Utah Grizzlies: Sweet Revenge

Fresh off a spectacular road trip, and a quick holiday season, the Grizzlies returned home to host the Tulsa Oilers. With Patrick McGrath called up to Iowa, only J.C. Brassard, Garrett Klotz, and the goalies Brad Barone and Jeff Smith were not in the lineup.

Having suffered only one loss, 3-1 to this same Tulsa team on the road, Utah hoped to erase it from memory with a good performance, and bring their winning ways back home.

After a very short stint in their own zone, the Grizzlies got hustling, picking up the first five shots of the night. Their shooting and puck management led to Ty Lewis’ tenth of the season, which he made look absolutely effortless against Devin Williams at 3:34. The usual suspects in Tim McGauley and Griffen Molino picked up the assists.

There were a couple of close calls about twelve minutes in, but Martin Ouellette turned aside a wrap-around attempt, and then calmly shut the door after a turnover led to a bit of a scramble.

The Lewis-McGauley-Molino line continued to impress with their puck handling and rebound creation as shots hit 7-4 for the Grizzlies, and the period hit the half-way mark.

With so few stoppages in play, the flow of the game was allowed to continue unimpeded, and certainly showed off the Grizzlies’ speed and skill.

Yao had an especially memorable shift as he first flew in from the bench to cut off what was otherwise a one-on-none, and then later on the same shift swiped a puck away from an open net after Ouellette made the initial save, and then lost the puck in a sea of bodies.

Ouellette also continued to impress throughout, and the Travis Barron, Brandon Saigeon, Mitch Maxwell line closed the period out with a multi-shot shift.

After 20, Utah led 1-0, out-shooting Tulsa 12-8.

The Grizzlies drew the game’s first power play at 1;25, following a bit of nice puck-handling from Saigeon. They only picked up one shot, but it didn’t matter, for scarcely had the man advantage ended than Lewis once again made scoring look easy on a play from McGauley.

Shortly thereafter, Yau made a blue-line play from his knees to get the puck up to Lewis. After that, it surprised no one when Lewis passed the puck to McGauley, who hten passed it off to Molino. Williams made the initial save, but Molino backhanded the puck right over the Tulsa goalie to make it 3-0.

Unfortunately, a turnover from Richart eventually led to the Oilers’ first, and only, goal of the game almost immediately afterwards.

Travis Barron and Danny Moynihan got into a scrap at 7:58, Barron getting the better of the exchange, which never quite developed into a full-fledged fight, and Utah killed off the extra two Barron got for slashing.

Williams got a pair of chances just past the 14 minute mark, the first which squeaked just wide of the net, and the second which landed square on the stick of Joe Wegwerth and into the net.

Ouellette made a couple of big saves in the later stages of the period, and Utah drew another power play with under four to go. Although the Grizzlies didn’t actually capitalize on the advantage, it was hard to see their puck movement and think that it looked a little like they were toying with Tulsa.

Barron continued to get opportunities, but not goals, and at the buzzer, Mike McKee turnstiled McGauley, which led to a scuffle with Sasha Larocque and McKee in the thick of it. McKee was assessed a penalty for roughing. As a result, Utah headed into the third up 4-1, out-shooting Tulsa 21-13, and headed to the man-advantage.

The ensuing special teams were underwhelming on both sides, and included the least threatening start to a one-on-none short-handed breakaway ever.

The lacklustre power play was forgotten, however, when just about a minute later, Yao released a big shot on net, and Wegwerth once again tipped the puck home perfectly to put Utah up 5-1.

The game got a little out of hand after that, Wegwerth getting put into the boards, leading to three separate fights. That was more or less when the refs lost control of the game. The fights were all considered rouging calls, and the initial boarding that started it was never called.

On the next shift or so, Zahn dropped the gloves. Zahn got two for slashing, as well as the four and ten both received. The upshot, however was that Utah had nearly a minute of four-on-three to kill.

On the shift after THAT Cam Knight and Mitch Maxwell dropped the gloves, and Maxwell won decisively in a furious bout that was the only one of the game to actually be called a fight. Both got five and a game,  and Utah killed off the rest of their penalties.

Both teams got back to the business of playing hockey after that, though the Oilers did take a delay-of-game penalty at 13:57.

Joe Wegwerth completed the natural hat trick with just under three to go, and the Grizzlies avenged their only road loss in decisive fashion. The hat trick earned Wegwerth first star honors, while Lewis’ two goals, and McGauley’s three assists gave them second and third stars respectively. Flying much further under the radar though, were Yao’s two assists, and overall strong play.

Needless to say, Tim Branham was pleased with his team’s effort.

“We came out, we had something to prove. Last game we played against these guys, it was the one game we took off in the last 20. We had a statement to make. We played a good game, I thought Marty still made some big saves back there. That one goal, Pleskach can score. That’s a tough play to even defend. Really proud of how the boys stuck up for each other, policed the game when it wasn’t being policed. Overall, it was a really good effort.”

When asked about his white hot first line, he said, “It’s fun to watch those guys, every shift they’re pretty creative, pretty fast, stuff like that. And they play such a big part of the game, not only power play, they penalty kill, they give the other team fits. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. They play a fast game, and it’s good. It’s what they need to do, what we need them to do, and it’s fun to watch, that’s for sure.”

Yao’s performance also came in for a share of praise. “Very, very good game. Played defense, played forward. He gives you that effort though, he gives you that effort every night. He skates so well, he’s so smart out there. It’s tough. We’ve got a lot of contracted d-men, we’ve got a lot of good defensemen back there, and sometimes rookies gotta bide their time, give you that effort when it’s needed, and he’s done exactly that. He’s been there when we’ve needed that, and he’s a great teammate.”

However, Branham saved most of of his praise for Wegwerth. “He’s doing great.” He said, “We’ve got to understand where he’s coming from. His senior year, last year, his senior year at Notre Dame, I think it was November, December, he broke his leg, and he hasn’t played since then. He comes back out, and breaks his hand when he gets here, then he takes a puck to the mouth, loses teeth six weeks later, and for him to battle the way he has and develop, he’s got a bright future ahead of him, that’s for sure. He’s a big body, he’s tough to handle, he’s tough, he’s got great hand-eye coordination in front of the net, which we saw tonight, and a great human being, so definitely it’s a lot of fun coaching him as well because he’s a sponge out there. He comes from a good program, Jeff Jackson does a good job there at Notre Dame, and Joe’s a byproduct of that.”

The Grizzlies’ offensive game has obviously expanded exponentially recently, but it’s not the only area in which they have improved in the past month or so, something Lewis was quick to point out. “I think our defensive game has come a long way, I feel like we’ve really taken a next step in our d-zone, and our responsibility defensively in the past couple of weeks. Our d-core is really strong, probably one of the most solid d-cores in the league in my opinion, so hopefully we just keep that going.”

“I think everyone is feeling good in the room right now,” he added, when asked about the team’s overall mood, and success. “It’s nice when things go well, and guys are getting the bounces. We’re just trying to take advantage of what we’ve got going here, good mentality in the room, everyone’s prepared to do their job, and things are just working well.”

Wegwerth’s thoughts were similar. “I think it’s a ton of fun. Every night it’s a different guy, it seems like. Everyone is stepping up and doing the little things. It’s not about one person in the room right now, it’s about all of us, and that’s what’s special about it.”

After such a hotly contested game, Saturday’s rematch is certainly going to be one to watch.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard.

Utah Grizzlies: A Work In Progress

After a strong road game, the Grizzlies iced the same winning lineup, with the exception Mason McDonald starting to give Jeff Smith the rest in the second of three games in as many days.

Yuri Terao got the first shot of the night, but Idaho sent the puck pin-balling around the crease. The goal light went off, but it looked like it might have gone off the iron and out. The uncertainty led to the first video review at the Maverik Center. Unfortunately, it was ruled a good goal, putting Idaho up 1-0 at 2:05.

Less than a minute later, however, Colton Saucerman took a tripping call to send Utah to the power play. The Grizzlies were unable to muster as much as a shot on the advantage. To be fair, both teams were stingy on shots, allowing five between them in the first eight minutes.

Idaho largely kept the puck in the Grizzlies’ zone, or if Utah got in to attack, managed to get a stick in the way of any opportunities. Fortunately for Utah, however, Idaho put the puck over the glass, sending the boys to the power play. It wasn’t going so well when Taylor Richart laid a thunderous hit on and Idaho player. Immediately thereafter, he took an elbow to the face, and Michael Economos took violent exception. He took down Saucerman, and while both got five for the fight, Saucerman got five for elbowing Richart, and a game misconduct.

Utah made them pay immediately, Griffen Molino scoring his fourth of the year from Travis Barron and Ryan Wagner.

Tim McGauley took a penalty to negate most of the rest of the five minute major, but both teams returned to full strength with no change in score.

At the end of 20, shots were 8-6 for the home team in an entertaining 1-1 game.

Utah spent the first four minutes in their own zone, and unsurprisingly, it led to a penalty. Kevin Davis went to the box for high-sticking. Surprisingly (or perhaps not, considering how they’ve played on the PK, the Grizzlies were more aggressive and coordinated on the disadvantage, and killed it off with only one shot allowed.

Although the Grizzlies did not pick up a shot through the first half of the period, they started to control play much ore than they had up until that point, McGauley, Davis, and Terao all creating nice opportunities.

After multiple close calls, the Grizzlies’ drive picked up a power play. Utah kept working hard, and a wicked shot from Richart led to a wild scramble in the goal-mouth. In the mean time, the puck went out to the stick of J.C. Brassard, who had lots of time to beat a beleaguered Tomas Sholl for his first with Utah. Barron and Richart got the assists.

The Grizzlies continued to press, leading to some great looks, including a wrap-around beauty by Ryan Wagner followed up by a shot that was especially memorable. Terao and Brassard also had a two-on-one that Sholl stopped dead.

On the other end of the ice. McDonald made some big saves of his own, perhaps none bigger than those with 30 and then 13 seconds to go in the period. After 40, the Grizzlies trailed in shots 18-14, but led 2-1 where it mattered.

Coming into the third, the Grizzlies faced the challenge of one of the best (if not THE best) come-back teams in the league. Idaho ran the Utah zone for the first couple of minutes, and it payed off. Zack Andrusiak scored with minimal fuss at 5:05.

It appeared to be just the swift kick Utah needed though, as they picked up the pace significantly following the goal. Overall though, the Steelheads managed to keep the play largely (though not exclusively) in the Utah zone.

Economos took a delayed tripping call with just under six to go, and McDonald made a huge series of saves. Once again, the Grizzlies’ kill got the job done.

As time ticked down, and the Steelheads with an offensive zone draw, McDonald made another terrific save, and sprinting the other way, McGauley, Terao, and Molino came close. However, regulation wasn’t enough to break the deadlock.

Unfortunately, Andrusiak got his second of the game, giving Idaho the 3-2 OT win.

At the end of the day, the Grizzlies played well, but made a couple of crucial mistakes that Idaho jumped on.

Andrusiak’s two goals, including the game winner earned him first star honors, while Barron (two assists), and Molino (one goal) took second and third. Wagner didn’t pick up a point, but  continued to impress, as did Terao who continues to always be exactly where he needs to be, and now joins McGauley and Wagner in the point-per-game club.

Idaho best PK team in the league, Utah had two against them. Unfortunately, Idaho is also a brilliant comeback team, and Utah gave them the opportunity to do so.

“Obviously protecting our third period leads haven’t been good.” Tim Branham said after the game. “We didn’t do it yesterday, but we were able to score, and then today again, going into the third with the lead, the first five minutes wasn’t good enough. We generated scoring chances, didn’t generate shots.”

So what do they have to do to remedy that?

“We’ve got to keep things more simple. We talk all the time about managing the puck, and we just have too many turnovers. Too many turnovers in key areas. It’s unacceptable. We’re working on that, just getting it through guys’ heads to keep things simple. And once again, everything that they got, we gave them. We had the puck on our stick, we turned it over, two of the four goals last game were like that too. We gotta make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot so we can give ourselves a chance. But at the end of the day, that’s a good team over there, it’s a good battle each and every night, it could go either way. Tonight they got a couple of chances in overtime, and it went their way.”

Not all is grim, however, as special teams continue to be a strength. The Grizzlies capitalized twice on the advantage against a strong PK team, but even the penalty kill created momentum — in at least once instance, even more momentum than five-on-five.

“Just like last year, our special teams have been really good all year. Idaho scored two goals on us last game, but a four-on-three, that’s a tough one, then there was another quick strike, not characteristic of our team. Back to work again, the penalty kill was great, our power play got us two, our special teams are always great. Our five-on-five play has got to improve. Like you said, the intensity, we start every period slow. They scored again on the first shot. They scored in the first five minutes last game, even though we were taking it to them. But still, we’ve got to make sure that when we’re playing we’re getting results, and keeping things simple. Hockey is a simple game. When you start to over-complicate it and try things new and out of your skill set, or whatever, bad things happen. You’ve got to play the percentages and good things come your way.”

Despite the loss, McDonald had perhaps his strongest game since preseason, making a couple of especially key saves especially at the end of the second and third periods. It was a marked improvement, but there’s still room for more.

“He played well. He gave us a chance to win” Branham said. “I’m all over our goalies to say it’s not good enough, be the reason we win. I’m still waiting for that, but he had a really strong game after that first shot went in. A great bounce-back game for him, and it’s gonna be good for his confidence. We have good goaltenders, and they need to get better each and every night so that they can grow as well. They need to be the reason we win, not just give us a chance.”

We had a chance to speak to third star Griffen Molino afterwards as well, and his thoughts were similar.

“Obviously they got that one quick one,” He said of the opening Idaho goal, “But I thought we answered back, and then it was pretty even for most of the game. But having that lead going into the third was big, and those are points that you just can’t find a way to lose.”

It was a common theme, but he definitely sees promise in the team.

“It’s a young group of guys, a lot of first year players, and managing the game, especially with a 72 game season, is obviously critical. We’ve seen it a handful of times already, so I think moving forward it’s just the little things, taking care of the puck, getting things out of your own end and into theirs, especially late in the game when you’re holding the lead, it’s pretty important.”

“We’ve got a close group. I think a lot of these guys are working hard to make a name for themselves, and in the early going it’s been tough for our team, but I think that we’re coming together game by game, and getting better and better. Trying to keep things simple, and as far as the power play goes, I think it’s just who you’re playing with, and getting the reps in in practice, and in the game feeling comfortable with guys and building a rapport. As far as that goes, tonight we got a couple of good cracks at them, traffic in front of the net, and so it worked out.”

When asked about his line with McGauley and Terao, which showed flashes of future promise, as well as some immediate results, he thinks it is, again, just a matter of time.

“With Cassels and [Dickinson] being called up, it’s kind of a new line formation, but one that seems to be working kind of early on. But like you guys know, the more you play with someone, or with a group of guys, it’s easier and you figure out tendencies and stuff like that as you said, it felt like we were one or two seconds away, or a pass here or there away from really clicking. I think it’s gonna come.”

The two teams will meet for their third game in as many days, and their second in less than 24 hours on Sunday afternoon.

Goals

  • First Period: Molino (Terao, Barron) (PP)
  • Second Period: Brassard (Barron, Richart) (PP)
  • Third Period: None
  • OT: None

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.

Utah Grizzlies vs Kansas City: Frustration

After last night’s game, the lines saw some shuffling, though the roster itself remained the same.

First Period

  • Teigan Zahn crushes a guy, and Joe Cannata flashes the leather. Getting the crowd into it right off the bat!
  • Joseph Mizzi to the box with a double minor for high-sticking.
  • Cannata looking particularly sharp. He’s made a couple of nearly identical pad saves followed by a quick stick to bat the puck out of danger.
  • Grayson Downing with a big block there.
  • Downing showing off the physical side of his game with 13:00 to go.
  • Pretty good looking defense tonight. On the other hand, it’d be really nice to get some shots of our own…
  • Eric Freschi with a tremendous takeaway in the offensive zone with half a period to go.
  • Haha that’s what happens when you hit a Moose. The moose is fine, you fall over.
  • KC strikes first on a late power play…where have I heard that one before…
  • McDonald is far too good a goalie only get one shot on and expect good things to happen.
  • End of 20, shots 7-2 for KC, who leads 1-0.

Second Period

  • That’s more like it. The Grizzlies have already doubled their shot count, and we’re not even two minutes in.
  • Ausmus rings iron, shots are now 8-4 in a much better second.
  • Nice crisp breakout from the Downing line.
  • Mizzi is robbed on a point blank chance, and just like that, shots are an even 8-8.
  • Aaaand Greg Betzold beats Cannata on the rebound.
  • Cannata bobbles a seemingly routine save, and it’s 3-0.
  • Ottenbreit with a huge shot, and Zahn lays a big hit, which the fans appreciate.
  • Oooh some animosity brewing.
  • Maxwell didn’t miss by much…
  • After evening up the shots, KC is once again out-shooting Utah 18-9.
  • Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout  Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout Shutout
  • Freschi’s stick goes flying up in the air, and he catches it, to the crowd’s great delight. Wonder if he’s good at juggling…
  • Dickinson didn’t miss the net by very much there. He’s so sneaky good.
  • Well. Marchment takes a penalty.
  • AND NOW THERE’S A CRAZY SHIFT, AND WATSON TO THE BOX.
  • Well. That was not ideal.
  • 3-0 for KC after two.

Third Period

  • Pretty good shift here from Marchment and company now that all the penalties are killed off.
  • It didn’t pan out, but what a crafty move from Downing.
  • Downing playing with some passion there. He’s definitely not entertained.
  • Every other sentence seems to be about him tonight, but he’s been good.
  • Anderson absolutely wails on a guy, and gets five and a game.
  • Really nice short-handed shift from the boys.
  • Ah great. We just go from bad to worse.
  • Walters to the box and Richart as well, because reasons.
  • …As bad as Richart getting a 10 minute misconduct is…that’s 10 minutes in which he can’t get hurt as this game goes nowhere good in a hurry…if you want to look at it from the very, very, very faint bright side…
  • What a shift from Walters as he flew out of the box!
  • Obviously, penalties aren’t the reason the Grizzlies are currently losing. But KC definitely hasn’t played as clean a game as the score sheet would indicate…
  • And the fans are not happy about it.
  • Hate to sound like a broken record, but…as AD used to say…I don’t know about that…
  • Zahn’s penalty is killed, and Ottenbreit throws a thunderous hit!
  • Well. If you can’t score a ton in front of a big crowd, at least entertain them with big hits, and a surprising fight from Mitch Maxwell!
  • As bad as this game has been, and as many penalties as Utah’s taken, they’ve only got one power play goal against them. That’s pretty impressive.
  • That is the second short-handed dash from Walters and Downing that SOMEHOW didn’t beat McDonald.
  • Welp. I guess that winning streak had to come to an end sometime.
  • Utah falls 3-0.

 

“First off, they played hard.” said Tim Branham after the game. “They came at us hard, we tried weathering the storm, obviously got behind the eight ball early with penalties. Definitely a lopsided affair on the referee’s part. You have the linesmen out there calling penalties, the reason it gets out of hand is because they don’t call the penalties, and they don’t keep it under control. Hockey players handle it themselves. Unfortunately, we face that a lot here with our part-time linesmen, they always seem to have it out for us, but it is what it is.

“I thought there were times where we could have played better,” he added. “I thought we played extremely hard, it’s tough when the power plays were eight to one, the one power play we had was 37 seconds. I definitely saw some penalties out there that could have been called. But it is what it is. I thought the boys played really hard, I was really proud of them, and we gotta regroup here and come back on Monday.”

Despite the lopsided penalties, the Grizzlies only allowed one power play goal — a testament to their defensive abilities.

“I thought our PK was good,” Branham said. “The one that they scored was off of a face-off, and just got a quick shot, nothing structurally or anything like that. It is what it is, those bounces happen, kind of like their one yesterday. I thought we played really well, they had what, three five-on-threes tonight, an extended one for over a minute, and then two shorter ones, the effort is there. We’ve got an unreal team, unreal character, and definitely proud of the way they played. We got the short end of the stick, 100% in front of 8,500 fans and the commissioner here. They couldn’t find one penalty on them. It’s pretty sad.”

The Grizzlies’ eight game point streak and five game winning streak came to an end, as all good things must, but there were valuable things that came from it that will continue to stand the team in good stead going forward.

“We came together as a team, no matter who was in our lineup. Guys are understanding what it takes to win games, I think. Playing short-handed a lot with new guys who aren’t used to playing in this league, it’ll take a toll on you. So when you’re killing that many penalties, you’re really relying on your veteran core guys as well, so they’re getting a lot of ice time as well. It was a good streak, that’s for sure. We’ve got to make sure we put this one behind us and start a new streak.”

Monday’s matinee game against the Mavericks is gonna be a big one.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography and staff.


 

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Utah Grizzlies vs Kansas City: The Moose is Loose

With Caleb Herbert, Tim McGauley, Travis Barron, Julien Nantel, and Kevin Davis all up in the AHL, and J.T. Henke, Nolan De Jong, Cole Ully, Jack Walker, Austin Carroll and R.T. Rice all out with various injuries, Will Smith and Joseph Mizzi made their Grizzlies debuts, Joey Raats dressed as a forward, and Josh Anderson also returned to the lineup from Colorado. Joe Cannata got the start against Cliff Watson, C.J. Eick, and the Kansas City Mavericks.

First Period

  • That was a ROUGH first shift.
  • Neither team is looking particularly crisp at the moment.
  • What a sprawling poke-check from Cannata to negate any chance on the one-on-none.
  • Mike Economos gets leveled, and Turner Ottenbreit drops the gloves with Neal Goff as a result! Both get five, Goff gets the extra two for the initial interference call.
  • Half-way through the first, shots are still 4-3 for KC. Neither team has recorded n official shot in quite a while.
  • Birthday boy Taylor Richart playing soccer with the puck to some effect over there!
  • One thing the Grizzlies are doing quite well is make it difficult for KC to make passes/shots, whether it’s through tying up sticks or getting in shot lanes.
  • Cannata seems to be seeing the puck really well.
  • Oooh, new guy Mizzi with a really nice move, followed by a nicer shot! Unfortunately, Mason McDonald flashes the leather.
  • Teigan Zahn with a gorgeous defensive move there.
  • That’s the second good chance that Mizzi’s been a part of.
  • Taylor Richart doing Taylor Richart things. (Aka, blocking all of the shots.)
  • Suddenly, shots are 10-5 for Utah!
  • Kansas City is gonna score on this power play with two seconds left.
  • Kansas City scores on the power play with four seconds left. I HATE being right.
  • I honestly thought Cannata had that one.
  • Utah trails 1-0 after 20, despite out-shooting KC 10-6

Second Period

  • That’s the second penalty Economos has drawn against Goff!
  • I know it’s really bad form to yell for someone to shoot, but several of you should have shot that puck…
  • Mizzi continues to impress through the second period.
  • Utah is getting a lot more chances as the period approaches the half-way point.
  • Turner Ottenbreit slides the puck past McDonald! Josh Dickinson gets the assist, and just like that, we’re all tied up!
  • The period is already half gone, and the Grizzlies have only allowed one shot!
  • Economos with the WHEELS???? Seriously. He’s gotten so speedy lately.
  • Taylor My-middle-name-is-blocked-shot Richart.
  • Ah. That’s not ideal. 2-1 for KC on their third shot of the period…
  • Sometime or other, Grayson Downing is gonna score. He’s just too good not to.
  • Why is it ALWAYS Richy? And on his birthday too. That’s just rude.
  • Snipe and celly! I SAID it was only a matter of time!!!! Downing ties it up, Richart and Dickinson with the assists!

 

 

 

  • Well. The shot situation is great, the goal situation is great, two goals on eleven shots is not great.

Third Period

  • Playing on the other end of the ice would be really great right about now.
  • On the other hand, KC’s wired a couple of shots on Cannata, and he’s been rock solid this period.
  • Great shift from the Grizzlies there. Economos almost had one from the doorstep.
  • As the game has progressed, both teams have definitely settled down and cleaned up the passing issues from earlier.
  • Ottenbreit has looked quite good this game, even without his goal.
  • Cannata with a good save.
  • KC up 3-2. Sorry Joe. I jinxed you.
  • WALLY ON THE POWER PLAY. TIE GAME.
  • …HOW did Dickinson settle that puck down and not lose possession?
  • Downing with a beautiful move to elude a defender and get a shot off. Unfortunately, McDonald is a pretty good goalie.
  • That Cannata save could prove to be very, very important with three minutes left in this tie game…
  • 1:22 to go…
  • Another big Cannata save with 55 seconds to go…
  • Oh boy, Utah did not miss taking the game in the last twenty seconds by much there.
  • Welp. One point down. Let’s get that second one.

OT

  • With the second point on the line, Cannata is making some very important saves.
  • OT power play, thanks to Cliff Watson!
  • Richart with a HUGE shot that looks like it might have stung Marchment.
  • Oh Josh nearly had one.
  • THE MOOSE. IS. LOOSE.
  • Kansas City is NOT pleased.
  • (I can’t believe that counted, but I sure as H-e-double-hockey-sticks don’t mind being on this side of a call like that for a change!)
  • GRIZZLIES WIN 4-3 IN OT. 

 

 

Ausmus’ OT game winner earned him first star of the night, while Dickinson’s two assist night was good for second star, and Downing’s goal, assist, and seven shots saw him take third star honors. In the end, Cannata saved 22/25 for his 14th win of the year. Turner Ottenbreit also had a very strong game, as did Mizzi, who together with Walters and Dickinson, had five shots in his debut. Walters now has seven goals in his last six games and, with all the call-ups and injuries, is once again the Grizzlies’ leading scorer.

One of the most impressive things about the Grizzlies in this stretch that started at the end of January is the consistency with which they’ve managed to keep the wins and goals coming, despite the injuries, call-ups, and new players they’ve had to bring in.

“It feels good coming to the rink for practice, game days, there’s just a good mood in there, and everyone feels good.” Ausmus said about what’s been allowing the Grizzlies to be so consistent, despite the constant turnover of personnel. “Obviously you’re gonna play better hockey when you have that mindset and it’s fun to come to the rink. That’s the biggest part about this group is that we all have a good time, we all get along, and we have fun when we come to the rink.”

Downing’s thoughts on the subject were very similar to Ausmus’. “We definitely are short-handed” he said, “But the guys who are playing are doing a good job. Doesn’t matter who’s in or who’s out, I think everyone has to fill a role, and tonight we kind of showed that. A lot of adversity coming through in overtime, I think Moosie’s goal was huge, don’t really know what happened in front of the net there, but a goal’s a goal and like I said, winning is fun.”

Downing himself is one of the new additions in the merry-go-round that has been the Grizzlies roster, but he’s by no means the newest. Mizzi and Smith both played in their first games with the team, and Tim Branham was pleased with their outing.

“We had seven forwards all week at practice, so it’s not like you can get a whole lot accomplished in practice, you’re just trying to keep your wind up and stay confident.” Branham said. “Mizzi is a young kid who was recommended by his agent, Pat Curcio, he’s a 20-year-old kid playing tier two junior hockey, this is a big jump for him. He had five shots through the second period, could have had three goals. Really good job by him. Smitty, he came from Adirondack, started in the SPHL, played in the Quebec Major Junior League, another young kid, but he’s got experience in this league. I thought he did a really good job tonight.”

Overall, Branham was pleased with how the team came together.

“I thought that was a really good game by the team, a complete team effort. We’re playing pretty short-handed. Good help getting Cannata down, that’s for sure, and Anderson, but at the end of the day, no matter who’s in our lineup, we pull through and find a way to have success. I thought that third period they kind of took it to us, but other than that, the majority of the game, I think we did pretty good. Hopefully we can clean up a few things for tomorrow, and find another two points.”

He reserved his greatest praise for Downing, however, and deservedly so.

“He’s been tremendous. Definitely one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. He’s got all the tools, that’s for sure, and it was only a matter of time before those flood gates opened. He’s been doing a lot, he’s been creating a lot, playing a lot of hockey. He’s never played with three lines before in his life, since like…mites. College hockey you have four lines, in the American League you have four lines, so this is a lot of hockey for him, and I think he’s adjusting really well — which he should, he’s a top notch player — and we’re definitely lucky to have him.”

“I think [Dickinson] made a great play on the boards and kinda found me.” Downing said of his goal. “It’s one of those things this year that I haven’t been shooting enough, so I kinda decided just to close my eyes and put it on net. Luckily it was a pretty good shot, and it’s always nice getting that first one out of the way. I felt like they all could have went in tonight. I think their goalie played well. Any time you can win, it’s huge, and it’s more fun. We’ve got a great group of guys since I’ve been down here, I don’t know what’s in the water, but winning is a lot of fun, so it’s nice to be in that atmosphere.”

Utah looks to keep the wins coming as they continue to host Kansas City tonight (Saturday) and Monday, especially since there’s bound to be a great crowd for Grizzlies Fight Cancer night.

 

 

Goals

  • First Period: None
  • Second Period: Ottenbreit (Dickinson), Downing (Richart, Dickinson)
  • Third Period: Walters (Marchment, Downing) PP
  • OT: Ausmus (Economos, Zahn)

 

Photo courtesy of Josh Pinnau.


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Utah Grizzlies vs Idaho Steelheads: Clean Sweep

After taking two in a row against Idaho, the Grizzlies were up against a stiff challenge in game three of the series on Saturday night. Utah’s lineup remained the same as they faced down former Grizz goalie Ryan Faragher.

First Period

  • Idaho to the power play first.
  • The Grizzlies followed up a flawless penalty kill with a wild scramble around Faragher.
  • WALLLYYYYYYYYYYY!! Walters puts the Grizzlies up 1-0 from Taylor Richart!! And it was a very nice one. He took the puck around a crowd of players and past his former teammate.

  • WELCOME. BACK. MITCH. 2-0 Grizzlies!
  • Idaho is definitely trying to pick a fight with whomever will fall for it.
  • Shots are 7-1 for Utah with 8:50 to go in the first period.
  • What a pair of phenomenal saves from Carr as that Idaho penalty came to an end.
  • It feels like every single game Mike Economos gets a step faster. Every single game.
  • A little bit of the old razzle dazzle from Julien Nantel there! (Unfortunately, Faragher flashed the leather with a little flair of his own.)
  • Carr sees Faragher’s flashy moves on the other end of the ice, and responds with one of his own!
  • ONE of these days, Nantel is gonna bury one of those incredible looks.
  • Idaho in on the breakaway, only to be stopped stone cold by Kevin Carr.
  • If Taylor getting pitchforked isn’t a penalty, how’s that play by Ausmus one??? As AD used to say… I don’t know about that…
  • Either way, that was exactly the start the Grizzlies needed. 13-7 are shots for Utah after the first.

Second Period

  • More of that awesome puck support we saw from the past couple of nights.
  • Carr doesn’t often protest after he lets a goal in. He was immediately adamant after that one that it shouldn’t be a goal. Refs are talking about it.
  • NO GOAL. Always trust Carrsy.
  • Don’t know about the rest of you, but definitely not used to Teigan Zahn NOT being the biggest guy on the ice.
  • Kevin Carr, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Walters takes exception to the Idaho pushing and shoving around Carr, and is sent to the box. The fans are not amused.
  • We’re just gonna spend the entire second period on the kill, aren’t we.
  • Idaho to the box, and Herbert and Dickinson join up for a gorgeous four-on-four chance.
  • …Except now apparently Dickinson to the box for…reasons.
  • Idaho scores after being given ever possible chance on the power play.
  • YOU MAY BEAT KEVIN CARR FOUR-ON-THREE, BUT YOU’RE NOT GONNA BEAT HIM ON THE WRAP-AROUND.
  • HOW did Carr save that???? It was already BEHIND him????
  • Kevin Carr is the first star of this game for this period alone, and I don’t care if we lose by six. He is playing lights out.
  • HERBERT SAYS THAT’S RUBBISH AND WE’RE UP 3-1!! What a move.
  • Idaho playing a lot tighter on this penalty kill.
  • UHG. Short-handed goal.
  • Here’s to hoping the Grizzlies are able to score another couple in the third to keep the Steelheads out of the win column…

Third Period

  • Grizzlies are struggling to pass cleanly early on, but are still doing a good job at boxing the Steelheads out…mostly.
  • Five-on-three for Utah. The Grizzlies NEED to get a goal on this one.
  • …This is a very underwhelming five-on-three. No hustle, and the passes are not ideal.
  • That power play could come back to haunt them in a big way.
  • Now would be a really good time for the killer instinct from the first period to make a return.
  • Kevin Carr coming up big again.
  • The way some parts of the second and third period have gone, an argument could be made that the Grizzlies don’t entirely deserve to win this game. On the other hand, Carr definitely does not deserve to lose it.
  • A lot more energy as the final period passes the half-way mark. They’re looking more like the first period team.
  • There’s still too much time…
  • Caleb Herbert, man. The things he can do.
  • Again. Herbert and the things he can do.
  • OH geez… Henke went hard into the boards, and has to be helped off the ice. That’s the last thing this already injury plagued team needs.
  • Idaho’s net is empty with 2:28 to go…
  • Still an empty net…less than a minute to go…Idaho calls their time out…
  • MITCH. MAXWELL. EMPTY. NET. GOAL.
  • CHILI FOR ALL, AND GET OUT THOSE BROOMS.
  • Grizzlies win 4-2.

Mitch Maxwell earned first star of the game with his first and second goals of the year, while Caleb Herbert’s GWG earned him second star. Idaho’s Keegan Kanzig received the third star with a goal and an assist. Carr definitely could have been one of the stars as well, with his outstanding performance–especially in the second period.

“I think it just comes down to team effort,” Maxwell said after the game. “Carrsy was great in the net when we had little lulls he held us in it, and we capitalized on our opportunities. We’re a pretty confident team right now, and we’re just excited to be here at the rink. It was a big three wins for us, and we’re ready to get going for next week.”

Of Carr’s play, especially in the second period, he added, “Carrsy made some huge saves when we had some lulls like I said. Without him we definitely don’t have these three wins. He was a huge part of our success this weekend.”

“We’re playing pretty good hockey right now,” Tim Branham said when speaking of the series in general. “Good goaltending today, that’s for sure. Got some help from our affiliate, those two, Nantel and Downing for the series, and Boikov for the first game, those are three elite players right that can play at the next level. Any time you can add that, it’s great. But you know what, our boys came together there in that last road trip, playing short, understanding what it takes to win, and I think we know now–I think we knew, but we’re proving to everybody–that when we play our style, when we have our lineup, nobody can beat us.”

Speaking of that lineup, Walters appears to be heating up, with points in the last five games (and three multiple point games in that stretch) and ten points in the nine games since he returned, while Herbert has points in ten of the twelve games he’s played since coming back from Colorado, and is now third in the league in points and goals (one behind Zach Pochiro of Allen, and Reid Gardiner of Kalamazoo). Economos has five points in the last five games, and Dickinson has eight points in his last ten since arriving from Colorado. Although he hasn’t scored yet, Downing has been incredible, while Carr is now 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.

“I thought he was just fantastic,” Branham said of Carr. “He’s been that way for quite some time now. I think early on in the year when you’ve got Joe Cannata, and you’re not playing many games, you’re not getting into it. Now he’s playing every game, and we just see what kind of goaltender he is. He was tremendous tonight, tremendous. Just calm, steady back there, controlling the rebounds, he made some big saves. Our D are playing phenomenal, with Zahn leading the way, they’re defending well, trying to keep shots to the outside as best they can. Our forwards do a good job of scoring, and helping track through the middle of the ice to defend. Honestly, that was a complete team effort. Really proud of the boys, and it definitely feels good. Some much needed rest to recover here, and we’ll get back at her next weekend.”

The upcoming games on Friday and Saturday are part of Grizzlies Fight Cancer week, and are the first two of a three game home stand against Kansas City that will conclude on Monday with a matinee game for President’s Day.

 

Goals

  • First Period: Walters (Richart), Maxwell (Zahn, Economos)
  • Second Period: Herbert (Anderson, Marchment)
  • Third Period: Maxwell (EN)

 

 

Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography and staff.