It’s not every day that a champion comes to town. The Newfoundland Growlers, fresh off last season’s Kelly Cup championship campaign, paid a visit to the Maverik Center for the first ever meeting against the Utah Grizzlies. Leading the league in goals scored with 106 entering Wednesday’s contest, the Growlers feature blazing speed with an uncanny ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Despite Newfoundland’s prowess, however, Utah was undeterred. Playing 60 minutes of disciplined, puck possession hockey, the home team skated to a 3-3 tie. Unfortunately, however, overtime didn’t go the home team’s way as the Growlers’ Joseph Duszak scored as Newfoundland skated to a 4-3 victory.
“That’s a really good hockey team over there and that was a fun challenge for us,” head coach Tim Branham said. “You look to contain a team like that and you aren’t going to shut them down but try to slow them down. Overall I was really happy with the way we played and anything can happen in overtime. A bounce here or there and this could be a different game. These are probably the two best affiliations in the league with the Toronto Mapleleafs and Colorado Avalanche and they emphasize player development and you saw that here tonight.”
Tim McGauley, who is leading the team in assists despite long stretches in the AHL with 11, padded his stats with his fifth goal in the last three games, a beautiful shot off a juicy rebound surrendered by Newfoundland goalie Maksim Zhukov, for a 1-0 lead. Following a pair of Growler goals by Marcus Power and Evan Neugold, Utah forward Griffin Molino showed off his blazing speed with a mesmerizing shorthanded breakaway goal after he was fed the puck up ice courtesy of Teigan Zahn.
“They’ve got experience, speed and ability and know how to put the puck in the back of the net,” Branham said in referring to Molino and McGauley. “We’re lucky we have guys like that and they’re leaders on this team. You can’t say enough for what they mean to our team.”
Utah’s Joe Wegwerth scored the Grizzlies’ goal in the third period to ensure overtime. The two teams will battle again Friday and Saturday night at the Maverik Center.