WEST VALLEY CITY It is a near impossibility in the sports world for any team to rally from a three-game deficit to win a playoff series.
For the Utah Grizzlies, simply getting any positive outcome against the Las Vegas Wranglers in the postseason ended up being equally removed from reality.
Las Vegas closed out a series sweep in the ECHL National Conference Finals with a 5-2 victory over Utah on Friday night at the E Center. The Grizzlies closed out an otherwise successful season by suffering through a 14-game winless streak against the Wranglers.
As in Game 3, Utah trailed from start to finish. Grizzlies coach Jason Christie thought his team came out with plenty of energy but just could not do enough to penetrate the Las Vegas defense.
"I'm proud of how they worked," Christie said. "They left everything on the ice and, as a coach, that's all you can ask for."
Things started out badly almost from the moment the puck dropped in the first period. Mike McGinnis put the Wranglers up 1-0 less than three minutes into the opening period when he threaded the puck between the faceoff circles and into the net.
Utah's Ryan Kinasewich evened the score at 1-1 when he took a cross from Keith Johnson and smacked it home from the far side of the ice.
After that initial score, Las Vegas wasted no time raining goals on the Grizzlies' defense.
Curtis Fraser drove and nudged the puck around the right side of Grizzlies' goalie Nathan Lawson to put Las Vegas up 2-1. Adam Cracknell scored off a pass from Bruce Mulherin to give the Wranglers a two-goal lead.
Las Vegas punched in its final first-period goal when Adam Miller skated behind the net to elude a Utah defender and hooked it around the post to Kelly Cuzy. Cuzy took advantage of his position in front and tapped in the puck for an easy goal.
James Sanford breathed some new life into the Grizzlies' offense early in the second period when he rammed the puck past a Wranglers defender on a power play to make it 4-2.
But Las Vegas closed out the period on Jason Krischuk's shot up the middle to create another three-goal advantage.
"We fell behind and felt like we were just battling back," Christie said. "After we scored our goal, they got that other one. It was an uphill battle."
Although Utah ended up losing all four games in the conference finals, Christie sees reaching this point as being something of a building block for next season."It's something that obviously leaves a sour taste in your mouth to come back and get ready for next year," Christie said.
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