The Utah Grizzlies closed out their three game series against the Wichita Thunder on Friday, sweeping the three contests with a 6-3 victory. Cole Ully and Matt Berry each had two goals in the game, as Utah held off a late charge by Wichita to give the Thunder their fifth straight loss (0-2-3).
The Utah Grizzlies would get on the board less than two minutes into the game. With Jeremy Beaudry in the penalty box for slashing, Kevin Davis fired a shot that went wide of the net, but it bounced off the boards and right to Matt Berry to fired the puck past Dylan Wells to make it 1-0 Utah. It was the third goal of the season for Berry.
At the 5:12 mark, the Grizzlies extended their lead to two. Ryan Walters passed the puck to Gage Ausmus along the boards, and he was able to maintain control of the puck by fending off a Thunder defender. When he reached the corner, Ausmus passed the puck in front of the net to Austin Carroll who tipped it in for his fourth goal of the year.
Utah continued to dominate play, outshooting the Thunder 11-2 through the first 13 minutes. With 6:20 left in the first period, they would create another opportunity and capitalize. Tim McGauley gained control of the puck in the corner, passing it out to a wide open Berry who beat Wells over the shoulder to make it 3-0. That chased Wells from the game, bringing Stuart Skinner from the bench.
The Thunder had been dominated in the first period, but a Utah penalty early in the second gave Wichita the opportunity to get back into the game. Just 75 seconds into the second period, the Thunder used a quick tic-tac-toe play to get on the board. Travis Brown passed the puck to the right playoff circle to Greg Chase, who quickly passed it across to the other faceoff circle to Ralph Cuddemi. Cuddemi fired a wrist shot to the short side that beat Kevin Carr for his fourth goal of the year.
Just before the midway mark of the second period, the Utah Grizzlies would reclaim their three goal advantage. While on the power play, Cole Ully gained control of the puck at the right faceoff circle. He moved toward the blueline, then came down the slot to the right of Skinner. He fired a wrist shot that went over the shoulder of the Thunder goaltender and into the net for his fourth goal of the year.
Into the third period the game went, where the Thunder would cut the deficit back to two at the 1:38 mark. Steven Iacobellis had the puck in the corner in the Utah end, passing it up the boards to the Beaudry at the point. The defenseman skated to the midpoint on the blueline, firing a wrist shot that beat Carr for his first goal of the year.
Two minutes later, the Grizzlies got that goal right back. Brown’s shot at the point was blocked and went out to center ice where Ully scooped it up, heading the other way on a breakaway. He moved to his right then to the left as Skinner made the pad save, however, the referee called for a penalty shot. Given a second chance, Ully did not miss, beating the Thunder goalie up high to extend the lead back to three.
The Thunder would get back on the board at 7:12. Iacobellis fired a shot that went behind the net where Chase would recover. He came out from behind the net with a head of steam, moving around in front of the net about 15 feet from the goal. Chase fired a wrist shot up high that beat Carr over the shoulder for his first goal of the year.
Jake Marchment would close out the scoring with an empty-net goal. With a little over a minute left and Skinner out of the net, Marchment backhanded the puck from the neutral zone as it barely caught the inside post and went in for his fourth goal of the year. That made it 6-3.
Matt Berry and Cole Ully led the Utah Grizzlies with two goals each. Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Steven Iacobellis each had two assists for the Thunder. Greg Chase had a goal and an assist.
The Wichita Thunder are off on Saturday, but return to the ice on Sunday when they take on the Allen Americans at home. Faceoff is at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier