Utah Grizzlies: The Unexpected

Two top notch goalies gave up 4+ goals each, a goal scorer dropped the gloves twice in one period, and an enforcer turned play-maker with a pair of glorious assists as the Grizzlies took on the Monarchs.

The new look BAM line (Brad Navin, Kyle Thomas, Michael Pelech) got of to a flying start as the Grizzlies picked up three of the first four shots in the opening four. Unfortunately, when Manchester had a strong shift in the offensive zone, Joel Rumpel was forced far to the right of the goal mouth to cover a shot. The cross crease pass was put into a wide open net, as the Grizzlies were unable to box out Michael Doherty.

Utah picked themselves up after the goal, as the Pelech line had a good offensive zone shift, followed by Brendan and the Ryans. At 8:28, a seemingly harmless shot from Ryan Misiak bounced off Charles Williams’ glove, and into the net to tie it up.

The Grizzlies took the first penalty at 9:55 on a hooking call against Sam Babintsev. The penalty kill worked hard in their own zone, and went to the four-on-four as Taylor Richart was boarded at 10:48. The shenanigans didn’t end there, as Pelech and Matt Leitner dropped the gloves with 8:08 left. It wasn’t a whole lot of a fight, and it was broken up quite quickly, both sent off for five.

In the brief power play that followed, the Grizzlies doubled up their shot count, 10-5, and continued to look good, collecting a really nice shot from Brendan Harms off a face-off, and Misiak almost snagging his second of the frame on the rebound. On the very next face-off, Walters also got a good look on Williams.

The third line had a hardworking offensive zone shift with just over four minutes to go, and boy did it ever pay off. Travis Howe made a really nice pass to Mitch Maxwell, and Maxwell put it emphatically past Williams to give the Grizzlies the 2-1 lead.

Pelech laid a huge hit at about 18:50, which wasn’t penalized, but Keegan Iverson took exception, and Pelech dropped the gloves for the second time in the game, and fourth time this season.

The Grizzlies ended the period in the offensive zone, after (with the exception of the one very bad shift) a strong road period, out-shooting Manchester 14-9 with the 2-1 lead.

The Monarchs pressured to start the second, but took a holding the stick call at 1:06 in the offensive zone, sending Utah to the advantage. The Grizzlies got a couple of looks from Thomas, and at least one good one from Marchment, and they continued to press after the penalty.

However, the play went the other way, Ryan Walters took a hooking call, and just seven seconds after he went to the box, Manchester tied it up.

At 8:12, Walters drew a tripping call after another stretch of Grizzlies offensive zone time (and another shift from Howe). This time, Utah got some of their own back, as Harms pounded the puck past Williams from Taylor Richart just six seconds in.

Walters continued to miss by inches, getting in on a mini breakaway for at least his fourth look of the night. Chris Leibinger took a slashing call with 5:45 to go. Utah failed to make the final clear of the kill, and once again, the Monarchs tied it up.

With about a minute left, the puck bounced over Navin’s stick on one end of the ice, and at the other, Rumpel made a big save, and the two teams got into a brief shoving match.

At the end of the second, the teams were once again tied 3-3, but Manchester had the 22-19 lead on the shot clock.

Navin started the third flying, first off the opening face off, and then into the wall, giving the Grizzlies the first shot of the frame.

The third line once again created some buzz, backed by the skill of Richart, but on the next shift, Rob Mann turned the puck over, then in the ensuing defensive zone shift, took a hooking call.

Fortunately, Utah killed it off, and at 5:29, Melindy and Jake Wood dropped the gloves.

The third line’s strong showing continued, as Howe and Marchment got in two-on-one. Howe looked like he was going to shoot all the way, but at the last moment, he passed it off. Williams was helpless to stop the shot that Marchment put in over him.

Unfortunately, Manchester once again tied it up at 8:06, and despite Rumpel immediately being up in arms calling interference, and a very, very brief consultation, the goal counted.

Melindy took a delay-of-game penalty at 11:45, but Utah killed it off, and just over two minutes to go, the Grizzlies drew a power play. The first and second units both had some good looks, but weren’t able to beat Williams, and the advantage expired just moments before the third came to an end.

Once again, the Grizzlies went to OT, but 1:45 in, the Monarchs scored to get the extra point.

Harms (one goal, one assist), Howe and Babintsev (two assists each) all had multiple points, Howe’s the first of his career. Although Navin’s eleven game point streak came to an end tonight, he remains over a point a game, having put up 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 23 games since January 20th. Meanwhile, Misiak now has 14 points in the last 14 games, while Harms is on a point streak of his own, with five in the last four straight.

The two teams face off again at 4 PM today (Saturday) before they head to Worcester to face the Railers on Sunday.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.


Utah Grizzlies: Closely Contested

With the playoff race so close, Allen the team directly ahead of Utah in the standings, and the Tulsa Oilers within one and two points respectively, the two teams squared off on Friday night with a lot on the line.

Allen came out with considerably more jump in their step, but the Grizzlies kept them away from Joel Rumpel, and eventually got the first shot of the night from Ryan Misiak. They took the first penalty of the game as well about four minutes in as James Melindy tangled with J.C. Campagna, but the power play was rapidly negated as Zach Pochiro took a hooking call seven seconds later. Taylor Richart made a diving play to prevent a breakaway, and both teams returned to full strength with no change in score.

At 7:13, Austin Ortega extended his point streak to 12 games, scoring the opening goal from Michael Pelech and Mitch Maxwell at the top of the blue paint.

Misiak got taken down without a call near the 8:30 mark, rightly or wrongly, and the crowd objected. Allen pressured briefly thereafter, but the BAM Line countered with a strong shift of their own.

Ryans Walters and Misiak motored in on a two-on-one with about nine to go, followed almost immediately by a two-on-one with Walters and Brendan Harms, but Walters missed high, and Harms missed wide as the Grizzlies got their feet under them and started to look more cohesive.

However, the Americans kept working, and both teams exchanged chances, Misiak, Richart, and the BAM Line all getting good looks.

Utah turned the puck over at around the 18:10 mark, and Vincent Arseneau scored off of a really nice bit of passing. The tie did not last long at all, though, as Richart scored his 16th of the season on a nice shot from the left wing that beat Jake Paterson top corner. Ortega’s assist gave him yet another multi-point game, and Brad Navin’s secondary assist meant that both he and Richart extended their point streaks to ten.

The Grizzlies took their 2-1 lead to the locker room, out-shooting the Americans 13-8.

The second did not begin well, as Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored just 37 seconds into the frame.

Brendan and the Ryans had a good shift in response, but with the exception of Walters getting thrown in front of the net, nothing came of it.

Allen scored again at 3:18 as Pochiro beat Rumpel on a really nice shot.

The Utah cycle game returned about seven minutes in, as Brendan and the Ryans camped out in the offensive zone, Harms wired a shot towards the net, and Misiak put it past Paterson.

Utah drew a power play at 9:03, but negated it 15 seconds later on a gentle hook from Navin.

Richart had a couple of absolute cannons from the point during the four-on-four, including one that rang the crossbar, and Jake Marchment came really close to giving Utah the lead as the Grizzlies returned to full strength.

The BAM Line backed by Gage Ausmus and Melindy had a really strong shift, Navin got a chance, and then Pelech and Ortega played ping-pong with the puck from behind the net, and on the doorstep. Pelech capitalized at 12:54 from Ortega and Ausmus to give Utah back the lead.

Utah continued to buzz following the goal, but Sam Babintsev got caught retaliating, and was sent off for slashing at 14:21. Despite playing one of the only uninterrupted power plays of the game, Allen wasn’t able to capitalize. Ortega was hit hard, but popped up, and Walters and Misiak nearly had a goal later on the same shift. In the dying seconds, Ortega was taken down again, and once again with no call.

At the end of the second, Utah once again led, 4-3 this time, out-shooting the Americans 26-16.

Ausmus bobbled the puck at the offensive zone blue line, and Arseneau pounced, beating out both flying defensemen to score the tying goal at 6:04.

Melindy took a holding call at 11:26. The Grizzlies killed it off, but immediately returned to the box as Windle took down an Allen player in front of the net. With one minute to go on the penalty kill, Misiak elected to carry the puck out rather than chip it, and drew a tripping call flying into the Allen zone.

During the four-on-four, the Americans put the puck over the glass, but what should have been a delay of game penalty was ruled tipped out.

The end of regulation solved nothing, and neither did OT. The shoot out did not go well for Utah, as Navin was the only player to score for Utah, while all three of Allen’s skaters capitalized.

Ortega and Pelech earned the second and third stars of the game, while Richart and Misiak both had strong games

“I thought we were really good with the puck.” Branham said after the game. “Obviously, any time you score four goals, you should win a hockey game, and any time you keep them to 22 shots you should win a hockey game.

We did not have one full power play today, which I thought was unacceptable, especially in that kind of game. We faced a lot of adversity, found a way to get a point, but it’s a crucial point that we didn’t get.”

In what was essentially a decent game, with a couple of egregious errors off lackadaisical play, Branham said: “I don’t think we need to really work on anything, we just need to make sure everybody comes ready. I felt we had a few guys straggling, those are the guys that made the mistakes. We gotta make sure that if a team is gonna beat us, they’re gonna beat us. We don’t need to be beating ourselves.”

With Richart, Ortega and Navin all extending their point streaks, Branham had nothing but good things to say about them. “All three of those guys, in particular, Ortega and Richart, have been phenomenal. Every single time they’re on the ice, they’re dangerous. Pelech’s line is pretty dangerous, and pretty special, they’ve got some good chemistry going. Richart has really had a break out year. We rely on him a lot, both offensively and defensively, and you can’t say enough about the job that he’s done for the team, that’s for sure. Navin has really come on strong … and he really complements Pelech and Ortega pretty well.”



Image courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Playing Catch-Up

Looking to pick up their seventh straight win, Utah turned to Sean Maguire in nets, and Mitch Jones returned to the lineup after missing seven straight games. With Jones’ return, Nate Mitton sat out as the Grizzlies returned to ten forwards and six defensemen.

It was not Utah’s best start, as they looked a little wobbly off the face-off, and it cost them, as the Mallards scored 43 seconds into the game on a huge shot. They settled down considerably after that, the third line helping tremendously in that regard.

Sam Babintsev drew a power play about five minutes in, and the Rookie of the Month wasted no time in getting yet another goal. Austin Ortega’s power play marker from Michael Pelech and Taylor Richart tied the game.

Sam Windle took an interference call at 8:28, but the Grizzlies killed it off. However, at 11:27 Kyle Bigos scored off the face-off on a lightning shot to once more give the Mallards the lead. At that point, things certainly looked less than ideal, as they trailed 2-1, and were being out-shot by a count of 15-3.

At 17:59 the Grizzlies pounced on a lose puck in the offensive zone, and Jake Marchment sniped on Ivan Kulbakov to restore the tie.

Ortega took a slashing call with 21 seconds left, but after twenty, the game was tied 2-2, the shots a far more respectable 16-10.

The second didn’t get off to a great start either, as Pelech took a cross-checking call 32 seconds in, putting Utah on a five-on-three for over a minute. The Grizzlies were able to kill off the five-on-three, but Ortega had barely made it out of the box when Tristan King gave the Mallards the 3-2 lead.

The usual scoring suspects went charging into the offensive zone, Kulbakov went on a wild adventure, and before Ortega could pounce on the mistake, the whistle was blown on a supposed hand pass.

The defense lost the puck behind the Utah net, and at 3:29 the Mallards made it 4-2. Joel Rumpel came in at that point for Maguire, who really couldn’t be blamed for the state of the game.

The Grizzlies drew a power play following a brief scrum in front of Rumpel, and just five seconds in, Walters made it 4-3.

Unfortunately, the Mallards pounced immediately, and made it 5-3 abuot a minute later.

After such a fast and furious opening six minutes, the back half of the period was slightly less eventful. The BAM line had a couple of shifts that came painfully close to finding the net, and Rumpel made a number of big saves.

Rob Mann and Brayden Low got into a net-front skirmish, Mann getting a double roughing call, and Low getting just two. However, Utah killed it off.

