December 31 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/31/2010 8:33 AM - Adrian Denny
A win tonight gives Utah their best calendar year to start a season since joining the ECHL and breaks their current tie with 2005-2006 when they had 19 wins through the 2005 portion of the schedule.
Special teams for the Grizzlies this season have also been the best since joining the ECHL. While Utah is again leading the league on the power-play, their penalty kill has climbed all the way to third in the league as they have really tightened up at home. In their last six home games, in which they have gone 4-2, Utah has gone 25 for their last 26 on the penalty-kill with the only goal allowed in that stretch coming in a five-on-three situation.
In the last meeting between Utah and Victoria, Utah went 3-7 on the power-play and 5-5 on the penalty-kill on December 18.
Simon Ferguson is starting to add up the points for the Grizzlies. The veteran has three goals and one assist in his last four games. Tim Crowder looks for a goal in three-straight games for the second time in a month tonight.
The Grizzlies have also controlled the opposition's end at home, by tallying 39 shots or more in four of their last five games and allowing 24 shots or less in three-straight home games.
Utah has scored nine goals or more in regulation in the last two games for the third time this year. (October 23,27: 9) (November 27,28: 10).
December 29 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/29/2010 9:02 AM - Adrian Denny
Three more assists for Kevin Deeth Monday in Las Vegas gave the rookie three three-point nights in the last six games.
The five-foot-seven rookie out of Notre Dame, who was released by the ECHL’s Florida Everblades before playing in a professional game, has three goals and eight assists in his last seven games and has four goals and 14 assists in his last 18 games after being scratched in two-straight games November 10 and 12 after five games with the Grizzlies. Deeth has been an even or better in ten-straight games and has just one minus game in one of Utah’s last 18. Despite not playing until the third week of the year, he ranks ninth in the league in rookie scoring and fifth among rookies in assists. He has also been getting some big power-play time as well and contributing there too over the last few weeks with two goals and four assists.
Utah has played Bakersfield more than any other team as the Grizzlies and Condors meet for the eighth time this season tonight. Utah is 5-2 against them overall and has outscored them 10-6 on special teams. However, the Condors are red hot and have won six-straight games. After tonight, the two teams who met in seven of Utah’s first 19 games won’t see each other until the last two games of the season.
It’s an important week in the conference, with everyone busy in action. Utah plays three opponents and four games in six nights this week.
December 27 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/26/2010 9:11 PM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies reconvened with a 9 p.m. practice Sunday evening at the Orleans Arena, just minutes after the Las Vegas Wranglers fell 6-5 in overtime in pure craziness in Ontario.
Las Vegas returned home just about 24 hours prior to this evening’s face-off.
The Grizzlies had seven of their 19 skaters on the bus Sunday coming to Las Vegas, with the other 12 meeting the team at the Orleans from their Christmas Break.
In between five-straight home games and three more after this Midnight Spectacular, the Grizzlies play the only one of their current nine games and just one in a stretch of 11 of 14 games at home from December 2-January 1.
Utah has won five-straight games to start a road trip and is 5-0-1-0 this year on the first game away from home. The Grizzlies and Wranglers went past regulation in two-straight games, with each team winning one, in the only previous Orleans Arena meetings between the two November 5 and 6. Utah handed Las Vegas their first two regulation losses in a row since October December 15 and 17 at Maverik Center with 4-2 and 4-1 wins.
The Wranglers don’t have a noticeable advantage the last four years playing their midnight games, winning just one of the last four and that was last year’s 3-1 win over Las Vegas as they have gone 1-2-0-1 in that stretch.
The Grizzlies have drawn the midnight special for the first time in six years of being in the ECHL, having never faced-off after 8:30 p.m. local time or before 10:30 a.m. if you look at it from the other end of the calendar.
December 22 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/22/2010 10:15 AM - Adrian Denny
Utah looks to make it a 4-1 home stand tonight as they aim to go 4-1 against Idaho.
The Grizzlies and Steelheads have begun a busy stretch against each other that will consist of seven games between yesterday and December 22.
The difference between Utah and Idaho this year has been the Grizzlies ability to pull out close wins against Idaho. Three of four games have been tied going to the third period and Utah has won all three one-goal games this season between the two teams.
The Grizzlies team has been successful without the definition of a superstar and that’s what has been the formula for their success. They are a true team and on any given night you never know who will make a big play or get a big goal. Last night the passion and will from this hockey club resonated through the building as the team held together and got a hard earned two points.
For the first time since joining the ECHL, the Grizzlies have a steady group of rookies, not just one or two in on all the action. Marcus Carroll, Chris Donovan and Kevin Deeth all are on the leader-board for ECHL rookies.
In a clash of three of the best seven special teams units in the league on both the power-play and penalty-kill, Utah has proved dominant. The Grizzlies in the last two games against Victoria and Idaho have gone five-for-eleven on the power-play and eight for eight on the penalty-kill in those stretches.
December 21 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/21/2010 8:20 AM - Adrian Denny
Prior to opening the season series with Idaho October 27 in Boise, Grizzlies fans knew very little about Andrew Engelage.
J.P. Lamoureux had started Utah’s first four games and had been all as previously advertised leading Utah to a 2-1-1-0 start. Engelage gave Lamoureux a night off Wednesday, October 27 and stopped 41 of 44 shots and all five in a shootout to give Utah a 4-3 win in his Grizzlies debut. The next day Lamoureux was called up to the AHL and Engelage ended up starting eight-straight more games including the final two of that series. Engelage went 2-1 overall in his first series with Utah and stopped 107 of 115 shots. The 2009 Memorial Cup Champion went on to finish the season-long eight-game road trip 5-2-0-1 for Utah.
That stretch, which started against Idaho, showed that for the first time in several years, the Grizzlies have two solid number-one goaltenders, not a starting goaltender and a backup or no clear starter.
Grizzlies goaltending, be it Engelage or Lamoureux this year has been first class. The two have combined to allow three goals or less in ten of Utah’s last 12 games and in 19 of 26 total games this year. Soft goals have not been something in the vocabulary of this year’s opposition.
Both goaltenders will probably be fulltime in the AHL after this year and both have the tools and mental breakdown to make it to the level beyond that. For Engelage, he is playing this year for an AHL or NHL contract, much like Nathan Lawson was in 2007-2008 when Utah claimed him off of waivers Thanksgiving weekend from the last place Phoenix RoadRunners and he helped lead Utah to the conference finals.
The next year, Nathan earned a contract from the Islanders and last Saturday made his NHL debut in the Islanders 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix. Nate’s NHL bio currently consists of a .910 save percentage and a 2.77 goals-against-average. He joins fellow Utah teammate from the 07-08 conference finals run, Andrew MacDonald, on the island.
December 18 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/18/2010 10:48 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies play their final opponent on the Western Conference schedule for the first time in Victoria, whom they will now host in three of their next six home games.
Last year, these two teams didn’t always take advantage of the 60 minutes allotted to them in regulation. Five out of eleven games, including five-straight contests from December 31-February 17, when to shootouts. Two other games were decided by one goal, making seven of the 11 overall contests in a dead heat going down the stretch.
The Grizzlies are looking for their second undefeated week in the last four after beating Las Vegas Wednesday 4-2 and last night 4-1. Utah went 4-0 November 24-28 in California. Like in California, the Grizzlies have been consistent in their formula for success. Utah has built 2-0 leads in the last two games with two goals less than six minutes apart.
Victoria arrived in Utah today, by plane, after battling back to tie in the final minute last night in Boise and then winning in a shootout. Former Grizzlies Peter Vandermeer and Gord Burnett (2006-2007) scored in the game for the Salmon Kings.
December 17 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/17/2010 7:47 AM - Adrian Denny
While Utah’s power-play has taken the special teams spotlight this year as they currently sit just .2-percent off of the league lead and have scored on the power-play in nine of their last ten games; the Grizzlies penalty-kill has moved to sixth in the league.
