero got two for roughing, and Utah closed out the night with their fifth win in the last eight.

After a rough first period, the third line really got going in the second, and in the third, scored (or were involved in) two of the Grizzlies’ goals three goals in the frame. Moreover, Leibinger was terrific all over the ice, throwing hits, blocking shots, making plays, getting chances, and of course, scoring a goal, and two assists. He was named third star of the game.

“He skates really well, he reads the play really well” Tim Branham said of Leibinger. “He trusts himself, he can make plays, that’s why he was really effective today. I thought he played really well defensively, had a good stick on puck, had a good gap all night, obviously made plays offensively, which we need, get some production from our back-end there. I though he was excellent tonight. We gotta follow that up with another good one though.

The Grizzlies got goals from every line, three from forwards, and three from defensemen. So what do they have to do to keep the offense rolling?

“This game is all about confidence. And you could tell. Once the score got 6-3, we started making some plays that we never would really make normally, and you could just tell that they were making them with confidence. This game is funny. That’s what it’s all about, hopefully this gives us the confidence to get going.

Leibinger thought the Christmas break also did the team some good. “We had some time away from the rink, sometimes that’s good for a team,” he said, “Especially if you’re struggling a little bit. You feel rejuvenated when you come back, see all the guys again, even if it’s just a couple of days”

“Carrying it forward,” he added, “I think we put a lot of effort in tonight, played hard, so I think if we do that every night, we have the talent to make plays, so I think it’s just all work ethic.”

Hard work and confidence. Those sound like good things to build success on going into the new year.

Utah Grizzlies: The Phantom Menace

After winning 8-3 against the Rush on Friday night, the Grizzlies’ line-up remained unchanged, with the exception of Angus Redmond getting the start.

Utah got the first two shots of the game, but the Rush answered quickly, getting the next four, and throwing their weight around. The Grizzlies got some looks in the first five minutes, but by-and-large, Rapid City kept the play moving towards the Utah zone.

With 14:08 to go, the Ryan Line charged the net, Ryan Olsen got the shot, and they drew the first power play of the game. They drew another power play when Peter Sivak got a throwing-the-stick call. The Grizzlies got a couple of shots on the minute long five-on-three, re-establishing their shot lead, but they were unable to put the puck past former Utah goalie Shane Owen.

One thing the power play did, however, was allow the Grizzlies to take back momentum from a Rush team working hard after the 8-3 drubbing. Olsen got a shot off one-on-one against Owen on a tight angle with 9:52 to go, but Owen kept it scoreless.

Chris Leibinger made a couple of huge blocks in the defensive zone, that led to an odd-man rush between Kyle Thomas and Ryan Misiak. Misiak put the puck past Owen, and gave Utah the 1-0 lead from Thomas and Redmond. The goal energized the team, and they started to absolutely fly. Michael Pelech got a gorgeous shot of his own, and Tommy Maxwell got sent to the box with 6:31 to go in the frame.

On the power play, Olsen got slashed, and then stapled to the boards, but Utah kept control of the puck. Kyle Thomas got into it with a Rush player in front of the net, and got sent off to the box with 4:50 to go, and 20 seconds left on the Maxwell penalty. The penalty kill returned to its former state, however, Hanson getting a short-handed chance, and then killing it off.

With 2:26 to go, Kenton Miller boarded Taylor Richart, and Erik Higby made him pay. Richart and Olsen got the assists on Higby’s second in two games.

After 20, Utah led 2-0, shots 20-13 tying their season high. Redmond’s  play definitely held the Grizzlies in it early on.

The teams traded opportunities and zone time in the first five minutes, but once again, Owen and Redmond were up to the challenge. Utah drew a power play with 15:24 to go, but were unable to capitalize.

The Grizzlies did not exactly make Redmond’s life easy in the second period, and he came up pretty big for them. With almost exactly 10 minutes left in the period, Sam Windle rang the post.

