Utah Grizzlies: Fuel on the Fire

Back home after taking three out of five games on the road, and picking up points in all but the game against the Indy Fuel, the Grizzlies returned home. Helmed by Teigan Zahn for the first time in front of the Maverik Center crowd, the team got Caleb Herbert back from a stint in the AHL. Kevin Carr got his fifth start as Utah looked to avenge their lone regulation loss.

The Grizzlies hopped up to a 3-1 shot advantage in the first four minutes, thanks in large part to a busy shift by Herbert, Ully, and Berry. On the other end of the ice, Carr made a couple of quick saves. Once past the initial couple of minutes, Indy put their foot down and spent a shift or two in the Grizzlies’ end before the Fuel pushed back. Carr made a couple of big saves, including a nice poke check as a Fuel player got position on the Utah defender and drove the net about seven minutes in.

Utah eventually evened out the shots, both teams getting seven by the mid-way point, though by the time there were seven minutes left, Carr had come up with some more big saves.

The Grizzlies drew the first power play of the night at 15:10 when Kevin Dufour took a slashing call. The Grizzlies’ lethal power play made short work of the advantage, Jake Marchment scoring his fifth of the year from Cole Ully and Herbert.

In the dying minutes of the period, Matt Berry took a slashing call, and Utah ended the period on a very strong kill, out-shooting Indy 17-13.

The Fuel scored in the last two seconds of the penalty kill to start the second, but it didn’t matter, because Tim McGauley made the most of a glorious muddle, putting the home team up 2-1 from Gage Ausmus and Brendan Harms.

Both teams had some serious pep in their step, but the Grizzlies had a step or two more, which resulted in McGauley striking at 7:41 assisted by Austin Carroll.

Turner Ottenbreit joined the fun less than two minutes later, getting his first goal of the year on an authoritative shot. Ully and Herbert got the assists.

After holding the Grizzlies in it in the first, Carr coughed up a puck behind the net, and Connor Moynihan got in on the spate of scoring to cut the lead in half at 11:33.

The game settled down slightly after that, the next notable event being Zach Miskovic tripping up Ully for the power play. Utah definitely went about the advantage with purpose, but the period and the power play came to an end almost simultaneously with no change in score. So, after a wild 20, Utah led 4-2, out-shooting Indy 32-19.

Indy drew within one with another early period goal from Darfour 56 seconds in. Herbert took a slashing call 2:24 into the third and McGauley flew in all alone short-handed. He was awarded a chance to finish the hat trick on a penalty shot, but unfortunately Matt Tomkins was up for the challenge.

Carr once again came up big in an absolutely wild scramble around the Utah net, and Zahn headed to the box for holding an Indy player’s stick at 4:56.

The Grizzlies killed it off, and set up a gorgeous tick-tack-toe bit of passing that put the puck on Ausmus’ stick. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to put the puck over Tomkins.

The Utah got a power play of their own at 8:05, but were unable to capitalize, and the parade to the sin bin continued as Berry went back to the box for high-sticking at 10:34. The Grizzlies killed well though, and by the time the game headed into the final five minutes, they’d racked up 40 shots to Indy’s 27.

With three minutes left in the period, the Fuel pulled Tomkins for an extra attacker, but were unable to muster a single shot.

When the final buzzer sounded, Utah had out-shot their opponent 43-27, and held on to the 4-3 lead, paying back their lone regulation loss of the season.

“We definitely knew coming into this game that they were the only team that had one on us, so we wanted to make sure that we brought our A game tonight and really came out explosive.” McGauley said. “I mean they hung in there for sure. You’ve got to give them credit, they’re a good hockey club over there, but we just stuck with it tonight, and fortunately for us, we got the right outcome.”

McGauley’s explosive two-goal performance got him the game’s first star, and he was one of three Grizzlies players to put up six shots. Ottenbreit’s first goal of the year nabbed him second star, and Herbert, one of the others with six shots, was named third star with two assists. Ully also got two assists, extending his point streak to eight games.

More or less the entire team played well, but there were a couple of other standouts. Carroll is also on an eight-game point streak (extended with an assist in this game), Walters was the third player with six shots, and Marchment has picked up seven points in six games.

When asked about what Marchment brings in his return to the team, Branham said, “His presence on draws, blocking shots on the penalty kill, the way he can control the puck along the wall in the offensive zone, a responsible player. It’s nice to get him back, and a great leader in the dressing room too, so all around a great person and definitely nice to solidify that spot down the middle.”

He also noted how nice it was to pick up a win against the team that handed them their only regulation loss so far before adding, “All around a great team effort tonight. I thought the penalty kill did a really great job. I know they scored a goal there with two seconds left, but I thought we did a pretty good job of killing them. Overall, very happy with it. Definitely a lot of offense, definitely a lot of speed, we can overwhelm teams with it, so that’s the game plan.”

Both McGauley and Branham noted that there are still some things to work on, the later saying, “I think we can work on our structure a little bit, but you know what, with the way that we’re creating offense, you kinda give them a little bit of leeway on that.”

Overall, though, Branham was pleased with the effort. “I thought that the D played a solid game, Carrsy made some big saves there at the end, that’s for sure. I thought it was a complete team effort. We came through when we needed to. That’s a good team over there, they’ve got a lot of offense too, so for us to shut them down like that in the end is good.”

Ully earned himself a call up to the Eagles on Thursday, so presumably the Grizzlies will be without him in the Friday and Saturday rematches. If the way the team has been scoring lately is any indication though, there’ll be no lack of goals this weekend.

 

 

Image courtesy of Action Sports Photography.

Utah Grizzlies: Winning in Wichita

After the 5-4 OT loss in Kansas City, the Grizzlies went with the same lineup in Wichita, only starting Joe Cannata instead of Kevin Carr. Teigan Zahn wore the captain’s C for the first time this season, while Ryan Walters and Taylor Richart retained their As.

The game did not get off to an auspicious start, with the Thunder snapping a puck past Cannata just 3:42 into the period.

It had looked like the Grizzlies had scored, just under half-way through the period, but the net came loose before the puck passed the line. However, the Utah did get a power play. Though they didn’t capitalize, by the end of the advantage they had out-shot Wichita 11-3.

The rest of the period was fast-paced, but though the Grizzlies continued to out-shoot the Thunder 13-4, after 20 they still trailed 1-0.

Utah got an early power play in the second, and the most lethal weapon on the league’s most lethal power play struck once more, Caleb Herbert making it 1-1 from Jake Marchment and Cole Ully.

The power play got another look five minutes in, but Austin Carroll took a tripping penalty at 6:39, sending the teams to a brief four-on-four before the Grizzlies killed off the penalty.

Utah got another crack at the advantage, but were unable to draw ahead, and unfortunately after Tim McGauley was denied on the breakaway, Hayden Hodgson gave the Thunder the 2-1 lead.

Matt Berry went to the box less than a minute later, but the period ended with no change in score, Utah out-shooting Wichita 29-16.

Carroll scored at 6:05 of the third, tipping in a bomb from Richart, but Ralph Cuddemi once again gave the Thunder the lead a minute later.

Berry and Jared Wilson took matching roughing calls half-way through the third, and then Zahn took a slashing call. Nothing changed, and no sooner had Zahn stepped out of the box, than he dropped the gloves with Matt Schmalz.

Cuddemi took a hooking call with three to go, and McGauley made Wichita pay, tying the game from Walters and De Jong.

The remainder of regulation time solved nothing, Utah out-shooting the Thunder 41-24. You would have been forgiven for feeling anxiety going into extra time, considering the Grizzlies struggles thus far, but you would have been wrong in this game. John McFarland took a tripping call against Richart, and the power play remained white hot, when Herbert got his second of the night, once more from Ully and Marchment.

Honestly, what is there left to say about Herbert? He’s a scoring machine, and his two goals and ten shots of the game got him first star honors. Richart (initially credited with the tying goal that eventually was awarded to Carroll) was named second star, and appears to be rounding into form, playing what was perhaps his most obviously strong game so far. Jake Marchment appears to be settling in nicely, picking up two assists, and it would appear that McGauley is heating up.

 


 

In a rare morning game, the same two teams squared off once more on Wednesday in Wichita, Utah going with the same roster. The Grizzlies had clearly had their coffee, picking up the first couple of shots. in the opening minutes of the frame.

However, Ryan Walters took a hooking call, and the Thunder went to the power play. The kill remained strong though, and didn’t allow a shot.

Then the game got crazy. To start it all off, Caleb Herbert scored his eleventh for Utah, from Cole Ully and Kevin Davis.

Matt Schmalz answered right back, then Steven Iacobellis scored again for the Thunder. The lead did not last, however, and Tim McGauley tied it up once more.

All that action in less than two minutes!

Greg Chase took a high-sticking minor at 11:18, then tried to goad Ully into joining him in the box, to no avail. Chase also got a roughing call, and Utah got a four minute power play.

The best power play in the league came up empty, and Ralph Cuddemi made them regret it as he sniped one on Joe Cannata to give the Thunder the lead. Pierre-Cedric Labrie took a late tripping call on McGauley, but the period and the advantage came to an end together. Despite out-shooting Wichita 17-9, the Grizzlies remained behind 3-2.

Utah drew a power play at 3:44, but the power play continued to struggle, getting only one shot, and spending some time defending in their own zone. Cannata was up to the challenge though, and the Thunder returned to full strength.

Ryan Misiak and Travis Barron caused some chaos around the Wichita net about half-way through the frame, but neither put the puck past Stuart Skinner.

The Thunder got going in the Utah zone, but Jake Marchment’s line took back possession, and Marchment tied it up on a nice pass from Ryan Walters. Nolan De Jong got the secondary assist.

Barron took a high-sticking penalty with 1:37 to go, but when the period came to an end, the score was still 3-3, shots 29-18 for the Grizzlies.

1:23 into the third, Ully’s speed drew a tripping call. However, the unusual power play struggles of this game continued.

Another furious spate of action saw first Travis Brown making it 4-3 through a screen, then just 22 seconds later, De Jong scored his first of the season from Davis and Ryan Misiak, giving them both their second assists.

Ully took a cross-checking minor at 6:11, but on the next face-off, Iacobellis took a call, and the teams played four-on-four for 1:55.

Around the eight minute mark, the Grizzlies got some good offensive zone pressure, picking up four straight shots, unfortunately, the Captains tangled in front of the Utah net, and Teigan Zahn got an interference call for putting Dyson Stevenson into the net.

With just 1:55 to go, Marchment got his second of the game, and that’s how it ended.

Utah out-shot Wichita (known for giving up a lot of shots) 40-23, and picked up their second win against the Thunder.

Unlike in Sunday’s game, the power play really struggled, going 0/6, an giving up a couple of good looks to the penalty killers. However, it gave the Grizzlies an opportunity to get it done at even strength, which they certainly did. It was also great to see the secondary scoring come alive, as every line contributed at least one goal, and multiple players not named Caleb Herbert had multi-point games.

Misiak had one of his best games of the year, picking up two assists, and third star honors, Marchment, of course, had the two goals, including the game winner, which got him first star, while De Jong had a goal and an assist, Walters had two assists, as did Kevin Davis.

Then, of course, there is Herbert, who just hasn’t cooled down. He now has 18 points in ten games, and has only been held off the scoreboard once, in Utah’s lone regulation loss this season. He leads the league now in both goals (11) and points.

Whatever struggles the Grizzlies have had in keeping the puck out of their own net have been more then compensated for by their offense.

Utah plays Wichita once more on Friday before returning home.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.

 

Utah Grizzlies: Picking Up Points

After Friday night’s win, the lineup remained more or less the same, the only change being Joe Cannata in for Kevin Carr.

Utah got off to a brisk start, and then the game settled down into a pretty steady back and forth affair between the two teams. The Grizzlies picked up three of the first four shots as the refs kept their whistles firmly in their pockets.

Travis Barron had a glorious chance at about the half-way mark practically in the blue paint, but just missed putting the puck in under the top bar.

Utah allowed zone time, but they didn’t allow many shots at all, out-shooting Idaho 5-1 through the first fourteen minutes.

The period was fairly uneventful overall, shots ending 6-2 for the Grizzlies, who did a good job keeping Idaho to the perimeter or getting in the way of shots in their own zone.

Excellent defense fell apart a bit to start the second, and the game got pretty eventful in a hurry, as Cole Ully took the first penalty of the game, Joe Pendenza scored, and then the Ully drew a penalty, and Pendenza went to the box, all in the first three minutes.

The Steelheads made up the shot difference through out the second, as Utah allowed a few odd-man rushes, but they did eventually begin to push back, thanks to one of those increasingly familiar rushes led by Caleb Herbert and Austin Carroll.

With about twelve minutes to go, both the Steelheads and the Grizzlies kept Cannata and Philippe Desrosiers busy, and then Ully drew yet another power play.

The league’s best power play went to work then, cycling and getting a couple of looks before Tim McGauley scored as he fell, pouncing on Matt Berry’s rebound to tie it up.

Utah came alive at that point,Β  peppering Desrosiers on the shifts that followed, and Herbert drew another penalty with just under six minutes in the period. However, they were unable to capitalize, and Cannata had to make a couple of big saves.

A little of the usual animosity bubbled over with 2:14 to go in the second, and a crowd gathered around Desrosiers, but nothing came of it.

The Steelheads took the 2-1 lead six minutes into the third, but Herbert returned the favor to tie it up just over a minute later. His seventh of the year went into a wide open net from Ully and Carroll.

Through the remainder of the game, Utah put up eleven shots to Idaho’s four, but despite a penalty to Herbert at 15:53, neither team was able to pull ahead. So, for the second time of the season, the Grizzlies and Steelheads went to overtime.

Idaho played a far more aggressive game three-on-three, and it paid off for them, Brad McClure scoring the game winner at 2:29.

It was a disappointing outcome, but the Grizlies are still an impressive 4-0-2 this year, picking up points in every contest thus far.

Herbert’s seventh goal of the season earned him the second star, while Tim McGauley nabbed third with his second goal.

When asked to talk again about Herbert, Tim Branham said, “He’s a special player. Colorado knew he was, that’s why they wanted to get him under contract, he’s proven why he’s had so much success in this league. He’s got good line-mates too, and I’m sure they all like playing together. Every game that line has been extremely dangerous, and for good reason. They work hard, they’ve got a lot of talent, and they want it really bad.”

In addition to the Ully-Herbert-Carroll line, Matt Berry was noticeable as well, especially in the early going, picking up four shots through the game

Overall, Branham was pleased with his team’s efforts in the season thus far. “I thought we had another good start. I mean, that’s a good team over there. They’re down that they’ve had to play us four times in a row. We’re a tough team. They’re a good team too, so some bad things are bound to happen when you play a good team four times in a row. I thought we played a good game. Come the second period we started getting three forwards caught low in the offensive zone, they had a few odd-man rushes, our D didn’t move the puck quick enough to our forwards, but it’s gonna happen. We’ve got a young D core, we’ve played a really good team four times in a row.I’m proud of the boys. I thought they played really well. ”

He also shared the mindset the team has adopted We’re splitting the season into six game segments, and we got ten out of a possible twelve points in our first six game segment. We still have a zero in the loss column, and we’re happy with the way things are going. Now we go out on the road and play some different teams.”

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff

Utah Grizzlies: A Winning Note

It was a good night, a good game, a good crowd, and the rousing chorus of Happy Birthday addressed to first star and birthday boy Caleb Herbert was just icing on the cake.

“I thought it was nice to get out on the right foot there, especially here at home in front of the fans. They brought the energy tonight, and it definitely helped us. Congratulations to Coach on his all-time winning record there, that was awesome to get that out of the way for him” Herbert said after the game.

Utah picked up a 4-2 win against Rapid City on opening night, on the strength of two goals and an assist from Herbert, and a terrific 26 save showing from the newly arrived Joe Cannata, and it was a momentous one. Not only was it a good start to a new year and affiliation, but the win also gave Head Coach Tim Branham his 179th, and the franchise record for wins by a head coach.

“Obviously I owe a lot to the players, to my staff, to the organization for sticking with me and giving me the opportunity, so it’s nice.” Branham said after the game. “I’m glad we got to get it out of the way, and we can just focus on moving forward and getting as many wins as we can.”

Utah began strong, before Rapid City found their legs. Cannata made a few saves early, and then Josh Winquist found himself all alone in the offensive zone, and put Utah up 1-0 just 2:57 into the game. The whole line got in on the action as Caleb Herbert and Cole Ully drew the assists.

Austin Carroll made his presence felt early and often, but unfortunately a flubbed clearing attempt by Brendan Harms led to an uncontested look by Adam Marsh, who tied it up at 9:12. Moments later, yet another Rush player was once again left alone in front of the net, but Cannata was there to make the save.

R.T. Rice made an emphatic debut shortly thereafter, laying a couple of monster hits before the Grizzlies drew their first power play. The advantage struck just 33 seconds in. Herbert got his first goal of the night, Winquist picked up his second point, and Walters got the secondary.

At 18:39 Taylor Richart took a stick to the face, and Utah made Rapid City pay again, as Herbert got goal number two from defenseman Kevin Davis, and Walters about forty seconds into the power play.

The teams hit the rooms after an exciting period, advantage Utah 3-1, shots 10-9 in their favor.

Rapid City got a couple of offensive zone shifts to start the second, but both teams picked up a shot with no change in score. The Winquist, Herbert, Ully line continued to look dangerous every time they hit the ice, nearly combining for one a couple of minutes in.

Through the middle of the second, the Grizzlies and Rush traded penalties, but despite some big hits and a couple of scoring chances, neither team capitalized.

Rapid City nearly drew within one, pouncing on a turnover, and leaving Richart and Cannata to fend off a three-on-one. Fortunately, Cannata was more than up for the challenge.

Utah took two more penalties towards the end of the period as things got chippy, but after forty they maintained their 3-1 lead.

Ully continued to have a strong game in the third, along with Winquist and Herbert, and Winquist and Gage Ausmus nearly pulled off a two-on-one while killing off a Matt Berry penalty.

Teigan Zahn and Riley Weselowski were called for roughing at 13:05, but there was no change until Matt Pufahl took a hooking call with less than two minutes to go. The Rush called their time out and pulled their goalie, and at 19:24, Tim McGauley scored on the empty net.

With less than 20 seconds left in the game, Rapid City made it 4-2 on a scramble, but that was as close as they came.

Herbert, Cannata, and Walters were named the three stars of the game, but guys like Ully and Ottenbreit also impressed.

“That line is pretty exciting with Herbert and Ully and Winquist,” Branham said of the top line who put up a combined six points, “It’s an exciting line for the fans, that’s for sure. They like to get after it, push the pace, and get creative, so we saw how good those guys are, we just gotta make sure that those other lines are following suit and working hard to get their chances.”

Of the first star specifically, Branham added, “He’s a good player, he’s good in the face-off circle, he’s very talented, and he wants to do well, and when you’ve got guys like that that want to prove themselves and produce at this level so they can get to the next level it’s fun to coach. Good teammate right there, and he’s definitely got a good surrounding cast around him.”

“It definitely helps, just building that camaraderie, and confidence in the locker room, it definitely helps to get off to with a nice win at home,” Herbert said, but the overall message was clear. “We need to keep it going, it’s just one game, we need to string a few together and keep our foot on the gas.”

As Branham noted, there are still things to work on, but it was a promising start to the new season.

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff