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Game Day Blog Archive

March 31: Game Day

03/31/2010 8:08 AM - Adrian Denny
While the Grizzlies enter tonight with a magic number of three points, which is the combination of at least a Utah win, an Ontario overtime/shootout loss or an Ontario loss and a Utah shootout/overtime loss, it was brought to my attention today that the magic number is actually two points.

Got this email this morning, from ECHL Director of Communications Joe Babik, who gives credit where credit is due.

“Just to let you know that if you guys win tonight you will clinch a spot in the playoffs.  Bakersfield Head Coach Marty Raymond brought this to our attention yesterday.  Since Ontario and Vegas are playing each other the last three games, one of them will essentially knock the other out.  Even if all three games go to OT, it is impossible for both teams to pass everyone else in the conference.  So, in essence 75 points guarantees a playoff spot, not 76.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Joe”

However that doesn’t cement the playoff seeding, which is changing on a daily basis and got a little crazier last night. Stockton moved into a first place tie in the Pacific with Bakersfield with a 6-4 win last night in Condors Town. The two teams play again tonight in Stockton, with the winner earning sole possession of first place. Idaho also defeated Alaska 2-0 to end their 13-game unbeaten streak at home. The Steelheads shorthanded group included two players brought in from Fairbanks for the midweek series.

A win tonight, and an Alaska loss in regulation also puts Utah in second place in the West Division.

The Grizzlies tonight will go back with goaltender Mikko Koskinen who gets ready for the stretch run with Utah. He will continue to be evaluated daily in regards to his ice action for the following contest.

Utah will look to set the tone early tonight against a Salmon Kings team who has really struggled as of late, dropping twelve of their last 15. The alarming fact there is that Victoria, who is one of the top home teams (22-10-0-1) in the league, was swept by Idaho 17-4 in three games March 10-13; their last home series.

The Grizzlies played three-straight shootouts against the Salmon Kings here in February and all eight games this season between the two have been tied in the third period at least at some point. Five of the contests overall have gone to shootouts.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 27: Game Day

03/27/2010 9:29 AM - Adrian Denny
For the second-straight three-game series at home, the Grizzlies are looking to take five of six possible points. They took five of six from Stockton March 12-14 after dropping the middle contest in overtime as they did last night.

The Grizzlies eight-game unbeaten streak at home (6-0-2-0) is currently two off of the all-time team high when they went unbeaten in ten-straight games from December 26, 1994-February 8, 1995.

Utah continues to see just about everyone get in on the scoring. In eight of their last ten games, Utah has had at least one player record two goals, with seven different players joining that action and Ryan Kinasewich scoring two goals four times in the last ten games.

Dylan Hunter enters tonight with a nine-game scoring streak that is currently the third-longest in the ECHL as he has tallied two goals and eleven assists in this current stretch.

Last night, the Grizzlies team ECHL-high streak of nine-straight games with a power-play goal ended as they had just two opportunities on the one-man advantage. Though with a chance to add an insurance goal in the final three minutes on the power-play, Utah surrendered a shorthanded goal that tied the game and ultimately forced overtime. The Grizzlies will take as many power-play opportunities as possible against the Condors who they are 8-24 against this year at home.

One of the Condors most potent offensive threats has been goaltender Timo Pielmeier who has one goal and two assists in his last three games at the E-Center after adding two assists last night and scoring an empty-net goal December 19 here.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!

March 26: Blog Entry

03/26/2010 7:44 AM - Adrian Denny
The E-Center has provided a nice home-ice advantage for the Grizzlies as of late as they have gone 9-1-1-0 in their last eleven home games.

That stretch followed a tough beginning of the year for Utah at home after a 1-3 start in January dropped them to 10-11-1-1 at the E-Center before a 3-1 win over Las Vegas on January 30. Utah has also scored four or more goals in six-straight home games.

For Utah, getting off to a good start has been the beginning of things, while it also could help them get things going again against Bakersfield. Utah is 14-4-1-0 when scoring first at home and 12-1-1-0 when leading after one period at the E-Center. The Condors meanwhile, have lost their last six road games and are 1-8-2-0 in their last eleven road games.  Bakersfield has also been outscored 86-65 in the first period overall this year and led after one period on the road just three times all season.

While the National Conference playoff race is still completely a mess, there is actually something that can happen for the Grizzlies to clinch a playoff spot tomorrow. Should Utah win both games at home this weekend and if Alaska beats Ontario tonight and tomorrow, than Utah would have a playoff spot locked up headed to Canada next weekend.

However, as it stands right now, there is still 13 different playoff possibilities for Utah which includes a best-of-five series against the other six teams either with home ice advantage or not. The 13th option is not making the playoffs. Idaho has already secured a first-round bye

However, it is a Utah team looking to finish strong, having won three of their last four games and also having put up four goals or more in eight of their last nine games and five goals or more in six of their last nine games.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 24: Game Day

03/24/2010 8:02 AM - Adrian Denny
Tonight, the Grizzlies return to the E-Center anxious to display their brand new six-foot-seven 21-year-old goaltender in Mikko Koskinen.

With the first goaltender selected in this past summer’s NHL draft, Utah proceeded to outscore Stockton 11-4, while he casually turned aside 73 of 77 shots in overly non-dramatic fashion. This week, Islanders goaltending consultant Sudarshan Maharaj will also be in attendance for the series to watch the organization’s young stud.

The Grizzlies look to keep up their solid home stretch going that has seen them tally an 8-1-1-0 stretch in their last ten home games. Last night on “Grizzlies Live”, Assistant Coach Pat Curcio attributed a good deal of that success to fan support and attendance. One player, who apparently really appears to enjoy playing at the E-Center is Lance Galbraith who has tallied 22 of his 29 points with Utah this year at home; including 10 of his 13 goals.

Ryan Kinasewich has caught fire again for Utah tallying nine goals and four assists in Utah’s last ten games. The
Utah captain's quick trigger has again overtaken him for the league lead in shots. Kinasewich has taken 290 shots on goal in 53 games this year with Victoria’s Wes Goldie having wristed 256 shots in 66 games.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 21: Game Day

03/21/2010 9:49 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies, with seven games left in the season, look to finish the year as strong as they’ve finished three-game series this season.

As the Grizzlies get ready to wrap up their second consecutive weekend with three-games-in-three nights, they carry a record of 6-2-0-2 overall and 2-0-0-2 on the road to finish a three-game set. Utah is 3-0 this year as well in the third game of a three-game-in-three-night set.

After a mandatory day off yesterday on the back-to-back, Islanders prospect Mikko Koskinen will get the start tonight for Utah. We saw the Grizzlies develop a swagger as Koskinen showed them what he had to offer making 36 saves on 38 shots in Friday’s  6-2 win.  It’s amazing what an x-factor a hot goaltender can be, as that’s definitely a department that the Grizzlies have looked for consistency in since the first of December.

Utah looks to finish strong against the Thunder, whom they are 6-2-1-0 against this year. In fact, Kevin Colley has had his way against his two closest friends in the league. Colley is 9-4-1-0 as a Head Coach against Stockton Coach Matt Thomas who was the Assistant Coach on the team that Kevin captained that won the 2003 Kelly Cup in Atlantic City. When you factor in the 2008 playoffs, when Colley was an Assistant as Utah dispatched of Fresno where Thomas coached prior to Stockton, Utah is 13-6-1-0 in the last 20 games against him. Also on the 2003 Kelly Cup team was first-year Wranglers Head Coach Ryan Mougenel who Utah went 10-3 against this year.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 20: Game Day

03/20/2010 11:01 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies seemingly put everything together last night in the 6-2 win carrying over everything they did well Wednesday in Boise as their ten-minute express comeback fell short.

Since the comeback began in Boise, down 5-1, Utah has outscored the opposition 9-2 in their last 70-plus minutes of hockey. Without getting ahead of ourselves or overconfident, something really seems to have clicked with this group in the last 48 hours.

During the second intermission last night as they were up 5-1, Kevin Colley told me that all of the guys in the locker room were talking to each other and drawing things up on the whiteboard in preparation for the final period. Something, he said that was very common during his 2003 Kelly Cup Championship team that he captained in Atlantic City where Stockton Head Coach Matt Thomas was an Assistant Coach and Las Vegas Head Coach Ryan Mougenel was a teammate.

Even in the final minutes of the game last night, the Grizzlies were still dominating Stockton five-on-five and pushing pucks deep as Mikko Koskinen made his 36-save performance look absolutely effortless. Kevin Colley told me last night that when Koskinen got on the bus to leave the arena, he was given a round of applause by his teammates.
As he returns from injury, Koskinen will not make back-to-back starts immediately and the Grizzlies will go back with
Mitch O’Keefe tonight, with the 21-year-old expected to start Sunday. Koskinen is listed as six-foot-five, but I can tell you he’s got to be closer to six-foot-seven. Today when I asked him, he modestly said six-foot-six. I am going to go ahead and simply round that to six-foot seven from now on.

Nothing went Utah’s way last night on the ECHL scoreboard as they enter this evening still a point better than Ontario.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 19: Game Day

03/19/2010 10:51 AM - Adrian Denny
Tonight the first goaltender selected in the 2009 NHL entry draft will make his debut for the Utah Grizzlies in Mikko Koskinen.

The 21-year-old from Finland looks to join the other several goaltenders from his home country to make it big in the NHL. Mikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen and Antero Niittymaki are some to name a few. "Everybody wants to be like Kipper now. I hope in five years we'll have 10 or 15 Finnish No. 1s in the NHL,” said Lehtonen in article a few years ago.

Tonight will be Koskinen’s first game action since October 17 when he suffered a 2-1 loss to Norfolk.  He also stopped 32 of 35 shots and four-straight in a shootout in a 4-3 win over Worcester on October 9. That is still the Sound Tigers only win over first-place Worcester this year. In a game coached by Kevin Colley and Pat Curcio in the Bridgeport preseason, Koskinen stopped 30 of 31 shots in the final two periods earning a 3-2 win over Hartford on September 26.

Another new face will debut tonight for Utah in Brian Kilburg. The “stay at home” rookie defenseman stands at six-foot-three inches tall and joined the Grizzlies in Stockton as well last night after renting a car and driving from Ontario where he was released earlier this week. His job according to Kevin Colley is to “get the puck out”.

Utah will look to build on the positives that led to three goals in dominating fashion in the final 11 minutes in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss in Idaho. Today before morning skate in Stockton, the coaching staff went over the final 15 minutes of that game to show the positives that need to carryover, but also the one negative which was the Idaho shorthanded goal to make it 5-1. That ultimately proved to be the game-winner just prior to the Utah rally.

Grizzlies fans, who were so amused with Garet Hunt and his on-ice antics for Stockton last weekend, which also spilled into the penalty box; will also be interested to hear that the Thunder have signed his brother Trevor who made his professional debut Wednesday.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!

March 17: Game Day

03/17/2010 9:05 AM - Adrian Denny
Someone told me last night after the game that you know the ECHL season is starting to wind down when the Grizzlies and Steelheads meet for the final time.

Starting their 14-game season series October 23 at the E-Center, in game two overall, tonight in Utah’s game 63 in 2009-2010, they play the 53rd all-time meeting against the Steelheads.

The Grizzlies will be shaking up line combinations tonight and also welcoming another new face to town in Simon Ferguson who will finally be joining the Grizzlies for the stretch run after being released from Syracuse yesterday. Utah acquired him and goaltender Mike Morrison from Florida in December for Shea Guthrie. Morrison remains in Albany of the AHL and they remain deep on goaltending.

Utah needs leadership to step up and take accountability for their play. It should not take a Kevin Colley timeout mid-game to stop bleeding and momentum. The Grizzlies also need a goaltender to go out and make some saves as consistency in that department has been a real struggle since November. Last night the Grizzlies were looking for a goaltender to win back-to-back games for the first time since December 2.

There’s ten games left in the season and players need to step up. If not, when the season ends there will be guys who never play pro hockey again. It happens every year in the ECHL, the guys along for the bus rides who don’t do their jobs won’t get jobs next year. There will always be new talent coming out of college and juniors and underachievers get weeded out.

Tonight, the Grizzlies look for a big rebound, 60 minutes and two points headed to Stockton. The talent is there, we’ve seen glimpses all week long.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 16: Game Day

03/16/2010 8:42 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies begin their busiest week-long stretch of the season tonight in Boise where they will play the next two evenings.

Sunday’s game was a little sloppy and the teams struggled in the third period as Utah prevailed 4-3 in a shootout. I think most of that on the Utah end can be attributed to the fatigue of playing three-games in 48 hours with four of the 16 players also having undergone some major travel during the course of the week to arrive in Utah and the other 12 skaters undergoing regular physical and mental wear and tear as a result of the game frequency. Kevin Colley after the game Sunday, wasn’t exactly exuberant after his team took five of a possible six points, again emphasizing there is still a lot of work left to do.

It is safe to say that Utah will continue to gel this week in games. I would be surprised to see even a morning skate before Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday’s contests as the team plays five-games-in-six-nights and after Wednesday’s overnight bus ride to Stockton; Thursday will likely be a day off the ice as well.

The Steelheads, who clinched a playoff berth Friday and the West Division Saturday can clinch the number-one seed in the National Conference by collecting at least a point today or tomorrow. Idaho who at this “point”, is now looking to sew up the best record in the league. Idaho leads South Carolina by three points with SIX GAMES IN HAND on the Stingrays entering tonight. Last week, the Steelheads outscored Victoria 17-6 Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to claim the three-game series in unanimous fashion.

Utah meanwhile with a win can move past Alaska and Stockton in the unbelievably convoluted conference standings as they will make up another game in hand on the Aces, Ontario, Las Vegas, Victoria and Bakersfield who all have the evening off.

After last weekend's series in which officiating seemed to unfortunately dominate the conversation, the Grizzlies will be graced with the presence of Gino Binda today and tomorrow. Geno is a solid referee and was named to the officiating crew for the ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals last year.

Speaking of referees, got an email from veteran ECHL referee Shane Warschaw, who is working playoff games in Asia this month and enjoying the experience. He said the crowds are really into it with chants and songs that remind him of soccer games.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 14: Game Day

03/14/2010 12:00 PM - Adrian Denny
Entering the weekend, spots two-through-eight in the National conference standings were separated by nine points. 48-hours later, the seven teams are now separated by seven points as the cluster has thickened.

Stockton and Utah, who at 60 games are tied for the fewest played in the ECHL, will make up a game in hand tonight on Victoria, Alaska and Ontario and also have a chance to gain two full points in the standings without scoreboard watching till midnight for a game ongoing in Anchorage.

Unfortunately in this series, referee Keith Kaval has again found a way to make himself the focus of attention after calling 8 minor penalties in the third period yesterday and botching a delay of game call in the third period Friday that led to Utah’s first lead of the third period. Stockton was especially rattled by his performance Friday and both teams yesterday as they both will look to avoid doing anything that gets him involved in the action before he finally departs town after the game.

Along the same lines, the Grizzlies have absolutely throttled Stockton five-on-five in the last three games outscoring them 11-3, including 6-2 this weekend. The Grizzlies will definitely look to tighten up the penalty-kill which has been the best in the league since January 9 after giving up six goals to Stockton the last two nights after previously giving up six power-play goals in their previous 15 games. Those things happen, earlier this season when the Grizzlies hit another penalty-killing wall, allowing seven goals in two games against Idaho November 4 (2), 6 (5) they rebounded November 7 to go 7-7 on the penalty-kill and win the game 3-0 in Boise.
It’s definitely been a series of power-play goals, Utah is also 3-11, but hasn’t been able to keep up with Stockton’s pace.

