Utah Grizzlies: Spinning Tires

Tonight saw the much awaited returns of Colin Martin and Cam Reid, bringing with them some changes to the lineup. With Sam Windle day-to-day with an injury per Adrian Denny, Phil Pietroniro returned to defence, and Martin replaced Travis Howe as the tenth forward.

The first period was nothing if not penalty filled. Erik Bradford took a hooking call 2:22 into the first, Mike Banwell took another at 9:09, and Pelech went to the box for roughing seventeen minutes in. Troy Redmann took a delay of game penalty soon thereafter, giving the Grizzlies a brief 5-on-3.

With that many penalties in the first, it is perhaps not surprising that the Grizzlies did spend quite a bit of time in their own zone, getting outshot 12-6 through the first period.

The second period began a lot better for the Grizzlies. They killed off the remaining 51 seconds of Redmann’s penalty, and then Reid sent the puck past Marek Langhamer to put the Grizzlies up 1-0 at 3:25 for his third of the year.

Utah got their first crack on the power play at 5:41 as Triston Grant got sent off for interference, but Ralph Cuddemi took the Grizzlies’ third hooking call of the night to negate the man advantage.

Rapid City tied the game up at 15:47 as Michael Young beat Redmann on the Rush’s 20th shot of the night.

Evan Stoflet got called for cross-checking at 16:31, but the Grizzlies killed it off, and got a power play of their own to close out the period as Grant went off for high-sticking against Nemcik. Though they established good offensive zone pressure, the period ended before they could make anything of it.

At the end of 40, Rapid City outshot Utah 23-13, and the game was tied at one a piece.

Just seconds into the third, Rapid City took a slashing penalty against Bradford, and the Grizzlies had a very short 5-on-3. The two man advantage was not long enough to set anything up, but Utah had a pretty decent looking power play.

Coming off that power play, the Grizzlies began to pick up the pace a bit, but just when things began to look like they might get rolling, Banwell got called for delay of game. The penalty kill remained perfect, but Rapid City took the 2-1 lead with 10:50 to go.

The Rush took a penalty almost immediately after the goal, but again, though the Grizzlies had some chances, they were unable to capitalize.

The teams traded penalties with less than five to go, ultimately ending with a short Grizzlies’ power play. Again, the Grizzlies established possession, but couldn’t press the man advantage.

With about a minute left to play, Branham pulled Redmann in favour of the extra skater, but Rapid City scored into the empty net with less than 30 seconds left to play.

It was not one of the Grizzlies better outings as they took quite a few penalties, and were never able to really get going. However, the game was also not uniformly awful, as Utah was a perfect 8/8 on the penalty kill, and Redmann made 33 saves.

Utah and Rapid City face off on Friday and again on Saturday to cap off the five game series between these two teams.



Utah Grizzlies: The Force Awakens

They may have been wearing Vader’s clones on their jerseys, but the Force was strong with the Grizzlies on Saturday night.

The opening minutes were largely played in the Grizzlies’ end, with Ryan McKay making some good saves, and Phil Pietroniro getting a very nice shot going the other way.

Utah got the first power play of the night at 3:25 as Ryan Walters tripped a Utah player behind the Grizzlies’ net. Rapid City got the first shot of the power play with a short handed rush up ice, but McKay and the Grizzlies’ defence were able to break it up.

The Grizzlies and the Rush exchanged several penalties in the next several minutes as the game turned into a race up and down the ice.

With roughly six minutes to go, the puck appeared to trickle past McKay while the Grizzlies were on the power play, despite a valiant effort, but the ref immediately waived it off due to a distinct kicking motion, and no sooner had Rapid City returned to full strength when they took another penalty.

After 20, shots were 9-7 for Utah, but the score remained tied up at 0.

Just about three minutes into the second, Rapid City scored again, going up 2-0, but throughout most of the second, Utah outshot the Rush. Erik Higby had quite a number of good chances throughout the period, and you got the feeling that he was going to score.

With three minutes left to play, Higby did just that, after an excellent stretch of offensive pressure, cutting the deficit to one.

Five seconds before the end of the period, Travis Howe and Brayden Low squared off behind the Rapid City net after a big hit. They both got sent off for fighting, but Low got an extra two for roughing, and the period ended with the Grizzlies outshooting the Rush to the tune of 24-12.

The third period was a wild ride right from the gate, as Mathieu Aubin scored from the point to tie the game at two with :39 left to go in the power play.

