WEST VALLEY CITY With numerous callups already making them short-handed, the Grizzlies had more attrition Wednesday, losing two more players including their starting goaltender before the game to a warmup injury.
"Yeah, well there's no excuses. We played good last night," said Grizzlies coach Jason Christie after Utah's 10-game homestand ended on a huge downer. Utah was beaten 6-1 by the Fresno Falcons in the E Center to send them off on a long Christmas break with long faces and just a .500 record, 12-12-0-3. Fresno is 14-8-3-0.
Because Idaho also lost, the Grizzlies remained tied with the Steelheads for third in the ECHL West Division.
The Grizzlies are now mercifully off for nine days before starting a seven-game road trip at Alaska Dec. 28. They don't play in the E Center again until Jan. 11 against Idaho when Utah begins a six-game homestand with Idaho.
It is expected that some players will be returned from AHL Bridgeport before Utah plays again.
But that was hardly the topic Wednesday as Utah had pretty much the opposite game from the one it played Tuesday in beating Fresno, second in the Pacific, 5-2. Utah scored the first two goals on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Fresno scored the first five before Christian Gaudet ruined Fresno goalie James Moreland's shutout bid with 4:08 left in the game. That goal was quickly answered, less than two minutes later for the final score.
"I thought they had the jump on us right at the start of the game, where last night was different," said Christie. "We just couldn't regroup from there. They were going through bodies more tonight, and that's usually our game."
It certainly wasn't how the Grizz wanted to begin their Christmas respite that is now desperately needed. "No, absolutely not," Christie said.
Utah had hoped to be well above .500 after its season-long homestand, but it wound up just a little better than it came in, two games.
"It's something where we've just got to find energy," Christie said. "It was a tough grind tonight. The guys battled last night. You're going to have games like this. We've got to be a better team to be able to respond after the break."
Utah had only eight forwards Wednesday six players including five forwards are up with AHL Bridgeport, and forward Jason Pitton was injured in Tuesday's game and was not active Wednesday. Defenseman James Sanford took shifts on the front line. Defenseman Scott Ford is also in Bridgeport, and defenseman Ian Forbes took a few shifts in the first period but had to sit out the rest of the game with a foot injury from Tuesday night.
Also, goalie Nathan Lawson was scheduled to start for Utah Wednesday. Lawson is 2-0 vs. Fresno, one win with Utah and one from when he was with Phoenix. But when Lawson turned an ankle in warmups, Mike Mole wound up playing again and, after allowing just two goals on Tuesday, he was touched on five relatively long shots.
Mole was also caught trying to play the puck behind his net when the puck bounced strangely off the endboards to in front of his vacant net for Falcon Oran Eizenman to pop his second straight goal at 2:23 of the third period for a 4-0 lead.
"'Molesy' got thrown in the situation and struggled on some goals, but he's a guy who's going to bounce back," Christie said.Currently up with AHL Bridgeport: Ford and forwards Keith Johnson, Micheal Haley, Tyler Haskins, Olivier Labelle and Ryan Kinasewich.