Despite what the fans at the E Center might have seen this season, Long Beach really does own the best record in the IHL.
Even with their glossy record, though, the Ice Dogs could probably think of 1,000 things they'd rather do than play the Utah Grizzlies at their new home. Starting with, say, getting a root canal, visiting their mothers-in-law, paying taxes . . . and the list goes on.Utah's domination of the Dogs continued Friday night, when the Grizz took a 2-1 victory over their Southwest Division-leading foes.
The win increased Utah's season-series lead over Long Beach to 9-1-1 overall and 5-0-0 at the E Center. Utah (47-23-8) also moved within five points of Long Beach (49-20-9) in the race for the best record in the IHL and their division.
"I'm sure luck has a big part in it. . . . They've struggled against us," said Utah coach Butch Goring.
Good news, Grizzlies. The Ice Dogs are back in town on Wednesday.
Though Friday's game was a fairly physical battle - there were 42 penalty minutes, 14 power plays and about six scuffles - you can expect nothing short of an all-out war on Wednesday.
"We play way too soft against them," said Long Beach coach John Van Boxmeer. "We've gotta punish them. We're just way too (expletive) nice."
The officials were also pretty kind to the Grizzlies. With the score tied at 1-all in the first period, Long Beach's Claude Jutras ripped a slap shot past Utah goalie Mark McArthur. Replays showed that the puck actually ricocheted off a bar in the back of the net and popped out of the goal, but the red light never went off and referee Stephane Auger didn't give Long Beach the score.
"If it went in it was a big break for us and if not it was the right call," Goring said of the disputed play that ended up costing Long Beach dearly. "It goes both ways."
Playing in his first game in two weeks, McArthur settled down after that and finished with 28 saves.
"We got that lucky break and it changed the game for us," said McArthur, who got the surprise start over Utah's new goalie, Jamie Ram.
"That was a good effort by McArthur," Goring said. "He settled down after the first six or seven minutes. He seemed to get stronger as the game went along."
Right winger Mark Lawrence scored the Grizzlies first goal. His 35th goal of the season was set up by a nice backhanded pass in front of the crease by Chris Taylor, who has an 11-game scoring streak going. Kip Miller, the IHL player of the month, was also credited with an assist on the goal.
After a scoreless second period, left winger Greg Spenrath scored the game-winner by deflecting a Jeff Sharples' slapshot past Long Beach goalie Kay Whitmore 6 1/2 minutes into the third.
Utah won despite being outshot 29-18. The Grizzlies were credited for a season-low one shot taken in the first period, and that was Lawrence's goal.
The Grizzlies play again tonight against the Orlando Solar Bears at 7.
SLAP SHOT: The announced attendance of 8,207 upped the Grizzlies' season total to 330,794 with two games to go at the E Center. That mark breaks the single-season attendance record (323,421) for professional hockey in Utah, which the Grizz set at the Delta Center last year. . . . McArthur has now played in 100 professional games - all for the Utah Grizzlies.