Summer Blog Entry (April 30)
04/30/2010 1:58 PM - Adrian Denny
Jaroslav Halak who led eighth-seeded Montreal to their stunning come from behind series win over Washington had a similar effect on the ECHL, including the Utah Grizzlies, when he played for the Long Beach Ice Dogs during the 2005-2006 season.
As a rookie, Halak went 11-4-2 with a 2.05 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage with the Ice Dogs before first making his NHL debut during the 2006-2007 season.
The Grizzlies and Calgary Flames AHL affiliate in Abbotsford also came from behind down three games to one against Rochester to win the series four games to three. That bodes well for Grizzlies and Heat skater Peter Vandermeer, who was looking forward to practicing with Abbotsford should their season continue which it did.
Former Grizzlies Community Man of the Year Gavin Morgan is still going strong with the ECHL’s Reading Royals who open their conference finals matchup with Cincinnati this weekend. Two other former Grizzlies in Ryan Cruthers and Olivier Labelle also are featured in this interesting piece about the 2007-2008 Utah team.
I am glad that the Phoenix Coyotes were eliminated from the playoffs because it was impossible to see their playoff games at my home here since Salt Lake is considered part of the Coyotes television network but none of the local outlets pick up their broadcasts, even with the NHL package. It doesn’t matter during the regular season, because there are always other games to choose from, but to be watching the NBA on TNT Monday night instead of game seven with Phoenix and Detroit was a bit of a disappointment. Given the Coyotes lack of presence in the playoffs the last several years, it obviously wasn’t that big of a deal till this postseason.
I’ll have a new blog entry every Friday throughout the Summer. May, is going to be a little slow, because with the Grizzlies no longer in contention, I have zero interest in the ECHL playoffs and will not be blogging on them. While the NHL playoffs are still ongoing, you can find blogs all over the place about that so I won’t chime in unless it’s pertinent. This blog will attempt to focus on issues related to the Grizzlies hence the name of the website, www.utahgrizzlies.com.
I will see you tonight (Friday) at the Salt Lake Bees game, you all should come, as I will be handling the on-field announcing for the club during all Utah Jazz home playoff games throughout the spring.
April 23: Playoff Game Day
04/23/2010 7:19 AM - Adrian Denny
Tonight, as one of the seven final teams in playoff contention, Utah will look to avoid dropping the number of active ECHL postseason squads to six.
Utah has been stressing the importance of getting off to a good start more than usual since returning to the E-Center down 2-0 on Tuesday and obviously now down 3-0. There is definitely something to that. While in the regular season, Utah seemed to be coming from behind on a nightly basis, it isn’t as easy in the post-season, and they have not overcome more than a one-goal deficit to win in the playoffs. In their wins, Utah has recorded ten shots or more in the first period each night and gone 3-1 when tallying ten shots or more. In their other four losses, Utah hasn’t added more than eight shots in the opening frame.
Obviously, facing elimination and the Steelheads with an opportunity to head home for a week, the third period tonight will be huge. Utah has outscored the opposition 5-1 in the third in their wins and been outscored by Idaho 7-2 in the third period in this series.
I have received several emails about the Grizzlies getting help from Bridgeport beyond Jake Gannon.
Unfortunately, Jake is the only active Sound Tigers skater that played five games with Utah during the regular season and that is the prerequisite for being eligible for ECHL postseason play. It was discussed throughout the year, several times about sending some young Sound Tigers to Utah so that they could play in five regular season games should Bridgeport be eliminated. However, it never worked out. When the Grizzlies were short, Bridgeport was short and when Utah had too many bodies, so did the Sound Tigers. Vic Bartley, who has been in the AHL since December 8, is still recovering from injury, though could possibly return if Utah is able to stretch the season some more beyond this weekend.
I think the mindset on not sending Mikko Koskinen down is to make sure the goaltender is 100-percent ready to go for next season after logging a month’s worth of action in Utah and Bridgeport following an injury that kept him out of game action for five months. Koskinen did play three games with the Sound Tigers in their 4-1 best-of-seven series loss to Hershey after Nathan Lawson was injured last Friday.
