WEST VALLEY CITY — In this first-round series against the reigning ECHL champion Allen Americans, the third periods have not been kind to the Utah Grizzlies. Holding a 1-0 lead going into the final frame, the Grizzlies gave up five goals in the third period, including two with a man in the penalty box to fall 5-1, and go down 3-1 in the series. In total, the Grizzlies have been outscored 11-0 in the third period throughout the series.
After saying how important it would be to play disciplined hockey following Utah’s 4-2 defeat to Allen on Wednesday, head coach Tim Branham’s team responded by giving Allen just three chances on the power play. Unfortunately for Utah, the Americans were able to convert on two of the opportunities.
“I don’t have an explanation for it,” said Grizzlies head coach Tim Branham. “That’s all we talked about in the first two periods is buying in and staying disciplined and then we decide to get tough after the whistle.”
Even though they were outshot in the first period 15-8, the Grizzlies managed to slip one past the goalkeeper when forward Cam Reid beat Allen goalie Riley Gill stick-side with 4:26 remaining in the opening period.
The Grizzlies had a pair of power-play opportunities in the second period but were unable to cash in on either as they had on to their slim 1-0 lead.
The intensity ramped up in the third period when Allen forward Josh Brittain and the Grizzlies’ Gabriel Verpaelst receiving matching two-minute penalties for an after-the-whistle scrap. Not long into the four-on-four action, Utah forward Erik Bradford received a penalty for high-sticking, giving Allen a 4-on-3 advantage.
After the advantage turned into a 5-on-4 for Allen, the Americans quickly tied the game when David Makowski finally put one past Kevin Boyle. Within a few minutes, the Grizzlies’ Austin Brossard was in the penalty box, and the Americans took advantage in the form of a slick wrist shot by Eric Roy to take a 2-1. Allen would tack on a few more goals, one from Greger Hanson, another from Wade MacLeod, and one more empty net goal by Alex Krushelnyski as the Americans skated to the win.
Allen enjoyed a spectacular outing from Gill, who turned away 29 shots, allowing just one goal. Boyle also had a solid outing, rejecting 34 shots in the losing effort.
The Grizzlies pulled Boyle in favor of a 6-on-5 advantage in the final four minutes, which was ultimately unsuccessful in reducing the gap.
After having the lead at one point in all of the games this series, Branham isn’t as frustrated about the fact of the matter, as much as how his team as lost its lead.
“The discipline is what’s frustrating. It’s not the fact that we’ve had the lead, it’s the why you’re losing those leads. It’s the lack of discipline.”
Even being down 3-1, Branham remains optimistic about his team’s chances.
“Anything’s possible. So by no means are we down and out. You learn from your mistakes and you’re going to win.”
The Grizzlies face elimination from the playoffs Saturday at 7 p.m. when they host the Americans in game five of the best-of-seven series.