Summer Blog Entry: April 29
04/29/2011 9:17 AM - Adam Turner
For the Grizzlies, the second round of the playoffs couldn’t have been more heartbreaking, with two overtime losses to finish the series against Victoria.
Not to mention, losing the first two games which were within a goal in the third period, as Utah also grabbed the first goal in the final three games of the series.
Well what goes around is now coming around for the Victoria Salmon Kings, who have perhaps opened the conference finals with two even more devastating losses.
Wednesday, the Aces scored with five seconds left in the first to make it 1-0 and again with nine seconds left in the third period to avoid overtime and take a 2-1 lead.
Last night, Alaska won 4-3 in overtime, after each team was unable to hold at least one one-goal lead. Victoria outshot the Aces 3-1 in the first 2:15 of overtime before the Chris Langkow game-winner.
Watching San Jose beat Los Angeles three times in overtime was probably the closest comparison to an NHL first round series, especially with San Jose coming back from down 4-0 in game three.
The NHL saw 14 overtime games in the first round, including three game sixes and two game sevens. 12 of the final 24 first round games went past regulation as things intensified going down the stretch.
April 22 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/22/2011 8:14 AM - Adam Turner
The Grizzlies find themselves in an 0-3 hole, as right now the goal is to extend the series to Saturday.
Grizzlies Head Coach Kevin Colley placed an early morning call to Rochester Americans Head Coach Chuck Weber yesterday. Weber, the former Utah Assistant Coach and Cincinnati Cyclones Head Coach was the architect last year when the Cyclones came back from an 0-3 series deficit to defeat Reading in the conference finals. They were the first ECHL team ever to come back down 0-3 to win a series. Cincinnati had been outscored a combined 12-5 in the first three games last year.
Last year, down by three goals and down 0-3 in game four, the Philadelphia Flyers started their comeback and upset Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
This year, Utah uses the Chicago Blackhawks as an example. The defending Stanley Cup Champs now trail three games to two after outscoring the Canucks 12-2 in the last two games.
As Utah looks to get their first win in the series, Colley is breaking the game into 12 five-minute increments with the first emphasis on winning the first five minutes.
Everyone I have talked to in Victoria has admitted that this series could be 3-0 Utah or 2-1 either side as well at this point. Tonight, Utah looks to eliminate all of the could’s and extend their series one day at a time, five minutes at a time.
April 20 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/20/2011 10:27 AM - Adam Turner
The Grizzlies hit the road for Canada looking to get back in this series. Road teams have been very successful throughout the ECHL playoffs.
Overall, ECHL road teams are 22-15 overall in the playoffs thus far, 5-3 in the second round and 5-1 in the second round outside games played in Alaska.
In the NHL, road teams this week are 5-1 since Monday after a 4-0 performance on Monday night. Overall, in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs road teams are 12-13.
Utah and Victoria, who are both undefeated on the road in the playoffs, were both more successful on the road during the regular season. Utah won 19 times on the road and 14 at home, while Victoria won 17 times on the road and 15 times at home. In fact, five of the eight Western Conference teams won more on the road than at home. Only two ECHL Eastern conference teams out of 11 won more on the road than at home.
Another stat was brought up by an NHL color commentator this week which also applies to the ECHL and the Grizzlies. 20 of the 25 winning teams in NHL games this playoff season have scored three goals or more. 19 of the 25 losing teams have scored two goals or less. In the ECHL, 26 of the 37 winning teams have scored three goals or more, while 29 of the 37 losing teams have scored two goal or less. Utah is 3-0 when scoring three goals or more and 0-3 when scoring two goals or less.
A strange set of circumstances today in Victoria as this ECHL playoff series takes a complete backseat in the city’s hockey mind. A press conference took place during Utah’s morning skate today announcing that Salmon Kings ownership has purchased a WHL team that will start playing here next season. Definitely interesting timing for an announcement and Victoria’s ECHL players have asked for fan support as they look for a championship in perhaps their final season in existence.
April 16 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/16/2011 9:30 AM - Adam Turner
Last night saw four combined goals in the first 24:04 before things settled down the rest of the way with Utah getting a goal and the Salmon Kings just an empty-netter to finish things off.
With only 51 combined shots in the game, the opportunistic Salmon Kings took advantage of all of their chances while Utah despite getting 19 quality scoring chances to Victoria’s 13, just missed on several chances throughout the evening.
Utah’s power-play in the playoffs continues to be the story. Utah is six-for-11 on the one-man advantage at home and has scored on now 42.1-percent of their chances overall. The Grizzlies have two power-play goals each in their first three playoff home games.
The play of rookie Matt Reber, who has now scored in all six of his games as a pro continues as well. Reber has factored in on nine of Utah’s 18 playoff goals, eight of his points have come on special teams. He leads ECHL rookies as well in shooting percentage with three goals on nine shots. He is two games away from tying Utah’s season-high for a scoring streak set by Tom May in January-February.
Utah has helped out J.P. Lamoureux by allowing 30 shots or less in three-straight and 25 or less in two-straight after they surrendered 42 shots or more in two of his first three games back.
The Grizzlies look to avoid dropping two-straight at home to Victoria for the first time since November 10-12 of 2007, when they dropped a pair of low-scoring 2-1 and 1-0 decisions to the Salmon Kings.
April 15 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/14/2011 3:12 PM - Adam Turner
After a full week of rest and preparation, the Grizzlies resume the playoffs tonight against Victoria.
For Utah, four days rest is the most that they have had since February 27-March 5, a rare occurrence for a team who enjoyed their longest downtime in over a month. It’s a Utah team that looks to continue their success in Stockton and a Victoria team looking to build on their “upset” of Bakersfield. Both teams have proven that they can win on the road and defeat anyone in the ECHL, now it comes down to a seven-game, 13-day series to see who will advance to the conference finals.
While Utah was able to make a mad dash out of California after Sunday’s game, the Salmon Kings left Bakersfield right after their overtime win over the Condors Saturday and were back in Canada by early Sunday afternoon.
Since joining the ECHL, Utah is 4-0 in a series when winning the first game. Thursday, as they did on the day before the Stockton series, the Grizzlies practiced, took a lunch break and then came back to the arena for meetings and final preparations. The Grizzlies really gave the coaching staff credit for having them ready to go for the Stockton series in a recent Salt Lake Tribune article.
While half of the Western Conference, or the entire Pacific Division, is now gone for the summer, Utah, Victoria, Alaska and Idaho look to get to work on another two week free pass to summer by winning this best-of-seven and moving into the conference finals. All four remaining teams are from the Mountain Division.
April 9 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/10/2011 9:26 AM - Adam Turner
Putting the cart ahead of the horse, the winner of this series will have home ice advantage against the Victoria Salmon Kings in the second round.
Victoria as a seven seed upset the Pacific Division Champion Bakersfield Condors, finishing with a three-two overtime win last night.
Back to the task at hand, this series has definitely been a typical hockey playoff series with some added quirks. The team that has scored first has lost the first three games. Stockton has scored first on their first shot in the first 1:19 each time that they have lost.
Getting more typical, the combined margin of the three games at the second intermission has been two goals and there have been three combined third period ties. Utah has extended the winning margin each victory with an empty-net goal.
No one in the ECHL has done what Simon Ferguson has done this week. The Utah captain has been a part of nine of 11 Utah’s total goals and leads the league with three goals and six assists.
April 9 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/09/2011 11:20 AM - Adam Turner
Utah was tied for second in the Western Conference with 19 wins on the road during the 2010-2011 season and tonight they look to carry that into the post-season.
During the regular season, Utah won one more on the road than the 18 that Stockton won at home as the best-of-five series shifts to California for the remaining games.
Utah has outscored Stockton seven-five and led for 84:57 of the 123:54 minutes played and only trailed for 14:46 in two games thus far. Utah has come out strong in the first periods outshooting the Thunder 32-19 and outscoring them 4-1 in the opening frame.
The Grizzlies also want to keep up their #1 ranking in both special teams departments. Utah’s power-play leads the league at 44-percent, by going four-for-nine and the penalty-kill is ranked number one at five-for-five.
Simon Ferguson continues to lead the ECHL in playoff scoring with five points on two goals and three assists. Paul McIlveen leads the league with four assists.
Utah arrived in Stockton at 8 a.m. Friday and practiced Friday afternoon at the Stockton practice rink before having a team dinner to get ready for the rest of the series while also celebrating Matt Clarke’s 23rd birthday which was also Friday.
April 6 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/06/2011 10:37 AM - Adam Turner
Utah looks for a duplicate effort this evening in game two, against a Stockton team that will be satisfied by splitting the first two games of this series on the road.
The Grizzlies got a well rounded effort last night from their experience and also from their younger players. Simon Ferguson’s two goals and two assists in his 43rd career playoff game give him three goals and five assists in eight career ECHL playoff games. Paul McIlveen, who had two goals and ten assists with Elmira in 11 games during the 2008-2009 post-season and played in 14 games with South Carolina in 07-08 during his rookie season totaling three goals; had three assists last night for the Grizzlies. Rookie Matt Reber, is the only Utah player to have scored in the last two games, both of his points last night came on the power-play.
J.P. Lamoureux, who went 15-5-1-0 in the 09 post-season with Alaska, also obviously improved to 1-0 with the win. He has now stopped 131 of the last 134 shots that he has seen at home and won four-straight at Maverik Center.
While these two teams will be playing back-to-back tonight, this evening’s referee TJ Luxmore may need a little longer pre-game nap today. He officiated last night’s double-overtime affair in Las Vegas that was won by the Wranglers over Idaho on a Ryan Huddy goal with 2:16 left in the fifth period.
April 5 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/05/2011 10:07 AM - Adam Turner
Maybe for the first time this year, the schedule has benefitted the Utah Grizzlies.
Despite not having home ice advantage in the series, Utah finished the season at home and starts the playoffs at home. This obviously keeps the team fresh by not having to travel for over a week. In addition, it gives the Utah coaching staff 100-percent of the time to prepare for the Stockton Thunder. While, they essentially have the same resources on the road as at home, working in the office is much better than a mobile hotel room or room in an arena on the road. There’s more copy machines, more computers, more television monitors and it’s just easier to be in your comfort zone with those items at your finger tips and not have to waste time adapting to new resources.
Stockton has been on the road since Thursday and came to Utah from Las Vegas on Sunday.
With the addition of Samson Mahbod and Matt Reber Friday, Utah has added two skilled forwards in the last four days to their top six. Mahbod had a great junior career and rookie season and from what I’ve heard was not setup to succeed with the way he was used in Cincinnati to finish the season.
Brian Kilburg, Chris Donovan and Tom May will open the playoffs on injured-reserve.
April 2 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/02/2011 8:40 AM - Adam Turner
A similar offensive effort tonight will once again give the Grizzlies a chance by even the law of averages after Utah racked up 40 shots on Bakersfield goaltender Brian Stewart Friday.
Five players had four shots or more, led by Shea Guthrie’s 6, Paul McIlveen’s and Simon Ferguson’s 5. Hugo Carpentier and Brett Parnham also had four shots on goal.
Carpentier continues to be the hottest active Utah player offensively with a goal in two-straight games and four goals and two assists in his last nine games.
If J.P. Lamoureux gets the start tonight for Utah, he will be carrying in a home shutout streak of 159:07 going back to December. He shutout Victoria in back-to-back games here December 31 and January 1 and shutout Idaho for the final 39:07 of his action on December 22.
Today’s random stats for the day: Utah has won three-straight regular season finales and has won four-straight Saturday night games against Bakersfield, including three-straight this season.
April 1 Blog Entry: Game Day
04/01/2011 11:30 AM - Adam Turner
The Grizzlies are trying to get healthy headed into the final weekend of the year. Paul McIlveen and Dave Schulz are expected to return tonight after Brian Kilburg joined the Grizzlies in Idaho.
McIlveen will be a welcome site to the power-play as four of his eight points with Utah have come on special teams. He also has a five-game scoring streak entering tonight. Schulz returns for the first time since March 4 after missing 13-straight games.
J.P. Lamoureux is not expected to get the start tonight as he arrives in Utah this afternoon. Matt Reber, who signed an ATO today, also returns.
Utah has finished strong at home the last three years by going 5-2-1-0 in their final home stands. They went 2-0-1-0 last year in their final home stand of the year which was against Bakersfield.
The Grizzlies haven’t seen the Condors since December 29 and before that since November 27. Utah got a lot of Bakersfield early, and played seven of their first 18 games against the Condors. At one point this year, Utah had played five games in Bakersfield and four in Utah.