Utah has not allowed a power-play goal in three of their last five games and has gone 26 for their last 28 (92.8-percent) on the penalty-kill during that stretch.
Meanwhile, Utah has had success against Las Vegas’ PK, which remains in the league’s top spot. Utah is converting at a 21-percent rate on the power-play against the Wranglers by going four for 21 in four games. The Grizzlies have reloaded this year on the power-play with 14 total players having tallied at least two power-play points.
Special teams in the ECHL are usually transferable with teams successful on the power-play usually near the top on the penalty-kill as well. Idaho, Utah, Florida and Victoria all rank in the top six in both departments this year.
Quirky stats on the line tonight for the Grizzlies: They look to score four goals in regulation in two-straight games for the first time this year and they also look to avoid a one-goal game in two-straight games for the third time this year. Utah is also 6-1 and has won five-straight games this season when scoring two goals or more in the first period.
December 15 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/15/2010 8:20 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies will look to continue their Wednesday success tonight as they return home for three-straight Wednesday games. Utah is 3-0 on Wednesday nights this year.
Utah has also had success this year when returning to action to start a week, going 5-2-1-0 on three days or more rest.
Games for Utah have been close lately, with five-straight contests being decided by a goal. 17 of Utah’s 23 games this year have been decided by a single score.
In three games this season between Utah and Las Vegas, the winning team has been the one that has fallen behind 1-0 in the first period in each game.
Tim Crowder leads Utah with three goals and two assists against Las Vegas, scoring in all three games between the two teams.
The Grizzlies have again had another essential piece go on IR, this time captain Jake Gannon was placed on 21-day IR Monday, two games after returning from the AHL. Veteran Brent Gauvreau with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 14 games has missed six-straight games. Paul Crowder with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 games has missed 10-straight games. Six-foot-eight enforcer Riley Emmerson has missed five-straight games entering tonight.
December 11 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/11/2010 9:06 AM - Adrian Denny
It’s natural, that Utah who has three more road wins than any other team in the league, would seem to step up their game another notch on days that travel is actually combined with a game day.
Utah is 2-0 this year and 5-0 over the last two seasons when playing on a travel day. Today they caught an early morning flight to Sacramento and bussed the hour or so to Stockton. The economical flight fares allowed Utah to avoid an overnight bus ride and actually might give them a travel advantage over their opponent tonight in Stockton. The Thunder bussed to Bakersfield yesterday, lost 5-2 to the Condors and then bussed the four hours back home, arriving in the middle of the night.
J.P. Lamoureux, who shutout Utah five total times in 2008-2009 with Alaska, got his first shutout as a Utah goalie last night for his 11th professional regular season shutout in just over two years.
The hottest offensive player now for Utah is Simon Ferguson, who has two goals and two assists in his last four games. All three of his goals this year have come on the power-play.
The unsung hero last night for the Grizzlies was five-foot-seven Kevin Deeth, who led Utah with five shots on net and never ran out of energy as Ontario chased him around, deep in their own end, all night long.
The Utah penalty-kill is about as hot as it’s been all year by going nine for their last nine and 22 for their last 24. Though, that number may be skewed by the fact that three of those four games were played against Ontario.
December 10 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/10/2010 11:30 AM - Adrian Denny
Back in California, the Grizzlies look for another strong California weekend where they have won five-straight games and six of their last seven.
With Ontario taking two from the Grizzlies last weekend, the old cliché “it’s tough to beat a team three-straight games” comes into effect. In addition, the Western Conference road dominance theorem reappears. While Ontario won two-straight games in Utah last weekend, they returned home and fell 7-3 to Las Vegas Wednesday night here, allowing two goals in the first three minutes.
The ECHL Western Conference standings are again becoming crazy with six of eight teams separated by five points.
Utah will add the leadership of captain Jake Gannon back tonight as he has joined the team in California from his AHL call-up in Peoria. The Grizzlies have been a little light on their leaders lately with not only Gannon, but Brent Gauvreau, Riley Emmerson and Paul Crowder absent from the lineup in addition to the Ric Jackman departure last week.
J.P. Lamoureux goes back between the pipes tonight for Utah who goes back to the goalie who allowed nine goals in four games two weeks ago in California.
December 3 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/04/2010 10:38 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies long awaited acquisition of Nick Tuzzolino has paid dividends as the six-foot-five Buffalo, New York native has more than contributed in every area.
Tuzzolino along with Chris Donovan, led Utah last night with five shots on net as he extended his team season-high scoring streak to six games with an assist on Utah’s first goal. He has one goal and seven assists during this current stretch and is ranked eighth among league defensemen in scoring with three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 18 total games.
On the backend, Tuzzolino had his stretch of 14-straight games with an even or better snapped with a rare minus-one last evening. Overall, he leads Utah with a plus-seven in 15 games.
Utah acquired Tuzzolino from Wheeling for “future considerations” in late October. The futures was Utah writing Wheeling a small check for the much coveted d-men who has more than lived up to the previous hype.
The time he spent with NHL veteran Ric Jackman was definitely well absorbed and I wonder how much credit there can be given to his added success and progression lately.
It took Utah 20 games into the season before they finally lost three-straight games, tonight they look to rebound at home with a big win as even so, they still hold the lead in the conference standings.
December 3 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/03/2010 8:44 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies meet Ontario for the first time since Utah’s 7-3 win Sunday in California as the Grizzlies continue a stretch of four of five games against the Reign.
These two teams are usually pretty close to the vest and don’t get involved in too many high scoring affairs. However, when they actually play each other, things have tended to get a little crazy. In seven of their last nine games and nine out of 14 games in their history, the winning team has had at least five goals.
As far as Utah getting off to a 1-3-1-0 start at home, it's probably not anything to panic over. Last year, they started 1-3 at home and quickly bounced back with a five-game home winning streak and an overall home record of 20-12-4.
The Grizzlies claimed the number one power-play spot in the league last night, despite dropping their percentage with a modest one-for-six. The jump comes after previous leading Idaho went 0-3 on the power-play in Thursday’s 2-1 win against Alaska.
As reigning ECHL Player of the Week, Brett Parnham continued to stay hot with another early goal last night as him and his linemates continued to pour offense towards the opposition’s net. Parnham led the Grizzlies with seven shots while Brad Snetsinger had six and Simon Ferguson added four. Snetsinger ranks fourth in the league overall with 75 shots in 19 games.
Utah is excited to get fiery rookie Chris Donovan back in the lineup tonight after he missed last night’s game on an ECHL suspension. It will also be the second night back for defensemen Matt Sorteberg and Brian Kilburg who made their season debuts last night after preseason injuries.
December 2 Blog Entry: Game Day
12/02/2010 8:05 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies and Wranglers meet tonight in a battle of the top two winning percentages in the Western Conference. The clash also features Utah’s second ranked ECHL power-play and the Wranglers penalty-kill which has allowed just four power-play goals all season, two of which came to Utah.
The two special teams units collide at a time where the Grizzlies went five-for-seven on the power-play Sunday, while the Wranglers have killed 18 of their last 19 shorthanded situations to run their PK percentage to 93.8.
Utah improved their power-play percentage by almost seven percentage points in four games last week, rising from eighth in the league at 17.8-percent to 24.4-percent. The two teams, who went the maximum five games in the first round of the playoffs last year, have picked up where they left off in 2010-2011 as far as going down to the wire. Utah and Las Vegas went past regulation in their first two meetings of the year at the Orleans Arena on November 5 and 6. Utah won in overtime 3-2 on November 5 while the Wranglers won 4-3 in a shootout the next night. In both games, the team that scored first and led 1-0 after one period lost and the winner scored two goals in less than a minute to erase that deficit in the second period.
Tonight starts a stretch of four total December games between Utah and Las Vegas who will meet 11 times on the season. Las Vegas comes to West Valley City seven times, including December 17 and 18 as well.