That post could have been haunting, as Richart took a delay of game penalty with 8:40 to go. They were able to kill it off, but an egregious turn over left Maxwell all alone in the slot. He beat Redmond, and cut the lead in half with 6:25 to go in the second.

Shortly thereafter, they had another bad turnover, but fortunately, nothing came of that one. Utah returned to their puck possession game with about four minutes to go from all their lines.

Owen stood on his head on a flurry of shots from a determined first line jumped on some rebounds. At the buzzer, Misiak got bumped at the boards, and Walters and Olsen objected vehemently. Olsen and Maxwell took matching roughing calls, and the refs herded the teams to the locker room. After 40, shots were 28-21 for Utah (but 8-8 in the frame), and the score 2-1.

The third period opened with two solid minutes of four-on-four, but then the Rush pressured. The third line got the engine going again, but Owen made a couple of big saves on Zach Saar and C.J. Eick, and Redmond was called upon to make a save of his own as the puck went the other way. Misiak and Walters got an odd-man rush as well, but again Owen shut the door.

With 13:13 left, Rapid City once again capitalized on Utah sloppiness, erasing the lead.

Greger Hanson restored the lead, 1:14 after the Rush tied it, once again started by a Leibinger play. The assists on Hanson’s eighth went to Leibinger and Pelech.

Rapid City continued to skate hard, Misiak got a break-away that went wide, and at 10:08, Thomas restored the two goal lead on a dazzling display of skill. Hanson and Olsen got the assists 1:51 after the game was tied.

Maxwell went back to the box for roughing immediately after that, but they didn’t extend the lead. Unfortunately, Utah was unable to get the puck out of their own end shortly after that, and Rapid City closed the lead again with seven minutes to go, as they refused to go away.

Navin, Higby, and Saar got a two on one, and helped re-establish puck possession.

With just a bit over four minutes to go, Hanson beat out an icing, and threw the puck across crease to Pelech, who put the puck past Owen for his eighth of the year.

Rapid City got in on a breakaway, Redmond made a terrific save, and Richart whisked the rebound out of harm’s way with less than two minutes to go.

The Rush pulled Owen with a minute to go, Utah held possession, but were unable to get a shot on the empty net. With 23 seconds to go, the Rush drew within one, scoring short-side, and then taking their time out.

Olsen won the face-off following the time out, keeping Owen stuck in his net. Redmond made the save with nine seconds left. Olsen again took the draw in the defensive zone, as Rapid City pulled Owen once more. The Rush got control of the puck, but Redmond pounced on the puck. With four seconds to go, Branham called his time out. Olsen won the final face-off, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had held on for their second straight win.

Thomas (1G, 1A, 3 shots), Pelech (1G, 2A, 5 shots), and Olsen (2A, 4 shots) were named the three stars of the game, while Redmond got his second win of the season. Misiak now has goals in consecutive games, and seven points in the last six, while Olsen now has eight points in six games, including five over the weekend. The first line, meanwhile combined for a total of seven points on Saturday, and a total of 15 in the last two. Higby also has goals in two straight.

“I thought our guys did a good job of creating scoring chances,” Coach Branham said after the game. “It was good to see. I mean, we were on a huge scoring drought, and playing good hockey, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. Now we’ve done eight and five. We just gotta keep that rolling, we’re playing a good team next week in Colorado, we’re gonna need that same effort out of everybody to come out with the win.”

When asked what the team needs to do to carry on their winning ways against Colorado–who they have yet to beat this season–he added:

“Just play the same way, all the games have been one goal, except for one or something, but it’s a different story when you have Thomas down, and you’ve got that fire power, those two lines that are playing with a lot of confidence right now. I like our chances. I thought our D were a little tired out there today, going two nights back-to-back going with five D I thought put a little stress on them, but Colorado is good, we gotta be disciplined. They’re good on the power play, we’ve just gotta make sure we play a solid game, and score on our scoring chances the last two games.”

Utah will play the Eagles twice in Loveland, before finishing off the year at home against Colorado and Idaho.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff