67 minutes wasn’t enough to decide the rubber match of the three game set between the Utah Grizzlies and Florida Everblades. As the contest turned ultimately to a shootout, that’s when Mason McDonald, Utah’s keeper, saved his best for last, brushing aside all three Everblade attempts and setting the stage for Brandon Saigeon. Following Friday night’s two goal effort and already having captured the tying goal to force the extra session, the forward bobbed and weaved and fired past the outstretched gloves of Florida goalie Ken Appleby, much to the delight of the 4,108 fans in attendance, sealing a 5-4 Grizzlies victory and capturing two of three games against the mighty Everblades.
“Even when they scored in the third we kept the pressure on and didn’t give up and it paid off,” Saigeon said. “It’s been a good weekend for the team and myself included. The focus is on getting wins and if we put our head down and go to work, we’ll get the results we want.”
The Grizzlies outshot Florida by a 14-9 margin in the first period but had nothing to show for their efforts. Conversely, the Everblades recorded a power play goal off the stick of Logan Roe. The second period, however, belonged entirely to the Grizzlies as two relative newcomers, Joe Wegwerth and Jake Jackson, captured a 2-1 lead for Utah.
As good teams are apt to do, however, Florida made its push in the third. In what became a scoring frenzy, Roe scored his second goal of the night, and that was followed up by Hugo Roy’s effort as the Everblades seized momentum. However, the Grizzlies fought back from a one goal deficit twice, refusing to give up. Utah forward Jack Jenkins scored his first goal in a Grizzlies jersey and after Adam Smith recaptured the lead for Florida, Saigeon ensured that 60 minutes of hockey wasn’t quite enough as the score was deadlocked at 4-4.
“It’s a resilient group and Florida is a good hockey team,” head coach Tim Branham said. “The unbelievable job these players have done stepping into these roles, you have to give them all the credit. They’re the ones listening and paying attention on short notice and I can’t say enough about how proud I am of this group and of them battling back.”