Utah Grizzlies: Tick Tack Terao

In the last game of the decade, if you’ll pardon the use of a very tired phrase, the Grizzlies made only one roster change, activating Brad Barone to back up Martin Ouellette.

The Tulsa Oilers got the first shot of the game just over two minutes in, but the Grizzlies got the first serious attempt.

Overall, though, the speed and tenacity that characterized the Grizzlies’ first match against Tulsa, and which waned a bit in Saturday’s game, was once again lacking, and the Oilers struck first at 3:53 after an extended sequence in the defensive zone.

Despite not looking terribly sharp overall, there were still early flashes. One such instance involved Peter Tischke losing his footing, still got a pass away, and then muscling his way into the offensive zone where Utah drew a power play at 8:37.

Unfortunately, the power play struggled, as the Grizzlies continued to have trouble handling the puck cleanly and finishing passes, but between Ouellette and a defenseman, they muddled through without giving up a short-handed goal.

Yuri Terao took a hooking call at 9:15, and perhaps not surprisingly, that’s when the Grizzlies showed signs of waking up.

Griffen Molino and Tim McGauley got their traditional two-on-one short-handed chance, and Travis Barron chased the Oilers around their own zone. Likewise, Joe Wegwerth, aided and abetted by Ty Lewis, saw the Grizzlies have their best shifts of the game so far.

Utah sunk back down into lethargy again after the penalty kill until about the 15 minute mark, when a strong shift from Terao, Wegwerth, and Jack Jenkins,  created a spark of life. Brandon Saigeon followed that up with a nice move that didn’t result in a shot on goal, but also didn’t miss the empty top of the net by much at all.

The Grizzlies still resembled a team skating through molasses in the final couple minutes of the first, but did still manage to spend more time in the offensive zone.

After 20, despite the slow start, they only trailed 1-0, despite being out-shot 14-8.

The Grizzlies had far more life in the second period, skating better, if nothing else, but misfortune struck rapidly as, with 18:18 to go, Teigan Zahn went awkwardly into the boards, and had to be helped off the ice.

On the next shift, Richart got checked, pushed back, and another full line scrum broke out. Peter Tischke and Joe Wegwerth were the only real combatants for Utah, and both found themselves in the box, together with Jake Clifford and Miles Liberati for Tulsa. Liberati got an extra two for cross-checking, while Clifford and Wegwerth both got an additional ten for continuing the altercation.

The Grizzlies got going in earnest after that, however, and the shots began to even up to 16-13 for Tulsa. Terao continued to work absolute magic with a spin-o-rama chance that led to a power play when he got hauled down.

He continued to electrify the crowd by scoring the equalizer in the dying seconds of the advantage, and just a few moments later, the Grizzlies had seized the shot lead 19-16, absolutely pouring it on as the game hit the half-way point.

Utah was the first team to hit 20 shots, and then somehow managed to keep the puck out of the net as certain disaster seemed imminent with Tulsa pin-balling the puck through a veritable sea of legs and sticks.

Josh Anderson took a cross-checking penalty later on the same shift, but Terao and Maxwell had the most serious chances of the special teams time.

By the time Wegwerth and Clifford were freed with just under three to go, shots were 21-19 for the Grizzlies.

A questionable call on Jenkins saw Utah down a man in the final minute of the period, and a clock issue dragged it on even longer. Thankfully, a huge effort from Tischke and Ouellette kept the game tied as they headed into the locker room. After 40, shots were 23-22 for Utah, and 15-8 in their favor in the second.

The Grizzlies killed off the remaining 22 seconds of Jenkins’ penalty, but Tischke headed to the box at 1:02 to put them right back on the kill.

Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they got on an up-ice rush, and Maxwell was tripped up, leading to a brief 4-on-4 and then to a Utah power play.

Flying out of the penalty box, Tischke set up a perfect pass, but both Molino and Williams were unable to beat Devin Williams. Not that it mattered much. At 3:42, McGauley chipped the puck over Williams and in for his 12th of the season unassisted.

