Utah Grizzlies: Bring on the Thunder

With three disappointing losses under their belts, Utah came into Wichita looking to bounce back, especially on the defensive end of things. With Travis Howe out with a two game suspension, and James Melindy scratched with a day-to-day injury, Utah went back to ten forwards but played only and five defensemen, Mitch Jones drawing back in on the blue line. Kevin Carr once more got the start.

The first line of Ryan Walters, Jon Puskar, and Kyle Thomas started for the Grizzlies, and were followed by a strong shift from Brendan Harms, and the other two Ryans, who got the first shot of the game.

Misiak, Olsen, Zach Saar, and Sam Windle had a great shift, crashing the Thunder net, and Saar dropped the gloves with Cory Melkert at 3:21. Five minutes into an 0-0 game, shots were 8-2 for the Grizzlies.

Wichita had a brief stretch of possession shortly thereafter, but Utah responded well, and the Thunder took a delay of game penalty with 13:09 to go. They didn’t capitalize, but they held possession for nearly the entire advantage.

The Grizzlies’ strong, structured play continued through the first half of the period, out-shooting Wichita 11-4.

The defensive woes of the Pelech and Ortega line continued, and after a strong shift from the Thunder in the offensive zone, Evan Polei roofed it on Carr to give them the 1-0 lead, despite the 12-6 shot advantage for Utah.

It looked like Wichita had scored again moments later, but the linesmen went racing in, and after a brief conference, the goal was waived off with 5:13 to go.

Olsen made a couple of good plays, which ultimately culminated in a pass to Misiak through some bodies. Misiak pulled it around Shane Starrett, and into the net to tie the game up at 17:42. Ortega got the secondary assist.

After 20, Utah out-shout Wichita 20-8, goals one apiece.

The Grizzlies came out buzzing to start the second, getting the first three shots of the frame. Windle got a nice shot 16 seconds in, and then Brendan and the Ryans had a strong shift.

It eventually payed off. Olsen dished to Higby, and Higby batted it past Starrett, giving Utah the 2-1 lead.

Wichita then took two penalties in quick succession, and Puskar made it 3-1 from Ortega and Walters on the two-man advantage. Carr kept it a two goal lead, shutting down a one-on-none with roughly eight minutes gone, and Utah drew yet another power play.

They were unable to capitalize, and Chris Leibinger just missed scoring a gorgeous goal, as he flew in, and sniped on Starrett. Unfortunately for Utah, though he beat Starrett, the puck hit the post, and rolled to the wrong side.

Misiak took an offensive zone penalty with 3:15 to go, and after lengthy offensive zone possession, Wichita drew within one.

Brendan, the Ryans, and Cliff Watson buzzed around Starrett after he goal, but after 40, Utah headed out with a 3-2 lead, and a 38-18 shot lead.

Wichita took a face-off violation just 17 seconds into the period, but Utah was unable to beat the determined kill, and the Thunder returned to full strength.

Momentum swayed back and forth, first Colin Martin and the Thunder varying play, then Higby and Pelech, then the Thunder again through the first ten, as Wichita pressured, and Utah’s structured play briefly fell apart under it.

Jones took an elbowing call at 8:19, but Utah gave up relatively few looks, Walters got in on a short-handed breakaway, and Carr made a save right as the kill expired.

Another unforced error from the Thunder (too many men this time) led to another Utah power play, but the Grizzlies struggled again, Olsen and Harms having to hustle back to break up a good  Wichita short-handed look.

With 5:49 to go, Jones took another penalty, but fortunately, the penalty kill looked far more dangerous than their power play had in its last two outings, and Carr held down the fort.

With less than two minutes to go, Starrett went to the bench, but the Grizzlies controlled play in the offensive zone, holding the puck for almost fifteen seconds. The Thunder got a little too excited and got caught with seven men on the ice with 46 seconds to go.

Wichita once more pulled their goalie to skate five on five, and held possession of the puck, but for the second time that night, Walters pounced on the puck at the Utah blue line, and despite the best efforts of Jeremy Beaudry, pulled away, and scored into the empty net with ten seconds to go. Olsen got his third assist of the night

It was a fitting end to a pretty strong game, in which Utah out-shot Wichita 42-27 to halt the skid at three.

Olsen appeared to be more engaged than he had been for several games past, shooting more in the first period than he had in the four previous games combined. It certainly payed off, as he got three primary assists, and made some big moves on both ends of the ice, as well as playing a role on the power play and penalty kill.

The play of Misiak and Olsen earned them both stars, Misiak picking up the first star, while Olsen received the third.

The same two teams square off tonight before Utah returns home for their Monday afternoon match against Rapid City.

 

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

Utah Grizzles: From Bad to Worse

From start to finish, it was a bizarre affair.

To begin with, Utah came out sluggishly on Friday night, but still managed to score a trio of goals against Rapid City, the first an excellent jam-in from Jon Puskar, the second from Ryan Olsen, and the third also from Puskar. It wasn’t so much that they played well, as that they were opportunistic, and Adam Vey struggled.

Former Grizz Peter Sivak also scored, but the luck seemed to be tipped entirely in the Grizzlies’ favor.

Then, just when it seemed that the second period was about to get underway, they discovered issues with the ice in front of the Grizzlies’ bench and also behind the net. After a lengthy delay in which they attempted to repair the ice, it was decided that the best course of action was to postpone the end of the game.

So the game was re-scheduled for Sunday, Utah leading 3-1, and outshooting the Rush 13-8.

The second pass at the second period saw Brendan Harms, Ryan Olsen and Rob Mann out for Austin Ortega, James Melindy and Zach Saar.

The team looked decent at the start, Ortega looking more comfortable and making a few nice moves, while Puskar made an early bid for the hat trick.

Unfortunately, Charley Graaskamp went hard into the boards shortly thereafter, had to be helped off the ice, and did not return (he was later placed on injured reserve). That’s more or less when the issues started.

The Grizzlies gave up a number of breakaways on defensive breakdowns, most of which Kevin Carr turned aside until just after the seven-minute mark. Utah gave up an unassisted goal to Tyler Deresky on a bad turn over.

Utah had a few decent shifts afterwards, sparked by a strong one from Puskar, together with Erik Higby and Travis Howe. Their work eventually led to a power play at the half-way mark of the period. However, Michael Pelech took a roughing call a minute or so later, and despite some strong shifts from Utah, and Ryan Misiak especially, the various penalties came to an end.

Despite a strong effort from Garrett Haar, and Mitch Jones, the next goal went to the Rush with five minutes left, followed less than a minute later by the go-ahead goal.

When the second period came to a merciful end, Utah had been utterly out-played their top line an abysmal -3, and a two-goal lead squandered.

The third period did not begin any more auspiciously, Jones taking a penalty less than two minutes in. That was killed off, but then first Saar and then Pelech went to the box, and Rapid City scored on both the five-on-three and five-on-four to give them the 6-3 lead. That was the end of Carr’s night.

His departure seemed to serve as a wake-up call the Grizzlies needed, and their play improved.

It seemed like it was destined to be derailed, however, after Melindy went down to a spear. At first it seemed that Melindy alone was going to go off for unsportsmanlike conduct, but in the end he got two and ten, while Pavel Jenys got five for spearing, and a game misconduct.

Pelech made it 6-4 at 16:10 on the power play, giving Ortega his first point in a Utah jersey, and Ortega followed that up with a power play goal of his own at 18:37 with the net empty, and the Grizzlies playing with the extra skater.

Unfortunately, that’s as close as they got, and Sivak capped off his hat trick into the empty net with ten seconds to spare.

“I think it’s a classic example of not coming ready to play.” Tim Branham said after the game, “Built a 3-1 lead there on Friday, maybe thought, once again, that it was going to be easy, and didn’t have that killer instinct. Too little too late at the end, and gave up too many scoring chances.”

Of the struggles the Grizzlies had in the second, he said, “Your best players have to be your best players. You can’t have that top line be -3, they’re the ones that dug us into that hole, whether it was their fault or not, they were on the ice for it. I think a lot of different guys were at fault for those goals in the second period, but we just, not enough time to get ourselves out of that one. Learn from it, get out on the road here, and have a good road trip.”

So what do they need to work on besides being more prepared? “Our power play needs to improve, we’ve been saying that all season, it’s tough to defend there that five on three. I thought our penalty kill was doing pretty good, the two power play goals that they got, one’s a five-on-three, one’s just a bad, broken play. Our five on five play, it was disappointing that we couldn’t take more advantage of Rapid City five-on-five. I think that was the story of the weekend, and we’ve got a little bit of a tough hill to climb.”

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming & staff

Utah Grizzlies: The Phantom Menace

After winning 8-3 against the Rush on Friday night, the Grizzlies’ line-up remained unchanged, with the exception of Angus Redmond getting the start.

Utah got the first two shots of the game, but the Rush answered quickly, getting the next four, and throwing their weight around. The Grizzlies got some looks in the first five minutes, but by-and-large, Rapid City kept the play moving towards the Utah zone.

With 14:08 to go, the Ryan Line charged the net, Ryan Olsen got the shot, and they drew the first power play of the game. They drew another power play when Peter Sivak got a throwing-the-stick call. The Grizzlies got a couple of shots on the minute long five-on-three, re-establishing their shot lead, but they were unable to put the puck past former Utah goalie Shane Owen.

One thing the power play did, however, was allow the Grizzlies to take back momentum from a Rush team working hard after the 8-3 drubbing. Olsen got a shot off one-on-one against Owen on a tight angle with 9:52 to go, but Owen kept it scoreless.

Chris Leibinger made a couple of huge blocks in the defensive zone, that led to an odd-man rush between Kyle Thomas and Ryan Misiak. Misiak put the puck past Owen, and gave Utah the 1-0 lead from Thomas and Redmond. The goal energized the team, and they started to absolutely fly. Michael Pelech got a gorgeous shot of his own, and Tommy Maxwell got sent to the box with 6:31 to go in the frame.

On the power play, Olsen got slashed, and then stapled to the boards, but Utah kept control of the puck. Kyle Thomas got into it with a Rush player in front of the net, and got sent off to the box with 4:50 to go, and 20 seconds left on the Maxwell penalty. The penalty kill returned to its former state, however, Hanson getting a short-handed chance, and then killing it off.

With 2:26 to go, Kenton Miller boarded Taylor Richart, and Erik Higby made him pay. Richart and Olsen got the assists on Higby’s second in two games.

After 20, Utah led 2-0, shots 20-13 tying their season high. Redmond’s  play definitely held the Grizzlies in it early on.

The teams traded opportunities and zone time in the first five minutes, but once again, Owen and Redmond were up to the challenge. Utah drew a power play with 15:24 to go, but were unable to capitalize.

The Grizzlies did not exactly make Redmond’s life easy in the second period, and he came up pretty big for them. With almost exactly 10 minutes left in the period, Sam Windle rang the post.

That post could have been haunting, as Richart took a delay of game penalty with 8:40 to go. They were able to kill it off, but an egregious turn over left Maxwell all alone in the slot. He beat Redmond, and cut the lead in half with 6:25 to go in the second.

Shortly thereafter, they had another bad turnover, but fortunately, nothing came of that one. Utah returned to their puck possession game with about four minutes to go from all their lines.

Owen stood on his head on a flurry of shots from a determined first line jumped on some rebounds. At the buzzer, Misiak got bumped at the boards, and Walters and Olsen objected vehemently. Olsen and Maxwell took matching roughing calls, and the refs herded the teams to the locker room. After 40, shots were 28-21 for Utah (but 8-8 in the frame), and the score 2-1.

The third period opened with two solid minutes of four-on-four, but then the Rush pressured. The third line got the engine going again, but Owen made a couple of big saves on Zach Saar and C.J. Eick, and Redmond was called upon to make a save of his own as the puck went the other way. Misiak and Walters got an odd-man rush as well, but again Owen shut the door.

With 13:13 left, Rapid City once again capitalized on Utah sloppiness, erasing the lead.

Greger Hanson restored the lead, 1:14 after the Rush tied it, once again started by a Leibinger play. The assists on Hanson’s eighth went to Leibinger and Pelech.

Rapid City continued to skate hard, Misiak got a break-away that went wide, and at 10:08, Thomas restored the two goal lead on a dazzling display of skill. Hanson and Olsen got the assists 1:51 after the game was tied.

Maxwell went back to the box for roughing immediately after that, but they didn’t extend the lead. Unfortunately, Utah was unable to get the puck out of their own end shortly after that, and Rapid City closed the lead again with seven minutes to go, as they refused to go away.

Navin, Higby, and Saar got a two on one, and helped re-establish puck possession.

With just a bit over four minutes to go, Hanson beat out an icing, and threw the puck across crease to Pelech, who put the puck past Owen for his eighth of the year.

Rapid City got in on a breakaway, Redmond made a terrific save, and Richart whisked the rebound out of harm’s way with less than two minutes to go.

The Rush pulled Owen with a minute to go, Utah held possession, but were unable to get a shot on the empty net. With 23 seconds to go, the Rush drew within one, scoring short-side, and then taking their time out.

Olsen won the face-off following the time out, keeping Owen stuck in his net. Redmond made the save with nine seconds left. Olsen again took the draw in the defensive zone, as Rapid City pulled Owen once more. The Rush got control of the puck, but Redmond pounced on the puck. With four seconds to go, Branham called his time out. Olsen won the final face-off, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had held on for their second straight win.

Thomas (1G, 1A, 3 shots), Pelech (1G, 2A, 5 shots), and Olsen (2A, 4 shots) were named the three stars of the game, while Redmond got his second win of the season. Misiak now has goals in consecutive games, and seven points in the last six, while Olsen now has eight points in six games, including five over the weekend. The first line, meanwhile combined for a total of seven points on Saturday, and a total of 15 in the last two. Higby also has goals in two straight.

“I thought our guys did a good job of creating scoring chances,” Coach Branham said after the game. “It was good to see. I mean, we were on a huge scoring drought, and playing good hockey, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. Now we’ve done eight and five. We just gotta keep that rolling, we’re playing a good team next week in Colorado, we’re gonna need that same effort out of everybody to come out with the win.”

When asked what the team needs to do to carry on their winning ways against Colorado–who they have yet to beat this season–he added:

“Just play the same way, all the games have been one goal, except for one or something, but it’s a different story when you have Thomas down, and you’ve got that fire power, those two lines that are playing with a lot of confidence right now. I like our chances. I thought our D were a little tired out there today, going two nights back-to-back going with five D I thought put a little stress on them, but Colorado is good, we gotta be disciplined. They’re good on the power play, we’ve just gotta make sure we play a solid game, and score on our scoring chances the last two games.”

Utah will play the Eagles twice in Loveland, before finishing off the year at home against Colorado and Idaho.

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Return of the Jedi

With Kyle Thomas’ return, the formerly potent first line of Greger Hanson, Michael Pelech, and Thomas was reassembled, while Ryans Misiak, Olsen, and Walters remained together as the second line. Zach Saar, Charley Graaskamp, C.J. Eick, Brad Navin, and Erik Higby all dressed as well, with Utah icing eleven forwards and five defensemen. Rob Mann, Jon Puskar (reserve), Brendan Harms (reserve), and Travis Howe (serving a nine game suspension), were the scratches.

Kevin Carr got the start, while Walters wore the C, and Eick and Taylor Richart the As against Rapid City.

Tempers flared early and often for Rapid City, leading to a roughing minor drawn by Walters at 2:14, and a Utah power play. Walters took the best kind of revenge, taking a pass from Olsen, and hammered home the first goal. His goal sent a shower of stuffed animals to the ice on Teddy Bear Toss night. Misiak got the second assist, as the whole Ryan Line got in on the action against Walters and Misiak’s former team.

The Rush took another penalty as Richart was tag-teamed and thrown to the ice by two Rapid City players. Olsen jumped in in defense, and Utah got another power play on a roughing call. The Grizzlies got a couple of really good looks and possession from the Ryan Line, and Higby, but it ultimately came up empty.

Thomas pounced on a turn-over at 8:57, passed to Hanson, and Pelech put the puck past Adam Vay to get a 2-0 lead.

Rapid City took another roughing call as Tommy Maxwell tried to goad Walters into retaliating. Utah got a lot of space to make plays, but they were unable to get a second power play goal, and shortly after the Rush returned to full strength, Eick took a penalty.

After going more than 300 minutes, and a perfect 24/24 on the kill, the normally stellar Utah PK gave up a power play goal 13 seconds in as Pavel Jenys snuck the puck away from Carr and into the net.

The Ryan Line went to work immediately afterwards, and while their multiple chances didn’t come to anything, it was a good response.

With five minutes left in the frame, the Rush got some good offensive zone pressure, before the Grizzlies retook control of the game.

Higby took a tripping call with 2:52 to go, but Utah killed it off, and they sprang Higby out of the box. Unfortunately, Vay made the save, and the Grizzlies went into the first intermission up 2-1, out-shooting their opponent 14-8.

Utah got off to a good start in the second, and then at 2:17, Saar dropped the gloves with Josh Elmes. Elmes got more punches in, initially, after getting Saar’s jersey over his head, but Zach ultimately got the take-down in a quick bout.

Utah continued to dominate puck possession in the opening minutes of the frame, but Richart took a hooking call at 4:19, and once again, Jenys scored 15 seconds into the advantage. So, despite more or less controlling the play, and leading in shots 19-9, it was a tie game, and a familiar feeling of dread began to creep in.

Happily, it was not allowed to last for long. The third line had a strong shift in the Rush zone, followed by the Pelech line. Then Pelech sprang Thomas, who crossed the blue line all alone, and deked the pants off Vay to give the Grizzlies back the lead. Pelech and Hanson both got the assists. That’s more or less when Utah busted the game wide open.

Just over a minute later Windle sprang Higby with 12:37, and this time, Higby made no mistake on the breakaway, getting his second goal of the year on a gorgeous top-shelf snipe.

Garret Haar got a gorgeous chance, and drew a holding the stick call. Utah got a chance or two, including a gorgeous pair from Thomas, but all in all, it was not one of their better attempts. In the end, it didn’t matter, as Saar got the puck right as the PK ended, picking it up at the red line, beating both Rush defensemen, and displaying some seriously nifty hands, deking out Vay to give Utah the 5-2 lead. Graaskamp got his fourth assist of the season on Saar’s fourth, giving the Grizzlies three goals in just over four minutes.

Rapid City got a couple strong shifts in the Utah zone, but Olsen took a pass from Walters by the bench, danced into the offensive zone, split the D, and beat Vay glove-side for his seventh goal of the season. Walters and Leibinger were initially credited with the assists, though Misiak eventually got the secondary. The sixth goal set a season high for goals in a game, and there were still over five minutes left in the second.

Haar took a holding the stick call of his own with three minutes left in the second, and the Utah penalty kill continued to struggle uncharacteristically, giving up another goal at 18:40.

Hanson restored the four goal lead with 34 seconds left, after a spinning Pelech made a dandy of a pass to Thomas in the slot. His pass to Hanson fooled Vay, and Utah’s five goal second period set a season high there as well. After 40, Utah out-shot the Rush 30-18, leading 7-3.

After such a prolific second, the third was something of an anti-climax by comparison. Because Rapid City’s backup goalie was an EBUG, Vay remained in net.

Utah continued to control the game, playing (as Adrian Denny noted) some of their best structured hockey of the night, and continuing to hold a ten shot lead on the Rush.

Thomas and Navin got a two on one, as did Eick and Higby, though neither found the back of the net. Utah drew another power play at 9:24, but the Rush killed it off.

Leibinger got stung blocking a shot off the arm with just under eight minutes left, but he was back in short order, starting the rush that hit Olsen in the offensive zone. Olsen could have taken the shot, but passed instead to Misiak, who hammered home the eighth goal at point-blank range. It was the last goal of the night, and gave every member of the top six a goal.

After a whistle, Darian Dziurzynski grabbed Pelech, Eick jumped in in defense, and Tommy Maxwell dropped the gloves with Pelech. Once the dust settled, Dziurzynski got a double minor for roughing, as did Eick, while Pelech got a rough and a five for fighting, and Maxwell got five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. The Grizzlies killed off the penalty to Eick, and when the final whistle sounded, Utah led 8-3, and out-shot the Rush 36-24.

In a nice touch, the in-arena unofficial three stars of the game went to the entire team, who absolutely deserved it. The official three stars went to Hanson (1G, 2A), Pelech (1G, 2A), and Thomas (1G,1A).

Rapid City definitely targeted Walters an Richart all night, and the Grizzlies did a surprisingly good job of not getting suckered into retaliating, the last five minutes not withstanding.

Utah’s eight goal game was a season high, eclipsing their previous high of five set against Worchester. They got two goals from every line, including one from all six of the top six forwards. Misiak, Olsen, Hanson, and Pelech, all had a goal and two assists, while Walters and Thomas both had multi-point games as well. Additionally, Sam Windle was a team leading +7 on the night, breaking an all-time Grizzlies’ record that has stood since before they played in Utah.

Utah now has a five way tie for leading goal-scorer between Pelech, Hanson, Walters, Olsen, and Richart all at seven, while Pelech (23 points), Hanson (20 pts) lead the team in points, followed by the three Ryans, and Kyle Thomas.

After getting three goals in three games, Olsen now has six points in five games, Walters has ten points in seven, and Misiak has five in the last three, while the first line appears to be picking up right where they left off.

“I thought our guys were fabulous, did tremendous.” Tim Branham said of his team’s impressive outing. “Five on five, we were dominant. I really liked the way we drove the net, put pucks on net, we played with excitement, we executed, we scored on our scoring chances. I mean, when you can add a player like Kyle Thomas, it obviously makes your team that much more deep, and just completes that line again with Hanson, Pelech, and Thomas. Those guys were so good for us when they were together, and they were what, all three of them top ten or top fifteen in the league before they got called up. And then our other line is going too with Misiak, Olsen, and Walters, it’s a big difference, right? So kudos to the boys, sometimes it can be tough to play in a game like that when the other team takes runs at you, or the score gets out of hand, and we kept the foot on the gas, and we gotta keep this feeling inside, and want it again tomorrow. I think that’s the biggest thing for this group is confidence and execution, because we were playing some really good hockey, and just weren’t getting the results, cause we weren’t scoring goals. Obviously Kyle Thomas is huge, but everyone stepped up tonight. Higby, Saar, everybody stepped up. It was good to see.”

Michael Pelech echoed Branham’s sentiments on Thomas’  return. “I think he scored 30-something goals last year, so to get a player of that caliber back in the lineup, it definitely boosts the morale, and gets the guys going”

It may not have been Carr’s best night recently, but for a change, his team had his back. “He’s been standing on his head,” Pelech added. “So to put up eight for him, that’s huge.”

Friday’s game was the first of eight in fifteen against the Rush, and hopefully, they can carry this momentum through all eight of them.

Tonight’s game is the official Star Wars night, where the snazzy jerseys the Grizzlies have been wearing will be auctioned off.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Meet the Ryan Line

Finally. A win.

However, as promised, we gotta start with the Wednesday game. It’ll be quick. I promise.

The lowdown on the 5-2 loss:

  • Ryan Walters and Ryan Olsen continued their strong play and goal scoring, on a line together with Greger Hanson
  • It looked like Walters had scored with 13:09 to go in the first, but the goal was waived off on a high-stick, and that bad luck seemed to dog them all game. That same line had already rung the post earlier, and it seemed as though Brad Navin hit iron at least twice.
  • Kevin Carr was perhaps the shakiest he’s looked all season, giving up four goals on ten shots, and was pulled for Angus Redmond half way through the game.
  • Utah looked like they were playing a little scared, understandable when every mistake made seems to have led to disaster lately.
  • The Grizzlies drew a surprisingly high three goaltender interference penalties.
  • Speaking of power plays, special teams went well for Utah, Walters scoring on the penalty kill, and Olsen on the power play.
  • They say goalies can’t stop what they can’t see. Ryan Faragher stopped those too. It was that kind of night.
  • There was a line-brawl to end the game, Jones dropping the gloves, and Navin, Olsen, and Pelech all in the thick of it. Once the dust settled, Navin and Mitch Moroz got matching misconducts and roughing calls, Olsen got a rough, Jones got a double minor, and Faragher ended up with a leaving the crease violation. Likewise somehow or other, Travis Howe, who was did not play, ended up in the middle of the kerfuffle, and was consequently suspended indefinitely. 
  • Quote of note, Walters told Adam Turner of the Tribune that the Grizzlies just needed to get one win to get going again.

Now on to the good stuff.


Looking to stop the losing skid at nine, the lineup looked a little different on Friday night in Idaho.

Out were Michael Pelech and Brad Navin (and Charley Graaskamp), and in were Garrett Haar and Brendan Harms. Tim Branham opted to go with nine forwards and seven defencemen, while Kevin Carr looked for a bounce back start. To start the game, Greger Hanson skated with Ryan Olsen and Erik Higby, Ryan Walters centered Ryan Misiak and Brendan Harms, while Jon Puskar centered Zach Saar and C.J. Eick.

Not a whole lot happened in the first couple of minutes, but at 3:01 Carr made a great save, and James Melindy took a penalty. The penalty kill did a terrific job, however, allowing zero shots, even though the majority of the short-handed situation was played in their zone. Puskar was especially noticeable with two big blocked shots.

Hanson and Olsen spent a good ten seconds fighting the Steelheads in the offensive zone, and then Harms and Misiak both got point blank shots one after the other, and drew a power play with 11:53 left in the first. Utah looked pretty good on the advantage, but came up empty.

Both teams played good hockey in the minutes that followed, the shots staying close, and the score remaining 0-0. Saar and Corbin Baldwin exchanged shoves by the Idaho net with under five minutes to go, but it quickly came to nothing.

with just under 3:30 to go, Misiak, Harms, and Walters had a glorious up ice rush, added and abetted by Mitch Jones, putting the shot count up to 11-9 for Utah. Though they didn’t score, they drew another power play.

Another power saw the Grizzlies throw a flurry of shots on Philippe Desrosiers, giving them 16 on the period, but still not finding the back of the net.

Saar took a high-sticking penalty with 18 seconds to go, and after 20, Utah was out-shooting Idaho 16-10. Nevertheless, the score remained locked at zero.

Utah began the second with 1:42 of penalty time, which they killed off. They were short-handed almost immediately afterwards, however, as Puskar took a slashing call at 2:01. Once again, the penalty kill went to work. Harms made a couple of good plays, and Misiak continued to spend time running Idaho back into their own end.

Puskar evened the score later in the period, drawing an interference call steamrolling towards the Idaho net at 7:01. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies had a little trouble keeping the puck in the zone, but escaped any potential disasters.

At 11:39 it looked like Henrik Samuelsson had taken the puck away from Walters at the blue line, and was poised for a breakaway, but the only reason he got the puck to begin with was on an infraction, so Utah went to the power play yet again. The power play never really got clicking, though, and Idaho killed it off.

There was a pretty close call with about 3:30 left in the frame, when Carr made one save, scrambled for the other, and a Utah player whisked the puck out of danger. The pace favoured Idaho through the tail end of the second, and it paid off for them as the Steelheads scored on a three-on-two with 54 seconds left. It felt like an all-too-familiar back-breaker

The beginning of the third was slightly nerve-racking, as Utah pushed for some offense, and the defence fell apart a little in consequence.

To start the period, Branham also shuffled the lines up, putting Ryan Misiak together with Ryan Olsen and Ryan Walters, and the Ryan Line was born. It payed off on just their second shift, as Misiak tied the game from Walters and Jones at 4:13.

The Grizzlies were stuck running around their own zone following the goal, and at 8:18 Jones took a slashing call. Fortunately, the Grizzlies looked sharper on the PK than they had in the four minutes or so after the goal.

Haar iced the puck with 5:46 to go, and he and Windle were stuck in the defensive zone for an agonizing 46 seconds before they got a whistle.

The Ryan Line got the first offensive zone shift in what seemed like absolute ages a couple of minutes later, followed by one from Hanson, Higby, and Harms.

With less than a minute left, it looked like Utah was headed for yet another gut-wrenching OT, but Olsen received a perfect pass from Ryan Misiak behind the net, and while Idaho was distracted by a hit on Walters, he made no mistake. Thirty-nine seconds left, 2-1 Grizzlies.

Olsen’s third goal in three games held up for the game winner. Kevin Carr raised his arms to the sky, and was mobbed by his jubilant teammates.

It was only a 2-1 win, but it felt bigger than that. All through the losing streak, Branham kept preaching the same message. Work hard. Play the same way. It was incredibly frustrating at times, but they did it. And for the first time since November 11th, it finally paid off.

Ryan Walters, Ryan Misiak, and Ryan Olsen combined for five points on the night. Olsen and Misiak both had five shots, as did Richart, while Hanson and Harms both had four. Walters’  four game goal streak came to an end, but he now has seven points in five games, while Mitch Jones was once more in the thick of things.

But enough about people not named Kevin Carr. What is there left to be said. He’s been a rock for the Grizzlies. His resilience and mental fortitude have been incredible through an agonizing nine games where he fought tooth and nail to keep the score close for a stone cold offense—and often succeeded. He came back from a couple iffy outings with monster performances, and if he ever cracked under the weight of it, it never carried over into the next game.

Obviously, there are still issues. Every goal in the last five games has been scored by Greger Hanson or someone named Ryan. That’s not exactly sustainable. Nor was tonight’s game anywhere near perfect. That being said, as much as losing nine straight sucked, Utah also got points in five of those nine losses, and as much as there are things to work on still, they finally got the win.

Hopefully this is that one win Walters said Utah needed to get out of their funk.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and Jess Fleming