Despite another strong shift from Ortega, Pelech, and Navin, and a rocket from Richart, the Grizzlies went into the second intermission down 5-3, out-shot 29-24.

The third opened with a bang, Walters scoring unassisted 55 seconds in. On the very next shift, Misiak made it 5-5.

They weren’t allowed to rest on their laurels, however, as Low made it 6-5 a little over a minute later. The action didn’t stop there, as Misiak was sent somersaulting, and Utah got their third power play of the night.

They weren’t able to convert this time, but they followed that up with a couple of strong offensive zone shifts.

Harms dropped the puck off for Richart, who blasted it into the net, but supposedly the net was off, despite no whistle, and they called it off.

With the BAM line once again causing trouble around the Mallards’ net, Ortega drew a tripping call at 9:36. Navin tied it for real on the ensuing power play, extending his scoring streak to seven games with assists from Ortega and Pelech.

Richart took a puck up high shortly afterwards, but got up and remained under the bench, and took his usual shift afterwards.

Quad City kept things interesting, robbing Walters of a hat trick, and then beating Rumpel, but not the post.

The Grizzlies took over the lead in shots 36-34 with three minutes left, but despite a big shift from Misiak, the game went to OT after a big third goal period. Both teams came close, Misiak and Harms especially, but the extra five once again solved nothing. Babinsev and Navin both beat Kulbakov on perfectly placed backhanders, but neither Walters nor Ortega capitalized, and Utah fell 7-6.

So the winning streak is over, but the point streak continues, as do Ortega’s, Navin’s, and Richart’s scoring streaks. Moreover, Walters, who earned second star of the game with two goals one assist, is over a point a game on the season (53 points in 48 games), and has eight points in the last five. Likewise, Misiak has twelve points in the last ten, and Marchment has seven points in the seven games he’s played with the Grizzlies.

The playoff race has become very interesting, as the Oilers, Americans, and Grizzlies are all fighting for the final spot, currently sitting at 59, 58, and 57 points respectively. With fifteen games left in the season, the Grizzlies post season push is bound to be an exciting (if stressful) one.

In a quick turn around, the Grizzlies play the Indy Fuel tonight and tomorrow before returning home for a home stand against Allen.




Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: Staying Hot

After a very successful, if brief home-stand, the Grizzlies were back on the road again in the Quad Cities. With Chris Leibinger and Mitch Jones still out, the Grizzlies again went with five defensemen and eleven forwards. After all, why mess with success? Joel Rumpel got the start in nets.

The Mallards were full of jump early, but after five minutes both teams had three shots each. The teams continued to exchange zone time, but it was Utah who struck first, Brad Navin extending his points streak to six games with a big shot for his tenth goal of the year. Austin Ortega and Sam Windle got the assists. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes later, Quad City tied it up on a huge shot of their own.

The Grizzlies got the first power play of the game, but were unable to get anything going. However, Ryan Walters gave them back the lead moments afterward.

Windle got an elbowing penalty at 16:49, but the Grizzlies killed it off, and after 20, they led 2-1, out-shooting the Mallards 11-7.

Navin sprang Ortega on a glorious breakaway 3:16 into the second, giving them a brief two goal lead. The Mallards drew within one again just over a minute later, however.

Walters went down with 11:45 to go either from a stick or the puck, but he remained on the bench, and ended up not missing a shift.

Brendan Harms had a couple of  great looks one one shift around the half-way mark of the period, while Sam Babintsev and Mitch Maxwell both had great opportunities to get their firsts of the year.

All three lines had an amazing couple of shifts shortly after the fifteen minute mark, but weren’t able to beat Ivan Kulbakov, who had himself quite a game.

Harms and Kulbakov took matching minors at 18:39, and at the end of the second, Utah had out-shot the Mallards 23-12 in the frame, hitting the locker room up 3-2.

Ryan Misiak got in all alone about four minutes into the third, and made no mistake, giving Utah their second two goal lead of the game.

After what had been a pretty good shift, Nate Mitton took a tripping call at the seven minute mark, which Utah killed off. The action went back and forth through most of the rest of the period, Rumpel making a number of big saves, and Ortega nearly getting a second goal.

