The battle for 2nd place was on the line in a rare afternoon contest between two of the biggest rivals in the league: The Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies. With each team in possession of 51 points, the question was which club would seize the opportunity to continue its’ climb up the standings ladder in pursuit of the mighty Allen Americans. With the contest knotted at 1-1 after 60 minutes, it was only fitting that the game would end in a shootout. The war of goaltenders would feature Idaho’s veteran star Tomas Sholl against relative newcomer, Utah’s Mason McDonald. To the surprise of no one in the Grizzlies locker room, it was McDonald who would shine brightest, stopping both of Idaho’s attempts. Josh Dickinson and Mitch Maxwell, on the other hand, solved Sholl twice as Utah not only won the game but claimed 2nd place in the standings with a 2-1 victory.
“He’s been rock solid (McDonald) and if he can gain this confidence and keep it going, we have two number one goalies,” head coach Tim Branham. “Really proud of him and he’s great on breakaways and shootouts and you can see his confidence growing and growing.”
Grizzlies forward Garrett Klotz used all of his 6’6, 260 pound frame to muscle his way into the crease and fire a top shelf shot that found its way into the back of the net. It was a rare goal surrendered by Idaho’s Tomas Sholl, who has only surrendered five goals in four contests against Utah, and provided the Grizzlies with an early lead. Moments later, however, Utah had an unfortunate turnover in its’ defensive zone, as Steelhead A.J. White promptly deposited the puck to tie the contest.
With usual starting goalie Martin Ouellette currently on loan to the Providence Bruins, McDonald has now had his number called upon in three straight contests and he hasn’t lost one. And with the Allen Americans heading to town on Friday and Saturday, the Grizzlies confidence is soaring.
“I have a lot of confidence and I’m seeing the puck well and guys are playing well in front of me,” McDonald said. “We’re going to bring our best game. It’s an 8 point swing and hopefully the swing will go in our direction.”
“They (Allen) have so many great players with speed and skill and we’re going to need to be on our A game against them,” Branham said.