And the Grizzlies weren’t done. About 20 seconds later, Josh Anderson rocketed one past the Tulsa goalie for his first of the season from Maxwell and Barron.

Not to be outdone, Tischke didn’t give anyone a chance to think, scoring just ten seconds later to make it 4-1 from Saigeon and Yao. Three goals in less than a minute, and by the nine minute mark, shots were 30-26 in their favor.

Tulsa rallied, but Utah didn’t back done, Barron and Saigeon especially harrying the Oilers into their own zone, and Ouellette calmly turning aside pucks on the other end of the ice.

With 11:22 to go, Piccinich boarded Richart, a crowd gathered, and Utah headed to the advantage. Molino showed off his blistering speed, but wasn’t able to elevate a back-hander over the sprawling Williams.

Just 16 seconds from killing off the penalty, the Oilers took a roughing call, sending Utah to a brief 5-on-3, and a longer 5-on-4. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to do a whole lot with it.

In the end, it didn’t much matter, as the Grizzlies held the 4-1 lead until the end, amassing 36 shots to Tulsa’s 29, and completing the series sweep in decisive fashion.

It was especially impressive, as prior to the series, the Oilers averaged 38 shots a night, and the Grizzlies held them to less than 30 every game.

Moreover, after getting so much scoring from the same couple of guys, the Grizzlies mixed it up in a big way, getting contributions from two defensemen, and two forwards, of whom only McGauley was on the usual suspect list. Ouellette, Anderson, and Terao were named the three stars of the game, respectively.

“That team worked hard.” Tim Branham said following the game, “That’s a hard working team over there, and it’s tough to beat a team three times in a row in these series. But I thought we stuck with the process. It was a really slow first, first couple shifts were pretty good, we still had four or five scoring chances — if we’d have hit the net we would have scored in the first period — but not good enough by our standards, that’s for sure. Second period we took it to them. What can we say, power play came up big, penalty kill was good, Martin Oullette, he’s a rock back there. He allowed us to battle through some things and eventually put some pucks in the net. All around, really proud of this group, really proud of the way they battled, and go into the new year on a high.”

Getting contributions from defense first guys like Tischke and Anderson was also a big plus. “I thought they played a really solid game. To be able to step up and provide scoring like they did, that’s huge. We don’t look for it from them, but I think that’s them getting rewarded for playing well, and playing hard. We ask a lot of them, sometimes it’s not a glamorous job going out there and grinding it out, sticking up for your teammates like Tischke does, over all, really proud of the way Josh played, really proud of the way he played, and Tischke has been really solidi for a while now, so kudos to them.”

But Branham saved some of his highest praise for Terao. “He’s got a really high skill level, that’s for sure. A great person, works really hard out there on the ice. It was good for him to get that goal, he needed that one for his confidence, some things weren’t going his way, but what a great human being. I wish some fans would be able to get to know him better, he’s just an amazing person. Really proud of him. If we can get him going, get that depth scoring that we’ve been, obviously that top line has done really well, but get some depth scoring, which we did tonight, then we’re a dangerous team.”

Despite speaking only some English, Terao agreed to do a post game interview. When asked about his time with the Grizzlies, especially during this winning streak, he said, “I’m so happy because [we have a] good coach, and good players, and good fans. I’m so happy now.”

About the slow first period he said, “I think everybody was a little bit tired here,” and of his own play he added, “I needed a mind change, keep things simple, simple, simple, and then shoot, shoot, shoot, you know what I mean? Hockey is simple. Go to the net!”

Go to the net the Grizzlies certainly did, ultimately out-shooting Tulsa 36-29 to close out the year.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard

Utah Grizzlies: Max-imum Suspense

After Friday’s decisive victory, the roster remained the same, although the lines did see some minor juggling, putting Yuri Terao back on a line with Travis Barron and Mitch Maxwell.

Sasha Larocque gave Utah the first shot of the game less than twenty seconds in, but Tulsa was far better prepared in the early going, not allowing the Grizzlies to run away with the shots (2-2 early), and forcing Ouellette to make a big save.

Utah did eventually find themselves out-shooting the Oilers 5-2, but Adam Pleskach repeated his Friday performance, striking first for Tulsa at 5:09.

Nearly three minutes later, however, the Oilers let Maxwell camp out right on the left side of the paint, and Barron set him up for the perfect shot to tie the game. Barron and Ian McNulty got into a tussle on the ensuing face-off, but the game continued.

The first line showed no signs of stopping, Tim McGauley shooting on Olle Eriksson Ek, and the rebound landing square on the stick of Griffen Molino. Molino showed no mercy, sniping his 13th of the year from McGauley and Ty Lewis.

McGauley took a holding call, and Cam Knight beat Ouellette clean to make it 2-2 with 7:26 to go.

A few minutes later, Josh Anderson made a particularly impressive play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, standing on one skate, while being hauled over. Utah got a power play later in the shift, but though they came close, Tulsa returned to full strength with no change in score.

With three to go, Ty Lewis exchanged jabs with an Oilers player, and Peter Tischke charged in to champion his cause.

Richart made a diving play to put the puck out of the zone on the ensuing penalty kill, and an incredible Molino short-handed one-on-none was broken up when a Tulsa player threw his stick to try to prevent it. Utah got a brief stint of four-on-four time, and then threw everything but the kitchen sink at Eriksson Ek.

When the buzzer sounded, Utah had 12 seconds of PP time to go, and shots were 12-10 in their favor, but the score remained 2-2.

The first period was definitely far less smooth than Friday’s with plenty more whistles and goals.

Though the Grizzlies didn’t do anything with the first 12 seconds, they returned to the power play less than a minute later on a slashing cal to Cam Knight.

Unfortunately, that too suffered the fate of many early power plays, and nothing came of it, the Oilers forcing Utah to chase down the puck repeatedly. Richart got the only shot right into the crest of Eriksson Ek’s jersey.

They might not have gotten anything going on the advantage, but the Grizzlies threw in some big hits along with the offense and defense, getting particularly good shifts from Wegwerth, Richart, and the usual three suspects. Maxwell also came in for some notice, throwing the puck into absolute mayhem.

The Oilers did do a good job getting in the Grizzlies’ way in the offensive zone, but not good enough to keep Utah from picking up the shots.

Zahn took a “cross-checking” call at about the half-way point, which was a bit more of a glorified shove when a whole pile of players ended up on Ouellette.

Following the power play, Utah played very well in their own end, but also spent far too much time in their own end.

Not that it seemed to particularly matter when Molino had an incredible spin around the offensive zone, got knocked down, and picked up an assist when McGauley came barreling in to put the puck over Eriksson Ek.

It was a lead that was not destined to stand, though, as Miles Liberati scored less than a minute later.

A questionable tripping call on Maxwell ended the period, but as the better version of the Grizzlies’ penalty kill came to play.

Once again, Lewis was the cause of a scrum, as he got bumped, and this time Anderson came in to defend him. Thomas and Anderson got offsetting minors. Utah headed into the room still tied 3-3, shots 23-21 for the Oilers.

Utah killed off their penalty, and weathered a Tulsa charge for the first four minutes. Questionable calls continued as Barron slash Thomas, but then Thomas got a call. Wegwerth got shoved, at least as egregiously as Zahn had shoved a Tulsa player earlier, but nothing was called.

Tulsa pressed hard through the middle stages of the third, and though Utah was not without their chances, and turns of blazing speed up the ice (most notably from Tischke), the Oilers either kept Utah chasing in their own zone, or flew in on odd-man rushes.

The defensive zone time cost the Grizzlies, as the defenders got all bunched up on Ouellette’s right, leaving Pleskach all alone to put the puck past Ouellette just over half-way through the third.

They continued to be plagued by turnovers and less-than-crisp play, but they also had moments like one with nearly six left where Jack Jenkins nearly got a beauty following some very good skating.

Things were looking pretty bleak with just over two to go, when Lewis drew a tripping call behind the Oilers’ net, and Ouellette sprinted for the bench.

An absolute muddle of players saw Richart shoot the puck, the rebound spring out to a crowd of sticks, and Lewis put the puck past Eriksson Ek to tie the game.

Regulation wasn’t enough to solve the tie, so guaranteed one point, the Grizzlies went out to try to take the other.

Molino and McGauley nearly had the picture perfect GWG as the Grizzlies’ speed owned the first few minutes of extra time.

There was a scary moment when Jake Clifford put Molino nearly head-first into the boards, and Larocque flew to meet him. Fortunately, Molino appeared alright, and Clifford got two for boarding, as well as a matching roughing call with Larocque.

Eriksson Ek committed grand larceny once again with 1:58 to go, falling backwards into the net, but still stopping Molino’s labeled shot. OT solved nothing, so they headed to the shoot-out.

Maxwell eventually got the game winner, with McGauley and Molino both scoring, as well as a highlight reel stunner from Terao.

It certainly wasn’t the Grizzlies’ prettiest game, but they found a way to make it work.

“I was just telling the guys, I don’t know if we didn’t have it today, they had a LOT of bounces, or they just did a great job of winning battles” Tim Branham said after the game. “That’s what I was harping on, guys, we’ve got to win battles. Every time it was a 50/50 puck, not every time, but a lot of times they were coming up with it, and we’re not used to that. We’re used to winning those battles. We battled, Marty battled for us, big goal at the end there to tie it up, you’re gonna have these games. It was a character win, no one panicked on the bench whatsoever, lots of goals there in the shoot out, it was fun to see.”

The Grizzlies have had a lot of pretty wins lately, but this was certainly not one of them. However, it was good to see them find a way to win in a different style.

“It’s a character group. Can’t say how proud we are of this group, me and Ryan, they’re a family in there, all they want to do is work hard and do well. It’s not always gonna go your night, but we had the crowd behind us tonight, that’s for sure, and we worked hard. It’s tough too with nine forwards, two nights in a row, it’s a lot of ice for those guys. Definitely proud that we’re winning, finding ways to win, cause that’s what it’s gonna take if we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, you’ve gotta be able to find wins in various ways, so it was a good job.”

“He’s doing really good. He had a really good road-trip last week too, and that kind of got him going. He’s got everything, he’s moving his feet, he’s got a lot of skill, we saw how tough he was on Friday, and the patience for a shoot-out winner. He’s really important to this group, doesn’t get more of a quality person than that, that’s for sure. We’ve got a lot of those guys in the room, but definitely proud of him. He’s battled, in and out of the lineup kind of thing, and he’s an important part of this team.”

“Like you said, not our best game,” Maxwell agreed, “But we’ve kind of been streaking lately, finding ways to win games, so you’ve just got to ride that while you’re hot. Obviously that line of Lu and Mo, and Gals have kind of been helping us out, and Lu scores that big one for us to give us some momentum, and there you go from there and get two points.”

Of his own performance, he added, “It’s always nice to score goals and help out when you can, to have the opportunity to be put in a situation like that where you have the game on your stick, I think we don’t have a guy on our team who wouldn’t want that, so I was just the lucky guy who got called on tonight to have that opportunity.”

So how do they keep the streak going, and go back to those pretty wins?

“We can’t take our foot off the gas, we’ve just got to keep going. Nothing changes in our room, and we just keep doing the same things.”

Monday’s game is the first opportunity to keep the streak alive, and against a Tulsa team that is not going to out of the decade quietly.

 

Photo courtesy of Jon Berry

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: Snowed In

If last night’s team looked a bit different from the team on Wednesday, that’s because it was, to some extent. After Tim McGauley and Griffen Molino were recalled to Colorado, Mitch Maxwell and Brandon Saigeon both returned to the lineup for game two against Florida on a very snowy Friday night. Meanwhile, in net, Brad Barone got his first home start for the Grizzlies.

Both teams got a couple of shots early, but Utah drew the first power play at 6:01. 48 seconds later, Saigeon scored his first pro goal goal to give Utah the 1-0 lead.

Just moments later, Peter Tischke was taken down, and the Grizzlies got another crack at the man advantage. This time, however, Florida kept them at bay.

The testy nature of Wednesday’s game continued, as crowds continued to gather following whistles, and at 11:35, Maxwell and Hunter Garlent both took roughing calls in front of Florida’s net.

No sooner had both teams returned to full strength, however, than Garlent got in one-on-one against Barone, forcing the latter to make a great save. Saigeon also found himself in the box for interference on the play.

Utah’s penalty kill had nearly as many good looks as the Florida power play, and Saigeon returned to the ice with no change in score.

With 38 seconds to go, Yuri Terao took a hooking call, but the Utah PK kept the Everblades chasing until the buzzer sounded.

Utah started the second period with 1:22 on the PK, but killed it off easily, and Barone continued to impress the home crowd with a great save.

Terao beat Cam Johnson on a snipe of a shot with 14:20 to go in the second, but the puck struck iron. Barone also had a couple of big saves as the period approached the eight minute mark.

Unfortunately, though Barone made the initial saves, Florida tied the game with 9:17 to go. That’s when the wheels came off just a bit. Utah got a good chance on one end of the ice, and on the other Florida scored two in quick succession. The Grizzlies called their time out to slow the game down.

On the next shift, Klotz laid a huge hit, and then clipped Michael Downing solidly up high, earning himself a game misconduct. Economos and Arvin Atwal also earned matching ten minute misconducts. So with only seven minutes left, all four players headed to the locker room.

The Everblades scored less than two minutes in to make it 4-1. As the PK continued, Joe Wegwerth got in on a breakaway, but a Florida player got back in time, forcing him to spin and fire wide. However, Florida had no answer for a flying Terao, who made no mistake, beating Johnson clean and one-on-one to cut the defect in half.

After 40, Utah trailed 4-2, out-shot 20-15, but had regained their composure.

Having scored his first pro goal in the first period, Saigeon sold Johnson on the pass, and then absolutely sniped one for his second unassisted. Shortly thereafter, Taylor Richart drew an interference penalty, and just four seconds later, Michael Downing (who fortunately seemed none the worse for wear after the hit) took a penalty in front of his own net, getting a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. Jack Jenkins also took two for roughing. Unfortunately, Utah wasn’t able to accomplish anything on the nearly two-minute advantage.

Unfortunately for the Utah comeback effort, Barone sealed the post at 8:43, but the puck still trickled just past him to make it 5-3 Florida, and then the Everblades scored again at 9:25.

After that, the Grizzlies spent a substantial amount of time in the offensive zone, taking over the shot lead once more, and drawing a penalty at 16:41.

Right as the power play came to an end, an absolute sea of bodies converged on the Everblades net, as well as possibly the puck.  The call on the ice was no goal, and the call stood after a review of the play, as it went into Johnson’s shoulder, not the back of the net.

Although they spent most of the rest of the game in the offensive zone, the Grizzlies were unable to cut the lead down, despite out-shooting the Everblades 19-5 in the third period.

Despite the 6-3 loss, Brandon Saigeon’s first and second goals of his pro career earned him the second star, while Yuri Terao’s short-handed marker, and an assist, gave him third.

“He played really well tonight,” Tim Branham said of Saigeon. “We’re trying to get him to be stronger on the puck. He’s got a good shot, which we saw tonight, and if he plays that consistent game, he’s gonna have a lot of success. Like we’ve talked with Felix, and those guys coming out of Major Junior, sometimes it’s a little bit of an adjustment and a learning curve, but they’ve definitely got the talent.”

“I thought we played a pretty good game, it’s just a couple of shifts in a row there that we took our foot off the gas, and it cost us” Saigeon said.

“It’s always nice to get the first, got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, they’re great out there. My linemates, we had some good o-zone shifts, it’s nice to get the first couple pro goals, but not it’s back to work. We’ve got a game tomorrow, so now we’ve gotta just focus on that.”

With Klotz kicked out mid game, the Grizzlies, who only had nine forwards to begin with, were forced to play even shorter once Klotz was kicked out, and Economos took a ten minute major.

“I thought we played a pretty good game all around,” said Branham. “It was never gonna be perfect. I thought our group worked really hard. We were short-benched a lot of the game. I thought we looked really good in the third, I thought we looked a little bit tired in the second, our forwards. But against a team like Florida,  you’ve got to manage the puck a little bit better than what we did. It’s never going to be a perfect game, but I actually thought we played a pretty good game. We gave up 25 shots, so I’d take that any night.”

Overall, the team has adjusted remarkably well in a short time to the amount of players that have been up and down from the American league on a game to game basis. When asked how they’ve been able to adapt so quickly, Branham gave all the accolades to his team.

“I’m going to give credit to my players on that one. We’ve got seven forwards in the American League, and our players have done an amazing job of coming in, filling roles, listening, working hard, sticking to the system. You’ve got to give credit to them through the changes, they’re the ones playing, we just tell them what to do. They’re the ones who have to go out there and execute, and I think they’re doing a great job with that, because there’s certainly been a lot of movement.”

The changeover will continue into Saturday’s game, as it has been announced that Klotz was given a suspension and a fine with a hearing to come.

 

 

Utah Grizzlies: A Game to Be Thankful For

On the day before a snowy Thanksgiving, with yet another Florida team in town, the Grizzlies got reinforcements from Colorado in the form of Tim McGauley. With Hunter Miska back with the Eagles, Mason McDonald got the start, backed up by Brad Barone.

From their very first shift, Griffen Molino and Tim McGauley made things happen. Taking that into consideration, it was perhaps not surprising that a strong defensive zone shift about four minutes into the game led to an up-ice charge, and Molino’s fifth of the year.

That line continued to be dangerous, creating another chance on a rebound from Sasha Larocque several minutes later.

With 11:59 to go in the first, Utah drew a power play, and Eric Williams continued his scoring ways with a snipe just ten seconds into the advantage.

Unfortunately, less than ten seconds after that, Michael Huntebrinker shot the puck straight through a crowd to put the Everblades within one on their second shot of the game.

The cantankerousness between Utah and teams from Florida continued, and about 12 minutes in, Garrett Klotz dropped the gloves with Kyle Neuber behind Florida’s net. It was a lengthy bout, and shortly thereafter, Utah drew yet another power play.

The Grizzlies didn’t capitalize on the advantage, and at 15:39, they were unable to break up the perfect tick-tack-toe goal. While McDonald probably would have wanted that one back, he turned right around and made a huge, if somewhat unorthodox save one-on-one against an Everblades player on the next shift. Unfortunately, Patrick McGrath took a cross-checking call immediately thereafter. Though Florida briefly took the shot lead, they were unable to capitalize on the advantage, and the period ended 2-2, shots 9-9.

Utah got an early power play when at 1:35, John McCarron got Taylor Richart with an elbow to the face. Though the Grizzlies were able to pick up a couple of shots, they were unable to beat Ken Appleby.

Utah had a couple of good shifts, following the man advantage, but Florida got two skaters behind the Utah defense, and a clean shot beat McDonald to make it 3-2.

Molino continued to get great chances that, for one reason or another, just managed to stay out of the net, both on the breakaway, and in close quarters at the goal mouth, and the home crowd showed their appreciation for both McGauley and Yuri Terao, roaring in anticipation any time either of them led the up-ice rush in possession of the puck.

With 1:12 to go in the second, Feliz Lauzon went bar down from the edge of the blue paint, tying up the game once more. Richart got the assist, and after 40, Utah out-shot Florida 22-18.

Utah jumped into the defensive zone early, and with Mike Economos battling behind the net with an Everblades player, Garrett Klotz snuck around the net, and slipped the puck between Appleby and the post to make it 4-3 just 22 seconds in. Lauzon got his third point of the game, and Economos got the second assist.

Florida counterattacked, and drew a power play at 3:36, but the Utah penalty killers were well up to the task.

