Utah Grizzlies: Keeping it Close

Another close game, another point collected in Manchester.

The Grizzlies hustled right out of the gates, getting the first shot from Brad Navin, who looked determined to start a new streak. He got two of the team’s first four shots, and at 3:08 the Grizzlies drew the first penalty. The early power play wasn’t able to score, but both lines generated chances, and the second unit of Navin, Michael Pelech, Kyle Thomas, Sam Babintsev, and Chris Leibinger continued to pressure after the Monarchs returned to full strength.

Manchester got their first lengthy possession around the 6:30, both teams got three-on-ones stopped by their goalies, and then Thomas roared in, and made it 1-0 at 8:04 with assists from Leibinger and Navin.

Exactly two minutes later, Kevin Morris tripped Navin in the Utah defensive zone, and the Grizzlies got another crack at the advantage. With eight seconds left in the power play, there was a collision in front of the Utah net, and that left Taylor Richart down on the ice. He went down the tunnel, but came back quickly, and didn’t even miss a shift.

Navin took a hooking call at 13:36, but a good kill, including a short-handed move by Harms, and some nice stops from Joel Rumpel took Utah out of danger.

James Melindy and Matt Schmalz tangled at 19:31 after Schmalz boarded a Utah player. Somehow, the teams ended up four-on-four to end the period, and after the whistle Manchester caused a crowd to gather as the teams headed off the ice.

The second began with about a minute and a half of four-on-four, which expired without event.

Thomas took a slashing call at 4:37, and then Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman ran over Rumpel, putting the teams once more on the four-on-four for 15 seconds, before a Utah power play. To say the power play was disastrous would be an understatement, as Thomas lost an edge trying to take the puck away from Joel Lowry, who pounced and tied it up short-handed.

Jake Marchment and Jake Wood dropped the gloves at 8:37. Marchment went to remove his helmet, but when Wood didn’t reciprocate, he put it back on, and then proceeded to punch Wood’s off. Both got five for fighting.

Unfortunately, one of the best second period teams in the league continued to show why they’ve earned that reputation, scoring again at 13:26.

The Grizzlies handily killed off a delay of game penalty on Gage Ausmus, and the third line once again had a great shift, drawing a power play of their own. Navin nearly missed on a shot from the point, but on the next shift, Richart made no such mistake, blasting one past Evan Cowley for his league leading 17th of the year at 18:47.

Babintsev gave up a turnover in the last couple of seconds of the period, but Rumpel made the save, and after 40, the teams were all tied up 2-2, shots 20-15 for Utah.

Ryan Walters and Brendan Harms had a nice shift to start the third, as did the third line. Manchester counterattacked though, and Navin went to the box again for hooking. Thanks to some good defense from Richart, a good save from Rumpel, and a short-handed attempt from Harms and Thomas, the penalty was killed off.

Both teams brought their full effort in the minutes that followed, the Grizzlies getting another especially great shift from the third line.

There weren’t a whole lot of whistles in the middle of the period, but the Monarchs iced the puck several times in a row around the five minute mark.

The first two lines got a bit of a shuffle down the stretch, Navin skating with Walters and Mitch Maxwell , while Pelech centered Harms and Misiak, but neither team was able to break the deadlock, and Utah headed to OT once more.

Both teams got chances, including a couple from Leibinger and Navin, but with 58 seconds to go, the Monarchs again took the other point in OT.

So Utah takes two points against the best team in the North Division, Harms’ point streak extends to five, Misiak has 15 points in 15 games, and Richart continues to lead all defensemen with 17 goals.

The Grizzlies are now 8-1-2-2 in the last 13, and head next to Worcester, where they’ll face Barry Almeida, T.J. Syner, and the Railers Sunday at 1 PM MT.

 

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: Pedal to the Metal

In their third game in three nights, the Grizzlies went with the same roster, including Joel Rumpel in net.

The Grizzlies were rolling right off the opening face-off, the BAM line with a strong offensive zone shift, followed by a Ryan Walters point-blank breakaway shot, followed by a rebound that Matt Tomkins snatched up.

Utah took an early delay of game penalty as Walters put the puck over the glass at 3:18, and followed that up with another delay of game penalty, putting the Grizzlies down five-on-three for 50 seconds. However, they once again held off the league leading power play, shots 4-3 for Indy after the penalty kill.

After some confusion on the lines setting up on a face-off, the Grizzlies got another delay of game penalty, and the Indy power play finally showed some signs of life. Utah killed that off as well, even getting a two-on-one short handed from Brad Navin and Brendan Harms.

Coming off the penalty kill, Indy looked hot, but the Grizzlies fought on, getting some zone time of their own. The offensive zone possession led to a Utah power play, as Gage Ausmus drew a hooking call at 14:35.

The Grizzlies had really good possession throughout the advantage, most notably from Ortega, and Mann, who rang the cross bar right before Indy returned to full strength.

Utah struck first as Sam Babintsev scored his first for the Grizzlies after looking so good all weekend. Mitch Maxwell got the assist on a great pass on the opener at 18:32.

At the end of 20, Utah led 1-0, and the shots were an even 8-8, Walters having half of them.

Indy came out hot in the second, getting four shots to Utah’s two, and keeping things uncomfortably interesting in the opening four.

Walters’ stick was broken in front of the Utah net at 4:08, but he got called for holding. The Grizzlies killed off all but 19 seconds of the Fuel power play, blocking shots and keeping pucks away from the goal, until Alex Wideman put the puck past a sprawling Rumpel to tie the game.

The tie was not allowed to stand for long, however, as Navin wired a puck at the net, and it took a bounce off Tomkins and in 48 seconds later. The goal extended Brad’s scoring streak to nine straight games.

Indy once again poured it on after Navin’s goal, and Rumpel came up huge as Utah squeaked through a couple of really close calls before catching a breather. Brendan and the Ryans together with Melindy and Richart had a phenomenal shift around the six minute mark, but weren’t able to beat Tomkins.

Utah got another crack at the power play at 15:29, but weren’t able to capitalize, despite some good looks. Navin and Reed Seckel took matching calls at 17:28, and then with 1:06 to go in the period, Maxwell took a retaliatory slash and was sent to the box.

The Grizzlies killed off the remainder of Maxwell’s penalty to start the third. Utah ran into some difficulties early, but Rumpel and the defense kept it 2-1, and Harms continued to have a strong game, pushing the puck just wide yet again with about four gone.

About two minute later, Richart threw a big shot on net which, like Navin’s, went in off Tomkins, extending his scoring streak to nine, and tying him with Nolan Zajac of the Reading Royals for first in the ECHL in goals among defensemen.

The Grizzlies continued to keep their foot on the gas, getting strong shifts from Howe, Misiak, and others. The Fuel once again looked disinterested, and Utah pounced, Maxwell scoring at 9:58 from Marchment. The goal was Maxwell’s first as a pro, and with his earlier assist, he also picked up his first multi-point game.

Utah got hit with another extremely lengthy five-on-three penalty kill at 3:11 with first Jones and then Walters in the box for interference and tripping respectively. Once again, the vaunted Indy power play came up empty. Ortega was taken down at 16:50 with no call, and Pelech took matters into his own hands. As was the trend for this game with interesting calls, he got an extra two tacked on to his rough, while Jaynen Rissling got only two.

In the end, however, it didn’t matter, and at the final buzzer, Utah outworked their way to a 4-1 win.

Maxwell (one goal, one assist), Navin (game winning goal), and Rumpel (23/24 saves) were the three stars of the game, Walters ended the day with eight shots, and Ortega, Navin, and Richart all extended their consecutive point streaks. Harms was all over the place, getting an assist, and all three lines contributed. It was also a another night of firsts, as Maxwell and Babintsev scored their first goals for the team, after both of them had a really excellent weekend.

The Grizzlies and the Oilers are currently tied for the fourth spot in the Mountain Division, trailing Wichita by five points, and ahead of Allen by one. Utah could very much use an Idaho win against Allen on Wednesday and before they face the Americans themselves in what could end up being a season defining two game series at home with spots in the playoffs at stake.

In the meantime, the Grizzlies have put themselves in the best position they can, with seven of a possible eight points on the four game road trip, as well as their 8-0-0-1 record in the last nine.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff

Utah Grizzlies: No Signs of Stopping

Why mess with a winning/point-acquiring lineup? The Grizzlies iced the same group of guys for game one of two in Indianapolis on Saturday, Joel Rumpel getting the start behind the BAM line (Brad Navin, Austin Ortega, and Michael Pelech), Taylor Richart, and James Melindy.

The beginning of the game went far better than Friday’s (though that’s not saying much), despite the first line getting stuck out on the ice for quite a long opening shift.

Both teams got their looks in the first five, including a nice look from Navin at around the five minute mark. However, the Grizzlies got a too many men on the ice call at 5:42, and the best power play in the ECHL went to work. They were unable to capitalize, Utah doing an excellent job running them around the neutral and offensive zones, allowing zero shots.

