Utah Grizzlie goalie Mason McDonald hasn’t seen much ice time this season, but against the visiting Wichita Thunder, his number was called. Having secured a win Friday night by surrendering only one goal, would McDonald be able to keep the momentum going and win back to back starts? With Utah in possession of a 2-1 lead in the third period, Wichita was awarded a penalty shot. Defenseman Garrett Schmitz gathered the puck and bobbed and weaved his way down the ice. It was at that moment that McDonald came up with his biggest save in a Grizzlie jersey, thwarting the attempt aside and ultimately securing a 3-1 Utah victory in front of a sizable crowd for the annual Guns ‘N Hoses night.
“He was big there at the end and stopped a penalty shot and a breakaway and played a great game,” head coach Tim Branham said. “People want to see winners and go home happy. Our fan support is tremendous and loud regardless of how many are in the stands. I want to thank them and hopefully we put on a good show for them.”
Taking a page from the previous night’s script, the Grizzlies picked right up from where they left off, recording a pair of goals in the initial session. Not even a full minute had expired when Sasha Larocque fired a laser from the blue line and Mitch Maxwell redirected the puck past Thunder goalie Mitch Gillam. The last thing Wichita needed was to give Utah’s potent power play unit a man advantage, let alone two. The Grizzlies wasted no time in pouncing on the five-on-three advantage when captain Taylor Richart blasted a top shelf bullet in for a 2-0 lead.
Wichita wouldn’t go away without a fight, however. Thunder forward Spencer Dorowicz skated unopposed and blistered an unassisted shot past McDonald to reduce the deficit to a single goal. It would ultimately be all that McDonald would allow, though. And with time dwindling and Wichita forced to pull Gillam, Utah forward Travis Barron fired a ¾ shot nearly the length of the ice and in to complete the scoring.
With a spot for second place in the mountain division on the line, Monday’s matinee contest against the rival Idaho Steelheads looms large.
“We understand that we have a big test coming up against Idaho Monday,” Branham said. “We’ll enjoy this tonight and be ready for that one.”