Utah Grizzlies vs Rapid City: Strong in the Force

With Nolan De Jong joining Kevin Davis, Josh Anderson, Austin Carroll, Matt Berry, Travis Barron, and Josh Dickinson in the AHL after Saturday’s game, and with Tim McGauley and Turner Ottenbreit both sidelined, the Grizzlies were seriously short-handed on Star Wars night. Kevin Carr got the start and Ryan Misiak played defense as the team dressed only 14 skaters. Considering how the other two games had gone, it looked a trifle worrisome.

Utah came out on a mission, flying around the ice, and jumping to a rapid lead when Julian Nantel scored his first at 1:19 from J.T. Henke. The Grizzlies got a 5-1 advantage in shots, then Kevin Carr had to be sharp as the Rush got three straight back. Rapid City got the game’s first power plays, both against Henke but got his own back, making it 2-0 with only 24 seconds to go in the first. The Rush got an unsportsmanlike conduct right after the goal, and Misiak got a tripping call with eight seconds left. After 20, shots were 12-8 for Utah.

The second began with almost two minutes of four-on-four, and the Grizzlies got a power play after that. The Rush poured it on through the middle stages of the second, but between Carr and the active sticks of the players in front of him, they held them off. Utah got into some penalty trouble in the back half of the period, losing Taylor Richart, Gage Ausmus, and Henke to the penalty box in rapid succession.

The penalty killers came up huge, however, and no sooner had Henke and Ausmus left the box then the former scored his fourth of the year. There was quite a scuffle after the goal, and Utah got another power play as Cole Ully, Josh Elmes, and Shaquille Merasty all got roughing calls. Tempers continued to flair as the game progressed, and Jake Marchment faced off against Dylan Quaile in the first of three fights. In the dying seconds of the period, Alec Baer got in all by himself, but Carr stopped him cold to end the period.

The third began with a new goalie for Rapid City, and a power play for the Grizzlies. They didn’t capitalize, but they were absolutely flying. They also racked up a 13-0 shot count through the first half. Henke made a bid for the hat trick on a mid-period power play, and the Grizzlies hit the 40 shot mark with just under eight to go. Then at 14:02 Mike Economos dropped the gloves with Matt Harrington in a furious bout to the great approval of all 7,926 fans in attendance. Not to be out done, R.T. Rice dropped the gloves with Merasty just 38 seconds later. Ausmus joined the combatants in the box for slashing almost immediately afterwards, and no sooner had he left the box, then he and Cedric Montminy were sent to cool their heels after matching roughing calls. Nantel ended the game in the box, but the Grizzlies got the 3-0 victory, out-shooting Rapid City 41-23 overall, and 20-5 in the final period.

Misiak turned out to be a surprisingly good substitution on the blue line, his speed standing him in good stead, and he looked quite comfortable quarterbacking the power play. Economos endeared himself to the home crowd in his first game on Friday, and won them over completely on Saturday. Henke (2G, 1A, 6 shots), Carr (23/23 saves), and Nantel (1G (the game winner), 8 shots) were the three stars of the game, and Carr got a standing ovation at the jersey auction following the game.

“The boys buckled down, and it was a gutsy effort. That’s a good team, that’s a hard working team over there, they’re missing a few players too, but we were able to get to their goaltender finally.” Tim Branham said. “He’s been a rock back there for them, but you can’t say enough about our effort. Carrsy, two short-handed breakaways, a short-handed three-on-one, he was really, really good tonight. Sticking up for teammates, big blocked shot by Zahn at the end, he didn’t even have to do it, there’s six seconds left, just leading by example there. Great effort by everybody, and it was one of our better games of the year.”

With three goals in the last two games, Henke seems to be really hitting his stride after being claimed off waivers from Greenville. “I think it’s just getting comfortable,” he said of his recent performance. “Coming from where I was to here is a little different, getting used to the altitude, and all that kind of stuff, playing with guys, and burying chances when I should.”

“It’s always tough to get guys called up and lose them, especially big scorers, but it’s a part of the game, I think we all had a gut check, I think we played hard today, everyone did a job, the fighters fought, the PK guys did great, Carrsy stood on his head, and good for him getting his first shut out, it all gelled well today.”

It looked like the team finally had regained their equilibrium after losing and replacing so many players in such a short period of time, but the challenge isn’t over yet. Nevertheless, Branham is confident in his group. “We’ve got a week off, we’ve got to put it together next week. I don’t know what our roster’s gonna look like next week, but whatever it is, we know that we can get the job done, and we’ve gotta bring that effort and that passion, and that simplicity every single game.”

The Grizzlies will play two games in Idaho next week, before finishing off the year at home against the Allen Americans.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.

Utah Grizzlies vs Idaho Game Recap(s): Revenge Was Sweet

With Matt Berry, Austin Carroll, Kevin Davis, Josh Anderson, and Travis Barron all up with various AHL teams, Joey Raats and R.T. Rice drew back in. Ryan Misiak also returned from injury, and Kevin Carr got the start against Idaho.

Misiak made his mark early, putting Utah up 1-0 just 20 seconds in from Taylor Richart. Idaho tied it up at 7:49, as the Grizzlies defense faltered a moment. Kyle Schempp took a hooking call at 9:39, but the power play wasn’t able to come up with anything before Idaho returned to full strength.

Carr made a big save as an Idaho player got past the defensemen, and Josh Dickinson took a slashing call at 12:52. Utah killed that off, and Carr made some big saves to follow that up.

Overall, the period was pretty back-and-forth, neither team looking particularly dazzling. Idaho held the slight edge in shots, 16-13 after 20 in the 1-1 game.

By the five minute mark of the second, shots were tied 18-18 in what continued to be a pretty even game.

The officials let them play through some clutching and grabbing, and by the half-way point in the second, the shots were 20-20 with no change in score.

Elgin Pearce picked up the puck on a turnover, putting the puck past Carr at 13:15, but Walters struck exactly a minute later to tie it up on a tight angle. Cole Ully and Jack Walker got the assists.

Caleb Herbert drew some ire at the buzzer, leading a bit of a crowd, and after 40, shots were 24-23 for Idaho in the 2-2 game.

Mitch Moroz tripped up Taylor Richart in front of Carr, and Utah went to the power play. The man advantage looked pretty lackluster, and the Steelheads returned to full strength.

Kyle Schempp made it 3-2 at 7:01, but though a couple of players got some good looks (most notably a pair from Gage Ausmus) the Grizzlies were unable to get another goal on Scholl. With just over a minute to go, Carr went to the bench, but Steven McParland scored into the empty net.

Misiak didn’t look at all rusty coming back in his first game since November 9th. Ausmus had what was perhaps his most obviously good game of the year, and Richart was his steady self.

In Saturday’s game, the skaters remained the same, while Joe Cannata got the start.

The game got off to another good start, though it took longer for for Utah to get the goal. Cole Ully banged in Josh Dickinson’s rebound at 2:42, while Caleb Herbert picked up his 17th assist on the goal.

Two minutes later, R.T. Rice got a roughing call, but before he could be sent off, Kale Kessy challenged him and they dropped the gloves. What would have been an Idaho power play instead sent them off for fighting and Kessy got an instigation penalty which kept the game at even strength.

Though the Grizzlies looked pretty good, Idaho broke in and Herbert picked up a hooking call. Exactly half-way through the period, and just seven seconds into the advantage, Idaho beat Cannata to tie the game.

Both teams got chances, as the period continued and once again, the officials let them play through things on both sides.

With 1:05 to go, Ryan Walters hauled down an Idaho player at center ice and was sent to the box for holding. The Grizzlies prevented the Steelheads from threatening, and after 20, the game was tied 1-1, shots 14-11 for Idaho.

Utah killed off the remaining 55 seconds of Walters’ penalty to begin the second, allowing no shots on the advantage. Idaho did get the first four shots of the period thereafter, however, as the Steelheads attacked early.

Rice cross-checked an Idaho player at 3:28 after a whistle, and went to the box, but Idaho was unable to get anything going, and he returned to the ice with no damage done. Utah got a power play of their own at 7:56 when Clint Lewis cross-checked Ryan Misiak, then got 1:12 of 5-on-3 when Elgin Pearce tripped up Taylor Richart.

The Grizzlies set up well initially, but were unable to turn the advantage into anything substantial on the board.

It didn’t matter though, as Herbert made it 2-1 on a nice centering pass from Dickinson, Ausmus getting the secondary assist on Herbert’s 18th.

Absolute mayhem broke out behind the Utah net at 13:06, and it took them some time to sort everything out. Rice got two for roughing, while Mitch Moroz got four for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct. Once again the power play came up empty, though this one looked a little more organized, and led to some good Utah momentum through the end of the second.

In the final moments of the second, Tim McGauley was hit up high and though he headed off under his own steam, he went down the tunnel and didn’t return in the third.

Herbert opened the period with a picture perfect, back-hand, five-hole goal just 42 seconds into the third. Spurred on by the lead, the Grizzlies put up five shots to Idaho’s none in the first five minutes of the period. Joey Raats took a holding call at 5:18, but the penalty killers were very active and killed it off well.

At 9:20, J.T. Henke flew in on a two-on-one with Jack Walker for his first in a Utah uniform. Marchment made it 5-1 from Teigan Zahn at 12:14 to complete the unexpected rout, and Rice and Moroz ended their nights early. Rice got five for fighting, while Moroz got two ten minute game misconducts for instigating in the final five, being the aggressor, and two for instigating in addition to his five.

Walters took a slashing call with less than two to go, but it made no difference to the score.

Herbert (2 goals, 1 assist, 6 shots) and Dickinson (2 assists) got first and second stars of the night and Cannata made 30/31 saves. Turner Ottenbreit also put up six shots, while Ausmus was +4 on the night and R.T. Rice got 16 penalty minutes.

Herbert (36 points) and Ully (31 points) now lead the league in points, Herbert also holding the lead in goals scored while Ully leads in assists. Additionally, Utah closed out the weekend series on a high note, taking over sole possession of the top spot in the Mountain Division, and tying the Toledo Walleye for first in the Western Conference. Moreover, they improved to 14-4-3-1 and ended Idaho’s winning streak.

The Grizzlies are off until Wednesday when they will take on Rapid City at home.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.