Utah Grizzlies: Costly Lapses

In the second of three games in four days, the Grizzlies’ lineup looked more or less the same, sans Tiegan Zahn (suspended for two games) and Parker Gahagen in net for Payton Jones. In net for Kansas City was former Grizz Joel Rumpel.

The game got off to a wild start, the Grizzlies striking just 1:23 in, A.J. White scoring his first from Matthew Boucher and Chris Myllari, then Tanner Jago took an interference penalty barely twenty seconds later. The Mavs scored on their power play at 3:26, and put up four shots to Utah’s one.

As might have been apparent from that fleury of activity in the opening five minutes, both teams came out with a lot more energy. Utah got their first power play of the night at 8:51 drawn by Jack Jenkins. The power play was not the Grizzlies’ friend though, as a pass to the point was picked off by Brodie Reid, who beat Gahagen one-on-one.

Utah got a second chance on the power play as Christian Horn drew another cross-checking call on Willie Corrin. With 22 seconds to go on the advantage, both White and Crawford were sent to the box for matching minors. The parade to the penalty box continued, Charlie Gerard heading there at 14:42, and the Mavs striking again. Utah then got a power play of their own, and then a goal of their own. Christian Horn got his second of the season from Miles Gendron and a goalie assist from Gahagen.

Just over a minute later, Pat Cannone tied the game from Gendron and Gerard, and the period ended 3-3, shots 10-10 — a marked contrast from Friday’s quiet opening twenty.

43 seconds into the second Boucher took a double minor for high-sticking, putting Utah on the PK for four minutes, and the Grizzlies gave up a third power play goal.

The period steadied up a bit after that, but shots increasingly went in favor of the Mavericks, 19-13 at the half-way mark, despite a power play for Utah.

In the minutes that followed, the Mavs kept the Grizzlies in their own end for long stretches, but surprisingly didn’t add up that many more shots, outshooting Utah 22-14 by the five minute mark.

Utah was able to counter-strike, though, Paré passing the puck to a flying Gerard, who broke in all alone and tied the game at 14:40.

They then took and drew penalties at 15:56 and 16:50 respectively, but the second ended in a 4-4 tie (though the Mavs had a 24-16 lead in shots).

The Grizzlies got an early power play to start the third, but the best chance on it was a short-handed one, turned calmly aside by Gahagen.

The game quieted down significantly after that, Utah finally establishing some zone time in the second half of the period, and gradually chipped into the Mavs’ shot lead.

Both teams picked up the pace a bit as the game hit the final three minutes of regulation, but neither team scored, sending them OT shots 31-24 for KC.

Trey Bradley had a nice chance, as did Boucher, Abt and Leier tangled following a chance from Paré, and both took roughing penalties at 1:53. Things almost got too interesting when one Utah player drew a holding call, Gahagen went to the bench for the extra skater, another Utah player got tripped up playing the puck, and Cannone dove to keep the puck out of the net. Because the last person to touch it was a Utah skater not a Mavericks skater, the goal would have counted, so Cannone had to make the play. Unfortunately, in what was technically the correct call, but which also felt a bit chintzy, Cannone got a delay of game penalty for knocking the net off as he knocked the puck away, to match the holding call on KC, and the Mavs scored to end the game.

“Obviously, our defensive effort wasn’t quite there tonight” Coach Branham said, “We were terrible on the on the penalty kill, you know, sloppy on the power play, our five-on-five play was sloppy. We weren’t making plays that we normally make. And you know, when that happens you let a team stick around. I liked the way that we battled back in the first, we battled back in the second, had a lot of chances there in the third just didn’t bury, and when you leave it to chance when you go in overtime, it is what it is. We’ve got to learn from that and be better for next game.”