Expect Mitch O’Keefe to get the start tonight for Utah as this three-game-in-three-night (45 hours) series continues. Mitch has stopped 53 of the last 56 shots he has seen and will look to improve to 3-1 against Stockton.
Meanwhile, I would expect Andrew Perugini to go again for Stockton as I don’t think the Thunder have the confidence to ever go back to contracted goalie Aaron Sorochan who has a 1-3-1-0 record, a 5.01 goals-against-average and a .854 save percentage this year. The goaltending depth could benefit Utah.

The “Must Win” theme continues for each team at 4:05 p.m.

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

March 13: Game Day

03/13/2010 10:54 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies have put together a three-game home winning streak against Stockton and have combined for 17 goals in three games.

Each night, the Grizzlies have had a different line dominate. Last night, the Grizzlies got seven points from Tim Crowder (three assists), Lance Galbraith (two goals) and James Sixsmith (one goal, one assist). For Crowder, it marked his first multiple-point game since January 16 (against Stockton one goal, two assists) and snapped a stretch of four-straight scoreless contests and 12 of the last 14. While Crowder hasn’t been scoring, the coaching staff has still liked his play and thus he was teamed on a line with Sixsmith and Galbraith. Galbraith continues to love life at the E-Center where he has scored 20 of his 25 points this year for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies veteran now has six goals and three assists in his last three games against Stockton, including five goals in Utah's last four third periods at home.

Tonight, look for AJ Perry, Ryan Kinasewich and Dylan Hunter to possibly be the breakout line for a Utah team that has gotten a combined 25 points from three separate lines the last three nights against Stockton. AJ Perry hasn’t scored in two-straight games for the first time since November 6 and 7 and hasn’t gone three-straight without a point all season long.  Kinasewich has gone four-straight games without a multiple-point game for the first time since he went five-straight contests without a multiple-point night from December 4-16. That for the Grizzlies captain, who has 23 multiple-point games in 46 played this year. Dylan Hunter who has 31 points in 30 games this year has also gone scoreless in four-straight games for the first time this year dating back to prior to his call-up in February.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 12: Game Day

03/12/2010 9:09 AM - Adrian Denny
While the Grizzlies welcome three new faces tonight, their three most influential players in Ryan Kinasewich, James Sixsmith and Dylan Hunter look forward to playing their first full game together since November 14.

The three actually played about a period together in a 4-1 win over Las Vegas on February 1 as Sixsmith was coming down with a case of pneumonia. With all three in the lineup this year, Utah has a 13-4 record. Through Utah’s first 12 games, the three combined for 63 points..

Had Sixsmith not played on February 1, he would be looking to tie the longest scoring streak in the ECHL this season tonight. That was the only game in the last 17 that he has not scored in dating back to November 13. Sixsmith, who has a current league-high eleven-game scoring streak would be looking to tie Tyler Donati of Elmira for the longest scoring stretch in the ECHL thus far in 2009-2010.

Despite only playing in 17 of Utah’s last 40 games, Sixsmith is still Utah’s fourth-leading scorer during that stretch with 14 goals and 16 assists. Hunter leads the ECHL in shooting percentage by scoring 13 goals on 55 shots this year for a 23.6-percent success rate.

Depending on when you read this, the ECHL trade deadline passes or passed at 1 p.m. today and the Grizzlies definitely like the first deal that they wheeled for veteran Malcolm MacMillan and big rookie defenseman Justin Suda. As the Grizzlies returned from Anchorage last week looking forward to a week off, Kevin Colley had three specific issues that he wanted to address on the roster. With the addition of Peter Vandermeer from Abbotsford and getting Dylan Hunter back, he is definitely very comfortable with the group he has for the final 14 games and playoffs right now, but still would pull the trigger on another deal or two should the perfect pieces fall into place. As of last night at 6 p.m., discussions were still ongoing as he and Assistant Pat Curcio setup camp in their coaches office with the NHL on the big screen, cell phones in hand and laptops fired up.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 4: Game Day

03/04/2010 12:20 PM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies have one more game left before their “Spring Break” which will see them go nine days until their next game. That’s the longest stretch of the season, after they went December 20-25 without games during Christmas time.

After last night, in which Kevin Colley emphasized that the team needed secondary players scoring and didn’t get it, expect the Grizzlies to change up the lines tonight as they will likely breakup Sixsmith, Perry and Kinasewich in search of getting some other players involved.

Utah will look to keep riding Mitch O’Keefe, who gave up eleven five-on-five goals last week, but rebounded by stopping 20-straight Alaska shots last night after relieving Beau Erickson in a 4-2 game. With the strong effort, O’Keefe got his save percentage back over .900 and again will get the start tonight.

The Grizzlies were obviously happy with the first ten minutes last night as they dominated Alaska early to take a 2-0 lead. However, the club, which remains one of the youngest in the ECHL again struggled with prosperity as Kevin Colley then suggested the team tried to turn the game into “every guy gets a point night.” The frustrating part for Kevin, is his strong emphasis of playing every shift the same way no matter what the score and that didn’t happen last night after the team took the lead.

Today, as is usually the case on the second-half of a back-to-back on the road, the Grizzlies will not skate this morning. A team walk at the hotel was scheduled for 11 a.m., followed by a 4:15 p.m.  video session, and some one-on-one talks with players and the coaching staff possibly scheduled for in between.

What is going on at the Sullivan Arena and the E-Center you ask that gives both of these teams the weekend off?
The Sullivan will be hosting college hockey between the University of Alaska-Anchorage and the University of Minnesota-Duluth while the E-Center welcomes WWE Raw’s “Road To WrestleMania." Good seats are still available.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

March 3: Game Day

03/03/2010 10:36 AM - Adrian Denny
Alaska has never been friendly to the Utah Grizzlies, but tonight Utah will have a chance at a two-game winning streak, which would satisfy half of their goal for this midweek visit, of four points in regulation.

Utah led in all three games here January 6-9, but playing shorthanded, especially on the back end, was unable to hold two third period leads on January 6 and 8. Comparing the rosters from that series, Utah has James Sixsmith, who comes to Alaska for just the second of five trips since joining Utah at the start of last year. Peter Aston, who was merely a gleam in Kevin Colley’s eye when Utah was last in Alaska, will also make his first trip to Anchorage. It was in Alaska last time, when the Grizzlies got word that bringing in Aston would be a possibility. Meanwhile the Aces will be now without Alexandre Imbeault (Europe), John Lammers (AHL), and Matt Stefanishion (Traded to Charlotte), not to mention January’s goaltender of the month Frank Doyle who is in Worcester for the indefinite future. Both Lammers (five goals, five assists in five games) and Imbeault (three goals, seven assists in six games) dominated against the Grizzlies. Utah though will now face Scott Reid (2-2 against Utah) who showed stretches of brilliance against the Grizzlies during two E-Center wins in November as he stopped 77 of 81 shots. He however was in net in Utah’s last game here that they won 5-1 on January 9.

Beau Erickson will get the start tonight for Utah after another strong outing Saturday in Ontario when he stopped 29 of 31 shots from the Reign. He is 4-3-0-1 with a 2.57 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage since January 29 and had a 1.50 goals-against-average and a .951 save percentage last week.

Ryan Kinasewich participated in Utah’s lengthy practice here yesterday and is expected to be back in the lineup tonight. Utah, who arrived in Alaska late Monday night, was glad for the opportunity to practice on this large “Olympic Sized” ice surface which is ironic because the just completed Vancouver Olympics were not played on the large surface at the home of the Vancouver Canucks.

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

GO GRIZZLIES!!!

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