However, while they were up for the PK, they were unable to fend off a nearly identical Florida goal scored on yet another cross-crease pass.

The Everblades continued to control the play, getting the lion’s share of offensive zone time through the third period, and tying the shots up.

With under 1:30 to go, Florida rang iron, then Kyle Neuber high-sticked Yuri Terao, which drew a crowd. Teigan Zahn dropped the gloves with Neuber, and then Jack Nevins fought him immediately after. Zahn and Neuber both got two and five, for unsportsmanlike conduct and high-sticking respectively, and Nevins got five and a game for continuing the altercation. The kerfuffle led to a five minute Utah power play, 3:37 of which carried over to OT.

The Grizzlies didn’t need that long. Just 22 seconds into the extra frame, Joe Wegwerth put the puck past Appleby for the game winner.

Wegwerth’s game winner earned him first star honors. “I thought we had a really good start,” he said. “That’s been one of our objectives lately to come out of the gates quick every period. Obviously we had some lulls there in the first and second period, but I thought we battled through it. We’re gonna have some adversity. Not every game is going to be perfect, but we found a way, and when you start to put a streak together, that’s what you have to do, you have to find a way, and that’s what I thought we did.”

Having found success even without their top scorers, the answer to how they’ve got there is simplicity.

“I think we had a lot of success when we kept it simple, chipped pucks by people, I think when we try to skate pucks out of our own end or do too much, that’s when we get in trouble, so I think just simplifying our game, having everyone commit to chipping the pucks out, being hard on the forecheck, finishing checks, I think that’s what really gave us success tonight.”

“Obviously with the way things have been going down here, with guys getting called up, we needed different guys to step up.” Wegwerth continued. “Obviously [Williams] has been doing that right now, and ever since [Klotz] has been here he’s been performing, and being a leader and a big presence for us. It’s great to have guys like that, and obviously [Zahn], he’s a great captain, just a great guy. We’re lucky he’s on our team, he makes guys feel safe out there, that’s for sure.”

While there were moments that left something to be desired, overall Tim Branham was pleased with his team’s effort. “I thought we did a good job to get that good start, and then we kind of got complacent” said Branham. “We didn’t have the same hate on as we did for Orlando. I thought we really let our guard down and didn’t dictate the pace, didn’t dictate play. That first period they didn’t get a shot until eight minutes into the period. Second period, same thing though, and then the flood gates kind of opened. We’ve got to make sure that we’re able to control the game a little bit better. Our game plan was obviously play hard, play physical, but play that puck possession game because they have so many dangerous weapons over there that can score. So we want to make sure that we play that puck possession game. And I thought we did to start the first two periods. You know what, at the end of the day, our power play was great, our penalty kill was great, we were able to get the two points. It was a character win, we learned a lesson — you can’t let your guard down, you’ve got to make sure you play hard. Especially the team we have now. We have a blue collar, hard working team, and we saw that when we play that way against a good team like Orlando with great goaltending, we’re able to have success. We didn’t quite play that full 60 minutes tonight, but we still found a way to get the two points, and good teams do that.”

With two unfamiliar, and talented teams in town recently, every player on the team has stepped up. “Depth scoring, whether it’s from the back end or the forwards, we’re doing a really good job with that. I thought our D carried the play last weekend, tonight our forwards chipped in and scored some goals for us. It’s a fun group to coach. They want to do well, they have each other’s backs, and we’re finding ways to have success. That’s what it’s all about.”

It hasn’t just been the goaltending either. After Terao got taken down and Zahn stood up for him, the team made sure to get the win done on the power play he earned. “We wanted to make sure we had [Zahn’s] back there with the power play, and getting the game winner. When he does stuff like that it gets everyone going, and we want to make sure we repay him for doing that. It’s a tough job, [Klotz], it’s a tough job, but they’re used to doing it, they wouldn’t want it any other way, they’d do it all over again to get another win. This one feels good. That’s a good team over there, that’s a really good team, and we found a way to get two points. We’ve got to enjoy it, enjoy tomorrow with our families and our friends, and regroup again for Friday.”

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard