The Utah Grizzlies sure proved to be bears on Friday night, using three unanswered goals to power them to a 4-2 victory over the Wichita Thunder. The big story on the night was the play of Kevin Carr, who made 25 saves, including two on breakaways, and Austin Ortega and Ryan Olsen each had 2 assists in the win.
The Grizzlies had been dominating this game for the first 13 minutes of the contest, but a bad turnover in their own end opened the door for Wichita and they would take advantage. At the 12:55 mark, Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin fired the puck from the left side boards toward the net. Lane Bauer, who was standing in front of the net, got a piece of it but could not direct the puck on goal. Instead, the puck moved the right side where Evan Polei picked it up and fired a wrist shot up high that beat Kevin Carr for his eighth goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later the Thunder looked like they would get a crazy goal when a shot by a Wichita player bounced off of Carr and looked like it went over his shoulder and into the net. However, after further review, the referee ruled the puck did not cross the line and the lead remained 1-0.
That proved to be huge as Utah tied the score three minutes later. A turnover in the Thunder end allowed the Grizzlies to keep the puck. Ryan Olsen passed the puck down low to Ryan Misiak, who beat Shane Starrett with his seventh goal of the season.
The Grizzlies took the lead 2:18 into the second. Olsen carried the puck down the right-side boards on a 2-on-1. He got near the goal line before making a great pass to Erik Higby, who tipped the puck over Starrett’s shoulder for his fourth goal of the year.
Two minutes later, the Grizzlies would be on a 5-on-3 advantage and would add to their lead. After Starrett made two greats saves, one doing the splits to kick away what looked like a sure goal, however, Jon Puskar would make it 3-1. Austin Ortega fired a shot from the slot that Puskar tipped in for his eighth goal of the year.
About four minutes later the Thunder had a golden opportunity. After Starrett made a nice save, Kevin Dufour scooped up the puck about 10 feet from his own goal and headed the opposite direction on a breakaway. He looked to go top shelf with the wrist shot, but Carr knocked it away with his blocker to preserve the two goal lead.
With about nine minutes left in the second it looked like the lead would become three. Chris Lelbinger entered the Thunder end on a breakaway and made a nice wrist shot that the Thunder goalie saved with his glove but it trickled through and hit just off the post before being swept away by a Wichita defender.
Finally, the Thunder would get on the board when they used the power-play to cut the deficit to one. With 1:33 left in the second, Jeremy Beaudry fired a shot from the point that Carr saved, but the rebound landed right in front of the goal where the red-hot Kevin Dufour picked up the rebound and wristed it into the net for his 11th goal of the season. That also gave Dufour points in all nine games since joining the Thunder.
With Wichita on the power-play, it looked like Utah would extend their lead back to two. At 9:30 of the third, Ryan Walters stole the puck from the Thunder defenseman and headed the other way on a breakaway. He moved in and went to the forehand looking to go up top, but Starrett made a nice save with his blocker to keep this a one-goal game.
The Grizzlies would add an empty-net goal on the power-play with about 10 seconds left in the contest. With the draw in the Utah end, the puck went into the neutral zone where it was a foot race. Walters won the race and carried the puck into the Wichita end where he put it in for his 13th goal of the season.
Despite taking the loss, Shane Starrett was brilliant in net for Wichita, making 38 saves. Ryan Olsen and Austin Ortega each had 2 assists for the Utah Grizzlies. Ryan Walters had a goal and an assist. Kevin Carr made 25 saves.
These two teams will face off again tomorrow. The pucks dropped at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier