The Sin Bin’s Kelly Cup playoff coverage is presented by Kalwei Law Firm
Game three of the Pacific Division Finals was a must win for the Utah Grizzlies. A win meant game 5 would be played in their building, while a loss introduced the possibility of a sweep at the hands of the Ontario Reign for the second time in three seasons.
It is interesting to note that heading into game 3, the Reign have scored in the opening two minutes in each of the past two games. That did not happen in this one, rather, it happened 7:42 into the opening frame, as Rocco Carzo netted his 3rd goal of the playoffs. Just 17 seconds later, the Grizzlies responded as Michael Pelech fired a heavy slapshot that beat Jussi Olkinuora.
With Reign forwards Judd Blackwater and David Rutherford missing their second straight games due to injury, it opened the door for players like Josh Brittain to assert himself in the lineup. Brittain scored his first goal of the playoffs at 11:09 of the 2nd period, firing a hard shot that Grizzlies goalie Igor Bobkov thought he stopped, but it ended up slowly trickling into the net. The goal would spell the end of the night for Bobkov, who has played rather poorly in this series, allowing 9 goals on 45 shots faced in the series (.756 sv%.)
With backup goaltender Eric Levine in net, the Grizzlies once again battled back. Michael Pelech capitalized on a lazy play by the Reign to knot the game at 2 after two period.
The goal seemed to give Utah the boost it needed, as they dominated the third and final period. Cameron Wojtala scored his first goal of the playoffs at 9:09 of the third period to give the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead. Levine stood strong in net and played a huge role in the Grizzlies killing off a late penalty. An empty-net goal Mathieu Aubin would cap the scoring at 4-2.
“Even when we fell behind tonight, we had to stay consistent to sustain the momentum shifts,” Grizzlies Head Coach Tim Branham told the Deseret News.
The move to replace Igor Bobkov with Eric Levine, who has not allowed a goal in the series, makes you wonder if there is a bit of a goalie controversy brewing in Utah? Personally, I do not believe there is. I think Tim Branham is going to go back to Bobkov in game 4, but will have a very short leash. That said, do not be surprised if Branham pulls a Joel Quenneville, and starts Levine in game 4 because of the success he has had in relief.