When asked what needs to be improved he said, “We need to focus on playing a full 60 minutes. There’s not one game this year where we’ve played a full 60, where we’ve come back and been like, you know, all three periods were solid. We haven’t been able to say that. We’ve got to fight. But we’re young. That’s the thing. We’re a very young team. Yeah, we’ve got guys like Pat Cannone and Teigan Zahn, but the majority of our team is rookies and really young guys. You’re gonna have those ups and downs, you know, so we’re just gotta get to learn from it. We got to make sure we come out play hard, play fast. But keep things simple. We try to do too much at times at the offensive blue line and we make bad decisions. At the end of the day tonight, we’ve got to be better defensively. We left Parker [Gahagen] out to dry a few times. And they scored three power play goals, one short-handed goal, and a goal in overtime. And that’s just not good enough. That’s not us, you know, so we got to get to get back to what makes us successful for next game.”

It was a rough night for a number of players, but Charlie Gerard wasn’t one of them, and was named one of the stars of the game with one goal, one assist, and three shots.

“Honestly, Charlie’s gonna be a really good pro. You know, we’ll see him next game, and then he’ll be going to Colorado and I wouldn’t be shocked if he never came back. He’s a very talented player, very good kid, a super hard worker, great skater, and he’s special. We’re lucky to have him right now. Hopefully we can use him one more game and then see what he’s got up in the next level.”

Gerard is one of a number of players, including Joe Wegwerth, Ian Scheid, Matt Abt, and Payton Jones who will likely be heading to the AHL when Eagles camp opens.

“It is what it is” Branham concluded, “We made a lot of mental mistakes tonight that we gotta clean up and learn from.”

The Grizzlies have Sunday off before playing the Mavericks again on Monday.

Goals

  • First Period: White (Boucher, Myllari), Horn (Gendron, Gahagen) (PP), Cannone (Gendron, Gerard)
  • Second Period: Gerard (Paré)
  • Third Period: None:
  • OT: None

Photo courtesy of Rob Church.

Utah Grizzlies: Happy Homecoming

After going with some small tweaks here and there, the Grizzlies’ roster saw quite the shake-up prior to their first game against the Kansas City Mavericks. Joe Wegwerth and Diego Cuglietta are both out with injuries, Alex Lepkowski and Yuri Terao both were also out of the lineup, while Jared Pike, re-signed a few days ago, Tanner Jago and Matt Hoover all drew back in.

The game got off to a pretty quiet start, both teams getting two shots before play was briefly delayed to repair a stanchion, but things picked up first with Payton Jones shutting down a breakaway attempt, and then Teigan Zahn was given five and a game for an illegal check to the head.

Utah rose to the challenge, Kansas City only getting two good sets of opportunities on the five minute power play, and the Grizzlies getting one on a two-on-none breakaway. Jones also made at least one really nice save, and the Utah defense blocked several other shots.

A couple of shifts later, Utah got a great chance, the puck seemingly hitting the post, then trickling out from under the KC goalie. The officials reviewed the play, but there was no goal.

Matthew Boucher drew a power play at 15:19, but weren’t able to capitalize, and the Mavericks got a power play of their own as Utah got dinged for too many men.

Despite the multiple penalties and the five minute major, shots a nice, even 8-7 for Kansas City at the end of the first.

Utah got off to an excellent start in the opening couple minutes of the second, outshooting the Mavericks 3-1 to start. They continued hold the shot lead, and at 9:32 Miles Gendron opened the scoring from Horn and Pat Cannone. Unfortunately, KC answered about a minute later, when Brodie Reid put the puck over the shoulder of Jones from a tight angle.

Utah continued to work though, and at about the 15 minute mark, Bradley and Canonne flew in together, Bradley making a beautiful pass across the crease to Cannone, whose second of the year was as nice as you please.

At the end of a much more lively second period, Utah had established the shot lead 18-13 in addition to the 2-1 lead were it mattered most.

The first power play since the first period went to Utah at 1:36 into the third, and Cédric Paré rocketed an elevated pass from Cannone into the back of the net.

