Undisciplined play has cost us Game 1 and Game 3. We completely shot ourselves in the foot with undisciplined play and now that’s going to be the key in these playoffs. —Utah Grizzlies head coach Tim Branham
WEST VALLEY CITY — How difficult is it to win a playoff hockey game while having to kill a five-minute major at a crucial juncture in the third period? Ask the Utah Grizzlies, who fell 4-2 to the Allen Americans in game three of their playoff series, and they’ll answer: difficult.
“Undisciplined play has cost us Game 1 and Game 3,” said head coach Tim Branham.
“We completely shot ourselves in the foot with undisciplined play and now that’s going to be the key in these playoffs.”
The devastating penalty came in the form of a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty by Tim Daly at the 7:32 point of the final period. Allen would convert on the power play to grab the game-winning goal.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, throughout the game they didn’t do much better with Allen in the penalty box, converting just one of eight power-play chances. By contrast, the Americans made good on two of seven extra-man advantages.
Having three separate extra-man opportunities in the first period, Utah managed just one shot on goal during the power plays.
Allen struck first in the opening period, taking advantage of Gabriel Verpaelst’s second trip to the penalty box. After working the puck around the perimeter, the Americans cashed in on their third shot of the power play when Bryan Moore’s shot found the back of the net at the 17:41 mark in the period. When the Zambonis hit the ice for the first intermission, Allen held a 1-0 lead.
The Grizzlies tied the game during four-on-four action in at the 4:07 mark when Austin Brassard cashed in on a rebound off a shot by Erik Bradford.
Later in the period, just as time was ending on a 5-on-3 opportunity for Utah, Tim Daly’s quick shot from between the faceoff circles beat Allen’s Riley Gill to put the Grizzlies ahead 2-1 with 2:39 remaining in the middle period.
The lead wouldn’t last for long as Grizzlies goaltender Kevin Boyle was beaten on a snapshot by Zach Hall less than three minutes into the third. The Americans hit paydirt again at nearly the halfway mark of the third while playing man-down after the disastrous five-minute major and game misconduct penalty by Daly. This time it was Greger Hanson whose shot found twine to give Allen the lead.
Utah had a chance for redemption themselves when Allen committed their own five-minute major in the form of a ruthless cross-check to the head by Moore. Boyle was pulled to give the Grizzlies an extra-extra-man advantage with little more than a minute remaining. Unfortunately for the home team, Allen’s Spencer Asuchak broke free and buried the open-net goal to secure the win for the Americans.
Despite being down 2-1 in the series, Utah feels confident that it can regain its footing.
“We’ve had the lead in all the games, so it’s just about not getting too down, stay up. We’re pretty confident with how we can do against this team. So turn the page, and come ready to go next game,” said Brassard, whose goal was his second of playoffs.
Utah will face Allen for Game 4 of the best-of-seven series Friday at 7 p.m. at the Maverik Center.