Utah Grizzlies: Take Two

After a disappointing loss last time out, the Grizzlies returned to action ready to put Wednesday night’s game behind them. Kevin Boyle got the start, Tim Daly returned to the lineup, while Erik Bradford sat this one out.

Utah looked much better throughout the game than they had in the previous match-up, in that when Alaska came at them, they were not as thoroughly overwhelmed, and counterattacked far more quickly.

Just moments into the period, the Grizzlies tangled with the Aces behind the Alaska net, and as a result, Austen Brassard and Mackenze Stewart were sent off for roughing. Utah picked up the first three shots of the game on the power play, and Stewart and Brassard dropped the gloves properly mere seconds after they returned to the ice. In the ensuing scrap, Brassard decidedly got the best of the exchange, and they were both sent back to the box.

Seconds later, Nolan Descoteaux took a tripping penalty against Travis Howe, and the Grizzlies went to work on their first power play of the night.

At 7:52, Brad Navin took a tripping penalty, but Alaska negated their man advantage as goalie Kevin Carr took an interference penalty. Both teams took two more penalties, first Richart and Puskar, then Tyler Ruegsegger and Tim Coffman, before the period drew to a close. Utah had the 9-7 advantage in shots, and the score remained tied at zero.

The Grizzlies had a brief power play to begin the period, as Coffman’s penalty carried over, and the Aces took yet another penalty, giving the Grizzlies a 19 second 5-on-3.

Though they were unable to capitalize, the Grizzlies’ power play looked pretty good. Phil Pietroniro had a couple of alert plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and then a few more on the other end to keep the puck out of the Utah net as the penalty expired.

There was a bit of a scare at 13:25, when Ben Lake went barreling into Kevin Boyle, but he appeared to be no worse for wear.

Colin Martin broke the deadlock at 7:45, picking up the puck, and dancing in all alone to put the puck past Carr to give the Grizzlies the 1-o lead on his eleventh of the year.

Mere moments later, Taylor Richart picked up his seventh goal of the season, and sixth point in the last five games to give the Grizzlies the 2-0 lead. Boyle, in his turn, made some great saves as Alaska fought to get something going.

Alaska took yet another penalty with 8:09 to play, but Utah was unable to capitalize, and Travis Howe took a tripping penalty. The Grizzlies killed off the minor, but no sooner had they done so than the Aces scored with just 2:55 left to go in the second. The Aces pressed back hard after their goal, but the Grizzlies were able to fight them off.

The Grizzlies escaped to the locker room after 40, still holding the 2-1 lead, with Alaska holding the lead in shots by only the slimmest of margins.

The Navin-Puskar-Brassard line continued their strong play to start the period, causing trouble for the Aces in their own end, and less than two minutes in, Howe fought Dax Lauwers after the later laid a big hit on Ralph Cuddemi. Howe got an extra two for instigating, but Alaska quickly negated their power play when Stephen Perfetto tripped up Puskar.

Through the rest of the game, the teams traded chances, the Grizzlies fighting tooth and nail to keep their lead, while Alaska pressed for the tying goal. Carr robbed Cuddemi, and the Grizzlies narrowly missed several other chances to get an insurance goal on the last power play of the game. On the other end, Boyle shut the door with help the really excellent play of Richart, Pietroniro and Nemcik.

With one minute remaining, Idaho pulled their goalie, but the Grizzlies escaped, giving Boyle his second win since returning to the Grizzlies. His 33/34 save performance earned him second star of the game, and Richart – who scored what ended up being the game winning goal – was named third star.

Boyle has saved 74 of the 77 shots he’s seen in the two games since his return from San Diego, which gives him an incredible .962 Save Percentage, and an equally impressive 1.49 GAA. Per Adrian Denny, he will start in tonight’s game as well.

Though Daly returned to the lineup, he played very limited minutes, meaning that once again, Richart, Pietroniro and, to a lesser extent, Nemcik shouldered the lion’s share of the minutes. All three have flourish with the extra ice time, which has allowed the Grizzlies to not only survive but to succeed, in the absence of their best defenceman.

The two teams square off tonight for the third time in as many games, where the Grizzlies will hope to draw within two points of the Aces’ much coveted playoff spot.

 

Image courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

Utah Grizzlies: Weekend Winnings

This weekend, the Grizzlies continued to pick up very much needed points, as they completed the three game sweep of the Steelheads in Boise. The games on Friday and Saturday were both very close contests, each decided by one goal, Saturday’s in overtime.

Friday night’s game was a high-scoring, penalty-filled affair that saw both sides dissatisfied with the calls – or in some cases, the lack of calls – throughout. Troy Redmann got the start, backed by Ryan Faragher, and had a very strong outing overall, while C.J. Eick had the night off in favour of a full complement of defencemen.

Erik Bradford opened the scoring 6:17 into the first, as the Grizzlies crashed the net and the assists went to Tim Daly and Cam Reid, the later of whom picked up his first of what would eventually be three assists.

The rest of the period was more or less a wash, thanks to the ten penalties that were assessed in total, an uncharacteristic three of them on Daly., The teams went to their dressing-rooms with Idaho out-shooting Utah by the slim margin of 9-8.

Bradford scored his second of the game less than five minutes into the second to put the Grizzlies up 2-0, and mere moments later, Phil Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Anthony Luciani. The bout was a spirited one, and both combatants got in several really excellent punches before they were separated and sent to the box. The fight was Pietroniro’s fifth of the season, and third in the last six games.

At 7:13, Daly erased any memory of the three penalty first period with an absolutely gorgeous rocket from the high slot, giving Utah the 3-0 lead. The Grizzlies ran into some penalty trouble in the second half of the period, allowing two power play goals, despite a couple of unbelievable saves from Redmann. However, they responded well both times, and closed out the period still leading 3-2.

The third period did not get off to the most auspicious of starts, despite an Idaho penalty, as Kyle Jean got behind the Grizzlies defence, and tied it up on a short-handed breakaway just under 4:30 into the frame.

However, the game did not stay tied for long, as Colin Martin tipped in Pietroniro’s shot from the blue line. It was not a lead Utah was destined to hold for long, with Corbin Baldwin beating Redmann a few minutes later.

The two teams traded chances and penalties through the later part of the period, with Martin Nemcik and Jefferson Dahl going off for roughing at 16:08.

With just over five minutes to go, the Grizzlies got the upper hand once more, as Kenton Helgesen scored his third of the season with assists from Taylor Richart and Jon Puskar. The Steelheads were irate, feeling that the officials missed a tripping call in the play immediately proceeding the goal, but they argued their case to no avail.

Austen Brassard and Brandon Anselmini took matching roughing calls with two minutes to go, and Utah held on to win 5-4.

Bradford’s two goals earned him third star of the game, extending his point streak to eight games, while Redmann stopped 31 out of 35 shots.

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Daly was hit hard along the boards part way through the third period, and played little, if at all after that point, while Idaho ran into troubles of their own when coach Neil Graham, and defenceman Travis Walsh were both given game misconducts at the end of the game. As a result, Walsh was fined, and Graham was suspended for a game, while Daly did not start on Saturday.

 

On Saturday, Kevin Boyle returned to the Grizzlies’ lineup after a lengthy – and largely successful – stint in San Diego, getting the start for Utah. C.J. Eick also suited up for the Grizzlies, as Daly’s absence freed up a spot. Consequently, Utah played eleven forwards and five defencemen, while Faragher backed up Boyle.

The first period was fairly uneventful, though by no means boring, both teams playing well, and fairly evenly. Boyle looked strong early, and Utah had the slight edge in special teams. Travis Howe and Jefferson Dahl went off with matching minors at 7:39, and about thirty seconds later, Brandon Anselmini went off after tripping up Cam Reid. After 20, shots were 12-11 for Idaho, and there was no change in score.

The second period saw a great deal more action, much of it not at all in the Grizzlies’ favour. Michael Pelech took a penalty 3:40 into the frame, and no sooner had Utah killed off that minor, then Erik Bradford also found himself in the box. Boyle made some terrific saves, but it was Idaho that scored first just past the half-way mark.

Utah came back strong, drawing a power play of their own a minute later, but nothing came of it. Shortly thereafter, Howe and Baldwin were sent off, and Travis Ewanyk made it 2-0 with under five minutes to go.

Things continued to go badly for the Grizzlies as Phil Pietroniro was shoved into the boards by Connor Chatham. He was sent to the locker room for repairs, while the ice crew cleaned up the blood, and the officials assessed Chatham five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct. Utah closed off the period on the man advantage, but after 40, they remained down 2-0, outshot  24-23, and missing a defenceman.

Unlike so many early period power plays, the remainder of the Grizzlies’ five minute power play proved lethal. Bradford extended his point streak to nine games, when Cuddemi took his feed from behind the Steelheads’ net and made it 1-o a mere 45 seconds in.

Pietroniro returned to the bench a few minutes later, and took the best kind of revenge, scoring the second goal on the Chatham penalty at 2:01 to tie the game.

Austen Brassard took the only other penalty of the third period at 5:26. Nothing came of it, nor of the nastiness that had been developing all game between Martin Nemcik and various Idaho players. Nor, unfortunately, did anything come of Eick’s glorious up-ice rush that saw him make two Steelheads appear as though they were standing still.

60 minutes was not enough to decide the contest, so the game went to over time. Utah dominated the extra frame, putting up five shots to Idaho’s zero, and Cuddemi gave the Grizzlies the win 1:13 into the extra frame.

In the absence of Daly, both Pietroniro and Richart stepped up in a big way, and were the two defencemen Branham relied upon in OT. Each picked up their third point in as many games, ensuring that Utah did not suffer from the loss of Daly’s production or defencive prowess.

Boyle, who had some struggles earlier in the year, looked very sharp, making 31 of 33 saves, as all three Grizzlies goalies picked up a win in Boise.

Cuddemi continues to display the prolific scoring touch that saw him named rookie of the month, picking up goals 21 and 22 to remain the leader in rookie goal-scoring. His two goal performance earned him third star of the contest. Bradford remains the Grizzlies’ leading scorer with 41 points in 33 games for Utah and 43 points in 38 games overall.

In taking all six points against Idaho, Utah is now only four points back of Alaska (though the Aces still have two games in hand), and five behind Idaho as the quest for a playoff spot continues. Moreover, their seven game win streak is currently the longest active winning streak in the league.

The Grizzlies very much need to keep the goals and wins coming as they travel to Alaska to play three straight against the team directly in front of them in the standings.

Utah Grizzlies: A Real Nail-Biter

February is a big month for the Grizzlies. They play twelve games exclusively against the teams they’re chasing for a playoff spot, and all but three of the games are on the road. In this first of three games against the Idaho Steelheads Mathieu Aubin drew back into the lineup, as did Kenton Helgesen, replacing C.J. Eick and Carlos Amestoy.

Neither team dominated through the opening minutes, athough Idaho did have a slight edge in attempts until about the five minute mark. To no one’s surprise, the Grizzlies’ best shift of the early period came from the Brad Navin-Jon Puskar-Austen Brassard line, who was excellent throughout.

Idaho struck first at 8:39 as Utah was unable to clear the zone, and Jefferson Dahl beat Ryan Faragher.

However, the Grizzlies tied up the game at 12:29 when Cam Reid tipped Phil Pietroniro’s point shot past Brenden Komm. Just over two minutes later, the Grizzlies repeated the play, though this time Reid got Pietroniro’s shot to Erik Bradford, who scored his tenth of the season.

Unfortunately, Michael Pelech took a penalty for charging the goaltender in the crease, and Idaho capitalized on the ensuing power play at 17:10.

After 20, the teams were tied at two,  shots were 12-9, and Reid, Bradford and Pietroniro found themselves with a pair of points a piece.

Chances continued to pile up for Brassard, who got his fifth shot of the game with 15:55 to go in the second, and Utah drew a power play as Idaho got dinged for delay of game.

Things did not go at all to plan, though, as the Grizzlies gave up a short-handed breakaway, and Andre Bouvet-Morrissette put Idaho up 3-2.

Utah responded with a terrific shift in the offensive zone, which Taylor Richart capped off with a goal, and just a few minutes later, Colin Martin got his fifth goal in as many games on the power play.

Idaho pressured after Martin’s goal, but Bradford and Pelech got in two-on-one with under four minutes left in the period, and Pelech put Utah up 5-3.

Utah finished the period on the power play, outshooting Idaho 28-19, and still leading by two.

The first half of the third period was pretty even, both teams getting chances and working hard, but Idaho made interesting as Bouvet-Morrissette made it 5-4 on his second of the night, and Pelech took a tripping call at 14:15.

With 1:41 left, Puskar and Joe Bassaraba were sent off with coincidental minors, and Idaho elected to pull their goalie. However, Richart scored into the empty net with eight seconds to go, giving Utah the 6-4 win.

There are not many nights where you can point at a Grizzlies’defenseman and say “He had a better night than Tim Daly,” but tonight may just have been such a night.  Pietroniro was terrific on both sides of the ice, serving as a catalyst for several excellent Utah chances, and making a number of good defensive plays in addition to the two first period points.

It was a good night for multi-point games in general; Richart’s empty netter gave him his first multi-goal game as a pro, Reid got a goal and an assist, and Bradford’s four point night won him second star of the game.

Also fun to note, Brassard had 10 shots, and Faragher picked up his third assist of the season on Richart’s first goal.

This was a huge game for Utah in their hunt for a playoff spot, especially since Alaska also lost 5-2 against Colorado. Utah now trails Alaska by six points, though the Aces do have two games in hand.

The two teams will face off again on Friday and Saturday in Boise, where Utah hopes to continue their push for the playoffs.

 

Photo courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

Utah Grizzlies: Storm’s End

Wednesday’s tilt against the Wichita Thunder saw the return of Austen Brassard, who played 20 games with the Ducks’ AHL team after eight games with the Grizzlies at the beginning of the year.

The Grizzlies and the Thunder traded chances through the opening five minutes or so, with Wichita holding a slight advantage until Taylor Richart was high-sticked behind the Grizzlies’ net. Utah got a four minute power play as a result at 6:48. The first half passed with Utah chasing the puck, several times back into their own zone, but they did eventually get themselves sorted out. Erik Bradford, Cam Reid, and Ralph Cuddemi camped out in the offensive zone, and while Bradford was unable to beat Kent Patterson on two half-wall passes from Reid, the line kept possession, and Cuddemi buried the puck.

After that, the teams traded a series of penalties, and the Grizzlies survived a rocky stretch of play around their own net, but between some good shot blocking, wild bounces, missed shots, and the phenomenal play of Faragher, the puck remained out. Utah pressured at the end of the period, but were unable to add to their one goal lead.

The beginning of the second went well for the Grizzlies, as they picked up a few more shots. However, on the very next rush down the ice, Wichita came back, and Blake Tatchell beat Faragher with an unfortunately beautiful wrist shot.

The Grizzlies didn’t ease off, and – as they so often do – C.J. Eick and Jon Puskar, together with Travis Howe got the Grizzlies going.

With 14:45 left to play, Howe made the second of several really nice plays to set up Navin, but the score remained 1-1.

Phil Pietroniro got called for interference a little past the five minute mark, and the Grizzlies’ penalty kill got to work. It remained strong, as it has of late, and Utah spent at least as much time in the offensive zone as they did in their own end. With seconds left in the penalty, Brad Navin blocked a shot, and then took off down the ice, getting a nice chance on Patterson, who shut the door.

Pietroniro also had a chance seconds after exiting the box, but for the time being, the Grizzlies remained unable to solve Patterson.

Brassard, Puskar, and Navin, had a strong shift in the offensive zone, and at 9:53 Evan Stoflet’s shot from the slot trickled through Pattersen on Puskar’s tip. Stoflet and Brassard both picked up the assists

On the very next shift Michael Pelech put the puck off the back of Patterson and into the net to give the Grizlies a 3-1 lead.

Pietroniro dropped the gloves with Wichita’s captain Ian Lowe at 12:35 for his second fight in as many games, and his third in six, and both were sent to the box.

Mere moments later, Cuddemi put Utah up 4-1 as the puck also slipped through Patterson’s pads thanks to an unforced error by a Wichita defenseman.

After allowing three goals in such rapid succession, Patterson  was yanked in favour of Drew Owsley.

Puskar took a holding penalty, at 14:14, joining Pietroniro in the box, but Utah put on a clinic on penalty killing, keeping Wichita on the outside, and chasing the puck down the ice.

No sooner had Puskar exited the box, than he was high-sticked by Vincent Arseneau, and the Grizzlies got a power play of their own. Despite a strong power play, however, they were unable to pick up another goal, and with 58.8 seconds Brandon Carlson cut the lead in half.

Puskar didn’t think much of that though, responding with his second of the game ten seconds later, this time from Brassard and Colin Martin. Puskar’s 15th of the year sent Utah to the dressing room up 5-2, outshooting the Thunder 26-11.

Despite their lead, Utah never sat back, buzzing around Wichita’s net for large stretches of the early third, with both Puskar and Cuddemi looking to complete the hat trick.

With 10:35 left in the game Owsley absolutely robed Travis Howe point blank as Utah continued pressing. Likewise, every time the Thunder ventured into the Grizzlies end, they were met by the spectacular play of Faragher, and Grizzlies’ defensemen.

Puskar became the second player this season to complete a hat trick a with 4:44 left to play as he tipped Tim Daly’s shot past Owsley.

Faragher made a huge save with 3:56 left in the period, and another one with 3:09 to go.

Pietroniro drew a high-sticking call with 1:59 left to play, and Utah finished the game on the man advantage. That was not the end of the excitement though. Seconds from the end of the game, Arseneau sucker punched Travis Howe, and Howe was sent off to the dressing room early with a ten minute misconduct.

At the final buzzer, the Grizzlies were the 6-2 victors, having outshot Wichita 38-20.

The Grizzlies are now an astounding 19-1-3-1 when either Cuddemi or Puskar score.

“It feels great” said Puskar of his hat trick.  It’s something I’ve never done in my pro career, and it’s exciting for that to happen.” Just as a few games ago, he was quick to credit the hard work of his linemates:”In this one again, two tips, and open net on an unbelievable play, that’s my teammates.”

The praise didn’t stop with his linemates. “That was a huge guy to have come back.” he said when asked about Brassard’s return to the lineup. “That kid can play some great hockey. He works every time he comes to the rink. And with energy like that, skill like he’s got, you just build off him. When you’ve got guys that good, you want to be up there at his level when he’s playing at that elite level – and a lot of guys are like that on this team – you want to build off those guys, that’s where we’re getting it from.”

Branham’s comments on Brassard’s return were along the same vein: “He started the season really well for us, he deserved a call up, he deserves to play in the American league, that’s for sure.”

With Brassard now in the lineup as well, the Grizzlies have added another weapon to their considerable arsenal, and despite the scoring coming largely from Puskar and Cuddemi on Wednesday, the entire team continues to roll along as a very impressive unit.

“We’ve got a lot of talent up front. Lot of good players up there,” Branham said. “I’m lucky behind the bench there. I can’t really go wrong putting anybody on the ice. That’s a good feeling to have, it’s a lot like our team last year. Our boys are playing great, they’re playing with a lot of confidence, they’re sticking to the system, they’re working hard. That’s the biggest thing. We didn’t let up all game. I thought maybe the last half of the first period we were a little slow, but other than that, I thought we played a really solid game, and we need that. We’ve dug ourselves a huge hole there in November, so we’ve got to slowly climb our way back out.”

The Grizzlies will hope to keep stringing wins together on Friday and Saturday where they will finish the homestand against Danick Paquette and the Tulsa Oilers.

Photo courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

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.