April 20: Playoff Game Day
04/20/2010 7:52 AM - Adrian Denny
Coming back to the E-Center for game three, the Grizzlies are definitely glad to be home after having a bone to pick with just about everyone in Idaho over the weekend.
Obviously, Utah felt that Idaho’s second goal that tied the game 2:22 into the third period did not go in. That was basically unanimous as everyone on the Utah side, including injured defenseman Brock Wilson, who watched from the press box, had a better view than referee Jean Hebert who was behind the play but was very adamant about what he saw. Kevin Colley immediately sent captain Ryan Kinasewich to argue the score. Video replay after the game was inconclusive, but I’ve always felt, in the heat of the moment, teams on the ice can see if they scored or if the opposition didn’t which will lead to protests if a call is missed. Las Vegas appeared to have scored here last week in game five as the goal was lifted and the puck rolled in and out. The Grizzlies were also just mystified with some of the penalty calls, in one case that saw Utah shorthanded five-on-three for two minutes. Utah has gone shorthanded five-on-three four times in this series already. The job quality of the linesmen they questioned throughout the game as well. If I mentioned, the always malfunctioning Idaho penalty clocks (user error?), which caused Utah a longer shorthanded situation than they should have had
Saturday as well as the inability of their off-ice officials to properly track the visiting team’s shots, it would seem like I was just piling on. However, tracking shots during the first period, Brock Wilson counted 18 official Utah shots, while the box score said that Utah had only 13.
Grizzlies Head Coach Kevin Colley began shouting at Idaho Head Coach Derek Laxdal during the first period Saturday over the constant Utah perception that the Steelheads embellish “penalties” by diving. Idaho’s Mathieu Tousignant was assessed a rarely called diving minor Friday.
And to add insult to injury at the start of the trip, the Grizzlies organization was not too pleased to be having to deal with a simple hotel issue Friday during morning skate that regarded Saturday’s checkout time.
That being said, no one mentioned here that ticked the Grizzlies off probably feels that there is any issue. However, to the team, it feels like they are constantly being toyed with by everyone that they come into contact with and that can bring a team together and I believe it has. Utah being down 2-0 entering tonight could possibly be in a better mental position then being tied at one.
April 17: Playoff Game Day
04/17/2010 9:23 AM - Adrian Denny
The 2010 ECHL playoffs this year seem to be as competitive as ever. In the first round, no team was able to take a 2-0 series lead and it seemed that a losing team always responded, especially after a blowout loss.
Utah, who was no exception against Las Vegas, hopes for a quick regroup against Idaho tonight. The Grizzlies haven’t dropped two-straight games since March 16, 17 here in Idaho. It’s also a Utah team that before last night played one of their worst games of the year against Idaho on November 6 at the E-Center, losing 7-2 before rebounding the next night with a cleaned up 3-0 win over Idaho. Two weeks ago after a troubling 9-2 loss in Victoria after all appeared well with Utah on a five-game unbeaten streak, the Grizzlies rebounded with a 5-2 win to finish the regular season.
Statistically speaking, it seems that a team is most likely to bounce back following a blowout loss than after a close loss. Maybe due to the lack of energy expounded the night before. Here are some examples from thus far in the ECHL playoffs.
April 6: Las Vegas 6, Utah 4
April 7: Utah 4, Las Vegas 1
April 6: Toledo 7, Charlotte 2
April 7: Charlotte 6, Toledo 1
April 6: Cincinnati 6, South Carolina 1
April 7: South Carolina 3, Cincinnati 1
April 7: Elmira 5, Florida 2
April 9: Florida 6, Elmira 2
April 10: Elmira 5, Florida 3
April 7: Victoria 6, Bakersfield 3
April 8: Bakersfield 4, Victoria 4
April 10: Las Vegas 6, Utah 3
April 11: Utah 4, Las Vegas 2
So far in the post-season, Reading is the only team to take a 2-0 series lead and they did it by edging Florida 7-6 Wednesday and 5-4 Thursday to open their second round series.
It’s a simple game, whoever plays the best and the hardest usually wins, especially in the ECHL where inconsistency is always the biggest factor.
April 16: Playoff Game Day
04/16/2010 7:41 AM - Adrian Denny
Heading into the second round of the playoffs, everyone should be happy with the Utah/Idaho matchup. The series works great for everyone.
It’s no secret, if the ECHL’s National Conference was formatted like hit television shows such as Big Brother 18, Real World Moline, Illinois, Survivor South Africa or American Idol with or without Simon Cowell, the Alaska Aces would be voted out of the league. Getting to Anchorage is a horrendous pain, it costs a lot of money and has the least up-to-date rink in the conference. So needless to say, it is the last place anyone wants to go to play a playoff series, which Utah has done twice in the last five years. On the other hand, a trip to Boise from Utah is great for everyone. Travel is a cakewalk for the players, who have now made the 342 mile bus trip from the E-Center to the Qwest Arena six times this year, the first-class hotel is attached to the arena; which means time is saved on shuttling to and from the hotel and players can have a more flexible schedule coming and going. The short distance makes it easy for fans to drive up or down for a game or two to cheer on their teams. And most importantly it’s over $30,000 cheaper than round trip airfare to say a place like Anchorage. The bottom line on travel is unbelievably important to ECHL teams who aren’t being given millions of dollars in television revenue and don’t have the multimillion dollar yearly type of corporate sponsors that the major league level does to subsidize everything. So you can bet that both Grizzlies management is happy with the playoff seeding so far along with Steelheads brass, who had to be hoping for this series even over a Southwest Airlines trip to Las Vegas, which probably would have been twice as much as bussing to Salt Lake.
Over in the Pacific Division, Bakersfield and Stockton separated by four hours each, creates a win-win for everyone and for the conference finals getting from Salt Lake or Boise to California is also comfortable from a travel standpoint as opposed to other options. Again, no offense to Victoria or Anchorage, but that’s the facts folks. In the first round, Stockton also lucked out, buy finishing the regular season in Alaska and then being coincidentally seeded against the Aces to start the playoffs there with no travel and $2,000 baggage fees being added.
Now it’s up to the teams, to complete the circle of happiness and win their series!!
April 13: Playoff Game Day
04/13/2010 7:56 AM - Adrian Denny
Tonight will mark the fifth and final game five in the first round of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs as five of the seven series have gone the distance. The home teams are 2-2 in the game fives.
So far the game fives have not disappointed with all four games being decided by a goal, with two of them going to overtime. Last night, Bakersfield scored with 48.5 seconds left in regulation to dismiss Victoria and Reading scored late in overtime to defeat Kalamazoo 3-2. Sunday, Cincinnati defeated South Carolina 3-2 in the third-straight overtime in that series to advance and also Sunday, Elmira beat Florida 4-3 in regulation; scoring the game-winning goal with less than three minutes left.
However, in this series, three of the four games have been decided by three goals and Sunday’s 4-2 Utah win was the closest score. However, Utah has closed both of their wins by adding empty-net goals to widen the final score.
The Idaho Steelheads, who await the winner of this game for a series that will start Friday and Saturday in Boise, earned a first round bye by virtue of having the best record in the conference and have not played since April 3, giving Head Coach Derek Laxdal a chance to observe Saturday’s action from the E-Center press box incognito.
I cannot believe I’m dropping to this level, but fans always seem overly concerned about the referees, which wastes a lot of energy. Tonight’s referee will be Jarrod Ragusin, who officiated game two of this series. He will be joined by veteran/journeymen linesmen Todd Owen and Wally Lacroix, who lined Sunday’s game. In addition, ECHL Official Supervisor and former ECHL referee and linesman Mike Pearce will be observing tonight’s contest after taking in the first two games in Las Vegas and the final three games of the Bakersfield series.
April 11: Playoff Game Day
04/11/2010 10:52 AM - Adrian Denny
One player who constantly rises to the top for the Grizzlies is James Sixsmith. He gives everything he has every night and is not long for the ECHL.
Ironically, Sixsmith recently turned down another AHL call-up for a chance to win a championship with this Utah team. For James, winning is personal, especially after he was amazingly left off of the playoff roster for the Cincinnati Cyclones in 2007-2008, a team that went on to beat Las Vegas in the Kelly Cup Finals.
With Utah in the post-season the last two years, Sixsmith has recorded at least a point in every game. His two-year playoff total with Utah is four goals and six assists for 10 points in six games. After two assists last night, Sixsmith had totaled multiple-points in two of three games this playoff series and has factored in on a shorthanded goal each night.
At the end of the season, whenever it ends, Sixsmith is one person who will definitely not have any regrets knowing that each and every shift he left everything he had on the ice. Hopefully the Grizzlies, who have bounced back well all year, are able to pull through this first round and keep this talented team ongoing for as long as possible.
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April 10: Playoff Game Day
04/10/2010 10:07 AM - Adrian Denny
The ECHL announced yesterday that Grizzlies captain Ryan Kinasewich was named the only runner-up for the league’s MVP award which was given to Tyler Donati of the Elmira Jackals.
While Kinasewich was named MVP of the Grizzlies at the team’s awards banquet on March 29, the Grizzlies also have several candidates who could have finished as runners-up on the team.
Utah went 24-14-2-1 with James Sixsmith in the lineup this year and 10-15-2-4 without the forward. In the playoffs, Sixsmith has scored in all five games that he has played in with the Grizzlies. He has tallied four goals and four assists in those five total playoff games with Utah. In addition, Sixsmith has scored in 37 of 43 total games played this year with the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies were 25-15-2-2 with Dylan Hunter in the lineup this year and 9-14-2-3 without him. Hunter carries a team season-high 15-game scoring streak into tonight’s game with five goals and 19 assists. In addition, playing under his father and NHL great Dale in juniors and totaling 202 career playoff games in the AHL, Dylan brings a unique hockey perspective to Utah that shows every night.
And who knows what would have happened if Mikko Koskinen wouldn’t have arrived on the spot to help preserve and restore the Grizzlies playoff seeding. Koskinen went 6-0 with Utah in the regular season and helped them earn home-ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time in a decade.
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April 7: Playoff Game Day
04/07/2010 10:13 AM - Adrian Denny
All year long, this Grizzlies group has responded following a tough loss; that hasn’t been the issue at all. The problem has been handling prosperity from shift to shift and game to game.
This team is so talented and can take control of a game so easily, some times they just seem to lose focus. Last night, after scoring 35 seconds into the game, and then continuing to control the Las Vegas end for the next four-plus minutes, a costly turnover led to a three-on-two and the lead was gone. Utah scored on their first shot in the first period and their first two shots in the second period before yet another turnover led to two goals in 11 seconds.
Following the toughest game of his life, it has yet to be decided whether Mikko Koskinen or Mike Morrison will get the start for the Grizzlies tonight. As part of the development process, it might include going back to Mikko to see how the previous 6-0 stud responds. Koskinen had never allowed four goals in his career before last night.
After watching the game tape, referee Andy Thiessen did indeed blow the call that saw him wave off a third period power-play goal tipped in by Lance Galbraith. Thiessen ruled it was hit in with a “high-stick.” That would have made the score 5-4 with over 15 minutes left. Instead, Galbraith was issued a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a ten minute misconduct and Las Vegas shortly thereafter took a 6-3 lead. So an unfortunate turn of events for the Grizzlies; though they didn’t do much to help themselves last night in any department.
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April 6: Playoff Game Day
04/06/2010 10:28 AM - Adrian Denny
Last night, during their team meal and pre-series meeting, Kevin Colley told the Grizzlies about how winning the Kelly Cup Championship in 2003 with Atlantic City changed his life and opened up doors that would have never opened had he not had a ring. After playing mostly four seasons in the ECHL before winning the title, Kevin went on to sign an AHL contract with Bridgeport the following season and was in the NHL three years later. He said no matter what goals you have as a hockey player, once you have a championship and are labeled a "winner" everything changes.
In the ECHL’s newly formatted best-of-five first round, the team with the better regular season record was able to choose when they wanted their home-ice advantage to fall. I think this format and schedule is going to be a brutal failure and will change next season league-wide.
The best-of-five series is 2-3, so the Grizzlies were able to choose whether they wanted to host the first two games or the last three games. The Grizzlies chose to host the final three games, so the games would fall on the weekend, which makes it easier for fans to come to the games, and also because the organization prefers from a hockey standpoint to open on the road, where they went 4-2 in their last six games and 5-3 in Las Vegas this year. Utah went 2-1 in game one’s on the road during their conference finals run in 2008. Opening on the road, gives the team more room to get settled into the playoffs, especially in a short best-of-five series. And in turn, gives them a chance to finish a series strong and at home when the games really matter.
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April 3: Game Day
04/03/2010 9:56 AM - Adrian Denny
You too can know the possible playoff possibilities for the Utah Grizzlies and the National Conference. Just purchase the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoff Rubix Cube now and by the end of this evening you too can know where the Grizzlies will be opening the playoffs next week.
Well, while we do now know all of the playoff qualifiers in the National Conference, playoff seeding is going to have to wait for action to be completed tonight in Anchorage in the last game of the ECHL’s regular season.
Here’s what we do know: Ontario was officially eliminated last night, by Victoria defeating Utah. Had Utah won, the Reign would have been eliminated anyway by virtue of Las Vegas beating them 2-1. We also know, that Idaho will have a first round bye by having the best regular season record in the conference, Bakersfield has the second seed by clinching their first-ever division title last night with a 2-1 win over Idaho and Alaska secured the three-seed with a 3-2 shootout win over Stockton. That being said, Utah can still be as high as a four-seed in two different ways. Here are the possibilities for tonight’s final day of the regular season that features:
Utah at Victoria, 8:05 p.m. (1320 KFAN, www.utahgrizzlies.com)
Ontario at Las Vegas, 8:05 p.m.
Stockton at Alaska, 9:15 p.m.
#4 Utah seed vs #5 seed Las Vegas
if Utah wins tonight and Las Vegas and Stockton lose or lose in overtime or shootout
#4 seed Utah vs #5 seed Stockton
if Utah wins and Las Vegas loses in regulation and Stockton loses in overtime or shootout
#5 seed Utah vs #4 seed Las Vegas
if Utah wins, Las Vegas wins and Stockton loses in regulation or ot/so
or Utah loses in overtime or shootout and Stockton loses in regulation
#5 Utah seed vs #4 Stockton
if Utah wins, Stockton wins and Las Vegas loses in regulation or ot/so
#6 Utah seed vs #3 seed Alaska
if Utah wins, Las Vegas wins and Stockton wins
#7 Utah seed vs #2 seed Bakersfield
if Utah doesn’t win Saturday
April 2: Game Day
04/02/2010 8:32 AM - Adrian Denny
Now that the Grizzlies have officially clinched a playoff berth, the next focus becomes earning home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Utah can claim a home ice spot tonight with a win, an Alaska win over Stockton and a Las Vegas loss, overtime loss or shootout loss to Ontario. Fortunately, Utah owns the tiebreaker, which is head to head points and wins over both Stockton and Las Vegas should they finish level in the standings. That makes clinching home ice tonight possible with a win and some help from Alaska and Ontario.
Goaltender Mike Morrison will get the start tonight for Utah and will make his Utah debut. It’s a Utah team that is obviously focusing on home-ice, but now having a playoff spot already clinched can use the final two games to rest some guys and do some experimenting for the playoffs.
However for Victoria, things are a little tighter. They need to win tonight or tomorrow to clinch a playoff spot or they just need Vegas to beat the Reign one time tonight or tomorrow. For the Salmon Kings, it has really been a struggle. Not only are they 3-13 in their last 16 games, but they have scored just four goals in their last four games.
Congratulations to former Grizzlies forward Barrett Ehgoetz who was given the ECHL’s sportsmanship award today for the 2009-2010 season. As a rookie, here in 2005-2006, he was always pleasant and great to work with and nothing had changed when I saw him last year at the All-Star game in Reading.
While Utah is on a nice run, here at 4-0-0-1 in their last five and 5-1-1-0 in their last seven, they have given up the first goal early in seven of their last eight games.
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