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Game Day Blog Archive

January 30: Game Day

01/30/2010 11:11 AM - Adrian Denny
For many reasons tonight, and not just because they fell behind 4-0 in the first period last night, the Grizzlies look for a good start against the Wranglers.

If they can jump ahead early, the stats don’t usually lie. Utah is 7-1-1-0 when leading after one period at home this year while the Wranglers are 1-12 when trailing after one period.

Getting out of the gate strong for the Grizzlies has been a challenge lately. Utah has surrendered the first goal to the opposition in the first 2:34 of the game in their last three losses. Stockton jumped up 1-0 on January 16 1:24 into the contest, Ontario 1-0 1:44 in last Saturday and Las Vegas 2:34 last night.

Holding momentum for Utah has also been an issue. In three of their last five games, a goal by Utah has been answered in less than 51 seconds and in two of the three cases less than 31 seconds after a Utah score.

Comparing this Grizzlies team to the one who went 14-6-0-1 to start the season is ridiculous and unfair. There are currently five key players from the first month of the season in the AHL. You place two or three of those back on this team and things become drastically different. Instead, the Grizzlies have mostly filled the vacated roster spots with rookies who had strong junior and college careers but are obviously mostly having a rough transition making the adjustment to the ECHL. For Head Coach Kevin Colley, it is a teaching process filled with hours of video and meetings.  He has shown a great deal of patience, but every player is at this level for a reason. If they were ready for the AHL, they would be there and they are here to learn and progress.  Hopefully they do and the Grizzlies also expect more help upcoming from the AHL in terms of returning players who earned their call-ups with hard work that paid off.

Send me your comments and your blog entries at adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!

January 29: Game Day

01/29/2010 9:43 AM - Adrian Denny
Tonight, in front of an arena that will be nearly sold out, the Grizzlies look for a repeat performance from their last “Pack the House” night on November 20.

In that game, the Grizzlies rolled to a 4-0 win over the Wranglers, capped off by a Vlady Nikiforov goal on a penalty-shot in the final five minutes of the contest in front of 9,304 fans.

Keep an eye out tonight for the second period. While Utah went through a stretch where the third period was the X-Factor, as of late the second period has meant a lot in the final result of the game. While the Grizzlies have scored 12 goals in their last seven second periods, they have also allowed a second period goal in six-straight games for a total of 13.

Both the Grizzlies and Wranglers are looking to get a good stretch going this weekend. Las Vegas has dropped six of the first seven games of a ten-game road trip, while allowing 35 goals, including 18 in their last three games and going two for their last 43 on the power-play. Meanwhile, while the Grizzlies entered Saturday with a 3-1-0-1 stretch, the resurgent Ontario Reign took over two-straight contests to leave town with two of three. I really think Ontario finally found something last weekend and could be last year’s version of the Bakersfield Condors, who were as bad as it got in the first half but finished the year the hottest team in the league.

The only other time the Grizzlies were shutout this year, they rebounded to win six-straight after a 4-0 blanking in Las Vegas November 12.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

January 25: Game Day

01/25/2010 8:29 AM - Adrian Denny
As the Grizzlies look to emerge from the middle of the pack in the ECHL’s National Conference, there is one telling statistic that has quickly pointed to whether they will win or lose.

While the Grizzlies have two of the league’s top 11 leading scorers in Ryan Kinasewich and AJ Perry and also carry Dylan Hunter who averages over a point-a-game, recently the goals-allowed statistic has spoken the loudest.

In their last five wins and nine of their last ten wins, Utah has allowed two goals or less while in their last nine non-wins they have allowed four goals or more and five or more in seven of those nine games. Utah is 17-3-2-1 this year overall when allowing three goals or less in a game.

For the Grizzlies this year, the challenge has been playing 60 complete minutes. As of the last eight games, they have outscored the opposing team 8-4 in the first periods, but have been outscored 10-7 in the second periods. While earlier this year, Utah owned the middle frame outscoring the opposition 30-13 in the first 17 games of the season.

Though grabbing an early lead has also been a good thing for Utah. They are 7-1-1-0 when leading after one period at home and 12-3-1-1 overall this year. In their last two losses, the Grizzlies have fallen behind 1-0 at 1:24 and 1:44 of the first periods.

Send me your own comments and blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!

January 23: Game Day

01/23/2010 10:38 AM - Adrian Denny
The Utah power-play which has been near the top of the league all season has done some things lately that haven’t been accomplished since the Grizzlies joined the ECHL in 2005.

Ironically, the Grizzlies reclaimed the number one spot in the league from Stockton after last Friday’s game via their penalty-kill which went 6-6 against the Thunder’s previously ranked top power-play, even though Utah went 0-2 in the contest on the one-man advantage.

Utah is nine for their last 18 on the one-man advantage over the last four games and an impressive nine for 19 against Ontario after scoring four power-play goals for the second time in less than a month last night and getting four in a contest for just the third time since they joined the ECHL.

The Grizzlies seven power-play goals in the last two games is the most in back-to-back contests since joining the ECHL after previously having six be the tops in two-straight games. They scored three goals each October 28 and 29, 2005 versus Victoria and April 13 and 14, 2008 versus Fresno in the playoffs.

While the power-play has been the best ever, Utah’s penalty-kill has been effective merely by staying out of the box. Utah has gone shorthanded just five times in the last two games tying a season-low, while holding the opposition without a power-play marker in three of the last five contests.

Overall the Grizzlies have also picked things up in scoring. Utah has nine goals in their last two games after just 22 scores in their previous eight games. The Grizzlies are 3-1-0-1 in their last five contests, collecting seven of ten points in that stretch.

Tonight, the Grizzlies will look to continue this strong streak with back-to-back wins for the first time since December 2-4, when they beat Ontario in two-straight games at the E-Center.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com.

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

January 22: Game Day

01/22/2010 8:29 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies who return home tonight for the first time since December 31 are back from the All-Star break after playing six games in 11 nights and eight games in 15 nights overall that included six travel days to wrap up their eight-game road trip.

Utah definitely was ready for a break after the set that saw Tom May, Vlady Nikiforov and Tony Romano all battered and bruised by the time the weekend was over not to mention the players who did play fighting through pain to complete the busy stretch.

Tonight will be a homecoming for James Sixsmith and Dylan Hunter, who were two huge factors early on as Utah built their 12-4 record to start the season. Both players were in the AHL for the better part of the last month and a half and rejoined the team on the recently completed road trip.

Mitch O’Keefe, who has started four-straight games for Utah is also expected to make his first home start since December 5 after missing  most of the month of Christmas injured. O’Keefe is 2-1-0-1 in his last four starts with a  2.41 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage despite giving up six goals Saturday in Stockton and ranks eighth in the league overall with a 2.82 goals-against-average.

Four Grizzlies will make their E-Center debuts tonight:

#5 Patrick Asselin, who was claimed off of waivers from Idaho January 5 and has put up three goals and
two assists in five games with Utah.
#16 Kyle Radke and #17 Matt Sorteberg who were both acquired from Idaho in Boise prior to the
Grizzlies and Steelheads game last Wednesday.
#25 Peter Aston who was assigned by Florida yesterday via Rochester of the AHL, where he played the
2007-2008 season with Dylan Hunter along with ten games this year.

January 16: Game Day

01/16/2010 10:47 AM - Adrian Denny
As we were reminded last night, James Sixsmith is at a completely different level when facing ECHL competition.

But what really puts the five-foot-nine Sixsmith over the top is his addiction to never giving up on a play which sometimes makes it seem like there is three of him in one out there at the same time. Last night, he buried another shorthanded goal after leading Utah with four last year and would have picked up an assist on the go-ahead goal in the final five minutes of regulation that was waved off after deliberation.

The Grizzlies still strongly disagree with the call, which they say went off of a helmet not a high-stick. It would have extended Patrick Asselin’s scoring streak to four in his first four games with the Grizzlies with yet another goal in front of the net. It would have also earned Kyle Radke an assist in his first game since being acquired in a trade from Idaho Wednesday.

The Grizzlies coaching staff was unbelievably pleased with both new d-men. Radke is a warrior who, to give an example, was throwing his body all over the place in his own end last night for a period in time with his helmet long fallen off his head. Sorteberg spent a lot of time on the Grizzlies two power-plays out on the point with Ryan Kinasewich. Assistant Pat Curcio commented on the way back to the hotel last night that “Sorteberg still doesn’t know how good he is.”

Grizzlies goaltender Mitch O’Keefe continued in his zone last night with a season-high of 42 saves, including 18 in the first period; two nights after making a season-high 37 stops in Idaho. O’Keefe then proceeded to stop four of five shots in the shootout for
Utah which ended a string of ten-straight shootout losses dating back to their last shootout win January 3, 2009 in Las Vegas.

The Grizzlies, now exactly halfway through their season with 36 games down and 36 left to go, will look to head into the all-star break with a four-game unbeaten streak tonight after going 2-0-0-1 and collecting five of a possible six points in their last three games going through Alaska, Idaho and Stockton.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!

January 15: Game Day

01/15/2010 11:38 AM - Adrian Denny
James Sixsmith will rejoin the Grizzlies for tonight’s action in Stockton after also doing the same the last time the Grizzlies played here on March 27, 2009.

As Utah wrapped up the regular season they got Sixsmith into the lineup for a game here, before leaving out of Sacramento the next morning for Milwaukee again, and he tallied one goal, one assist and three shots immediately upon his return after missing 27 games in the AHL.

The Grizzlies and James look forward to the same tonight and SIxsmith is looking forward to getting regular if not excessive ice time as he will obviously again be a regular member of the Grizzlies power-play and penalty-killing units after watching most of those situations on the bench in Bridgeport. Sixsmith’s goal here on March 27 was one of his four shorthanded goals last year. How long Sixsmith will be here remains a question. Kevin Colley told us Wednesday night on Grizzlies Radio that he may be back only for a weekend as AHL teams are already calling him regarding #18.

Sixsmith flew into Oakland last night and was picked up by myself, Kevin Colley and Pat Curcio as we then whisked him off to the HP Pavillion for two periods of Sharks/Boston Bruins, a game that was eventually won 2-1 by the visitors.

Mitch O’Keefe will go in between the pipes again as he has stopped 65 of 69 shots in his last two games and appears headed back to the same groove he was as he started the season 10-2.

Utah will be back full-strength on defense for the first time in a while and Curcio, who works with the d-men in practice, could not be more tickled to have six full-strength defensemen on the ice tonight for the first time in a while, including Kyle Radke and Matt Sorteberg who joined the Grizzlies on the bus leaving Boise Wednesday following the 6:45 p.m. trade that evening.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com.

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

January 13: Game Day

01/13/2010 9:30 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies continue their trip tonight in Boise after a big 5-1 win Saturday in Alaska.

Utah came together as a 13-man unit Saturday playing the kind of 60-minute hockey Kevin Colley has been looking for the past two months.

They were forced to simplify things and the results were absolutely dominating. After the game, Kevin told me that it maybe not be as fun of a style to play, but that’s how you need to play to win and hopefully that message got through that the fun of winning a game supersedes everything.

The Grizzlies have now had two-straight games where they have been absolutely dominant five-on-five. They built a 3-0 lead in Alaska Friday and held them without a five-on-five goal for the first two periods. Saturday, they outscored the Aces 4-0 five-on-five, which as we talked about on the broadcast both nights, means that the pieces are there even with the absence of players like Dylan Hunter, AJ Perry and Lance Galbraith who all missed the contest Saturday. Those are three big tools to be missing, let alone the rest of the AHL call-ups right now to pick up a big 5-1 win.

At the airport after the game, Kevin Colley was happy with the win, but a little annoyed that the world was back on the bandwagon after the team’s second win in 13 games. For Kevin, it was one win and the focus immediately became winning two-straight games. He also reinforced to his locker room that one win in January is not game seven of the Stanley Cup.

All-Star AJ Perry is expected back in the lineup tonight after missing the last four games, which is obviously a big face to get back as well as Lance Galbraith who won two championships with Idaho in 2004 and 2007 and dropped three of four games here already this year playing with Alaska. The Grizzlies will also look to keep rookies Tim Crowder and Patrick Asselin going. Crowder has two goals and two assists for two multiple-point games in his last three contests and Asselin scored twice Saturday and had an assist Friday in his Utah debut.

Mitch O’Keefe also looks to start another roll after stopping 20-straight shots and 27 of 28 overall in his first win since missing most of December injured.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!

January 9: Game Day

01/09/2010 12:39 PM - Adrian Denny
Well while the Grizzlies have been reshaped by call-ups, this weekend injuries have shown their effect with AJ Perry, Dylan Hunter, Lance Galbraith and Vlady Nikiforov all missing ice time.

The good news is none of the injuries are expected to be indefinite. AJ Perry is scheduled to be back next Wednesday in Boise and hopefully Dylan Hunter will be back the week after as Utah misses not only two of their top three leading scorers, but two of their leaders who throw personal stats out the window and look exclusively at team standings. With Hunter back in the lineup for one period Wednesday, the Grizzlies looked again like one of the top teams in the league.

It’s obviously a very fragile Utah team right now as they look for leadership. The team has either led or been tied for over 40-straight minutes each of the last three nights before falling apart in the third period. The question is why would the team collectively start to play different in the third period. The answer is 100-percent mental. It was just the opposite when the team was 12-4. When Bartley, Sixsmith, Hunter, Perry, Meyers, Watt were playing, the mentality was “we’re not going to lose no matter what” and that message was force fed to their other teammates. This group is much younger, less mature and lacks experience, confidence and most importantly the drive to fight through adversity, which right now is the biggest challenge for the coaching staff. Today the team will have a video session at the hotel and a team meeting where the coaching staff plans to talk to them about their biggest supporters in life and who they would want to do anything for and that’s how they need to look at the game of hockey. Kevin Colley’s NHL career was ended in one shift when he broke his neck and then somehow got up and walked off of the ice in January of 2006. Kevin has no regrets about his hockey career because he left everything on the line each night. He has portrayed that message to several players asking them if their careers suddenly ended tonight, would they have any regrets.

Again, for the Grizzlies, they are looking for individuals to step up. They need a goaltender to make a big save and nearly a turnover free game for starters. The message the coaching staff has been sending to the players is, “let’s win 1-0 in a shootout if we have to, just make sure our own end is 100-percent protected” for a Grizzlies team that has allowed 24 goals in their last five road games, 11 of which have come in the third period. Being in Anchorage hasn’t helped matters, where Utah has now dropped three-straight third period leads to lose and is 3-21-1-0 all-time. The Aces, who struggled through a seven-game losing streak in late December, blew a 4-0 first period lead and fell 5-4 in Victoria the seventh game of that stretch before rebounding to now go 5-1-0-1 in their last seven games.

While this stretch has been pretty tough on everyone, it is obviously just a slump that at some point will end. The season is less than half over and everyone out west has had their extreme ups and downs. The roster will start to resaturate in the next few weeks and the ship will be righted, while hopefully the guys still here, who have gone through this one win in 13-game stretch, will take it as a lesson moving forward and turn it into a positive experience. Last night after the game, the common phrase echoed probably a dozen times by Colley and Assistant Coach Pat Curcio was, “what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”

The teams who struggled early are up and the teams like Idaho, who has lost five of six and Utah who started 14-6-1-0 are looking to regroup.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com.

January 8: Game Day

01/08/2010 10:23 AM - Adrian Denny

Patrick Asselin, who the Grizzlies claimed off of waivers Tuesday and signed yesterday was not expected to make his debut with the team until next Wednesday.

However, with the injuries sustained to Dylan Hunter and Vlady Nikiforov Wednesday, he was immediately summoned to Anchorage early Thursday morning and arrived at 8:50 p.m.

Hunter will miss the rest of the series after his first period injury Wednesday as he played in his first Utah game since December 5 after 10 games in the AHL. It’s unfortunate for Utah, because he returned to play without missing a beat in the first period, demonstrating that he is perhaps the most complete player in the ECHL. Nikiforov is questionable tonight after taking a brutal high-stick Wednesday. It was definitely a game that saw its fair share of casualties as Alaska captain Scott Burt is expected out for the rest of the series after leaving the ice with the help of his teammates after blocking a shot in the second period.

Back to Asselin, his numbers from Germany last year and his junior stats show that he is a scorer. Word out of Boise is that he just lost out on a numbers game as the Steelheads started to get players back from the AHL.

Here’s a quote from someone close to the Steelheads about Asselin:  "I can tell you that goaltender Bryon Pitton absolutely robbed him of what would have been a momentum-swinging goal in the second period against Stockton on New Year's Eve.  It was one of those saves that Pitton probably doesn't even know how he made it.  Would have tied the game.  Who knows... maybe if Asselin buries that one, we wind up winning the game and he's still here." Asselin was also given kudos for a “Learn to Skate” promotion he worked during his stay in Boise.

The Grizzlies changed things up a bit Thursday, practicing on an outdoor rink right across the parking lot from the Sullivan Arena. It was actually a nice day in Anchorage, mild and with clear skies making it an afternoon to remember for the Grizzlies who definitely welcomed the venue change, especially after the tough game Wednesday.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!

January 6: Game Day

01/06/2010 9:14 AM - Adrian Denny
Dylan Hunter returns to the Utah lineup tonight after being with Rochester of the AHL for nearly a month.

For Dylan, it was quite the trip to get from Rochester to Anchorage, Alaska as he is expected to arrive just in time for pre-game skate this morning. Originally scheduled to depart Rochester Monday, weather delayed him from flying out until yesterday and he spent the night at the airport before making the Rochester to Detroit to Salt Lake to Seattle route and spending Tuesday night in the Emerald City in a hotel. Hunter was scheduled to make the approximately three and a half hour flight from Seattle to Anchorage first thing this morning.

The Grizzlies have obviously missed Hunter, maybe as much as any of the seven players who have been called up to the AHL this year. I think Vic Bartley is high on that list too. When Hunter left the Grizzlies, they had a 14-6-1-0 record and currently now sit at 15-13-2-1 after ten games of his absense. Dylan just plays the game the right way and despite averaging over a point a game with Utah, his number-one priority is going out every shift and improving the situation for his team.

However, while they gain Hunter, AJ Perry is not on the trip for the Grizzlies after being held out ill of Sunday’s game in Las Vegas. He is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday in Idaho.

While Utah has been struggling as of late, so has Alaska as it has been well documented losing seven-straight going into last week, though the Aces (14-17-2-1) are currently 3-1-0-1 through five games of this ten-game home stand as Utah comes to town for three-straight and the first of six games this year.

If you noticed the ECHL transactions yesterday, the Grizzlies claimed Patrick Asselin off of waivers from Idaho, he will fly to Utah tomorrow and hangout/skate with AJ Perry and company until Utah returns home Sunday. Asselin feels he wasn't given a real chance in Idaho and looking at his resume from juniors, that would appear to be a legitimate argument.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!

January 3: Game Day

01/03/2010 10:42 AM - Adrian Denny
If there was ever a game where the Grizzlies needed to lean on their goaltender it would be this afternoon in Las Vegas and judging by the play of Mitch O’Keefe last night in the final two periods he is up to the task.

O’Keefe came in to start the second and stopped 17 of 18 Las Vegas shots, in a game that was 1-1 in the final 40 minutes.
It’s a Grizzlies team still trying to get everyone on the same page as they wrap up four games in a 20-hour span.  Last night, Utah dug themselves an early hole just 3:09 into the game and the Wranglers never looked back, while Michael Ouzas casually stopped 28 of 29 shots earning number-one star honors. Today, realistically speaking, best case scenario, the Grizzlies grab an early lead like that and lean on O’Keefe to escape with a split in Las Vegas.

However, that’s why you play 72 60-minute games during the course of a regular season. February 15, 2009; the Grizzlies pulled into Las Vegas for a Sunday game just like this one and dressed only 13 players before emerging with a  4-1 win following a heroic three-goal third period. I remember going into that game against the resurgent Wranglers just hoping that the Grizzlies could keep the final score within three goals in favor of Las Vegas.

A bright spot for Utah has been the acquisition of defenseman Brock Wilson, who scored the Grizzlies lone goal and has been solid in all areas since joining Utah Thursday. He and his Dad Rik makeup what I believe to be the first-ever father-son combination to play pro hockey in Utah, with Rik playing four games in Utah as a St. Louis Blues prospect for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in 1982-83.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

January 2: Game Day

01/02/2010 10:33 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies hit the road for eight-straight games starting tonight in Las Vegas and they won’t return back to the E-Center for almost three weeks.

However, while the Grizzlies are on the road they open this particular trip in the building where they have won more games second only to the E-Center this year. As Utah makes their fourth trip to Las Vegas, they carry a 4-1 record in their hip pocket coming back to the Orleans. However, it is a Utah team that brings 11 players to Vegas for the first time and a Wranglers team who has won six-straight at home with their last loss coming November 13 to Utah Grizzlies version 1.0, 5-3.

The Grizzlies played on the exact same dates at the Orleans Arena last year losing 3-1 on January 2 and winning 3-2 in a shootout on January 3.

Kevin Colley was happy with the effort and fight from his club Thursday as they picked up a point in a shootout loss. The effort and fight hasn’t been a consistent issue that he has been overly pleased with as the roster has undergone it’s overhaul over the last month following the call-ups to several character players like Dylan Hunter, James Sixsmith and Vic Bartley to the AHL.

Beau Erickson was very impressive Thursday, in his Utah debut, as he played in his first action since December 12, stopping 31 of 33 Victoria shots to give Utah an ongoing chance to capitalize and take two points. That’s all you can ask for from a goaltender and Kevin Colley is very happy with his one-two goaltending punch which also includes 11-game winner Mitch O’Keefe who has been in the top five in the league in wins all season, but missed most of December with an injury.

Send me your comments and your own blog entries to adenny@utahgrizz.com.

GO GRIZZLIES!!

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