Herbert Shines at Branham Breaks Record in Season Opener
With a brand new affiliate in the Colorado Avalanche, expectations are sky high for the Utah Grizzlies and the home team did anything but disappoint in its home opener against the Rapid City Rush. Wasting no time in declaring that a new season has begun, Grizzlies forward Josh Winquist blistered Utah’s first shot on net of the year past a surprised Rapid City goalie in Tyler Parks for an early 1-0 lead. Utah revved its’ engines from there and skated to an impressive 4-2 victory. More importantly, the victory gave head coach Tim Branham the record for wins for the franchise with 178.
“It’s a great honor and I owe a lot to the players and organization for sticking with me,” Branham said. “I’m proud of the way the boys played tonight and I thought we pushed the pace well. It was a good start to the season and the boys have a lot of confidence going forward.”
The Grizzlies trade of Michael Pelech and Travis Howe to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for Caleb Herbert has already paid early dividends. A pair of successful power plays ensued as Herbert scored not once but twice, including an assist on the Winquist goal and the Grizzlies were firing at full throttle. At the end of one period, it was Utah 3, Rapid City 1.
“It was nice to get off on the right foot in front of our fans and I want to congratulate coach as well,” Herbert said. “Our fans brought the energy and we gave 100% effort and we need to continue to build on it. We need to keep our foot on the gas and we will.
The second period and third periods belonged to goalie Joe Cannata as the former Colorado Eagle, who led his club to last year’s Kelly Cup championship, demonstrated why he is one of the top goalies in the league. Cannata denied several Rush scoring opportunities, including nullifying two Rush power plays in the period. Cannata would continue to stand on his head throughout the game as one goal in the first session was all that Rapid City could muster until the game was already out of reach in the waning moments of the third period.
The two Rapid City goals were registered by Adam Marsh and Shaquille Merasty. Utah would put an exclamation point on the night with an empty-netter lodged by Tim McGauley.
“I have high expectations for this group. We have a high powered offense that is creative and we just need to clean up a few things defensively but it was a good start,” Branham said.