The Utah Grizzlies defeated the Wichita Thunder, 7-3, on Friday night at Maverik Center before 5,751 fans to kick off Grizzlies Fight Cancer Presented by Stadler.
“We keep climbing in the standings. (We earned) two big points tonight,” said head coach and General Manager Tim Branham. “Tomorrow is a big one for us.”
The Grizzlies won their fourth-straight contest as Michael Pelech and Ryan Misiak (two goals, one assist) scored two goals each. Five total players have multiple-point games as 13 of Utah’s 16 skaters recorded at least a point.
“We were really opportunistic today,” said Branham. “We were able to score goals when we needed to. Our guys have the hot hand right now. From top to bottom, I thought the guys played a really good game.”
Utah took a 1-0 lead 8:14 into the first period as Pelech (13) tipped home a Taylor Richart shot as Mitch Maxwell picked up his first professional point. Misiak (nine) scored shorthanded with 4:35 left in the period, and Brendan Harms (eight) made it 3-1 on the power play with 1:01 left in the first. The Thunder made it 3-2 with 17 seconds left in the frame. The first period saw each team get four power plays as the Thunder outshot Utah, 8-6.
In the second, Utah added three goals to build its lead to 6-2 as Ryan Walters (23), Misiak (10) and Pelech (14) scored at 5:55, 15:00 and 18:25 of the period, respectively, before Wichita made it 6-3 on a power-play goal with 1:11 left in the second period.
Travis Howe made it 7-3 on his first of the year 7:01 into the third period from Sam Babintsev and Jake Marchment.
Joel Rumpel stopped 13 of the final 14 shots that he saw to improve to 4-1 with Utah and 15-9 overall in his first contest against his former team. Rumpel turned aside 19-of-22 in the game as Utah scored its seven goals on 22 shots.
“We are playing really good hockey right now,” said Branham. “The changes we made, the two guys from Colorado, especially, have led the way. Obviously, Rumpel in net has made a huge difference. Rumpel just has a phenomenal attitude; him and Sean Maguire both. (They are) great teammates (with) good attitudes. Rumpel has the hot hand right now.”
Utah went 7-for-9 on the penalty kill and 1-for-6 on the power play as it scored shorthanded twice.
Richart had two assists, Babintsev had his first two assists with Utah and Walters (one goal, one assist) all had multiple points as well.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies again team with Stadler to continue Grizzlies Fight Cancer. The team will auction off the specialty jerseys that the players have worn this weekend.