When you’re riding a hot streak such as the one the Utah Grizzlies are currently on, you can’t play often enough. Good thing, then, that the Grizzlies are kicking off a brand new decade with three games in as many nights. Having accrued standing points in 11 of 12 games played during the month of December and fresh off a sweep of the Tulsa Oilers, the Grizzlies welcomed the Rapid City Rush to the Maverik Center. Utah kicked the decade off right where they left off, skating to a 6-1 victory.
“We’re finiding ways to win and that’s the important thing,” head coach Tim Branham said. “We’ve won so many games recently that you tend to come out a little nonchalant. But we’re learning lessons while we’re winning and it’s a confident group that wants to do well.”
It was anyone’s contest as the third period began with the Grizzlies clinging to a 2-1 lead, but Utah would blow the roof off yet again. Ty Lewis and Travis Barron would ensure that any thought of a Rapid City comeback would be put to bed immediately. The goals were lodged a scant 30 seconds apart in a scene that was eerily akin to Monday night’s game against the Tulsa Oilers in which Utah blazed the nets three times in less than a minute.
Then, Tim McGauley and Mitch Maxwell would put the finishing touches on yet another Grizzlies masterpiece with a pair of late goals in the game’s final five minutes.
In a scoreless game as the second period got underway, the Rush committed a trio of penalties that allowed the Grizzlies to mount a sustained five-on-three attack. It’s just what the doctor ordered. A duo of defenseman for the Grizzlie, captain Taylor Richart and Eric Williams each fired deep lasers to capture a 2-0 lead for Utah.
In a first period that was played almost entirely in the Grizzlies defensive zone, the ECHL’s goaltender of the month, Martin Ouellette, validated that award and then some, flashing pads, stick, and glove to hold the Rush attack at bay.
“Martin has been unreal,” Richart said. “He’s so steady and calm and he makes the game easier. We have a lot of confidence in him and he brings it every night.”
Truly we are witnessing a special collection of heart and talent in this year’s version of the Utah Grizzlies. Winning pretty at times and ugly at times, they are getting better as the season progresses.
I’ve never had more fun playing hockey,” Richart said. “These guys want to get better and it translates to the rink. You enjoy working with these guys and I can’t say enough about this group. It’s fun to come to the rink everyday. I love this team.”