James Melindy took a high-sticking call with 2:19 to go and the Mallards pulled Kulbakov to skate six-on-four. With less than a minute to go, Walters put the cap on the victory, scoring short-handed into the empty net from Richart.

Ortega (one goal, one assist), and Walters (two goals) earned the first two stars of the night, while Navin (one goal one assist), and Richart (two assists) also picked up multiple points. Moreover, Navin (ten points) and Richart (nine points) extended their streaks to six straight games, while Ortega (seventeen points) extended his to eight. Though they didn’t come in consecutive games, Misiak has eight and Walters has six points over the span on the winning streak.

Utah looks to keep rolling, and start March off on the right foot with their seventh straight win tonight against the Mallards.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.


Utah Grizzlies: A Flurry of Goals

On yet another snowy evening, the Grizzlies faced off against Jon Puskar, Ralph Cuddemi, and the Wichita Thunder, and absolutely buried them on the first half of the Grizzlies Fight Cancer weekend.

Wichita’s Johnny Daniels came flying in, and in fighting him off, Rob Mann took a tripping call 50 seconds in. Utah was very aggressive on the penalty kill, and Wichita only took two shots. A nice defensive play from Sam Windle kept the shots at 2-1 with about four minutes gone.

The Thunder took a too-many-men minor at 4:06, and the puck found it’s way onto Navin’s stick, but the power play was ineffectual. However, barely had the penalty expired, than Utah went back to the advantage as Daniels stepped out of the box, and was a little too enthusiastic in his play against Taylor Richart.

Utah wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play, but barely a second after they returned to full strength, Michael Pelech scored with assists from Richart and Mitch Maxwell, who got his first point with Utah.

The Grizzlies went right back to the power play again at 8:36 as Cuddemi went to the box for slashing. Utah wasn’t able to capitalize, Gage Ausmus took an interference call on Puskar, Sam Windle took a tripping call, and before Shane Starrett could get off the ice for the extra attacker, Cuddemi made it 1-1 at 11:51. Utah killed off Windle’s penalty, but the parade to the penalty box was by no means over.

A couple of minutes later, Travis Howe, and Samuel Thibault dropped the gloves, and Howe pummeled Thibault pretty thoroughly before the refs intervened. Howe got an extra two for removing his helmet, but in the end it didn’t matter, as Ryan Misiak took a perfect pass from Ryan Walters behind the net, and fired it home to restore Utah’s lead. Ausmus picked up his first point on the secondary assist.

Walters almost got a shorty of his own on the next shift, flying in, and getting a back-hander off on Starrett. Rumpel and Brendan Harms were big in killing off the rest of the power play, and they drew another power play in the offensive zone.

The Grizzlies initially had a little bit of trouble with the puck, but in the end it didn’t matter, as Brendan Harms beat Starrett top shelf from in the top of the blue paint to give Utah the 3-1 lead. It was fortunate that he did, as less than a minute later a shot from Puskar went off Rumpel’s glove and in.

It was a pretty sloppy period, but it had some of everything: a fight, a power play goal, a short handed goal, an even strength goal, good goals, bad goals, and lots, and lots of special teams. But Utah led 3-2 going into the first intermission, shots 8-6 for Wichita, and that’s as close as the game ever got.

The Thunder put on some pressure through the early moments of the second, but the Grizzlies re-established their game, and got some pressure of their own back around the four minute mark.

The Captain struck at 5:55, banking the puck off the post and in, on a really nice shot, making it yet another game where they put four past the generally very stingy Starrett. Sam Babintsev got his first point with the Grizzlies with an assist.

Utah went back to the power play at 6:39, but the Thunder killed it off, allowing no shots, and Howe went back to the box on a high-stick at 9:32. Harms didn’t miss by much on a chance for his second of the game with less than 30 seconds left on the Howe minor, and Utah returned to full strength.

The Grizzlies really got buzzing with over six to go, getting a couple of strong shifts swarming around Starrett, and the puck continued to follow Misiak around. Given the game Misiak was having, it perhaps came as no surprise when he pounced on a turnover, and scored his second of the game unassisted. Clearly, Misiak  likes playing the Thunder, as all four of his last goals have come against them.

It was Starrett’s last shot of the game, and Nick Riopel took over the net in relief.

Mann took a cross-checking call at 16:58, the Grizzlies blocked all kinds of shots, Pelech beat out Travis Brown on the short-handed breakaway, and then beat Riopel cleanly for the 6-2 goal. Again, the short-handed goal was fortunate, as Cuddemi scored his second of the game about twenty seconds later on another that Rumpel probably wanted back.

After 40, the Grizzlies led 6-3, and had barely edged out the Thunder 14-13 on the shot clock.

Despite leading by three goals, Utah didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the final frame.

Ortega went off for high-sticking eight seconds into the period, but despite getting four shots, Rumpel and the defensive effort shut them down.

Misiak made a bid for the hat trick about three and a half minutes in, but Walters’ pass rolled off his stick.

Harms got stapled to the boards hard with about six minutes gone with no call, and when Howe went out on the next shift, it looked like it might have been for another fight. Instead, however, on a night of first points, Howe scored his first of the year from Babintsev and Jake Marchment. Fortunately for the injury-bitten Grizzlies, Harms was out again, seemingly none the worse for wear pretty soon thereafter.

Misiak made yet another bid for the hat trick half way through the third, but Riopel turned that aside as well. James Melindy was taken down around the seven minute mark, and there was again no penalty. He took matters into his own hands against Nick Latta and got two for cross-checking, two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and was tossed from the game. The 5,751 fans in attendance were vehement in their disapproval, but the penalty kill was more than up to the task. Rumpel, Richart, and Walters were especially noticeable, but the entire squad stepped up.

Utah continued to play hard in the last couple of minutes after the penalty kill and with 1:46 to go, they had once last go at the power play. Navin and Pelech both got shots in the last minute, Howe made a couple of moves, and at the final buzzer, they were the 7-3 victors.

It wasn’t, perhaps, Rumpel’s best game, but he made some big saves when Utah needed them, and considering how much Monday’s victory was due to his performance, it was excellent that the team was able to respond with an outpouring of goals to return the favor. Misiak’s assist and two goals earned him first star honors, while Pelech (two goals) and Walters (one goal and one assist) picked up the second and third stars. Richart and Babintsev also had multiple points, both getting two assists, while all but four players picked up points.

“The changes we made, honestly, made a world of difference.” Tim Branham said after the game. “Getting a goalie like Rumpel, he’s played some great games for us. I’m sure he wanted a couple back out there tonight, but it was our turn to get him a win from the win that he got us against Idaho. The Colorado boys that we got, Ausmus and Marchment, those guys are just spectacular. We’re really rolling all cylinders right now, we’re a real confidant group, but we’re playing the right way. We’re seeing a lot of the little things that we’ve been preaching all year. We’re doing, whether a lot of shot blocking, winning your battles, chipping pucks up the wall, third guy high, or something, we’re doing a lot of things that successful teams do.”

Of the game’s first star, he added: “Ryan was great. When he’s moving his feet and being opportunistic, good things happen. He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. He loves here, and tonight he was definitely spectacular.”

The guys picking up their first points came in for a share of praise, and so did the rest of the team. “Those guys are a big part of our team. Babs [Babintsev] came in, has done real well, Maxwell, coming in from Canadian university, he’s really poised with the puck. He’s an older guy coming out of collage, so you can tell he’s real poised out there, real confident guy. Obviously Howie, we know what he’s all about. Everybody from top to bottom was really playing with a lot of confidence. They’re playing a team game. The most important thing is that we understand that yes, we’ve accomplished a little bit, but we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve just got to keep going, we’ve got quite a few games left in the season, and we just have to make sure that we’re playing well.”

“I think we’re just desperate.” Misiak said when asked about why everything has been coming together for the team. “We know the situation we’re in, we’re climbing in the standings, but we haven’t done anything yet, so we just have to continue to move forward.”

They will look to do that tonight (Saturday) and close out the series against the Thunder on another high note on the final Grizzlies Fight Cancer night.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and Staff