Utah got a power play of their own at 10:42 when Darian Dziurzynski boarded Richart. He was fine, and the potent, all forward unit of Ortega, Ryan Walters, Ryan Misiak, Brendan Harms, and Jake Marchment made Indy pay, Marchment opening the scoring from Ortega and Walters. The goal was Marchment’s fourth first period, game opening power play goal in eight games, and Ortega’s assist ensured that his now ten consecutive games point streak continued.

Utah continued to press, causing chaos around the Fuel net, and at 15:34 they scored right off the face-off on a blast from Richart. The goal extended Richart’s point streak to eight.

Unfortunately, Indy cut the lead in half at 16:36, as a mix up off a face-off of their own  end left no one but Rumpel between Matt Rupert and the goal. The Grizzlies went right back to work, however, and at the end of the first, shots were 22-15 for Utah, who led 2-1.

The Grizzlies lost no time at all picking up a two goal lead to start the second, as the BAM line charged in off the face-off, eventually leading to Pelech’s fourth goal (and seventh point since his return, Ortega’s seventh straight multi-point game, and Navin’s eighth straight game with a point.

The two goal lead did not last long, once again though, as Matheson Iacopelli made it 3-2 at 1:25. The Fuel got a great deal of the momentum back at that point, but by the five minute mark, Utah had settled down again.

By the half-way mark of the period, the game had gotten pretty loose, as the Grizzlies’ structure caved slightly to the more free-flowing structure of the Fuel’s game. Utah’s first two lines re-established some puck possession, though it was short lived.

At 13:22 Ortega drew a tripping call, and what had been a pretty quiet middle frame (after the opening two minutes) got a little more exciting. The Fuel killed off the power play, and then the Grizzlies found themselves on a kill of their own with 4:30 to go.

Utah’s penalty kill once again got the job done, even getting a couple of looks of their own, including a two-on-one from Marchment and Navin. By and large, the back half of the second period was much better structurally from the Grizzlies, and at the end of forty, Utah still led 3-2, out-shooting the Fuel 34-26.

The Grizzlies didn’t score right out of the gate to start the third, but it wasn’t far off. Walters made it 4-2 at 2:36.

Through the middle of the period, both teams got puck possession time, but the Grizzlies got the best of it, putting up six shots to Indy’s two, and Pelech made it 5-2 at 11:53, setting a new record for consecutive games with five or more goals.

The Grizzlies got hit with another too many men call at 16:26, but the penalty kill remained perfect, allowing no shots, and when the final buzzer sounded, Utah had a convincing 5-2 win under their belts.

The three stars of the game were a clean sweep for the Grizzlies, Pelech (two goals, five shots), Walters (one goal, one assist, seven shots), and Richart (also one goal, one assist). Navin (two assists, five shots), Ortega (three assists), and Marchment (one goal, one assist) also had multi-point nights, while Rumpel stopped 29-31 for his sixth win in eight games with Utah.

So the point streak continues, both for players and the team as a whole–a trend the Grizzlies hope to continue this afternoon before they head home.

 

 

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

Utah Grizzlies: Worth Fighting For

With the exception of Sean Maguire in for Joel Rumpel, the winning lineup remained unchanged on the second and final night of Grizzlies Fight Cancer weekend. On the other end of the ice, after his Utah related struggles, Wichita didn’t go with Shane Starrett, instead starting Nick Riopel. As everyone knows, familiarity breeds contempt, and there was a great deal more chippiness in the last game of the season between the Thunder and the Grizzlies.

The game did not get off to the most auspicious of starts, as Utah lost control of the puck, and the Thunder got the first couple of shots of the night.

However, the Grizzlies drew the first power play of the game at 2:41, and their special teams success continued, as Jake Marchment made it 1-0 at 3:38. Sam Windle took a tripping call almost immediately afterwards, as the previous game’s trend of a tightly called match continued. The kill was strong though, and they returned to full strength.

Brad Navin and Austin Ortega got in on a two-on-one at about the eight minute mark, but Riopel calmly gloved Ortega’s shot.

The chances continued to go both ways, but Utah eventually took over the shots, going from down 5-1 on the shot counter, to up 6-5 by the half-way mark.

Gage Ausmus took a bit of a bump behind the Grizzlies net at 11:06, and dropped the gloves with Travis Ewanyk. He hauled him down emphatically to the great delight of the home crowd. Both got sent off for five minutes to cool their heels.

A mere couple of minutes later, Travis Howe and Etienne Boutet got tangled up between the benches, and dropped the gloves, eventually joining their teammates in the box with 5:28 to go.