About two minutes later, Taylor Richart got an elbowing penalty after a big hit, and that’s when things got really interesting.

McKay took a puck off the mask, and left the ice bleeding heavily. Down Ryan Faragher and Kevin Boyle, the Grizzlies had signed Jay Stevens to be their emergency backup. Stevens, a 43-year-old firefighter, has served as Utah’s emergency back up on numerous occasions, but had never made an appearance for them until Saturday night.

As the ice crew removed McKay’s blood from the ice, and Stevens warmed up, Grizzlies fans had no idea what to expect, with the team on the penalty kill, and the game tied at two.

Stevens put any questions to rest immediately, and the Grizzlies killed off the penalty. They got a power play of there own at 6:35. At the end of the power play, shots were 29-19 for Utah, and Stevens was a perfect six for six.

But it wasn’t over quite yet. Higby went to the box for tripping with 7:05 left to play, and shortly thereafter, Josh MacDonald and Brenden Walker went off for Rapid City, while Howe was sent off for Utah.

At that point, McKay returned to the ice, and the crowd gave Stevens a rousing ovation as he headed to the bench, where his teammates gave him a hero’s welcome, his perfect 10:35 and seven saves having kept the Grizzlies in the game.

Rapid City and Utah exchanged several power play opportunities, but with only one minute left, and the Grizzlies out shooting the Rush 30-22, the score was still tied at two.

But the Grizzlies weren’t done. With just 40 seconds left in the period, Higby scored his second of the night from Bradford and Banwell to give the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead.

Though Rapid City called their time out to regroup, it made no difference, and Utah came away the winners.

Higby, Aubin and Stevens were named the three stars of the game.


“The guys just did an awesome job.” Branham said of his team after the game,  “The way they pulled together, stuck with it, never said die. Jay Stevens, the job he did there in net was just tremendous. For Aubin to get that tying goal, and Higby to pounce on a rebound to win it, you can’t say enough how proud I am of this group, the character that’s in that room.”

“They’ve put up with a lot of crap this year, a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs, and they’re coming out clean on the other end. We’ve just got to keep it up, savour the moment, and keep fighting, clawing our way back up in the standings.”

Of Higby he added: “We were saying on the bench before he got that game winner, ‘we’re gonna get one here, we’re gonna get one here’. It was a great rebound, he darted down there, right where we’ve been telling him to go for the last month.”

“The amount of adjustments we had to make today was crazy. You have to top your hat to these boys. They pulled together as a team, they executed, they listened, you can’t ask for anything more.”

The good night continued after the game, as the Star Wars jerseys raised $18,731 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Ryan McKay’s jersey topped the sale, going for $1,800!

You can read a couple of great stories on Jay Stevens here and here!

Utah Grizzlies: Home Sweet Home!



After something of a hellish road trip, the Grizzlies returned to the Maverik Center hoping to get a much needed win on home ice.

The game began well with the Grizzlies getting their first shot right off the faceoff, but the following five minutes were very much a back and forth affair, and the Grizzlies’ passes didn’t quite seem to be hitting tape in the beginning.

Unfortunately, Rapid City would strike first at 5:32 as a laser shot found its way past Ryan Faragher. The Grizzlies responded with ferocity, but narrowly missed the net.

About the halfway point of the period, Jon Puskar got in on a 2-on-1, and scored on a beautiful shot to tie up the game.

Just a few minutes later, Evan Stoflet took a huge shot from the point, but his stick shattered, and the play went the other way. Immediately afterward, however, Erik Bradford got in all by himself, and deked out Rapid City goalie Austin Lotz right in the blue paint to put the Grizzlies up 2-1 at 11:52.

Shortly thereafter, Puskar found himself in the box for roughing, and the Grizzlies’ penalty kill went to work in a businessman-like  fashion. Faragher made a huge glove save, deflecting a dangerous-looking shot up and over the top of the net right as the penalty kill ended.

With just 2:47 left to play in the period, Mike Banwell got off a gorgeous shot from the point that found its way to the back of the net via the sticks of Bradford and Johnny McInnis, giving the newcomer his first goal at the Mav, and putting Utah up 3-1.

The Grizzlies came out hard in the second period, getting some sustained pressure in the offensive zone, and showing off an excellent cycle game.

However, at about the two-minute mark, a Hail Mary pass sprang Brayden Low all alone into the Grizzlies’ end. Phil Pietroniro made a diving attempt to tie him up, but only succeeded in tripping Low, who went sprawling into Faragher. The goaltender remained in the game, and Pietroniro went to the box for tripping.

The Grizzlies killed off the penalty without trouble, and about two minutes later, Brett Perlini went to the box for hooking against the speedy C.J. Eick.

Rapid City killed off the penalty, and at 7:47, Erik Higby took a slashing minor. Unfortunately, the Rush scored on the man advantage, as Josh MacDonald, a former Grizz player, tipped the puck in past Faragher.

Just shy of the halfway mark, Evan Stoflet, Anthony Colins, and Triston Grant got tied up along the boards, and Colins and Stoflet dropped the gloves. Stoflet and Colins both got five for fighting, and Stoflet and Grant both got two for roughing.

Just about a minute later, Ryan Walters (also a former Grizz) put a terrific shot through Faragher to tie up the game.

Rapid City took a penalty behind their own net to give the Grizzlies a power play at 11:52, but though both Mathieu Aubin and Tim Daly got big shots off, they were unable to capitalize.

The Grizzlies got another power play at 15:54, and with just seven seconds left, Aubin scored to put them up 4-3. However, before the in arena announcer even had time to finish announcing the goal, Rapid City came in and tied it up all over again.

To start the third, Ryan McKay replaced Faragher in the Grizzlies’ crease.

The Grizzlies started throwing their weight around, to good effect, but Pietroniro was taken down  by the Grizzlies net, and though he got up under his own steam, he had to be helped off the ice favoring his right leg. Stoflet took a penalty at 4:26, and the team has a close call as the puck got past McKay, but it hit the post and came back out. Shortly after the penalty kill expired, Pietroniro returned, though didn’t look entirely comfortable the rest of the way.

Just after the nine-minute mark, Mike Banwell scored his first of the year to put the Grizzlies up 5-4. Erik Higby and Erik Bradford got the assists, giving Bradford three points on the evening.

With 2:29 left to go in the period, Rapid City scored right off the faceoff, on an absolute rocket from the point to tie up the game once more.

After all that, the game went to overtime.

The Grizzlies dominated the extra frame, spending the large majority of the time either in possession of the puck, or keeping Rapid City passing the puck around in their own zone.

With 1:26 left in overtime, Banwell scored his second of the game to break Utah’s nine-game losing streak, and started the six-game homestand off with a much needed victory.

“It felt really good to get that win,” said Banwell after the game. “When they came back to tie it late in the third, we were obviously bummed out, but it was good how we rallied and came back and won in overtime, cause we were more than due for that one, so hopefully we can build on that and get some momentum.”

“We need to get the wins from anywhere right now,” he added later.

When asked how the Grizzlies can build on this win moving forward, he mentioned that while Utah got some bounces during the game, their goals were also gritty, the product of some strong net-front presence.

He also pointed out that the Grizzlies played pretty well in Wheeling, and in general lately; a sentiment echoed by Coach Branham.

“Obviously, we’ve been waiting a little long for that win,” Branham said, “But the boys have been playing good hockey. I’m not going to lie, there’s been some adversity and some weird change of events, but we played really good hockey. And tonight … tonight it wasn’t as good, to be honest, we didn’t play as good as we have been, but the boys wanted it. We faced a lot of adversity today, even some that the fans probably don’t know about, and for the boys to pull together and find a way was just awesome.”

When asked what it means to him that the Grizzlies continued to play hard throughout the nine game losing streak, he added: “it means the world, especially for me as a coach. When you lose that much in a row, it’s tough to keep their attention. They’re a great group of guys, they’re really fun to be around, they battle hard for each other. They never gave up, that’s for sure. They never gave up.

“We gotta savor this moment, we had a lot of success earlier this season, and we’ve finally got that feeling back. We’ve just got to build off of it.”

Of Banwell Branham said “he’s extremely important to this team: he plays against top lines, power play, penalty kill, he plays a lot of minutes. Obviously for a guy that’s played in the American League, we expect a lot out of him, and he delivers.”

He certainly did last night, with an assist and two goals, including the OT game-winner.

As to Faragher, and whether or not we’ll be seeing him on the ice tonight, Branham could only say that the team will re-evaluate today, and see how things go for tonight’s rematch.

The game starts at 7 PM, and as it is Star Wars Night, the Grizzlies will be wearing these awesome Storm Trooper jerseys which will be auctioned off after the game!