The “moose” is officially loose. Utah Grizzlie defenseman Gage Ausmus, known affectionately as the “moose” by his teammates, has been an integral part of the Grizzlies success this season. Yet, for all his defensive prowess, he had yet to record a goal. That would change as the home team squared off against the visiting Kansas City Mavericks. And what a time Ausmus picked to shine. Following 60 minutes of hockey, the score was deadlocked at 3-3. With precious seconds remaining in the three-on-three overtime, it appeared the game would head to a shootout. However, Ausmus gathered a pass from Mike Economus, wound, and fired the game winner, sending the crowd of 5,745 home happy to bask in a 4-3 victory.
“I thought we deserved to win that game,” Ausmus said. “We’re playing really good hockey right now and it’s fun to come to the rink. We get along great as a group and you’re going to play better hockey when you have that mindset.”
Following a clunker of a first period, Utah sprung to life in the second. As new pieces such as Will Smith and Joseph Mizzi started to gel, defenseman Turner Ottenbreit received a cross-ice pass from Josh Dickinson and deposited the puck into the back of the net. And it was just a matter of time, considering how talented he is, for Grayson Downing to capture his first goal in a Grizzlie uniform. But Downing wasn’t finished just yet. The forward made a beautiful pass to Ryan Walters who fired past a surprised goaltender in Mason McDonald to tie the game. Walters has been on a tear recently, registering now seven goals in his last six games.
“I haven’t been shooting enough so I decided to just close my eyes and put it on net and luckily it was a pretty good shot,” Downing said. “We’ve got a great group of guys and winning is fun. I don’t know what’s in the water for us coming up but it’s great to be in this winning atmosphere.”
Kansas City’s high powered offense was in full force as the Grizzlies played most of the game down a goal or tied. The Mavericks lodged goals by three different players: Jared Van Wormer, Nate Widman and Greg Betzold. But it wasn’t enough for the visitors as Utah’s only lead of the night came on Ausmus’ game winner.
“We’re playing pretty short-handed but at the end of the day no matter who is in or out of our lineup, we find a way to come through,” head coach Tim Branham said. “At the end of the day it was a great team effort to get the two points.”