Utah Grizzlies: Death by Special Teams

After Wednesday’s close contest which saw them fall in overtime, the Grizzlies looked to keep the offense going. Carlos Amestoy drew into the lineup as they elected to play eleven forwards and five defencemen. Kenton Helgesen and C.J. Eick were both scratches as a result.

Utah got the game’s first two shots, but Jake Marto opened the game as he’d ended the previous contest, scoring at 3:01 as Utah was unable to shut down a three-on-two.

The Grizzlies continued to collect some good chances though, including a breakaway as Phil Pietroniro sprang Erik Bradford all alone. Lukas Hafner shut the door, and Faragher was called upon to make a couple saves in a row.

Martin Nemcik had a good chance on the doorstep, which led to some sustained offensive zone pressure through the middle portion of the first frame.

Utah drew the first power play of the game as Matt Register put the puck over the glass at 12:17. They had a very good first shift from Larraza and Brassard. The second shift had it’s moments, setting up Pietroniro’s shot from the point, before running into some trouble in their own end.

Jon Puskar was tripped up by Register with 1:55 left in the first, and it looked like Colin Martin had scored his 15th of the year 33 seconds later, but despite the initial call being a good goal, it was eventually overturned. The Grizzlies went right back to work, but were unable to capitalise despite a few good looks as the period came to an end.

Although the very brief man advantage to start the second wasn’t enough to get Utah going, their subsequent shifts continued to be quite good.

At 4:57, Larraza was boarded by Matt Garbowsky, Puskar and Brassard took exception, and the officials were obliged to break them up. Puskar and Garbowsky both got two for roughing, while Garbowsky got an additional two for boarding.

And this is where all the special teams struggles began. Bradford lost control of the puck at the blue line on the ensuing power play, and Casey Pierro-Zabotel beat both Pietroniro and Faragher to make it 2-0 short handed.

Utah did not let that stop them though, as Cuddemi cut the deficit in half at 14:05, and Higby tied it up less than a minute later.

Things seemed to be looking up for Utah as they avoided what probably should have been a penalty, and then drew a power play of their own at 12:59, but it was not to be.

Jackson Houck got in on a short-handed break away, and was tied up by Higby in a desperate bid to negate the breakaway. Houck was awarded a penalty shot, and beat Faragher to put Colorado up 3-2. The remaining power play got some really good chances, but was unable to erase the deficit.

Colorado got dinged for too many men with just over four minutes in the period, but in the midst of a strong shift, Pelech took a hooking penalty. Colorado scored 4-on-4 to make it 4-2 with less than two minutes left.

Puskar took an interference call with 18 seconds to go, and at the end of a wild second period, shots were 22-20 for Utah, but they trailed by two.

The opening moments of the third period saw a handful of key saves from Faragher, and some big clears from Pietroniro as the Grizzlies killed off the rest of Puskar’s penalty.

Utah got another crack at the man-advantage as Aubin was sent to the ice at 4:04. Martin got a good look, but Faragher was also forced to turn aside yet another short-handed breakaway before all was said and done.

Pietroniro took a retaliatory penalty at 8:21, and Colorado made it 5-2, and more or less continued to carry the play through the rest of the period.

Higby scored his second of the game with just under two minutes to go, but though the Grizzlies pulled Faragher for the extra attacker, they were unable to draw any closer, ultimately falling 5-3.

Special teams definitely hurt Utah in this game, as they allowed two short handed goals, one power play goal, and one four-on-four, and were only able to convert on one of their seven opportunities. They played quite well through large stretches of the first two periods, but the Eagles made them pay for every little break in concentration.

This game was doubly unfortunate, as the Missouri Mavericks beat Idaho, and now are ahead of Utah by one point, as the fight for the last playoff spot intensifies. However, they are by no means out of contention, remaining well within striking distance of Alaska.

Moreover, special teams aside, there were definitely some positives. The new-look lines of Larraza-Reid-Brassard, and Cuddemi-Pelech-Bradford looked excellent. Cuddemi picked up his 25th goal of the season, and his fourth point in the last two games, while Pelech had a two assist performance.

Likewise, the Utah defence has stabilized considerably now that they’ve had time to adjust. Higby especially has been impressive as a defenceman, picking up two more goals tonight, while Pietroniro continues to eat up big minutes on the blue line, and has looked especially good quarterbacking the power play. Marc-André Lévesque also picked up his first point in a Grizzlies’ uniform, and appears to be fitting in well.

Utah is back in action tomorrow against the Eagles, where they look to pick up two all important points and come home with the series split.

 

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: A Point Taken

In the first of Utah’s three games in Colorado, the lineup saw a little bit of a change up, as Zac Larraza returned to the Grizzlies after having spent most of the season thus far with the San Diego Gulls. Marc-André Lévesque also made his debut in a Grizzlies’ jersey, and Ryan Faragher got the start.

Erik Higby got the Grizzlies on the board first at 3:58, on a gorgeous shot from the right circle, with assists from Austen Brassard and Larraza.

Unfortunately, Utah had no time to rest on their laurels. The Eagles answered with two goals in 61 seconds less than a minute later, and the Grizzlies found themselves in desperate need of some more offense. The first goal was off a wild scramble and repeated rebounds that eventually beat Faragher, and the second off a takeaway and a big shot from Sam Jardine.

Colorado continued to press after their two goals, but Faragher turned aside multiple two-on-ones, and other chances, while the Grizzlies scrambled to get their bearings.

Matt Garbowsky made it 3-0 with a wrap-around at 11:08, and Faragher narrowly prevented a 4-0 deficit immediately after. Martin Nemcik and Sean Zimmerman took a penalty after the ensuing scramble. Colin Martin took a tripping minor a few minutes later, but Utah killed off their first short-handed situation of the game, silencing the best power play in the league.

The Eagles got a second go on the man advantage after a slashing call on Travis Howe at the very tail end of the period. Erik Bradford nearly capitalized on a turnover all alone in front of the Eagles’ net, but Clarke Saunders dove out of  to make the save

At the end of twenty, Colorado led 3-1, and the shots were tied at 11 a piece.

Despite starting the second on the penalty kill, Ralph Cuddemi had a spectacular chance by himself as the Eagles’man-advantage ended, and Larraza, Brassard, and Cam Reid had a shift that started a brief stretch of Utah possession at about the seven minute mark. On the other end, Faragher continued to turn aside some dangerous Eagles’ opportunities.

Cuddemi made it 3-2 as the puck hit Saunders on the 2-on-1, and then bounced into the net at 10:28. With 7:33 left in the period, Utah was outshooting Colorado 21-15.

Despite drawing their first power play of the game with 3:06 left in the frame, Utah was unable to capitalize, and Martin took a high-sticking penalty with less than two left to go, sending the teams to a brief 4-on-4, and then an Eagles’power play.

Aubin and Higby both had chances on the penalty kill, but it would be Bradford who tied the game short-handed on a beautiful buzzer beater. Utah outshot Colorado 15-5 in the frame, and 26-16 overall after forty.

Utah killed off the remainder of the Eagles’ power play to start the third, and then they had to weather some Colorado pressure. Faragher made a couple of key saves, and the Grizzlies pushed back, getting a very nice shot off a Cuddemi drop-pass to the trailing Pietroniro. There was another very close call when the puck trickled through Saunders in the blue paint, but Teigan Zahn narrowly beat Pietroniro to the puck and swept it out of danger.

Colorado pressed for large portions, but the Grizzlies got a few counter-punches that forced Saunders to make a few good saves. At 9:01, Brassard and Zahn got sent off with matching cross-checking penalties, and Utah drew a 4-on-3 when Bootland tripped up Larraza by the Eagles’ net.

Casey Pierro-Zabotel got away with a couple of crosschecks on Pietroniro by the goal mouth, but just moments later, Cuddemi scored his second of the game with assists from Bradford and Lévesque.

The pace kicked up a couple of notches in the final six or seven minutes or so, and with just 2:20 left in the third, Alex Belzile tied the game up again. Despite a good response from the Grizzlies, the game went into overtime.

Unfortunately for Utah, after a fast paced 55 seconds, the Eagles got in on a two-on-one, and Jake Marto scored the game winner.

It was not the Grizzlies’ finest performance, though it certainly wasn’t one of their worst either, and the point is a valuable one in the playoff push.

Larraza and Lévesque seemed to fit in fairly seamlessly, which is a major benefit, especially for the defence.

Utah plays tonight (Friday) and Saturday against Colorado, and it is to be hoped that a renaissance in goal-scoring together with more familiarity on defence will lead to a better result.

Utah Grizzlies: War of Attrition

The Grizzlies came into this contest looking to take the third game of the series down Erik Bradford, Tim Daly, and Evan Stoflet, while Kevin Boyle got the start for the second straight night. These absences meant that Utah only dressed four defencemen and ten forwards.

Utah  got an early power play, as Ben Lake boarded Brad Navin 1:45 into the first. Utah got a few chances, but Alaska killed off the penalty.

Colin Martin, Erik Higby, and Michael Pelech all got big scoring chances, but it would be Navin who gave the Grizzlies the 1-0 lead at 9:35.

Utah killed off a holding penalty to Higby, and they continued to swarm, in no way looking like a short-handed team playing their third game in as many nights.

Cam Reid took a late penalty with less than a minute to go, but the Grizzlies headed to the locker room holding the 1-0 lead, outshooting Alaska 17-5.

The Grizzlies killed off the remainder of Reid’s penalty handily, getting the only shot on the Aces’ man advantage, and generally looking like the better rested and hungrier team.

Higby, Cuddemi, and Martin crashed the Aces’ crease, and Martin collared Higby’s rebound, beating Michael Garteig for his twelfth of the year at 3:56.

Half way through the frame, Travis Howe and Garet Hunt dropped the gloves, and after the longest staredown ever, Howe got the edge in the fight, landing quite a number of punches before they were separated.

With just under five minutes left to play, the Grizzlies capitalized on an Aces’ bobble at their blue line. Cuddemi made a spectacular pass, sending the puck behind Garteig to Martin who scored his second of the night into the wide open net.

Utah closed out the second with some great chances, and the period ended in absolute chaos, Tim Wallace tangling with Nemcik and Pietroniro at the buzzer before both teams came flying in.

As the mayhem continued, Pelech and Marc-Andre Levesque dropped the gloves, and it was all the officials could do to break up the fight and get everyone off the ice. Utah went to the room up 3-0, and outshooting the Aces 24-19, but that’s when the tables turned.

As the dust settled, it became clear that despite the 3-0 lead, getting through the third period was going to take a Herculean effort from the Grizzlies. Pelech and Levesque both got five for fighting and a game misconduct, while Nemcik and Laplante were assessed a double minor for roughing, and a ten minute misconduct each. Wallace, who started the whole mess, also got two for roughing.

Alaska, who got three fresh players back for the game, could shrug off the loss of two players. Utah, already down their leading goalscorer and two defenders, would now have to play with only three defencemen for all but six minutes of the third without yet another top six forward.

It didn’t get any better from there.

In the early stages of the third, Cuddemi scared Grizzlies fans everywhere, when he left the ice looking uncomfortable. Fortunately, he appeared to be alright, but that was only the beginning.

A few minutes later, Richart was sent head over heels by a pair of Aces players, and went to the bench before taking a few tentative spins during the break. It appeared that Utah had dodged yet another bullet when he returned to play, only for Pietroniro to take a tripping penalty at 5:46. Unfortunately, Tyler Shattock scored just ten seconds later to make it 3-1.

Although the Aces manhandled Helgesen in the middle of the frame, it was Puskar who went to the box with 11:08. A mere six seconds later, Wallace took a healthy swing at Pietroniro off the faceoff. Pietroniro went down to the ice, and Wallace joined Puskar in the box.

With both Pietroniro and Richart banged up, Nemcik still in the box, and Helgesen the sole healthy defenceman on the bench, the Grizzlies struggled, and at 9:07, Nolan Descoteaux put the Aces within one.

At 10:33 Shattock took a charging penalty on Helgesen, Martin took exception to the hit, and both got two for roughing. Navin also tangled with an Alaska player, but neither were given penalties. Thanks to these infractions, Utah had a brief 5-on-3 situation, before a returning to a 5-on-4 power play.

Each team returned to full strength with no change in score, but Utah got a few really excellent chances on the man advantage. Alaska got a power play of their own as Navin took a slashing call with 5:37 to go in the period. Austen Brassard had a great chance short-handed, and the Grizzlies got Nemcik and Navin back. However, the Aces tied up the game with less than four minutes left to go.

Utah and Alaska both pressed in the remaining minutes, but Boyle and Garteig made some big saves to send the game to overtime.

Just fifteen seconds into OT, Cuddemi was sent to the sin bin for hooking, but the Grizzlies killed the penalty off, even getting a 2-on-1 chance from Helgesen and Nemcik.

In the dying seconds of OT, Martin made a bid for a hat trick and the win with an incredible shift, but it was not to be, and the game went to the shoot out.

Boyle — who has received far too little praise in the recap for being instrumental in helping get Utah this far — allowed a lone goal in the shoot out. Reid and Aubin scored for the Grizzlies, and Utah took the extra point.

Martin and Cuddemi earned the first two stars, but there were no passengers in this game. The performances of Pietroniro, Richart, Helgesen, and Boyle especially were also essential in earning the win.

This was a huge game for the Grizzlies, not only because they won despite being down three to five players for significant stretches of the game, but also because the two points they earned put them three points behind both Alaska and Idaho.

At the end of the day, they’re well within striking distance of a playoff spot, and they have a whole week to recover from what was unquestionably their gutsiest performance of the season.

The Grizzlies are next in action in a three-game home-stand against the Steelheads, where they will hope to take possession of a playoff spot.

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: 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