The Utah Grizzlies (31-21-3-5) defeated the Stockton Thunder (28-25-0-6), 2-1, on Wednesday night at Maverik Center. Utah outshot Stockton, 45-24, in the game.
“I thought the boys battled real hard. We played real well 5-on-5 and put a lot of shots on net,” Grizzlies head coach and General Manager Tim Branham said. “I was just telling the boys that somebody needs to bare down and score here. When you run into a hot goaltender, you have to make sure that you get a lot of traffic, get a lot of shots and play the percentages.”
David Vallorani capped off his multiple-point night by scoring his team-leading 23rd goal of the year 6:31 into the third period to give Utah a 2-1 lead on a beautiful setup by Danick Paquette who had just clanged the inside of the post moments earlier. Channing Boe kept the play alive, 4-on-4, and found Paquette, who instead of taking another blast at the Stockton goal spotted Vallorani wide open in the right circle.
Utah took a 1-0 lead just 1:20 into the game as the Grizzlies capped off a three-on-two rush with Phil Mangan and Vallorani finding Paquette for his 15th goal of the season.
“It was a great pass by Mangan and then Vallorani to me on the backdoor. It was a great play by my linemates,” Paquette said. “I think people know that I can fight, but they don’t know that I can score so sometimes they leave me alone and I take advantage of that. A lot of people think I don’t know how to play hockey, so that helps a little bit, but I think I show them that I can score goals.”
The 1-0 lead lasted for 36 minutes and 50 seconds before Stockton tied the game with 1:50 left in the second period on a power-play goal.
In the final five minutes, the Grizzlies had to kill a late penalty against Stockton’s league leading power-play. The penalty kill went on for over 90 seconds without a whistle in the Utah zone as Derick Martin had his stick wacked away right as the situation started. Paquette quickly gave Martin his stick, and the Grizzlies scrambled around relentlessly before finally getting the puck out to seal the win.
“We need to make sure in games like that that we finish them and the boys did a great job tonight learning another valuable lesson as we get ready for playoffs,” Branham said.
The Grizzlies sustained their third game-ending injury in the last three games as Michael Pelech left in the second period and did not return.
Grizzlies goaltender Igor Bobkov stopped 21 of 22 shots to improve to 14-6-2-2.
Utah hosts Colorado on Friday and Idaho on Saturday.