Utah Grizzlies: Three for Three

After the 5-3 victory against Missouri on Wednesday, the Grizzlies’ road trip continued in Tulsa against the Oilers.

Ralph Cuddemi opened the scoring at the three minute mark, for his third in four games, but Tulsa came back almost immediately afterwards to tie it up, and then after pressure in the defensive zone, added a second seven minutes in.

At the half way mark, however, C.J. Eick drew a penalty deep in the Oilers’ zone, Jon Puskar tied the game up at two, and Tim Daly picked up his second assist of the game.

Alexandre Carrier and Emerson Clark dropped the gloves 14:34 into the first, both getting five for fighting, and an additional two each for removing their helmets. After a wild start to the period, the Grizzlies settled down quite well, looking quite comfortable, and largely carrying the play, and outshooting Tulsa 11-5.

The Grizzlies continued their strong play through the first half of the second, Reid, Cuddemi, and Navin especially keeping the Oilers stuck in their own end, and Aubin, Pelech, and Bradford looking like the high power first line they are.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies took a penalty as Stoflet was sent off for holding 7:19 into the second. However, Pelech got a shorthanded opportunity, and the Grizzlies followed it up with a flurry of chances as Stoflet left the box.

Troy Redmann put the puck over the glass shortly thereafter, and Stoflet returned to the box to serve it, though nothing came of it.

About three minutes before the end of the period, Phil Pietroniro crashed the Oilers’ crease, and nearly had a goal, drawing an interference penalty and sending Utah to the power play. The Grizzlies controlled possession through the man advantage, but were unable to capitalize, and the period drew to a close.

After 40, the Grizzlies were outshooting Tulsa 25-11, and continued to look like the better team, despite the 2-2 tie.

The third period was fairly uneventful throughout, with both sides pushing play in turns — though by and large, Utah retained the edge. There were no penalties, and few stoppages, and Utah outshot the Oilers 30-17.

Sixty minutes weren’t enough to produce a winner, and the game went to overtime. C.J. Eick, Cam Reid and Tim Daly started for the Grizzlies, and Daly nearly added a goal to his two assists, but Tulsa took the puck away.

It would not matter in the end, as it was in fact Daly who would score the game winner to give the Grizzlies a much deserved win 2:25 into overtime.

Utah travels to Texas tonight and will take on Allen tomorrow at 4pm MT where the Grizzlies hope to extend their win streak to four games.

Thoughts

  • Ralph Cuddemi, Erik Bradford, Michael Pelech, and Mathieu Aubin have caught fire of late, and have all been main factors in the Grizzlies’ recent string of victories, and much needed return of goal scoring.
  • Though the third period was fairly boring, as Grizzlies games go, they did play quite well, and ultimately out shot Tulsa 34-17.
  • Tim Daly has stepped up in a big way recently, getting two goals against Colorado on the 23rd, and picking up a goal and two assists tonight in addition to his usual dependable defensive play. He now has seven goals and thirteen assists on the season.

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: It Never Rains but it Pours

It was not an auspicious start for the Grizzlies in Wheeling, despite a few big chances from Ralph Cuddemi off the first shift, as Brett Stern blasted a shot over Ryan Faragher’s glove just 42 seconds into the game.

At 3:16, the puck bounced off the back boards, onto a Nailers’ stick, and took a wild bounce over Faragher and into the back of the net.

Shortly thereafter, the Grizzlies were trapped in their own zone, and Mathieu Aubin took a hooking penalty, sending them to the penalty kill. To make matters worse, Colin Martin had to be helped off the ice just prior to the 10-minute mark, and Utah found themselves outshot 5-3.

Erik Bradford took a hooking penalty at 13:47, but the Grizzlies were able to kill it off, and stepping back onto the ice, Bradford drew a penalty of his own. However, the period would end with Utah down 2-0, and outshot 8-5.

The second period did not begin any better as Wheeling scored less than 1:30 into the frame, and Faragher was replaced by Ryan McKay.

The Puskar line got a few good chances around the blue paint, but the Grizzlies and Nailers took matching penalties, as Jordan Kwas was dinged for hooking, and Puskar for diving. C.J. Eick took a holding minor roughly a minute later, and Wheeling scored on the 4-on-3.

Bradford drew a penalty before the the game returned to even strength, but the Nailers got about as many chances as the Grizzlies did. At 14:05, Aubin was called for boarding, and Puskar and Garrett Meurs both went to the box as well for roughing. The Grizzlies did get a 2-on-1 chance on the penalty kill, but a pass bounced over Eick’s stick on the odd-man rush.

The Grizzlies did get a chance on the 5-on-3 for 1:10 as first Alex Kromm went off for tripping, followed by an elbowing call on Danny Fick. Scarcely had the first 5-on-3 situation expired then Kromm went back to the box for slashing. Utah had a few chances, but the period ended with no change in score. Tim Daly was run over as time expired, and everyone grabbed a buddy.

Utah opened the final 20 with 52 seconds on the power play, but like many early-period man advantages, it came to nothing. However, the Grizzlies had another shot at the power play, as Christian Hilbrich was sent off for hooking. At the 3:46 mark of the period, Wheeling took a too many men penalty, and Tim Daly scored his second goal in as many nights.

With 14:13 to go, Cuddemi took yet another hooking penalty, but the Grizzlies were able to kill it off, and Eick even got his second short-handed attempt of the night. Just under 13 minutes in the period McKay made a big save, but Evan  Stofflet took a slashing minor. Puskar got a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct after a rumble in the neutral zone. Fortunately, McKay continued to look sharp, making a series of big saves, and the penalties to Stofflet and Puskar were both killed off.

Though the Grizzlies got some good chances in the final seven minutes or so, they were unable to spark any kind of comeback, losing their eighth straight game.

Unlike previous games, where the team looked good overall, with a few costly hiccups, the first period was pretty dreadful all around. However, with McKay coming in and making 14 saves on 15 shots in the second and third, the Grizzlies eventually got their bearings, and had a much better third period.

Obviously, this was not the follow-up game anyone was hoping for after last night, but the road trip is almost over.

Utah travels to Fort Wayne tonight where they will face the Komets tomorrow at 3 PM before finally returning to the Maverik Center.

Utah Grizzlies: The Goals Return, but the Losses Continue

Tonight’s game saw Ryan McKay make his pro debut against the Wheeling Nailers, and it was a wild ride to say the least.

The Grizzlies drew the first two power plays of the game, and after some chaos around the net, Erik Higby scored his third straight goal dating back from Sunday night, giving the Grizzlies the early lead.

Off the ensuing face-off, Travis Howe and Kyle Flemington dropped the gloves and fought to a draw. Immediately thereafter, Evan Stofflet drove the puck on the net and the rebound went straight to Colin Martin, who scored through a Wheeling defender giving Utah the 2-0 lead 17 seconds after they went up 1-0.

After receiving some nice goal support from his team, McKay returned the favour, making a series of huge saves. Things got a little chippy as the team tangled in front of McKay and Erik Bradford and Nick Sorkin were both sent to the box.

At 16.41, Ralph Cuddemi went to the box for hooking, and McKay and the Grizzlies defenders went to work. Unfortunately, Tim Daly took a hooking call, and the Grizzlies went down 5-3. Despite being hemmed in their own end, they killed off the 5-3, and thanks to a clear from Cuddemi, spent the remainder of period keeping the puck pinned to the boards in the Wheeling end. At the end of 20, the Grizzlies up 2-0, shots 13-12 in Wheeling’s favour.

The second period began with action on both ends, but though there was some excitement, nothing much of note occurred until Mike Banwell and Garrett Meurs dropped the gloves 6:06 into the period.

Kevin Schulze closed the deficit to 2-1 just past the 12 minute mark, and though Utah responded well, Wheeling tied it up with just under two minutes left to play in the period.

Scarcely into over a minute into the third, Flemington was left wide open and uncontested beside McKay, and batted in an easy goal to put Wheeling up 3-2.

The line of Johnny McInnis, Colin Martin and Erik Bradford drew a penalty, and then collected some good scoring chances on the ensuing power play. Utah would tie up the game on the power play, after an absolutely delicious display of determination and passing put the puck squarely on the Rocket’s stick. Mathieu Aubin made no mistake, scoring his fifth of the year with assists from Banwell and Jon Puskar.

Despite a valiant effort from Cuddemi and McKay, Derek Army scored his second of the game just past the half-way mark of the period, forcing the Grizzlies to once again play from behind.

The Grizzlies pressed on, however, Puskar, Howe and Kenton Helgesen getting some good looks, and creating chaos in front of Wheeling goalie Doug Carr with about six minutes left to play.

With 3:46 to go in the period, Banwell was called for roughing, and the Grizzlies found themselves in quite a hole, down 4-3, and on the penalty kill.

Although Utah was able to kill off the penalty, the Nailers kept buzzing, and Cody Wydo put them up 5-3 with 1:17 left in the game almost immediately thereafter.

Down 5-3, and with 50 seconds left, Branham elected to pull McKay, and the Grizzlies played 6-5, which payed off as Tim Daly scored after a wild scramble in front of the net. Bradford and Cuddemi were awarded the assists.

The Grizzlies pulled McKay again, but though they played furiously in the last ten seconds, they were unable to send the game into overtime.

While the loss was a disappointing way to go after the 2-0 start, there were still some positives. The team looked good, over all, much more like their former winning selves, and the goals made a long awaited return. McKay played well in his debut, despite the loss, and the Grizzlies have a chance to settle the score in the rematch tomorrow night.

 

Image courtesy of Josie Vimahi.

Utah Grizzlies: Weathering the Storm

With Brassard and McNally called up to the San Diego Gulls, the Grizzlies looked a little different than they have of late. However, if last night’s stinker was surprising, tonight’s rebound was not. Tim Branham teams don’t often drop two bad games in a row, let alone three.

Wichita came out hot again, but the Grizzlies were able to weather the early onslaught, before going short handed on a delay of game penalty 2:24 into the first.

Unfortunately, less than 30 seconds to go in the kill, a wildly bouncing puck got past the Grizzlies’defence, and trickled through Ryan Faragher’s five hole. It was a pretty bad goal all around, but the Grizzlies responded immediately, Colin Martin scoring on the very next shift. Evan Stoflet and Shane Walsh got the assists on Martin’s second of the year.

With 13:05 to go in the period, Travis Howe and Macoy Erkamps dropped the gloves, and were allowed to have a lengthy go at each other, before they were separated and sent to the box.

Just past the half-way mark, the Grizzlies were sent to the power play, and though they struggled to set up at first, they did eventually break Wichita’s perfect penalty kill record as Erik Higby put one past Drew Owsley. Helgesen got the primary assist, extending his scoring streak to five points in six games.

Taylor Richart made a fantastic play to break up a two-on-one a few minutes later, but took a penalty, negating a Grizzlies power play at 13:44. However, the Grizzlies pushed back, and a strong shift in the Thunder offensive zone led to a Thunder penalty in return.

Forced to take a  defensive zone draw, with mere seconds to go, and a one goal lead, Helgesen was one of the players Coach Branham trusted to get the Grizzlies out of the period, and they did just that, shots 14-6 in their favor.

Just under five minutes into the second, Nick Trecapelli checked C.J. Eick into the boards, sending the Grizzlies to the power play, and Ralph Cuddemi scored on a breakaway, putting one past Owsley for Utah’s second power play goal of the night. Tim Daly and Ryan Faragher got the assists on that one.

Several minutes later, the Grizzlies crashed Wichita’s net, and Travis Howe scored his first of the year, with Carlos Amestoy and Mike Banwell picking up the assists. It looked like Utah would escape the second up 4-2, but a bad turnover allowed Gerrad Grant to score with just two seconds left.

Utah has had rough third periods of late, being out scored to the tune of 18-7, so the goal in the final 20 was definitely to buck that trend, and so they did. At 7:24 Helgesen deflected Tim Daly’s shot into the net, giving the Grizzlies their third two goal lead of the game. With the goal, his second point of the night, Helgesen is is now one of four Grizzlies at (or above) a point-per game.

Nothing much of note occurred in the next few minutes until Alexandre Carrier and Logan Nelson dropped the gloves for the second fight of the night at about the 12 minute mark.

From there on out, the Grizzlies battened down the hatches, and rode out a few dangerous shifts from Wichita, though there were some uneasy moments down the stretch — including a strong shift from Alex Krushelnyski and his linemates.

With a little over 2:34 left, Faragher made a snappy windmill save, and with less than a minute remaining, and the Thunder net empty, Amestoy just missed the cage. Wichita called their time out with 13 seconds left, but were unable to capitalize, falling 5-3, out-shot 41-24.

The Grizzlies’ win halts a two game skid, and was a marked improvement over their last three games. They improve their record to 6-3, Faragher improves to 5-1, and ten different players registered a point. Helgesen (named first star of the game), Daly (third star) and Stoflet all picked up two a piece.

The defense and special teams looked much better tonight, with the power play scoring on two out of four chances, and hopefully they can continue the upward trend.

All in all, it was a much better game for the Grizzlies who will travel back to Tulsa tonight, and take on the Oilers in the afternoon tomorrow.

 

Utah Grizzlies: Thunderstruck

After getting off to a rocky start on the road on Wednesday, the Grizzlies looked to get back to their winning ways against the Wichita Thunder. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The game began well for the Ducks’ prospects, as Kevin Boyle made some good saves early, Keaton Thompson had a key shift, blocking shots all over the place, and Kenton Helgesen looked good, finding himself in the thick of the action all over the ice.

C.J. Eick and James Melindy both went to the box with matching minors about halfway through the period, which kicked off a steady stream of penalties in the following three minutes. There were so many penalties that both teams were playing 3-on-3 for a brief stretch. The Grizzlies did eventually have a 45-second power play, but the Thunder returned to full strength with no change in score. Utah got a proper power play as Logan Nelson was sent to the box for making head contact with Erik Higby. Towards the end of the period, Phil Pietroniro took a tripping penalty, and  Alexis Loiseau scored right after the penalty expired. At the end of the first, shots were 9-9 and the score was 1-0, Wichita.

The Grizzlies started the second period well, crashing the net right off the first shift,  though Drew Owsley turned the puck aside. However, Helgesen was back just seconds later, taking the puck deep into the Wichita zone, which led to a goal from Tim Daly. Alexandre Carrier picked up his first point for Utah with the primary assist. The Eick – Helgesen – Carrier line was a bright spot throughout the second period, ending most of their shifts crowded around Wichita’s net. Unfortunately, the tie was short lived, as the Grizzlies failed to complete a pass in the neutral zone, and the Thunder struck again.

With 11:41 left in the period, a scuffle at the Grizzlies’ bench resulted in a Utah power play, as Brandon McNally, James Melindy and Landon Oslanski were all sent to the box. The Thunder have had a stellar penalty kill all season, and despite a strong looking power play, the Grizzlies were unable to tie it up.

With just over seven minutes left to go, the Grizzlies let Wichita walk in uncontested on Boyle and they scored from the bottom of the left circle. Utah came right back on the next shift and Austen Brassard cut the deficit back down to one with 7:02 left. They followed up the goal with several strong shifts in Wichita’s end, but the Thunder were able to keep them at bay.  Though the Grizzlies continued to pressure, the score remained 3-2 Wichita, shots 23-20 Utah after 40.

Right off the third period opening face off, Boyle was forced to make a huge save, but the puck then hit a Thunder player driving to the net and went in anyway, putting them up 4-2 mere seconds in. Wichita continued to press their advantage through the third period, and they were rewarded with yet another goal, largely uncontested, at 6:09.

The difficulties continued as Alexis Vanier fired off a laser past Boyle’s shoulder for their sixth goal and second power-play tally of the night just past the 12-minute mark. Alex Krushelnyski picked up an assist against his former team. Although the Grizzlies had a few really good chances and a power play to end the game, they were unable to capitalize and fell 6-2, dropping their second in a row on the road. They are now 5-3 on the season.

The Good

Helgesen, and his linemates Eick and Carrier, had some really great shifts all through the game, Helgesen picking up his fourth point in five games, with Carrier picking up his first in a Grizzlies jersey. Also, as much as I dislike plus-minus as a stat, Pietroniro managed to come out of a 6-2 loss as a +2 (though he was on the ice for the final power-play goal against, which just goes to show why goal differential is a tricky little bugger).

The Bad and the Ugly

Kevin Boyle was not good tonight, but neither was the defensive play of the team in front of him, who were often nowhere to be found on sequences that led to Thunder goals. Defensive breakdowns have been an issue in a number of games running now, which is definitely a cause for concern.

Utah’s power play continues to struggle, having managed to score only four times on 31 chances. They were held off the board tonight on the man advantage as well, though they did have at least one strong looking power play tonight. Their penalty kill, usually a strength of theirs, allowed two goals on four tries.

This is the second time in as many nights that a one-goal game at the end of two periods has slipped away from the Grizzlies in the third period.

On the plus side, it could always be worse. The NHL leading Montreal Canadiens were blown out and shut out, losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets 10-0…

The Grizzlies will face Wichita tomorrow at 6:05, before heading back to Oklahoma to face the Oilers on Sunday.