WEST VALLEY CITY Tyler Haskins has tried falling-down, back-handed shots in practice, "but never in a game," said the Utah Grizzlies' rookie center.
Thursday night in the E Center, Haskins got the opportunity to put his practice into play when he raced in on Alaska goaltender Derek Gustafson short-handed and scored unassisted, backhanding the puck as he slid past the goalpost at 10:20 of the third to give Utah a three-goal lead in what would become a 6-3 Grizzly victory.
With the win, Utah moved past Alaska into third place in the ECHL West with 21-19-04 record and 46 points to the 20-16-4-1 Aces' 45.
The same two teams meet in the E Center tonight and Saturday at 7 each to conclude their season series, which Utah leads 4-2. Utah completed its third straight month with a winning record. It was 7-6-0-1 in January, thanks largely to Haskins and linemate Ryan Kinasewich, both sent back to the Grizzlies from AHL Bridgeport in the last six weeks.
Kinasewich, who's played 10 Utah games since Bridgeport, had a goal and an assist Thursday to total 19 points in those 10 games.
Haskins, who also has played 10 games since his return, had two goals, both short-handed, and two assists on Thursday and had 16 points in January.
Their other linemate, Scott Burt, opened the scoring with a partial breakaway with Kinasewich and Haskins getting the helpers at 8:58 of the first period. Keith Johnson scored eight minutes later, followed by an Alaska score from former Grizzly Kimbi Daniels, and then second-period goals from Haskins and Kinasewich for a 4-1 lead.
Alaska again cut it to two at 18:47 of the second, but then Haskins put in his back-hander midway through the third period. Alaska scored two minutes later, but Utah's James Sanford scored the second short-handed goal of the night n an empty-netter on which he was simply clearing the puck from in front of Utah's goal and threw the puck all the way into the opposite net at 19:19 of the third.
Haskins said that when he was sent down by Bridgeport, I decided to myself I was going to come back and work hard, and it's been paying off.
He said he was playing well before his callup, but now the points are coming in bunches. He had back-to-back hat tricks against Phoenix Jan. 16 and 18 and has had three multi-point games out of 10.
Things are just going in, he said, noting that during his pair of hat tricks, pucks hit guys' legs and bounced right onto my stick, pucks bounced off the boards right to my stick, and the goalie's on the other side of the net, so I think some of it is luck.
His first unassisted goal Thursday was put in by the defenseman, he said. I tried to sauce it across to Ryan, and their defenseman whacked it into the net. I don't think you can get much luckier than that, he said.
But the back-hander was a thing of beauty and pretty much his own doing. I knew (a defender) was coming on my right, so I tried to protect the puck a little bit. I practiced that, but never in a game. It just kind of came to me, and the goalie went down, so I didn't really have to put it up high in the net. I try it in practice a lot but never in a game. It finally worked out, Haskins said.
He credited Burt, Kinasewich and hard work for his improvement and said Kinasewich is one of the few players in the league who could have put in the goal he did Thursday from an impossible angle.GRIZZ BIZZ: Utah's game with Fresno originally scheduled for Saturday, March 8, in the E Center has been switched to Sunday, March 9, at 4 p.m. . . . Defenseman Jeff Dwyer became the 14th callup of the season to Bridgeport. Alaska was without former Grizzly defenseman Peter Metcalf, suspended for one game and fined by the ECHL . . .The annual Tip-A-Grizz charity event will be held March 8, 12:30 p.m., at Bohemian Brewery, Midvale. Players will act as celebrity waiters working for tips, with proceeds to support Utah youth hockey. Call to RSVP by March 1, (801) 988-8800.