Utah Grizzlies: RicHart and Soul

With the NHL looking ahead to the trade deadline on the 26th, the Grizzlies made a bunch of moves of their own. Cliff Watson and Ryan Olsen went to Colorado, while forward Jake Marchment and defenceman Gage Ausmus. Mitch Maxwell was signed to a contract, as was Sam Babintsev, while C.J. Eick was sent to Kansas City for futures, and Nate Mitton was returned to his SPHL team. Michael Pelech and Zach Saar also made their returns to the lineup.

Pelech took an early penalty, going off at 3:35 for high-sticking. The Grizzlies’ penalty kill went to work, however, and killed off the disadvantage, and Joel Rumpel made a couple of good saves.

James Melindy and Bryan Moore got into a fight at 8:21, both getting five and ten for continuing the altercation, but Utah got a power play, as a tripping call had been assessed to Allen prior to their fight.

Utah wasn’t able to capitalize, but they picked up in momentum following the power play, and took the lead in shots 10-8 after a great shift from Marchment, Babintsev, Ausmus, Austin Ortega and Taylor Richart.

Some good defensive hustle from Rob Mann and Sam Windle drew a power play with 6:33 to go, to the disgruntlement of the Americans fans. Utah ran into some trouble in their own end, leading to a save by Rumpel, before they went the other way, and Marchment scored his first goal for the Grizzlies from Brendan Harms and Ryan Misiak.

Marchment took a penalty about a minute later, but Utah killed it off in an authoritative fashion, and after 20, the 1-0 lead held, shots 15-10 in their favor.

Allen was strong in the offensive zone through the first two minutes, but didn’t register an official shot on goal through that time, and Utah followed that up with some hard-working offensive zone shifts of their own.

The hard work paid off, as Utah continued to crash the net, and create opportunities. Saar scored at 3:57 from Mitch Jones and Mann.

Maxwell got a tripping call at 4:46, but Allen negated it very shortly afterwards, putting the teams on more than a minute of four-on-four. Unfortunately, the Americans scored at 6:32 though, cutting the lead in half.

Harms got a look on a two-on-one on the next shift, but was slashed, sending the Grizzlies to the power play. They weren’t able to capitalize, but did generate some really good traffic and movement in front of Jeremy Brodeur.

Towards the end of the period, Allen continued to bear down, playing really long stretches in Utah’s end. However, the Grizzlies did a really good job of keeping pucks away from Rumpel.

Ryan Walters took a hooking call at 19:08, but the Grizzlies won the draw, Pelech and Richart rushed in, Taylor shot, and Pelech put the puck in the net. The short-handed goal gave Utah back the lead.

There was some chaos in the final seconds of the period, as Brad Navin was crosschecked to the ice, and the two teams tangled. Ausmus, Alex Guptill, and Zach Pochiro all went to the box, the first two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Pochiro for boarding.

Maxwell let loose a big shot in the final second, and Utah went to the room leading 3-2, and despite Allen’s dominance in the second, out-shooting them 14-8 in the frame.

Richart started the third absolutely flying, getting his team leading seventh shot, coming out of nowhere to break up a four-on-one, and generally being the most noticeable player in the first three minutes.

Utah got a two-on-one with about five gone in the third, Ortega made a really nice pass, and Navin scored his eighth goal, picking up his tenth point in twelve games.

The Grizzlies were able to capitalize on another Allen breakdown at 7:35, making it 5-2 on a gorgeous tick-tack-toe goal by Walters from Harms and Misiak. Allen came back on the very next shift though, beating Rumpel to make it 5-3.

Richart was boarded with 7:49 to go, sending Casey Pierro-Zabotel to the box for two minutes. Richart was ok, if his later play was anything to judge by, but the Grizzlies weren’t able to get their three-goal lead back.

Allen was able to come within a goal after pulling Brodeur with 40 seconds to go, but that is as far as it got, Walters’ goal standing for the game winner.

All in all it was a really strong game, Utah looked good on both sides of the ice. Babintsev, Maxwell, Marchment, and Ausmus all fit right in, and added a great deal of stability to the roster. Likewise, the return of Pelech and Saar to the lineup gave them a strong, and much needed net-front presence. Only five players didn’t get on the board, while Misiak and Harms both had two assists, and Marchment got a goal and an assist. He was named third star of the game, while Walters got the first star. Navin and Harms continued their point streak, and Richart had his best game in a long time. He was prominent on the rush, prominent on defense, and led the team with seven shots.

After a series of disappointing losses, this was a much needed win against a strong opponent. Whether they can keep it going and establish some consistency remains to be seen.


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



Utah Grizzlies: Return of the Jedi

With Kyle Thomas’ return, the formerly potent first line of Greger Hanson, Michael Pelech, and Thomas was reassembled, while Ryans Misiak, Olsen, and Walters remained together as the second line. Zach Saar, Charley Graaskamp, C.J. Eick, Brad Navin, and Erik Higby all dressed as well, with Utah icing eleven forwards and five defensemen. Rob Mann, Jon Puskar (reserve), Brendan Harms (reserve), and Travis Howe (serving a nine game suspension), were the scratches.

Kevin Carr got the start, while Walters wore the C, and Eick and Taylor Richart the As against Rapid City.

Tempers flared early and often for Rapid City, leading to a roughing minor drawn by Walters at 2:14, and a Utah power play. Walters took the best kind of revenge, taking a pass from Olsen, and hammered home the first goal. His goal sent a shower of stuffed animals to the ice on Teddy Bear Toss night. Misiak got the second assist, as the whole Ryan Line got in on the action against Walters and Misiak’s former team.

The Rush took another penalty as Richart was tag-teamed and thrown to the ice by two Rapid City players. Olsen jumped in in defense, and Utah got another power play on a roughing call. The Grizzlies got a couple of really good looks and possession from the Ryan Line, and Higby, but it ultimately came up empty.

Thomas pounced on a turn-over at 8:57, passed to Hanson, and Pelech put the puck past Adam Vay to get a 2-0 lead.

Rapid City took another roughing call as Tommy Maxwell tried to goad Walters into retaliating. Utah got a lot of space to make plays, but they were unable to get a second power play goal, and shortly after the Rush returned to full strength, Eick took a penalty.

After going more than 300 minutes, and a perfect 24/24 on the kill, the normally stellar Utah PK gave up a power play goal 13 seconds in as Pavel Jenys snuck the puck away from Carr and into the net.

The Ryan Line went to work immediately afterwards, and while their multiple chances didn’t come to anything, it was a good response.

With five minutes left in the frame, the Rush got some good offensive zone pressure, before the Grizzlies retook control of the game.

Higby took a tripping call with 2:52 to go, but Utah killed it off, and they sprang Higby out of the box. Unfortunately, Vay made the save, and the Grizzlies went into the first intermission up 2-1, out-shooting their opponent 14-8.

Utah got off to a good start in the second, and then at 2:17, Saar dropped the gloves with Josh Elmes. Elmes got more punches in, initially, after getting Saar’s jersey over his head, but Zach ultimately got the take-down in a quick bout.

Utah continued to dominate puck possession in the opening minutes of the frame, but Richart took a hooking call at 4:19, and once again, Jenys scored 15 seconds into the advantage. So, despite more or less controlling the play, and leading in shots 19-9, it was a tie game, and a familiar feeling of dread began to creep in.

Happily, it was not allowed to last for long. The third line had a strong shift in the Rush zone, followed by the Pelech line. Then Pelech sprang Thomas, who crossed the blue line all alone, and deked the pants off Vay to give the Grizzlies back the lead. Pelech and Hanson both got the assists. That’s more or less when Utah busted the game wide open.

Just over a minute later Windle sprang Higby with 12:37, and this time, Higby made no mistake on the breakaway, getting his second goal of the year on a gorgeous top-shelf snipe.

Garret Haar got a gorgeous chance, and drew a holding the stick call. Utah got a chance or two, including a gorgeous pair from Thomas, but all in all, it was not one of their better attempts. In the end, it didn’t matter, as Saar got the puck right as the PK ended, picking it up at the red line, beating both Rush defensemen, and displaying some seriously nifty hands, deking out Vay to give Utah the 5-2 lead. Graaskamp got his fourth assist of the season on Saar’s fourth, giving the Grizzlies three goals in just over four minutes.

Rapid City got a couple strong shifts in the Utah zone, but Olsen took a pass from Walters by the bench, danced into the offensive zone, split the D, and beat Vay glove-side for his seventh goal of the season. Walters and Leibinger were initially credited with the assists, though Misiak eventually got the secondary. The sixth goal set a season high for goals in a game, and there were still over five minutes left in the second.

Haar took a holding the stick call of his own with three minutes left in the second, and the Utah penalty kill continued to struggle uncharacteristically, giving up another goal at 18:40.

Hanson restored the four goal lead with 34 seconds left, after a spinning Pelech made a dandy of a pass to Thomas in the slot. His pass to Hanson fooled Vay, and Utah’s five goal second period set a season high there as well. After 40, Utah out-shot the Rush 30-18, leading 7-3.

After such a prolific second, the third was something of an anti-climax by comparison. Because Rapid City’s backup goalie was an EBUG, Vay remained in net.

Utah continued to control the game, playing (as Adrian Denny noted) some of their best structured hockey of the night, and continuing to hold a ten shot lead on the Rush.

Thomas and Navin got a two on one, as did Eick and Higby, though neither found the back of the net. Utah drew another power play at 9:24, but the Rush killed it off.

Leibinger got stung blocking a shot off the arm with just under eight minutes left, but he was back in short order, starting the rush that hit Olsen in the offensive zone. Olsen could have taken the shot, but passed instead to Misiak, who hammered home the eighth goal at point-blank range. It was the last goal of the night, and gave every member of the top six a goal.

After a whistle, Darian Dziurzynski grabbed Pelech, Eick jumped in in defense, and Tommy Maxwell dropped the gloves with Pelech. Once the dust settled, Dziurzynski got a double minor for roughing, as did Eick, while Pelech got a rough and a five for fighting, and Maxwell got five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. The Grizzlies killed off the penalty to Eick, and when the final whistle sounded, Utah led 8-3, and out-shot the Rush 36-24.

In a nice touch, the in-arena unofficial three stars of the game went to the entire team, who absolutely deserved it. The official three stars went to Hanson (1G, 2A), Pelech (1G, 2A), and Thomas (1G,1A).

Rapid City definitely targeted Walters an Richart all night, and the Grizzlies did a surprisingly good job of not getting suckered into retaliating, the last five minutes not withstanding.

Utah’s eight goal game was a season high, eclipsing their previous high of five set against Worchester. They got two goals from every line, including one from all six of the top six forwards. Misiak, Olsen, Hanson, and Pelech, all had a goal and two assists, while Walters and Thomas both had multi-point games as well. Additionally, Sam Windle was a team leading +7 on the night, breaking an all-time Grizzlies’ record that has stood since before they played in Utah.

Utah now has a five way tie for leading goal-scorer between Pelech, Hanson, Walters, Olsen, and Richart all at seven, while Pelech (23 points), Hanson (20 pts) lead the team in points, followed by the three Ryans, and Kyle Thomas.

After getting three goals in three games, Olsen now has six points in five games, Walters has ten points in seven, and Misiak has five in the last three, while the first line appears to be picking up right where they left off.

“I thought our guys were fabulous, did tremendous.” Tim Branham said of his team’s impressive outing. “Five on five, we were dominant. I really liked the way we drove the net, put pucks on net, we played with excitement, we executed, we scored on our scoring chances. I mean, when you can add a player like Kyle Thomas, it obviously makes your team that much more deep, and just completes that line again with Hanson, Pelech, and Thomas. Those guys were so good for us when they were together, and they were what, all three of them top ten or top fifteen in the league before they got called up. And then our other line is going too with Misiak, Olsen, and Walters, it’s a big difference, right? So kudos to the boys, sometimes it can be tough to play in a game like that when the other team takes runs at you, or the score gets out of hand, and we kept the foot on the gas, and we gotta keep this feeling inside, and want it again tomorrow. I think that’s the biggest thing for this group is confidence and execution, because we were playing some really good hockey, and just weren’t getting the results, cause we weren’t scoring goals. Obviously Kyle Thomas is huge, but everyone stepped up tonight. Higby, Saar, everybody stepped up. It was good to see.”

Michael Pelech echoed Branham’s sentiments on Thomas’  return. “I think he scored 30-something goals last year, so to get a player of that caliber back in the lineup, it definitely boosts the morale, and gets the guys going”

It may not have been Carr’s best night recently, but for a change, his team had his back. “He’s been standing on his head,” Pelech added. “So to put up eight for him, that’s huge.”

Friday’s game was the first of eight in fifteen against the Rush, and hopefully, they can carry this momentum through all eight of them.

Tonight’s game is the official Star Wars night, where the snazzy jerseys the Grizzlies have been wearing will be auctioned off.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Ducks Fly Together, But Fall Just Short

Ahead of game two on Saturday night against Colorado, the only lineup changes saw Charlie Graaskamp sit for Zach Saar, and Kevin Carr get the start. Utah wore beautiful Ducks themed jerseys which were auctioned off after the game with proceedings going to Angel’s Hands.

Like any good Mighty Ducks movie, the Grizzlies started well, and then ran into adversity. Unfortunately, unlike a good Mighty Ducks movie, the Grizzlies were unable ultimately get the win.

Brendan Harms got a shot seconds off the opening face off, and just 25 seconds into the game, Utah drew the first power play. But while the Grizzlies put up four shots, they were unable to capitalize, and gave up a close call coming the other way.

The Grizzlies pressed well through the first half of the period, getting all five of the first five shots, and playing with urgency.

Unfortunately, despite the shot advantage, J.C. Beaudin struck first at 10:01 in transition, and Saar took a tripping call. Harms sprang Ryan Olsen on a short-handed breakaway, but Joe Cannata turned the shot aside, and Beaudin scored again going the other way to make it 2-0 on the man advantage. Utah spent much of the second half of the period chasing the puck, and when they had possession of it, Colorado did a good job of keeping damage to a bare minimum.

The Grizzlies needed something to wake them up, and Saar obliged, dropping the gloves with Ben Storm at 17:01. The combatants were sent off the their respective locker rooms to cool their heels.

A couple of shifts later, Travis Howe finally got the fight he’d been chasing for over a year, and with 1:02 left in the first, he and Teigan Zahn dropped the gloves. Howe saluted the crowd, and Utah ended the period in the offensive zone.

After 20, shots favored Utah 10-7, but where it counted, Colorado led 2-0. As Tyson Whiting said on the air, it wasn’t a bad first period, but it certainly wasn’t a good one either. They played hard, but the execution didn’t quite match.

Utah opened the second well, as they opened the first, getting multiple shifts in the offensive zone. Greger Hanson got one of what ended up being his six second period shots, and Gabriel Verpaelst put the puck over the glass at 1:58 giving Utah a power play.

Hanson and Olsen got some of the better shots on the advantage, but once more, despite some good moments, the Grizzlies came up empty.

Colorado scored once again on the power play at 9:44, making it 3-0. However, Richart came up clutch yet again, and broke the shut-out a few minutes later, with assists from Ryan Misiak and Ryan Olsen.

Zach Saar got in on the goal scoring a little under two minutes later, getting his third of the year with a hard working assist from Brad Navin and the secondary from Cliff Watson.

Hanson got taken down at 13:21 and was very slow to get up, but he drew another power play, which the Eagles killed off.

Colorado got a very lengthy stretch in the Utah with about three minutes to go, but Brendan and the Ryans shifted the play to the offensive zone with about a minute left, and the Grizzlies finished the frame strong.

Mitch Jones tied the game 1:25 into the third off a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Hanson, giving Utah their third three goal comeback in two weeks.

After the tying goal, the Eagles held possession in the Grizzlies zone again for some time. There was a swap of Ryans part way through the third, as Ryan Walters and Ryan Misiak switched spots on the Olsen line.

Michael Pelech took the period’s only penalty, but though the Eagles pressured hard, Carr and the penalty killers kept the score 3-3, and Hanson nearly scored short-handed on a beautiful spring from Olsen.

Olsen laid a huge hit behind the Eagles’ net with about five minutes left, and Walters and Sam Windle followed it up with a couple of quick shots on net.

As has been the case quite often, lately, the two teams were unable to get the win in regulation, and it went to OT again.

After a sloppy change cost the Grizzlies the game on Friday, they were extra careful in OT. Walters got in alone on the first shift, but Cannata turned it aside. Misiak and Hanson had a two-on-one, but Misiak went hard into the boards, and went straight to the locker room. Colorado got chances of their own going the other way as well, but Carr too was up to the task.

Michael Joly squeaked past Olsen and Richart, Carr charged out of the net to challenge the one-on-none and made the initial save, but somehow the puck went through him, and Joly scored to take the game 2:36 into OT.

Zach Saar was the third star of the game, with a goal, a fight, and four shots. He also had a nice two-on-one with Navin in the second that was just part and parcel of a strong game overall. Greger Hanson picked up eleven shots, and an assist, giving him seven points in seven consecutive games for Utah. Travis Howe continues to have a good season. He may not have scored, and may continue to not score, but he continues to show that, with his hockey sense and play-making ability, he is more than just a tough guy.

All three lines got in on the scoring on Saturday, the first line getting the assists on Jones’ goal, the second line getting the assists on the Richart goal, and Saar getting the goal for the third line. Kevin Carr, as usual, also had a good game.

Utah now has points in ten of their last twelve games, and welcome the Manchester Monarchs to town for three games around Thanksgiving.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff

Utah Grizzlies: The Road Home

On Sunday afternoon, in the last of three games in three days, the Grizzlies scratched Brad Navin for Travis Howe, and started Kevin Carr in nets.

Wichita carried the play early, and Carr had to make some big saves in the first half of the period.

C.J. Eick scored the first goal of the game at 7:42, his first of the season assisted by Zach Saar and Erik Higby.

The Thunder scored glove side with just about ten minutes left to tie the game. After a stretch of good play from Utah, Wichita pushed back again, and made it 2-1 with 2:43 to go in the frame.

Mitch Jones made an absolutely gorgeous play to defuse a 3-on-1 to end the first, Wichita outshooting Utah 14-9.

The second period did not get out to an auspicious start, as Wichita came back with numbers…on the penalty kill, and scored. The next couple of minutes didn’t go very well either, though the Thunder didn’t score.

Utah killed off a penalty in the first half of the period, but Wichita drew another power play with 6:58 to go, and scored on the advantage, making it 4-1. They also got an odd man rush to end the period, and after the buzzer, Jeremy Beaudry dropped the gloves with Travis Howe. While Beaudry certainly started the fight, he most decidedly did not end it. Howe laid into him with a will, and Beaudry got very few punches in before the two were separated.

In a way, it was a preview of the Grizzlies’ third period.

Jones scored 2:04 into the frame, Ryan Walters and Ryan Olsen getting the assists on his first of the year. The momentum kept rolling in Utah’s favor, and they drew a penalty at 5:09. Both Kyle Thomas and Ryan Misiak had terrific plays on the advantage, but the Thunder returned to full strength.

However, Zach Saar made it 4-3 on a gorgeous shot, Chris Leibinger getting his second point with the Grizzlies, and Jones picking up his second of the night on the assists.

The tying goal came just over two minutes later from Michael Pelech , Thomas and Misiak getting the assists, and for the second time in two games, the Grizzlies erased a three goal deficit. Once again, they pressed hard in the final minutes, Walters getting a sweet little spin-o-rama chance on one end, and Carr continued to hold down the fort, and once again the game went into overtime.

Once again, unfortunately, Utah fell in overtime, but first period issues aside, it was a good end to a successful road trip.

Saar earned the third star of the game with the goal and the assist, the Ryans once again had a great game, and Kevin Carr remained a rock.

So, after five days, four games, 129 saves, and 13 goals, the Grizzlies are coming home with six points.

Not a bad road trip at all.



Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard, Jess Fleming and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Runaway Train

Hey everyone! I’m back from vacation, which was awesome, but I returned to a hectic couple of days of catching up on work and life. Apologies for the delay in getting the recap up! All my fine promises to myself at the start of this season that I was always going to get the post up the day after a game, and I’ve already broken them! Hopefully it won’t happen again.


Travis Howe returned from his one game suspension, Gregor Hanson got called up prior to the game, and Angus Redmond made the start on Marvel Night, but otherwise, the lineup was the same as it had been the night before. Utah suited up in some pretty snazzy looking Thor-themed jerseys, while the Railers faced them dressed as Hulk.

