The Utah Grizzlies defeated the Rapid City Rush, 3-2, on Saturday night at Maverik Center before 5,279 fans on Star Wars Night.
The post-game auction of the team’s Star Wars jerseys raised $18,731, with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The Grizzlies erased a 2-0 deficit and played with an emergency backup goaltender for 10:35 in the third period as local firefighter Jay Stevens entered after the Grizzlies lost their second goaltender in as many nights to injury.
“Things like this pull a team together,” said head coach and General Manager Tim Branham. “The boys didn't tuck their heads; they accepted the challenge like they have all year. It felt so good.”
With the score 2-2 in the third period, goaltender Ryan McKay had to exit with the Grizzlies shorthanded. While he was receiving stitches, Stevens stopped all seven shots that he saw to keep the contest tied. McKay returned and finished the game as he improved to 2-1 on the season.
“You can't say enough about the way Jay Stevens played; it's just unbelievable,” said Branham. “To have the poise to be able to do that says a lot about the Taylorsville firefighters.”
Erik Higby knocked in a rebound with less than 41 seconds left to give Utah its first lead of the night. Mike Banwell and Erik Bradford (two assists) drew assists.
“We just had pressure in their zone. It went low-high and I just snuck in the backdoor and it popped right to me,” said Higby.
After a scoreless first period, Rapid City built a 2-0 lead in the first 5:17 of the second period as it scored twice 2:24 apart.
The Grizzlies outshot Rapid City, 15-5, in the frame and got on the board with 3:45 remaining in the second as Johnny McInnis flew around and threw in a puck from the left circle that was deflected in by Higby to make it 2-1 going into the third period. Bradford picked up his first assist of the night on the play.
Utah started the third period on a power play after a late dust-up added an extra minor to the Rush. Mathieu Aubin’s seventh of the season tied the game 1:18 into the third on a blast from the right circle as Tim Daly and Taylor Richart drew assists.
“This weekend we had a game plan and we stuck with it,” said Branham. “We didn't alter it because I thought good things were happening. The boys executed better than they ever had before.”