Utah Grizzlies: RicHart and Soul

With the NHL looking ahead to the trade deadline on the 26th, the Grizzlies made a bunch of moves of their own. Cliff Watson and Ryan Olsen went to Colorado, while forward Jake Marchment and defenceman Gage Ausmus. Mitch Maxwell was signed to a contract, as was Sam Babintsev, while C.J. Eick was sent to Kansas City for futures, and Nate Mitton was returned to his SPHL team. Michael Pelech and Zach Saar also made their returns to the lineup.

Pelech took an early penalty, going off at 3:35 for high-sticking. The Grizzlies’ penalty kill went to work, however, and killed off the disadvantage, and Joel Rumpel made a couple of good saves.

James Melindy and Bryan Moore got into a fight at 8:21, both getting five and ten for continuing the altercation, but Utah got a power play, as a tripping call had been assessed to Allen prior to their fight.

Utah wasn’t able to capitalize, but they picked up in momentum following the power play, and took the lead in shots 10-8 after a great shift from Marchment, Babintsev, Ausmus, Austin Ortega and Taylor Richart.

Some good defensive hustle from Rob Mann and Sam Windle drew a power play with 6:33 to go, to the disgruntlement of the Americans fans. Utah ran into some trouble in their own end, leading to a save by Rumpel, before they went the other way, and Marchment scored his first goal for the Grizzlies from Brendan Harms and Ryan Misiak.

Marchment took a penalty about a minute later, but Utah killed it off in an authoritative fashion, and after 20, the 1-0 lead held, shots 15-10 in their favor.

Allen was strong in the offensive zone through the first two minutes, but didn’t register an official shot on goal through that time, and Utah followed that up with some hard-working offensive zone shifts of their own.

The hard work paid off, as Utah continued to crash the net, and create opportunities. Saar scored at 3:57 from Mitch Jones and Mann.

Maxwell got a tripping call at 4:46, but Allen negated it very shortly afterwards, putting the teams on more than a minute of four-on-four. Unfortunately, the Americans scored at 6:32 though, cutting the lead in half.

Harms got a look on a two-on-one on the next shift, but was slashed, sending the Grizzlies to the power play. They weren’t able to capitalize, but did generate some really good traffic and movement in front of Jeremy Brodeur.

Towards the end of the period, Allen continued to bear down, playing really long stretches in Utah’s end. However, the Grizzlies did a really good job of keeping pucks away from Rumpel.

Ryan Walters took a hooking call at 19:08, but the Grizzlies won the draw, Pelech and Richart rushed in, Taylor shot, and Pelech put the puck in the net. The short-handed goal gave Utah back the lead.

There was some chaos in the final seconds of the period, as Brad Navin was crosschecked to the ice, and the two teams tangled. Ausmus, Alex Guptill, and Zach Pochiro all went to the box, the first two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Pochiro for boarding.

Maxwell let loose a big shot in the final second, and Utah went to the room leading 3-2, and despite Allen’s dominance in the second, out-shooting them 14-8 in the frame.

Richart started the third absolutely flying, getting his team leading seventh shot, coming out of nowhere to break up a four-on-one, and generally being the most noticeable player in the first three minutes.

Utah got a two-on-one with about five gone in the third, Ortega made a really nice pass, and Navin scored his eighth goal, picking up his tenth point in twelve games.

The Grizzlies were able to capitalize on another Allen breakdown at 7:35, making it 5-2 on a gorgeous tick-tack-toe goal by Walters from Harms and Misiak. Allen came back on the very next shift though, beating Rumpel to make it 5-3.

Richart was boarded with 7:49 to go, sending Casey Pierro-Zabotel to the box for two minutes. Richart was ok, if his later play was anything to judge by, but the Grizzlies weren’t able to get their three-goal lead back.

Allen was able to come within a goal after pulling Brodeur with 40 seconds to go, but that is as far as it got, Walters’ goal standing for the game winner.

All in all it was a really strong game, Utah looked good on both sides of the ice. Babintsev, Maxwell, Marchment, and Ausmus all fit right in, and added a great deal of stability to the roster. Likewise, the return of Pelech and Saar to the lineup gave them a strong, and much needed net-front presence. Only five players didn’t get on the board, while Misiak and Harms both had two assists, and Marchment got a goal and an assist. He was named third star of the game, while Walters got the first star. Navin and Harms continued their point streak, and Richart had his best game in a long time. He was prominent on the rush, prominent on defense, and led the team with seven shots.

After a series of disappointing losses, this was a much needed win against a strong opponent. Whether they can keep it going and establish some consistency remains to be seen.

 

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

 

 

Advertisements

Utah Grizzlies: Defensive Disaster

In a rare morning game (something that hasn’t happened since Assistant Coach Ryan Kinasewich was on the bench instead of behind it). The roster remained the same as it had on Saturday, with the exception of Nate Mitton, who drew in after Mitch Hults was called back up to San Diego.

The Grizzlies began the game with a lot of buzz, and even when Rapid City got their skates under them, the first five minutes went to Utah, who outshot them 4-0.

So of course, the Rush scored first on their second shot from a tight angle. They were not allowed to rest on their lead very long, however, as Taylor Richart tied it up less than two minutes later on a big shot from the point at 10:30.

Austin Ortega drew the first call of the game at 11:50, but though Utah got a couple of shots, they were unable to get a second one past Adam Vay. Instead, Kenton Miller capitalized on a number of breakdowns in front of the Utah net for their second of the game with about five to go.

That’s more or less where the first period derailed. Kyle Thomas was high-sticked with two minutes left, and Alex Kromm pulled a clearly reluctant James Melindy into a fight.

Somehow, after all that, Melindy got two for instigating, negating the power play. The Grizzlies bench continued to protest, and were eventually called for a bench minor. Fortunately, Ryan Walters drew a slashing call at 18:40 to put the teams back four-on-four.

After 20, Utah trailed 2-1, outshooting the Rush 8-6.

Walters tied the game up at 1:39 from Ortega to once more tie it up. Rapid City got some zone time of their own after the goal, and Walters followed that up with a delay of game penalty at 4:41.

At 6:12, Mitch Jones and Daniel Leavens got tied up on the neutral zone, gloves went everywhere, and both got four for roughing. Jones went to the room, rather than the box, but returned shortly after the penalty expired. Both teams returned to full strength with no change of score. Unfortunately, however, a defensive turnover led directly to Miller’s 3-2 goal soon after returning to full strength.

Walters drew another slashing call at 10:40, but despite getting a couple of good looks, including a point-blank chance from the Captain, Rapid City drew a power play of their own with seven to go.

Walters got a good shot off on the kill, and he and Jones chased the Rush around their own zone. Rapid City maintained really strong possession of the puck coming off the power play, but Maguire dove to smother the puck, effectively putting an end to the onslaught.

Ortega took a holding call at 16:42, but Cliff Watson was high-sticked under a minute later, and left bleeding pretty heavily. It gave Utah a brief four-on-four, and then a considerable advantage that carried over into the third.

After getting patched up during the intermission, Watson returned to start the third, the power play fell flat, but Brad Navin threw a shot on goal, and as everyone looked around, Brendan Harms jumped on the puck, and tied the game.

The Ryans followed the goal up with a very nice shift, and at 4:52 they drew a power play. Brief, and averted defensive disaster aside, the power play moved the puck well, and got the chances they wanted, but didn’t convert. The defense continued to struggle though, and at 8:18, Miller capitalized once more on a mistake in front of the net for the hat trick.

Thomas took a slashing call half-way through the period, but Utah killed it off, though not without another skirmish by the Grizzlies’ net.

Jones went off to the room again shortly thereafter, and to make bad worse, yet another disastrous defensive turnover led to the Rush’s first two-goal lead of the afternoon at 17:19.

Utah pulled Maguire for the extra skater, and what had been such a close game for so much of the game ended 6-3 on an empty netter, shots 27-26 for Utah.

So, once again, turnovers by Utah’s top defense, and Rapid City capitalizing on every mistake killed what had otherwise been a close (if not particularly strong) game.

Once again, Utah wins one and loses one, and is still seeking consistencyβ€”especially from the defense. At least, with three goals, the offense is still showing signs of life, even with Vay giving Grizzlies fans a creeping feeling of deja vu.

So Utah will have to try again to pick up a win against the Rush on Friday.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff.

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: Uphill Battle

Wednesday’s game saw the Grizzlies debut of new center Todd Skirving, as well as the second games from Mitch Hults and Nate Mitton. Brad Navin centered Ryan Walters and Kyle Thomas, while James Melindy and Cliff Watson started in front of Sean Maguire. Ryan Faragher got the start for Idaho.

The game got off to a fairly leisurely start, neither team coming out particularly energized. Idaho skated more, but Utah passed much more cleanly.

The Steelheads held Utah in their own zone around the four minute mark, but Utah allowed only two shots to get through to Maguire, and Jones getting Utah’s first shot shortly thereafter against Faragher. That shift seemed to wake the Grizzlies up, as they took the game to the Steelheads with much ore vigor after it.

Utah drew the first power play of the game at 8:56, but Idaho scored shorthanded when the puck trickled just past Maguire’s out-stretched toe. Idaho returned to full strength, and just under a minute later, made it 2-0.

Unfortunately, they gave up another at 15:27, and Maguire’s night was over. Angus Redmond came in, and on the next shift, Navin just missed putting the Grizzlies on the board.

With just a couple of tenths of a minute to go, Redmond drew a goaltender interference call, and Utah limped out of the period, out-shot 11-7, and down 3-0.

They opened the second with nearly a full two minutes on the advantage, and the Grizzlies capitalized. Hults isn’t exactly flashy, but he does little things that just put him on another level, and that was very much in evidence as he quarterbacked the advantage. He held the puck in the zone, and his play eventually led to the power play tally from Walters..

Utah got their third straight power play opportunity as Eric Sweetman put the puck over the glass. They did not capitalize. Birthday boy Kyle Thomas flew into the zone at 7:36, but had his gorgeous opportunity taken away with a slash across the hands. It probably could have been a penalty shot, but Utah drew another power play.

In the end, the result was probably the same. Austin Ortega took a cross-ice pass right on the tape and wired the puck past Faragher to make it 3-2. The lead did not last along. On the next shift, Utah took a penalty, Faragher sprinted off for the extra skater, and Zach Bell made it 4-2.

Utah continued to work, however, Redmond made a snappy glove save, Ortega made a really nice play, and Utah drew another power play. They were unable to capitalize, though Walters rang iron, and at the end of 40, shots were 20-20, 4-2 for the Steelheads.

Idaho got the best of the first couple of minutes of the third, but thanks to a couple of nice defensive plays from Watson, they got through with apparently no shots.

2:23 into the period, the Grizzlies got set up in the offensive zone, and Navin caught the Steelheads completely by surprise, scoring from the slot, completely unobstructed in front of Faragher.

Utah got another power play opportunity, but were unable to get going, and in a scramble around the net, Redmond lost his footing, and the puck went in off his back.

Thomas drew another power play at 11:03 as he was tripped up, and an absolutely insane scramble around Faragher sent the puck right onto Navin’s stick. Once again, uncontested, he put the puck past Faragher to put Utah within one.

With 4:03 to go, Thomas flew into the offensive zone, and the Captain tied the game. Walters’ second goal sent the game to overtime tied 5-5, shots 31-30 for Utah.

It was certainly a high-intensity OT, both teams flying about, and players on both sides making some great plays. Idaho took a too many men penalty with just 57 seconds to go, but at the buzzer, the game was still tied.

An equally nerve-wracking shoot-out followed, in which Richart scored, Thomas was allowed to shoot twice as a result of interference from Faragher, Redmond turned in a strong showing, but Idaho scored two to Utah’s one.

It was a disappointing result, but considering how grim things had looked at the end of the first period, and how entertaining a game it became as the Grizzlies drew ever closer.

All three stars went to Utah, Navin and Walters getting the first two with two goals a piece, and Redmond being named the third for his relief and shoot-out performance.

When asked about the effort displayed in the comeback, Tim Branham said, “That’s what I just told them. Very proud of coming back and getting a point. We actually started out the game really good until that first power play. Then we decided to take it easy when you have to out work them. When we decided to outwork them, we scored three power play goals right? So at the end of the day, we got a point, but we’re going to play the guys who want to be here, and want to put in a full sixty minute effort.”

“He gave us a chance to win there in the shoot out.” Branham said of Redmond’s third star performance. “I thought he did a good job coming in in relief. He kept us in it, and allowed us to come back and get a point. We had four chances to win it in the shoot out, so can’t fault him at all.”

Navin’s thoughts on the game were in the same vein. “Like Coach said after the game, we came out and we thought we were playing well, then all of a sudden, the power play came, and kind of depleted us as a team, then we had to fight back. Like he said after the game we gotta be sick of making it hard on ourselves and come back like that. But it shows what kind of group we’ve got, the willingness of guys to go in and win battles, make a comeback, make an effort, it shows guys are still trying, we’ve guys who want to win.”

Tonight (Friday’s) game in Idaho kicks off a lengthy road trip that will see the Grizzlies play in Idaho, Rapid City, and Allen before returning to the Maverik Center on Monday the 19th.

Wednesday’s highlights/Friday’s game preview

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Road-trip Redemption

For the third game against Rapid City in three games, the Grizzlies more or less kept their roster intact on Sunday, with the exception of Travis Howe drawing in, and Mitch Jones sitting the game out.

Howe made his presence felt at once, dropping the gloves with Anthony Collins at 1:43.

Brad Navin continued to get chances, as the Grizzlies once again dominated play in the first four minutes. Once again, however, Rapid City struck first at 3:52, Daniel Leavens from Peter Sivak and Riley Weselowski.

Jon Puskar took a slashing call at 5:26, but the Grizzlies came on with a vengeance, Brendan Harms scoring short-handed at 6:13.

James Melindy took a cross-checking call, giving Rapid City a decent five-on-three, and though they killed off the five-on-three, Rapid City scored on the power play.

The Grizzlies responded again, Walters on another terrific pass from Navin.

Howe had a couple of nice moves on both sides of the ice, and the Puskar line had a strong shift that ended in Ryan Misiak getting robbed by Christian Frey.

After 20, shots were 11-9 for the Rush, but tied 2-2.

The Grizzlies and Rush both had chances in the first half of the second, Walters, and Mann especially getting looks for Utah.

The pressure paid off, as Kyle Thomas made a beautiful pass to Cliff Watson, who made no mistake, putting Utah up 3-2 at 9:13.

Unfortunately, Rapid City tied it up again with 3:36 to go. On the very next shift, Walters tried to sell a goal, but after the officials gathered, it was called no goal.

At the end of a penalty-less second period (even after the tussle between Weselowski and Walters), they were tied 3-3, shots 19-16 in Rapid City’s favor.

The two teams exchanged chances, but at 5:34 Rapid City took a tripping call, and Ortega pounced. He struck again less than two minutes later, giving Utah their first two-goal lead of the game at 7:34.

Utah maintained the lead, but were unable to extend it on the power play just past the half-way mark of the third.

The Rush pulled Frey with 1:30 to go, and Ortega just missed the empty-net hat trick. Puskar made no mistake on the next shift though, fighting past a Rapid City defender to score his tenth of the year from Walters and Ortega. Leibinger took a slashing call with 17 seconds to go, but Utah killed it off to win the game.

Ortega now has 12 points in nine games with Utah, and was named second star of the game with two goals and an assist, while Watson’s goal and assist earned him second star.

The Grizzlies returned to Utah with three of a possible six points, and thank to loses from teams ahead of them in the standings, are within striking distance of the final playoff spot.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Shots in Vay-n

With Sean Maguire making his first start in a Grizzlies’ uniform, the Grizzlies came out buzzing in Rapid City. Unfortunately, C.J. Eick took an early penalty. The penalty kill went to work, and the Rush’s power play suffered the fate of many early advantages.

Rapid City still struck first, however, as Peter Sivak continued his hot streak, converting on an absolutely gorgeous drop pass at 6:15.

The Grizzlies responded well, Taylor Richart got a pair of big shots, and the Rush took a boarding call. Kyle Thomas made it 1-1 on the power play from Ryan Walters and Austin Ortega.

Utah kept pressuring after the power play goal, Richart getting off a couple more big shots around the half-way mark, and then Thomas and Geoff Fortman went off for matching roughing calls. Very shortly afterward, Dante Salituro took an unsportsmanlike conduct, sending Utah to a four-on-three advantage for 1:20.

The Grizzlies set up well, and Richart, who’d been stellar all game, shot a rocket from the point to give Utah the 2-1 lead 14:14 into the period. For some reason the goal was eventually credited to Ortega, who didn’t touch the puck.

Navin continued to be snake bitten, getting a really nice look around the net, but Higby took a high-sticking call, and Utah headed to the kill again. On the bright side, the kill looked at least as good as the power play did, and after 20, Utah led 2-1, shots 15-6 in their favor.

Ortega got into a fight against Salituro at 4:03, getting an extra two for instigating, and thought the Grizzlies killed it off, Sivak immediately tied it up.

Alex Kromm and Sam Windle took matching roughing minors at 6:39, but the four-on-four expired with no alteration in score.

Howe got a really nice scoring chance with 9:27 to go in the second, as Utah continued to out-shoot the Rush.

Rapid City pressured through to the end of the period, but the second buzzer saw shots 21-10 for Utah, and a 2-2 tie game. The second period wasn’t as crisp and strong from either team.

The Grizzlies came out flying in the third, and after some delay on a face-off, Jones wired the puck and it ended up past Vay to give Utah back the lead. Walters was credited with his fifteenth of the year, Jones getting the primary.

Maguire pounced on a loose puck on the next shift to keep the game 3-2, as Utah had some trouble in their own end.

They pushed back after the media time-out, out-shooting Rapid City 11-5 through the first half of the period. Unfortunately, after a strong shift from Howe and company in the offensive zone, the puck went the other way, and they were unable to hold off the tying goal.

Ortega and Puskar almost put together the winning goal, as Ortega perfectly tipped a nice shot from Puskar, but Vay, who’d been having himself another really strong night, smothered it.

On the other end, Maguire shot the door after the Grizzlies lost the puck in their own zone.

The Grizzlies went to the power play at 14:24, but it was not one of their stronger outings of the night, and they failed to capitalize.

At the end of 60, the score remained 3-3, and for a league-leading 14th time, Utah went to OT, Utah out-shooting Rapid City 47-18.

Vay absolutely robbed Erik Higby about two minutes into OT, and shortly thereafter, Sivak capped off his hat trick. The Grizzlies were furious, as Rapid City had too many men on the ice. Although the extra players did not affect the play, it added an extra layer of frustration to the end of the game.

Utah put a season high 49 shots on Vay, who once again was stellar. Last game, the offense suffered for a tighter defensive game, while in this game, the offense looked good, while the defense got a little bit lax. Hopefully, the Grizzlies can find the right balance tonight.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming, and staff