Plenty of fresh new faces along with seasoned veterans amassed onto the ice as the long anticipated 2019-20 version of the Utah Grizzlies made its season debut. Staring across from them was none other than their long standing rival: the Idaho Steelheads. With Taylor Richart donning the captain “C” on his brand new white jersey and leading the charge, Utah did a lot of positive things but nonetheless began its’ campaign with a 3-2 loss as game one of 72 is now officially in the books.
“We learned how to play together tonight,” head coach Tim Branham said. “Definitely a positive was as the game got on we got better up the ice and we’ve got to learn from that. It’s a marathon and not a sprint and we’ll build on it. I like our team right now and we’ve got guys that want to work hard and get better and you can do a lot of things with that.”
The home team was staring at a two goal deficit with 20 minutes to go but Yuri Tereo would provide the fans with hope, cutting the deficit to a lone goal just two minutes into the session. And for the second time of the evening, Utah’s defense, and especially goalie Hunter Miska, fought of a sustained five-on-three power play. However, Idaho’s lead would hold up as the final buzzer sounded.
As each team was getting a feel for one another, returning Utah forward Josh Dickinson was relegated to the penalty box for interference and Idaho seized upon its first power play of the year. Miska, who spent the majority of last season with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL, faced a plethora of shots and eventually relinquished a goal to Steelhead Zack Andrusiak. Moments later, Idaho’s Brett Supinski made it 2-0 as Idaho dominated the latter stages of the first period, at one point outshooting Utah 12-0.
Things were looking bleak in the second when consecutive penalties to Utah resulted in a five-on-three 3 extended power play for the visitors. However, Miska flashed stick, leather and pad and gave Grizzlie fans a glimpse of what they have in net, holding Idaho at bay.
Utah would fight back with a power play goal of their own as Travis Barron snuck a puck through the pads of long time Grizzlie nemesis: Idaho goaltender Tomas Sholl for Utah’s first goal of the season. That would be erased, however, once Anthony Ellis found open ice for a relatively easy goal to increase Idaho’s lead back to two.
All in all, it ended on a positive note and the home team provided the fans with a foundation they can build on as a unit.
“We started a little slow and tried to do too much early,” Richart said. “In the third, though, we showed what we’re capable of and of our confidence in one another. We just need to play that way the whole game. Every guy on this team can make plays and has skill. We just need to get that grittiness.”