WEST VALLEY CITY — It was a frustrating night for the Utah Grizzles, but coach Kevin Colley isn't discouraged after his team dropped a 4-2 decision to the Victoria Salmon Kings in Game 1 of the ECHL Western Conference semifinals Friday night at the Maverick Center.
The Grizzlies played hard and had plenty of chances to score with more shots on goal than their opponents, but couldn't convert, while the Salmon Kings had a couple of good bounces go their way.
"We didn't capitalize on our opportunities and on their breakdowns," Colley said. "We had some real good looks tonight, we hit the net, we hit the post ... Our guys got frustrated when the puck didn't go in the net. All in all we had some good scoring chances tonight."
Colley felt his team got off to a slow start, trying to shake the rust off after a five-day break since knocking off Stockton in the first round of the playoffs. But once they got going, the Grizzlies outshot the Salmon Kings in the final two periods, but only scored once.
"We competed our butts off tonight," Colley said. "We have to stay focused."
Victoria came out firing with a hard shot at Grizz goalie J.P. Lamoureux in the opening seconds and took an early 2-1 lead after one period with goals by Rick Cleaver and Jeff Caister.
The Grizzlies answered with a power-play goal less than three minutes after Cleaver's goal when Simon Ferguson got his fourth goal of the playoffs with a crossing shot that bounced off a Victoria player and into the net. Matt Reber and Giffen Nyren were given assists on the goal.
With a little more than a minute left in the first period, the Salmon Kings scored again when Caister directed in a shot from just in front of the net.
Victoria increased its lead to 3-1 early in the second period when Derick Martin scored his first goal of the year with a long shot from the left side.
The Grizzlies cut the lead to 3-2 just 3:30 in the third period as Reber fired a crossing pass to Brett Parnham, who scored from the right angle past David Shantz.
Over the final 15 minutes, the Grizzlies had several chances to send the game into overtime, but couldn't convert on their opportunities. They had two good chances in the final minute, but the Salmon Kings held them off and Adam Taylor stuck in an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
Game Two of the best-of-seven series will be played tonight at 7:05 p.m. Then the series moves to Victoria for three games next week. If necessary, the series could return to Salt Lake the following week .
"We need to put this behind us," said Colley. "We know what it's going to take to beat these guys. We need to walk the walk and get it done."
Victoria leads series 1-0
Friday: Victoria 4, Utah 2
Saturday: Victoria at Utah, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Utah at Victoria, 8:05 p.m.
April 22: Utah at Victoria, 8:05 p.m.
*April 23: Utah at Victoria, 8:05 p.m.
*April 25: Victoria at Utah, 7:05 p.m.
*April 27: Victoria at Utah, 7:05 p.m.
* — if necessary