How sweep it is! It was a fun and exciting three-game series for the Utah Grizzlies as they held their home opener, and in a series of contests, swept the Rapid City Rush.
December 31st was the first home game of the season while also the last of the year 2020. Fans were happy to be back in the seats at the Maverik Center. The Grizzlies got the offence going early, with eleven shots registered in the opening nine minutes. It was only then that the scoring broke open on a shot from Joe Wegwerth, sniping the puck past Adam Carlson.
Trey Bradley was rewarded with an assist on the play. The lead didn’t last for long, as just 33 seconds later, Kevin Spinozzi scored for his first of the season. The goal was assisted by Peter Quenneville. With 5:52 left in the period, Utah would add to their lead with a goal from Jack Jenkins, his first of the season. Bradley assisted on the goal, as he fed the puck up, his second point of the night.
With not much time left in the period, the Grizzlies would gain their first power, this allowing the hockey club to take full advantage. They did so, as Diego Cuglietta put the puck on Ian Scheid’s stick, who sniped it past Carlson for his first pro goal. As such, Utah extended their lead with just two minutes left.
Once again, Trey Bradley would be credited, this being his third assist and point of the night. A scuffle would ensure shortly after, as Tyson Empey dropped the gloves off the draw, which sent the Maverik Center into screaming voices, as Maxwell took Empey down after a few jabs to the right arm.
It was a quick start to the second period, as the Rush were pressuring the Grizzlies in the offensive zone, allowing Jack Suter to put it past Peyton Jones. This would be his second of the season, as the Rapid City made it a one goal game. However, Utah returned the favour seconds later, as Joe Wegwerth redirected a shot fed from Jack Jenkins to re-take a two-goal lead.
The goal was reviewed for a high-sticking goal, and after review, it was called a good goal. Later on in the second, it was Maxwell who fed the puck to Scheid, who blasted the puck past Carlson for the insurance goal. This put Utah up by three with 8:04 left to play in the period.
Head coach Daniel Tetrault then pulled Carlson from the net, replacing him with rookie David Tendeck between the pipes. Following that, not a whole lot happened as the buzzer sounded with the Rush down by three. As the final frame got underway, not a whole lot happened until the final two minutes, as Cuglietta was changed a tripping infraction while Rapid City then called a timeout.
This led to a two-man advantage for the Rush, who managed to pressure Peyton Jones and the Grizzlies. However, with 49 seconds left in the game, Pat Cannone fed the puck to Matt Abt, who took a shot from the defensive zone and fired it into the empty Rush net. That sealed the deal, closing out 2020 with a positive ending. The three stars of the game were then revealed, going to Jack Jenkins, Ian Scheid and Joe Wegwerth.
Game two of the series took place at the home of the Grizzlies on New Year’s Day. This one got off to a blazing start, as Trey Bradley fed the puck to Charlie Gerard, who sniped the puck past David Tendeck for the 1-0 lead. Tendeck entered New Years Eve late, but stopped all shots he faced, stepping in for Adam Carlson. That opened the scoring just 80 seconds in.
That lead lasted halfway through, but with 6:54 left to play, Avery Peterson scored his second of the season, going five-hole on Jones to tie the game up at one. Being New Year’s Day, of course there was fireworks. With 4:51 to go, Alex Lepkowski got hammered into the boards by Cedric Montiminy, seeing Wegwerth immediately come to his teammate’s side, resulting in a scuffle between the two.
Both were charged four-minute double minors for roughing, but it was Wegwerth who got an additional 10 minute misconduct penalty for continuing altercation. Right as the puck dropped following that mess, it was Brennan Saulnier who dropped the gloves with Alex Lepkowski, a fight that had to be broken up by the linesman on that undeceive altercation.
In a fast second period, it was Rapid City who got their first lead of the series when Ian Edmondson fed the puck to Avery Peterson, who blasted a shot past Peyton Jones from the face-off circle just two minutes in. Fast forward to the halfway mark, it was Christian Horn, who unleashed a rocket past David Tendeck with an assist from Matt Abt. This saw the game knitted up with just under 10 left to play on the clock.
While that was all the action for the second, the third was filled with special teams magic for both, as with just under five minutes remaining, Tanner Jago fed the puck to Jack Jenkins, who managed to fool everybody, including David Tendeck when he decided to shoot the puck as opposed to passing it. Doing so from the left-side circle, he sniped it in for his second of the year. 31 seconds later, as the power play was winding down, it was Tyler Coulter putting the puck in the net, which knotted the score, tied at three apiece.
Later in the third, the Rush got into some penalty trouble when they played down two men for 20 seconds, however, with 1:14 in the Mason Baptista tripping minor, Pat Cannone fed the puck to Ian Scheid, who blasted an absolute rocket to take the 4-3 lead. With just under a minute left in regulation, the Rush hit the post with the shot, but the buzzer sounded giving Utah their first win of 2021. In doing so, this handed the Rush their fifth consecutive loss. The three stars of the game were then revealed, going to Charlie Gerard, Jack Jenkins and Ian Scheid.
Coming off a 4-3 victory on Friday, the Grizzlies Saturday night with hope and optimism of securing the series sweep. Parker Gahagen made his first start of the season while Adam Carlson returned to play on the other end. With a dangerous start to the period, the Grizzlies had a stressor early on when the Rush dumped the puck down the ice, seeing Gahagen exit to retrieve it and transfer it outwards.
This nearly didn’t go well, as Tyson Empey claimed possession of the puck, but just missing the net within the first six minutes. The game would settle down shortly after, however, with 5:26 on the clock, Diego Cuglietta returned to his ways. He fed the puck up to forward Pat Cannone, who slid the puck in the net past a confused Adam Carlson.
For the centreman, it was his first of the year, a power play goal, to give the Grizzlies the lead. Only two and a half minutes later, a mad scramble ensued at the edge of the crease, as Joe Wegwerth found a loose puck outside and tucked it right in, this increasing Utah’s early lead. Not completely satisfied with the call, Carlson voiced interference, but after review, the call stood as a good goal. That would do it for the opening period.
In the second, just two minutes in and no-one close to Carlson, he decided to push the net off its pegs, this sending the Maverik Center a furious boo at the referee. A power play chance for the Rush meant a chance to get back in the game, which Rapid City accomplished. They did so as defensemen Mark Auk shot the puck from the blue line, which Empey deflected and put into the net, bringing the Rush within a goal.
With 7:21 left remaining, the Utah Grizzlies received their first power play. During this time, they served a flurry of chances, including a shot from the left point by Cuglietta that was stopped and saved by Adam Carlson.
After saving the shot, Carlson got a free whistle when he elbowed the net off of its moorings a third time. Having gone without warning the first two, he was warned at the end of the second. With one minute to go in the second, Avery Peterson took a shot from the blue line, deflected to Brennan Saulnier for the second of the season. While that saw the game knotted up, the shots were in favour of Utah by a margin of 12 at the end of the second.
In the third, the Rush were trying to set up a new play, but Yuri Terao had other plans, as he poked the puck away from the Rush player and skated in all alone on a breakaway. Faking out Adam Carlson, he put the puck into the net for his first of the season. Utah had a chance to double their lead, as Cedric Pare got in on a breakaway, however, Carlson was up for the challenge.
Shortly after, defensemen Matt Abt was charged with a slashing penalty with five minutes remaining. Unfortunately for Utah, they were unable to convert on the play. With 1:47 on the clock, Brennan Saulnier hit the Rapid City crossbar, which sent the home crowd into a sudden gasp of relief.
Utah had several empty net chances, however, the Grizzlies couldn’t end up capitalizing on any. That saw the buzzer sound, as they locked down the victory for a sweep of the Rush. Final shots at the end of the night were 45-30 in favour of Utah. The three stars of the game were then revealed, going to forward Pat Cannone, Parker Gahagen and Yuri Terao.
The Grizzlies are 4-1-0-0 this season and have earned at least three points in each of their games this season. The team hits the road on Friday for a three-game set against the Tulsa Oilers. Puck drop at Bank of Oklahoma Center is scheduled to fall at 8:05pmET.