Unfortunately, it was the Thunder who struck next, as the puck skipped over Maguire’s glove and in at 15:29. The goal came off a pretty lengthy shift in their own end for the Grizzlies.

However, the game did not stay tied for long. Ralph Cuddemi went to the box for slashing, and Ortega beat Riopel on a perfectly placed laser of a shot from Taylor Richart and Sam Babintsev.

Wichita pressed hard in the final moments of the first, but after 20, shots were 12-9 for Utah, who led 2-1.

Mitton took a high-sticking call at 4:16 in the second, but Jon Puskar negated it moments afterwards on the trip. The Thunder tied it up as Jeremy Beaudry capitalized on a defensive lapse, swept around a swarm of players, and put the puck past Maguire.

Brendan Harms had a lovely look on the four second power play that followed, beating the Wichita defenseman, but Riopel was unphased. Rob Mann and Puskar got into a bit of a jousting match, but separated before anything was called.

Navin got a good shot off, and Michael Pelech tangled with Kevin Patterson at 7:42. Pelech got two for cross-checking, two for roughing, while Patterson got two for high-sticking and two for roughing.

Cuddemi came flying in alone on the next shift, and tried to slip one past Maguire five-hole, but he shut the door. For all that, though the Grizzlies were by no means hemmed in their own zone, the Thunder continued to roll along in a concerning fashion.

Ortega got hauled down on what should have been a clean breakaway, and though it could have been a penalty shot, it did result in a power play. The advantage got a couple of good looks, but ultimately came up empty.

There was a bit of a lull in the pace of the game, as it entered the back half of the frame, and in that lull, Wichita pounced on a breakdown, and took the lead. As the period ran out, the mood was grim, despite only being down a goal. It didn’t improve when Mann went to the box for tripping at 17:50. Utah killed it off, however, but after two periods, they trailed going into intermission for the first time during the winning streak.

Utah looked a little flat to start the third, though Harms and Richart teamed up for an exciting moment, as Harms pounced on a turnover by Riopel behind the net. Riopel tripped him up, but there was no call, and the puck did eventually get out of danger.

Gage Ausmus made a gorgeous stick-lifting play to keep Cuddemi from getting a shot on the breakaway, but unfortunately, Utah got a too-many-men penalty at 4:24. They killed it off, and Utah started showing signs of life in the minutes that followed. Ortega woke the crowd with an up ice rush, and when Richart buried it, the 8,594 fans in attendance erupted. Navin got the secondary assist, getting his eighth point in five games.

Ortega got sent off for interference at 9:40, but once again, Utah killed it off, and built on the momentum. Maguire was especially instrumental short-handed, making an eye-catching save early, and holding down the fort. On the very next shift, the Grizzlies took the lead as Navin set up Mann for his first pro goal, and his first multi-point game. Ortega was again in on the action with Navin, getting the secondary assist as that line once more got the puck to a defenseman for the goal.

Maguire stood tall after that, but with 1:44 to go, Wichita pulled Riopel, and Pelech took a cross-checking call 33 seconds later. The Thunder called their time-out, and the penalty kill gave up their first of the game with a crushing nine seconds left.

Pelech drew a power play at the very end of regulation, and the Grizzlies started overtime on the power play. 3-on-3 OT. Because there was no whistle for quite a while after Wichita returned to full strength, very little of OT was actually played 3-on-3. Regardless, OT solved nothing, and the game went to the shoot out.

Babintsev scored the only goal in the shoot-out, as Maguire calmly stoned all three of the Thunder’s skaters, and the second largest crowd of the season went wild. Utah extended their winning streak to five with their second shoot-out win of the year.

Maguire got the the third star of the game, Ortega’s goal and two assists got the second star, and with his first pro goal, and first multi-point game, Mann was named first star of the night.

“I thought they played with more energy and passion than us for the majority of that first forty minutes, or say fifty minutes,” Tim Branham said after the game, “But at the end of the day we’ve been on a roll here, and good teams find a way to win. Everybody is pulling the rope—today it was Maguire, big in the shoot out, Ortega getting us going on that one, Rob Mann, what a time to get your first goal—at the end of the day, you find ways to win. That’s what good teams do.”

Ortega (three goals, seven assists), Navin (two goals, six assists), and Richart (two goals, five assists) all picked up points in each of the five games, while Pelech (four goals, one assist), Mann (one goal, four assists), Misiak (two goals, five assists), and Marchment (three goals, two assists) have also racked up points over the course of the winning streak.

The auction of the beautiful cancer night jerseys raised over $21,000 for charity, and the Grizzlies look to close out February on a winning note tonight in Quad City.

 

Cover photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming, and staff.