The specialty jerseys were great. The game? Not so much.

“That’s a good team over there.” Head Coach Tim Branham said of Worchester after the game. “I thought they played the same way both games, to be honest. I remember yesterday [Friday] yelling and screaming on the bench that we needed to pick up our effort because we were being outworked, and we just happened to outscore them. Tonight, same thing. They just outworked us and beat us to every lose puck. You’ve got to give them credit. They work hard 100%. They work hard, and they have players that can make plays. It was kind of too little too late for us. I’ve been preaching that for two games now.

“We found a way yesterday, and today, when you lose one of your leading scorers it makes it that much harder. When that happens you’ve got to play tighter defensively, and work harder, and we didn’t step up. For this group, we talk about that puck possession game, and Worcester did a good job of not allowing us to play that puck possession game through their energy and work ethic. You’ve got to give them props for that, and we’ve got to learn something from that.”

Worcester made it 1-0 exactly one minute in to the game.

The two teams exchanged a chance or two, but not many of them, one of the best coming from Charley Graaskamp on a pass from Brendan Harms.

Howe harassed Yanick Turcotte for a shift, and when he failed to get a rise out of him, went after Patrick McNally, which did succeed in drawing out Turcotte. While Turcotte took down Howe, when the penalties were assessed, Worcester had an extra two for slashing.

Harms and Graaskamp teamed up again for another pretty chance on the power play, but the Railers returned to full strength with no change in score. In what was likely a makeup call for the extra slash, Brad Navin took a slashing penalty of his own at 12:55, but the Grizzlies killed that off as well.

The Railers made it 2-0 with 3:26 to go in the frame, and Mitch Jones took an interference penalty moments thereafter.

Utah had a scoring chance with less than 30 seconds, when Michael Pelech was sent into the back of the net, and the two teams played 4-on-4 for the final 25 seconds of the first.

A couple of minutes into the second, Zach Saar laid a huge hit at center ice and then tangled with Justin Hamonic, both getting double minors for roughing. Some absolutely wild hockey was the result, but the Railers got got the best of the exchange, amassing six shots to the Grizzlies’ two in the first five minutes.

Utah drew a power play as Kellen Jones went off for tripping at 9:30, but though it had its moments, the Grizzlies were unable to put a goal past Mitch Gillam.

Thanks to a couple of nice saves, a post, and a few big blocks, Utah fought off a Worcester power play. Moreover, they showed a little more hustle as the second period drew to a close, getting a chance from Peter Sivak, and a pair from Watson. Nevertheless, they went into the room with

The Railers struck again 3:24 into the third, going up 3-0.

At 10:12, Saar scored his first pro goal, making it 3-1, but the Grizzlies were never able to get anything going, and Barry Almeida scored an empty netter with 1:35 to go.

As games go, it wasn’t a great one, and after scoring three or more goals in the three proceeding games, it was a disappointment to see that dry up without Hanson.

Though Harms and Graaskamp struggled on the defensive side of things (a long with most of the rest of the team), they also showed a couple of flashes of offensive chemistry that will hopefully stand the Grizzlies in good stead going forward.

With six rookies on the team, including Redmond, and several of them playing big minutes, or on lines designed to be offensive threats,  Utah needs to be able to rely on them. Unfortunately, Saturday night was not one of the finer moments for the rookies on the squad.

“The first two goals against, that young line was -2” Branham pointed out, “Playing against two different lines. They got outworked. Those young guys that have potential gotta learn from that. They got scored on on a couple veteran lines that Worcester has. The one thing our young guys have in their favor is fresh legs, young legs, and they gotta to use them to their advantage, and tonight they didn’t, early on they didn’t.”

However, he hastened to add, “With the exception of this game I’ve thought they’ve played extremely well, that’s for sure. So there’s definitely some bright light there at the end of the tunnel. Hockey is not a perfect game, you’re bound to make mistakes, that’s for sure. We just got to bounce back. Those guys, they’ve got the ability, so it’s good to see them step up.”

The Grizzlies are going to need everyone to step up as they head out on a four game road trip against Allen (11/1), Tulsa (11/3, 11/4) and Wichita (11/5) before returning home to face Fort Wayne on Veterans Day.


Photos courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming & staff