Abt caused a ruckus behind the Mavericks’ net with about five gone, and a couple of shifts later, Hoover was manhandled down to the ice and held there directly in front of a ref with no call. However, the Grizzlies decided that revenge was best served on the score sheet, Boucher getting his first pro goal at 6:41 from A.J. White and Bradley.

The Mavs showed significantly greater signs of life after their time-out following the goal, but they remained without a shot through the first ten minutes of the third, being outshot 14-0.

After that, it was just a matter of keeping Kansas City off the scoreboard, which Utah did without getting much push-back. The trio of Horn, Hoover, and Boucher looking especially good.

When the game ended to the cheering of the 1680 fans in attendance, Utah had outshot the Mavs 36-16. In a very convincing win.

Cannone’s goal and two assists earned him first star, while Boucher’s first pro goal and assist took second, and Bradley’s two assists took third. Jones made 15/16 saves for his fourth win of the season.

“Patty’s unbelievable,” Branham said of Canonne after the game. “Obviously, we’re lucky to have Patty. He doesn’t really belong at this level. You know, he’s got a brand new baby. And he didn’t want to make the trek over to over to Europe. He’s here to earn a call up to the American League. So we’re extremely lucky to have him. He’s an unbelievable person off the ice, a great leader in that room, and you see what he does on a nightly basis.

“Boucher is a great addition,” he continued, “young kid, who again, we’re lucky to have. If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t have him because he’d still be in school. His dad played in the NHL, and he’s a solid, solid defensive player. You see what he’s got offensively, but he’s so smart defensively. It’s nice. You can put him out there in any situation. He’s got a very, very high hockey IQ.

Trey Bradley had another good night. He was all over the map and making plays and stuff like that, Paré had a nice goal on the power play so those big guns came through for us tonight.”

“I am excited about this group of guys,” he said. “Next week, we’re gonna have a different group of guys because we have five or six guys leaving for the American League. So that’s gonna present a new challenge in itself.”

“We’ve got some injuries right now right with Wegwerth, Terao, Cuglietta” he added, “Those are three pretty good players out of the line-up. On the back end Lepkowski’s out, those are four high end players for us, so I don’t think our depth is as good as it could be right now. But we’ve got a lot of hard work up front, that’s for sure. Our D are pretty solid… It’s a big mobile D core, which I like, they’re not overly physical. They’re not super offensive besides Scheid. He’s a really special player, that’s for sure. Ian Schied, he’s really special.

“The other guys are good two-way D men that move the puck really well. And obviously we’re solid in net. You see Jones and you see Gahagen and Barone. They’re good goalies. So we’re extremely deep. We’ve got high hopes for this team.”

As is life in the ECHL though, especially with the AHL season starting up soon, the lineup is going to be shaken up further. But before that, they’ve got to play the next two games against Kansas City, a task which is going to be all about consistency.

“We need to play the way we did at the end of the game, play the same way tomorrow, get a day off, then find a way to play that same way on Monday.”

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Gendron (Horn, Cannone), Cannone (Bradley, Boucher)
  • Third Period: Paré (Cannone, Scheid) (PP), Boucher (White, Bradley)
    Jones: 15/16 saves

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: Gone Streaking

Considering the schedule lately, you’d be pardoned for thinking that the Grizzlies will never play anyone other than the Rapid City Rush this season, but after tonight, it’ll actually be a couple of weeks before they meet again. The line of Diego Cuglietta, Pat Cannone, and Charlie Gerard started for Utah, backed by Ian Scheid and Alex Lepkowski, while Parker Gahagen got his first start in net as the Grizzlies looked to close out the series sweep. Cédric Paré drew in at forward in place of defenseman Edwin Hookenson, but otherwise the lineup remained the same.

The Grizzlies lost no time in bringing the energy, picking up the game’s first four shots in the first minute and a half, and Cédric Paré made sure everyone was awake with a big hit. Gahagen went on an adventure to the blue line just pas the half-way mark during a period of Rush pressure, but though there continued to be a number of whistles, the first half of the period passed relatively uneventfully.

At almost exactly the ten minute mark, the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the game, but weren’t able to convert, despite building their shot lead to 12-4. They got a second crack at it, thanks to the mobility of Trey Bradley at around the five-minute mark. Diego Cuglietta took a shot at the net from the right point, Adam Carlson made the save, but the puck went straight to Pat Cannone on the left side of the blue paint, and the veteran forward made no mistake to put Utah up 1-0.

Pat Cannone scores the 1-0 goal against Adam Carlson as Charlie Gerard looks on.

Joe Wegwerth picked up again on his scoring ways, thanks to some absolute chaos with about two to go. Jack Jenkins ended up on top of Carlson, and in the scramble that followed, Wegwerth put the puck into the open net. The goal was reviewed originally, but allowed to stand, presumably because — though it looked like Jenkins was literally on top of Carlson at one point, by the time the puck was in the net, Jenkins was next to rather than on top of the Rush goalie, and they were well outside the blue paint.

Wegwerth and Jenkins fight for the puck prior to Wegwerth’s 2-0 goal.

At the end of 20, shots were 20-5 for the Grizzlies, who led 2-0, and didn’t at all look like a group of players who were in the process of playing their third game in as many days.

The Grizzlies iced the puck twice in a row in the early going of the period, but Gahagen and the Grizzlies weathered the storm. Griffin Luce found himself in the cross-hairs again, this time hitting Terao and drawing the attention of Matt Hoover, but nothing significant came from it.

After the net came off yet again behind Carlson, there was a slight delay as the referees conducted some repairs.

Terao took a holding penalty with 13:33 to go in the second, which proved unfortunate, as the Rush struck just six seconds into it. He drew a penalty a couple of minutes later, however, but despite Cuglietta’s best efforts, the score remained the same when the Rush skater exited the box.

As the period progressed, the Rush took over the play more than they had previously, and it paid off. They tied it up with just under a minute to go, on a nice move from none other than Brennan Saulnier. So once again, the game was tied 2-2 after 2, shots 32-20 for Utah.

The Rush came out hot in the third, but Yuri Terao picked off a pass from Mark Auk, and sniped it five-hole at 1:32 for his first since returning to the Grizzlies.

Cédric Paré, Yuri Terao, and Matt Hoover celebrate Terao’s 3-2 goal.

Play slowed down a bit following to Rush icings, the third game in three days finally catching up with both teams. Gahagen saw a little more action through the stretch that followed, but play evened out again as they passed the half-way mark of the third.

The Grizzlies narrowly averted disaster with about 5:30 to go, but Matt Abt took a slashing penalty on the play, giving the Rush a power play. Gahagen was sharp, though and Utah killed it off.

Carlson was pulled for the extra skater with around 1:30 to go, but despite besieging Gahagen, before the time ran out, the Rush were unable to tie it up, and Terao’s goal stood for the game winner.

So the Grizzlies were able to complete the three game series sweep, Terao earning first star, Gahagen second with 28 of 30 saves in his Utah debut, and Cannone picking up third star with the first goal of the game.

With five games under their belt, the Grizzlies have multiple point-per-game players. Cuglietta (1G, 5A) has put up points in every game this season, while the line of Wegwerth (4G, 2A in five games), Jenkins (2G, 1A in five games), and Bradley (3A in three) have been prolific. Cannone (1G, 3A) and Ian Scheid (3G, 1A), as well as Jenkins, Wegwerth, and Cuglietta, put up points in each of the last three games against the Rush. Overall, the Grizzlies improved to 4-1, which is good for fifth in the league, and second in the Mountain Division.

Now the Grizzlies will head off to Tulsa, hoping to keep their winning streak going against a team not named the Rapid City Rush.

Goals

  • First Period: Cannone (Cuglietta, Scheid), Wegwerth (Jenkins, Lepkowski)
  • Second Period: None
  • Third Period: Terao
    Gahagen (28/30 saves)

Images courtesy of Tim Broussard.