HOUSTON The Utah Grizzlies lost their first game in several weeks Monday night.
Well, some of them lost a game. Those Grizzlies representing the IHL in its 26th Annual All-Star game got reminded what losing feels like.
Utah defenseman Stewart Malgunas scored the last goal of the game, but it wasn't enough to take the lead from the defending Turner Cup Champions, the Houston Aeros, who scored all of their five goals in the last period. The final score of the game played in front of 9,100 fans in the Compaq Center was 5-3.
For two periods it was an unusually low-scoring game for an All-Star contest, which is traditionally heavy on offense and lax on defense.
Houston was losing 2-0 when the third period started, but they went on to score five goals, four of them in a row, to win the game. Utah's Malgunas was the only all-star to score in the final period. He smashed a slap-shot into the net from near the face-off circle for the All-Stars' final score of the game.
Monday's game was a return to the way the IHL began playing its All-Star game in 1962. It pitted the defending champion against the best players from the league's 12 other teams. This year, the league decided to let the fans vote on players nominated by each team. The voting lasted about a month, running from mid-November to late December.
Utah fans had voted its players into the starting positions. But goalie Rich Parent was traded to Tampa Bay last week, and defenseman Jeff Sharples didn't play because of a lingering foot injury. The league would have let up to four players from one team start the game.
Malgunas, Jarrod Skalde, center, and John Purves, right wing, all started Monday night, and Grizz coach Bob Bourne was one of two coaches because he had the best winning percentage in the Western Conference so far this season.
The first and only penalty came in the first period, and it was called against Houston (hooking). It led to a power play (the first since 1992) and a score by the All-Stars' Nils Eckman of the Detroit Vipers.
Houston outshot the All-Stars with 24 shots on goal to the All-Stars' 14 shots in the first two periods but were held scoreless for most of that time by Marty Tulrco of Grand Rapids. He had 19 saves before he left the game halfway through the second period.
The Grizzlies can keep their eight-game unbeaten streak alive with a win Friday night against the Kansas City Blades. It begins at 7 p.m. in the E Center.