WEST VALLEY CITY March has not been kind to the Utah Grizzlies. Heading into the last 10 days of the ECHL regular season, they are winless this month. They are 0-6-2-2 since February skipped out, including Wednesday's 3-2 overtime fall in their one-night homestand.
The Las Vegas Wranglers, leaders of the National Conference with 100 points now, got an opening and a closing goal from Peter Ferraro to upstage Utah scores from Garett Bembridge and Ryan Kinasewich and stay unbeaten in the E Center this season.
The 30-28-1-8 Grizzlies are now off to Bakersfield for games Saturday and Monday and then will finish the regular season at home with Stockton on April 3, 4 and 5. Utah has not won at home since Feb. 15.
The Kelly Cup playoffs for Utah will likely begin April 13 and 14 at 39-19-4-4 Fresno, second in the Pacific Division, with Utah's home games scheduled for April 16, 18 and 19 in the 2-3-2 series.
The Grizzlies opened with Bembridge scoring just eight seconds into their first power play, but Ferrraro was on the board 2:07 minutes later. Marco Peluso gave the Wranglers a 2-1 lead in the second period, but Kinasewich tied it up with 5:40 to go. Ferraro scored again at 2:07 in the overtime.
"We need to get some urgency to our game," said Grizz coach Jason Christie, complaining that his players took "two bad angles" trying to dissuade Ferraro on the game-winning goal, which came from well above the right-wing faceoff circle.
"You've got to recognize who you're on the ice against. Ferraro, that's twice he's beat ushe beat us down there. You can't give up a shot with a guy like that. That's an NHL player. We're letting him just tee it up like that."
With both teams set for the playoffs, there seemed to not be a lot of fight about the game, and that had Christie unhappy. "We have to play with more of an edge. We're hoping things will turn around instead of making them turn around, and this is a time where your top guys have to be top guys.
"If things aren't going your way, you have to find a way to make them happen and step out of your comfort zone," he said.
Earlier in the week, the Grizzlies received forward Olivier Labelle back from AHL Bridgeport while losing forward Keith Johnson to the same club. They also signed forward Ryan Cruthers, who recently finished four years at Robert Morris University as the team's leading scorer with 17 goals and 20 assists in 34 games.
The move paid off in the third period as Cruthers passed to Kinasewich standing in the slot for the goal that tied the game after getting a pass from behind the net from Rob Sirianni, and Cruthers was on the ice for the first goal as well.
"He played well tonight," said Christie. "He sees the ice well, and I thought for the first game, he competed well."
"It was good to get my first game under my belt ," said Cruthers, who played against Sirianni in college quite a bit last year but just met Kinasewich Tuesday. "I know a couple guys from back home, and the guys made me feel welcome right away. That helps feeling comfortable, get the nerves out right away."
He credited Sirianni for beginning the tying goal. "It was a good play by Sirianni to get it back to me there, and Ryan got open in the slot, and I was lucky enough to find him. It was a great shot by him."
GRIZZ BIZZ: Utah on Wednesday placed forward Evan Kotsopoulos on the 30-day injured reserve and team captain and forward Travis Rycroft on the three-day IR and activated goalie Nathan Lawson, who played Wednesday's game ... Grizzly goaltender Mike Mole, who spent the last few weeks with Bridgeport was called up on Wednesday to play for the parent New York Islanders, likely for the rest of the season. Mole played 37 games with Utah (18-13-1-4).