WEST VALLEY CITY — Absence some lapses, Utah Grizzlies head coach Kevin Colley thinks his team could be up 2-0 in their ECHL Western Conference semifinal series.
As it stands, those lapses have put them behind their opponent, the Victoria Salmon Kings, 0-2 after a pair of 4-2 home-ice losses, the latest coming on Saturday night.
"We've had these minor breakdowns," Colley said before correcting himself, "actually they are major breakdowns. And they have hurt us. They (Victoria) haven't really earned that much; we have given them a lot. We can't be giving them goals."
Utah was the more aggressive team to start, and for the most part — other than the letdowns Colley is concerned with — the more aggressive team throughout.
The Grizzlies capitalized on one of their few shots in the first period when Chris Donovan came from behind the right side of the net and found an open Marcus Carroll, who buried the puck in the net.
The second period was disastrous for Utah and proved to be its downfall. After Chad Painchaud put in a rebound shot early on, another Painchaud goal 71/2 minutes later brought controversy to the contest.
Painchaud's shot was initially stopped but trickled out from under Utah goalie JP Lamoureux, who dove on it. The red light went on and the referee signaled that the puck had crossed the line for a goal.
Lamoureux batted the puck away in disgust and protested wildly, but to no avail.
"JP is a real honest guy, so for him to make a commotion like that, he really thought it didn't go in," Colley said. "I stand behind my players, and he said it wasn't a goal, and I believe him."
Utah's Nick Tuzzolino scored on a perfect pass from captain Simon Ferguson to tie the score again, but less than thirty seconds later, Victoria's Kiel McLeod deflated the crowd when he answered with his own goal.
After that, the Grizzlies were perhaps deflated as well, as they got a bit sloppy with their passing, especially in the first part of the third period. Their overall intensity was lacking and they paid for it when Victoria took advantage, something Colley said has been a them in the first two games.
"We've got to tighten things up," Colley said. "When we have had those breakdowns, (Victoria) is too good of a team to not take advantage, and that's what they have done."
The Salmon Kings' last goal came at 11:01 of the final period when Tommy Maxwell slipped in a rebound opportunity that Lamoureux never saw get by him.
Utah pulled Lamoureux from the net with 21/2 minutes remaining, but never got a quality opportunity to tighten the score.
Despite being down in the series, Colley remains upbeat.
"We don't have our backs against the wall," he said. "But we need a tipping point – a big hit, a fight, a big goal – something to really spark this team. We need to make a commitment to playing hockey the right way. This is a huge character check for us."
The series now shifts to Victoria's home ice with games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (if necessary), before the series returns to Utah for Games 6 and 7.
Victoria leads series, 2-0
Friday: Victoria 4, Utah 2
Saturday: Victoria 4, Utah 2
Wednesday: Utah at Victoria,
April 22: Utah at Victoria, 8:05 p.m.
*April 23: Utah at Victoria, 8:05 p.m.
*April 25: Victoria at Utah,
*April 27: Victoria at Utah,
* — if necessary