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.

 

 

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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 consistency—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: Friday Funday

After a disappointing effort on Wednesday night, Utah got some reinforcements on Friday night. Forwards Mitch Hults (assigned by Anaheim to get ice time during the all star break) and Nate Mitton (who attended training camp) both joined the Grizzlies prior to the game, drawing into the lineup in place of Erik Higby and C.J. Eick. Hults, a centerman, slotted in with Ryan Walters and Austin Ortega, while Mitton played with Brad Navin and Brendan Harms.

The game got off to a rocky start with a couple of quick penalties. Mitton flew into the Tulsa end looking not at all like a guy adjusting to the altitude, and first drew what looked like an interference call, but then was mysteriously dinged with an embellishment call as well.

Shortly thereafter, James Melindy and Justin Selman went off with “roughing” and tripping calls respectively, and then Travis Howe dropped the gloves with Mike McKee off the face-off at 4:30. Howe got some really huge punches in, and the 6,843 in attendance roared their support.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies coughed the puck up in their own zone, and Tulsa made it 1-0.

It looked, for a moment, like the Grizzlies were doomed to give up a quick second goal as Chris Leibinger lost the puck at the blue line, and the Oilers came in uncontested. However, Taylor Richart flew back from the far side to cut off the attempt.

Cliff Watson drew Utah’s first power play at 6:30. Tulsa got a short-handed shot against, but at the tail end of the advantage, Leibinger skated the puck down behind the Tulsa net, and threw it to Puskar just above the blue paint. Utah’s first shot of the game found the back of the net to tie it up. The assists on Puskar’s eleventh of the year went to Leibinger and Harms.

Utah got yet another crack on the power play less than a minute later, but despite Kyle Thomas’ bet efforts, Tulsa killed that one off. Watson got tripped up without a call, Leibinger stepped in on Ryan Tesink, who was sent sprawling before Dylan Hubbs jumped in on Leibinger. Both players got a couple of good punches in, and when the dust settled, Hubbs got an extra two for instigating.

Sean Maguire made a big save on a short-handed stretch pass that saw an Oilers player alone behind the defense, but after that, the Grizzlies got set up in the offensive zone. Hults got a huge shot off from the point, and Richart’s shot from the blue line flew into a crowd in front of the net. Ryan Misiak got his stick on the rebound, and Ortega scored his fifth power play goal in eleven games.

Mitton got a very nice chance on the ensuing shift, and Mitch Jones also got off a rocket in his return. Howe demonstrated that his hands are good for things besides big punches, making a nice play to keep the puck in the zone as the third line had a very strong shift. Tulsa had a hard time holding onto the puck in front of their own net, and Utah pounced on every opportunity, but were unable to capitalize.

Watson got a great chance at the end of the first, and Utah went into the locker room leading 2-1, and out-shooting Tulsa 13-8, despite having been out-shot 5-0 at one point in the period.

 

The third line got another really strong shift in a few minutes into the second, Mitton getting a shot off of of a hard-working cycle from Navin.

Tommy Vannelli tripped up Ortega at 2:55, and Ortega got up ready to fight. Vannelli didn’t oblige, but the two went off for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Utah controlled the ensuing four-on-four, and Melindy got a nice spinning shot off. Navin had another strong shift with Puskar, Leibinger, and Sam Windle. Leibinger and Puskar also got a scoring chance off the rush. On the defensive side of things, Jones hounded an Oilers player into the defensive zone to prevent a chance against.

After the teams returned to full strength, the third line had another terrific shift that culminated in a gorgeous goal from Navin, whose first goal since November 1st was a top shelf snipe. Howe got his first point of the year on the primary assist, while Harms got his eleventh with the secondary.

The same line had another big shift, and a couple of minutes later, Melindy took a high-stick, sending Utah to their fourth straight power play at 10:10.

Puskar and Richart both got good looks, and Utah got a lengthy five-on-three at 10:52. The first wave power play of Hults, Ortega, Thomas, Walters, and Watson got some really nice offensive zone pressure going, but weren’t able to capitalize, and Tulsa killed off both penalties.

Howe took a slashing call as the game got a little rough in the corners with 6:13 to go. The penalty kill came up big for Howe, Misak and Puskar orchestrating a couple of clears, as the Grizzlies allowed zero shots.

With less than two minutes to go, Melindy made a big defensive play and was sent off for holding. Maguire made a couple of big saves, and the period came to an end. After 40, Utah led 3-1, out-shooting the Oilers 24-16.

The Grizzlies began the third with just four seconds of Melindy’s penalty on the clock, and about four minutes later, Maguire made a couple of big saves, and Utah cleared the puck out of certain danger.

Watson made it 4-1 at 4:35, as the puck rolled past Hildebrand surprisingly uncontested. Walters got the primary assist, while Hults picked up his first point with the Grizzlies.

Tulsa pushed back, getting a couple of good shifts of their own, but weren’t able to capitalize until past the half-way mark, as the entire roster played hard and blocked shots.

With 8:05 to go, Utah got tied up in their own zone, and Tulsa scored to cut the lead in half.

The Oilers continued to work, but Maguire shut the door when shots made it through, and at 15:36 McKee got a closing hand on the puck penalty.

It took the Grizzlies just six seconds to capitalize. Leibinger held the puck in the zone, passed to Richart, who shot once again from the point. The puck bounced to Harms, who put it past Hildebrand from a tight angle. The goal was his fourth of the year, and his third against Tulsa.

That was pretty much the game, both teams got a couple more shots, but at the final buzzer, the 5-2 lead belonged to Utah, who out-shot the Oilers 31-24.

Utah is now only one point behind Tulsa, and four behind Allen, who own the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division.

In addition to a big two points, the game broke a couple of long time goalless streaks for Harms and Navin, Harms picking up three points and first star of the game, while Navin got his third point in three games. Without a doubt, Utah played a complete sixty, as well as a complete game from the entire roster. Maguire was awarded the second star of the game, while Howe took the third with the fight and assist.

“When we play like we want it, we’re tough to handle.” Tim Branham said after the game. “We’ve got some guys—when you can add Mitch Hults, Austin Ortega—when you’ve got guys who can score goals, it helps. We’ve lost a lot of one goal games. Our power play has been really hot lately, and we’re able to put the puck in the net. When we’re able to score, good things happen.”

“They’re a hard working team,” he added of the Oilers, “And they actually do a good job of getting to the blue line with speed, just putting pucks on net, and being tenacious. We did a much better job of winning our battles, getting the puck up the ice, controlling the play in the offensive zone. Obviously we spent a lot more time in their zone today than the last game, so we’ve gotta play the same way. They’re gonna come out hard, they’re not gonna be happy they lost today, but if we play with that effort, teams can’t stop us. When everybody is pulling the rope in the right direction, good things happen.”

Moreover, if the third line can keep their momentum going, it will be big for the team going forward. “Before last game, we were one of four teams who had three players or more that were a point a game. We lose those one goal games because we don’t have that depth scoring. So when Navin scores, Harms scores, it’s just huge for us, so we need that depth scoring in order to be able to compete and win those one goal games.”

Ortega’s thoughts were in a similar vein. “We’ve been talking about getting in a playoff spot, we haven’t been happy with the way we’ve been playing, especially last game, and we took it to heart. We had a big meeting about our effort, and I think tonight we were a completely different team, we had a tremendous amount of effort and hard work, and it paid off.”

So what do the Grizzlies have to do on Saturday night to keep rolling? “Same thing with effort and hard work, playing the way we’re supposed to be, and at this point, it’s just consistency.”

If Utah wins tonight (Saturday), they will be on point ahead of Tulsa, closing in on the Allen Americans, who have been on a bit of a losing skid. It would be a huge win for the Grizzlies, and they’ll do have to do it in front of what will likely be a nearly sold-out crowd.

 

 

Image 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

Utah Grizzlies: Holiday Cheer

Coming back from a brief Christmas break, the Grizzlies looked to erase the memory of a tough OT loss against Colorado on the 23rd. With Brendan Harms and Ryan Olsen back in the lineup, C.J. Eick, and Brad Navin went on reserve, while Howe served the second to last of his nine game suspension, and Kevin Carr got the start.

The whole evening did not begin well, what with the anthem singer momentarily forgetting the words, and the zamboni having to come out after the ceremonial puck drops to repair some ice behind the Grizzlies’ net.

Then, once the game started, a bad second shift allowed Jefferson Dahl to wheel around the net uncontested to make it 1-0 on a wrap-around :58 seconds into the game. Considering how bad the Grizzlies’ record is when the other team scores first, how the last home game against Idaho went (5-2 for the Steelheads), and how dominant Idaho looked early, there were definitely some causes for concern.

The weirdness didn’t stop there, as Idaho held possession through the first four minutes, and a hard shot got the head referee right in the head. Fortunately, he appeared to be none-the-worse for wear.

Utah had a few good shifts, but largely struggled to establish possession in the zone. There were signs of life though, from Leibinger, and the Ryan Line most noticably, but from the rest of the line-up as well.

However, off another long stretch in the defensive zone, Michael Pelech took an unforced delay of game penalty, putting the puck over the far glass at 9:14. The penalty kill got the job done, and the score remained unchanged.

Kyle Thomas and Corbin Baldwin got into a scuffle with just over five minutes to go, following a strong shift from the first line, but nothing came of it. That was about the time, however, that the Grizzlies came alive.

At 15:16 Ryan Olsen chipped the puck up to Ryan Misiak, Misiak fed Ryan Walters the perfect pass, and he converted to tie the game. Olsen got the secondary assist.

57 seconds later, Leibinger wired the puck from the point to give Utah the lead from Hanson and Thomas.

Idaho made a push to answer, and Harms took a penalty with 1:59 to go, as the third line continued to have a rough first period. Richart got tripped up with 1:13 to go, and the teams played four-on-four.

Thomas just missed Hanson on a two-on-one, and the Steelheads were likewise unable to tie it up in the final moments of a weird first period. Although Utah led 2-1, shots were 12-9 for the Steelheads.

 

The Grizzlies got off to a decent start in the next frame, following the 46 seconds of power play time. Leibinger almost got his second of the night on a beautiful move, and Carr flashed the leather on the other end. Unfortunately, Idaho tied it up right off the next face-off at 1:29.

The Grizzlies dodged a major bullet shortly thereafter as Carr made a huge save, and was out of position for the rebound. Fortunately, the Utah defensemen stopped the puck in the blue paint, and the Grizzlies got a chance of their own on the other end.

In the end, it was another rocket from a defenceman that gave Utah back the lead, as Sam Windle scored from center ice at 4:24 with assists from Leibinger and Erik Higby.

The third line had a great shift with around twelve minutes to go, but on the next shift, Misiak went down at the blue line. Already mysteriously down Zach Saar (later revealed  to be an apparent illness according to the broadcast), and with Misiak gone, Idaho scored on the shift after that. The good news was that despite being helped off the ice, Misiak was back in short order, and Baldwin’s illegal contact to the head penalty at 11:30 on Higby sent Utah to the power play.

The second half of the period (and indeed the game) was far more characteristic of the Grizzlies and Steelheads, playing a much more structured, and less sloppy game.

Olsen gave up a bad turnover at the offensive zone blue line, but got it back before the puck crossed the Grizzlies’ blue line, and set up Hanson on a breakaway. Unfortunately, Philippe Desrosiers shut the door with about 4:30 to go in the frame.

The second ended with the Ryan Line buzzing, and after 40, shots were 23-18 for Idaho, tied 3-3.

“Just win the third” said Sam Windle in the intermission interview, and boy did the Grizzlies ever. Though, not so much in the first three minutes.

Utah got into gear after that though, and with 11:53 to go, Leibinger sprang Puskar on a gorgeous breakaway. That was the game breaker, and less than two minutes later, Higby forced a turnover, and Pelech scored off the cross-bar and in.

Taylor Richart put the cap on the night with another big shot from the blue line, giving the Grizzlies the 6-3 lead at 13:45, and breaking a goalless streak dating back to November 18th.

 

Puskar went to the box at 14:25, and again with 1:18 left in the third, but other than a net-front scuffle around Carr after a whistle, and another breakaway chance for Thomas and Hanson, they were both fairly uneventful.

With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Richart and Charlie Dodero tangled at center ice, and Mitch Jones and Corey Durocher dropped the gloves. Both got five for fighting, Dodero got two for roughing, and Utah closed out the night with their fifth win in the last eight.

After a rough first period, the third line really got going in the second, and in the third, scored (or were involved in) two of the Grizzlies’ goals three goals in the frame. Moreover, Leibinger was terrific all over the ice, throwing hits, blocking shots, making plays, getting chances, and of course, scoring a goal, and two assists. He was named third star of the game.

“He skates really well, he reads the play really well” Tim Branham said of Leibinger. “He trusts himself, he can make plays, that’s why he was really effective today. I thought he played really well defensively, had a good stick on puck, had a good gap all night, obviously made plays offensively, which we need, get some production from our back-end there. I though he was excellent tonight. We gotta follow that up with another good one though.

The Grizzlies got goals from every line, three from forwards, and three from defensemen. So what do they have to do to keep the offense rolling?

“This game is all about confidence. And you could tell. Once the score got 6-3, we started making some plays that we never would really make normally, and you could just tell that they were making them with confidence. This game is funny. That’s what it’s all about, hopefully this gives us the confidence to get going.

Leibinger thought the Christmas break also did the team some good. “We had some time away from the rink, sometimes that’s good for a team,” he said, “Especially if you’re struggling a little bit. You feel rejuvenated when you come back, see all the guys again, even if it’s just a couple of days”

“Carrying it forward,” he added, “I think we put a lot of effort in tonight, played hard, so I think if we do that every night, we have the talent to make plays, so I think it’s just all work ethic.”

Hard work and confidence. Those sound like good things to build success on going into the new year.