BOISE, Idaho – A fight for first place in the division…and flying fists in the first five minutes? Chalk it up to another chapter in the saga that is Utah against Idaho, as the Grizzlies and Steelheads faced off Friday night in downtown Boise as the first and second place teams in the Mountain Division.
Utah, however, proved why they have resided in first place for the majority of the 2018-19 season, earning a convincing 5-1 road victory over Idaho.
Betraying the final score, the Steelheads didn’t start things off so passively. Defenseman Nolan Gluchowski kicked off the game’s scoring by placing a shot past the blocker-side of Utah netminder Kevin Carr, putting the Steelheads up 1-0 just three minutes in. Just over a minute after Gluchowski’s goal, forwards Kale Kessy and Jake Marchment threw off their equipment along the Utah blue line before engaging one another in fisticuffs at the Grizzlies goal line. The two exchanged punches along the boards and through the crease until Kessy’s blows were too much for Marchment to handle, with the officials stepping in the break up the heated bout.
Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham: “We came out buzzing, we came out hitting, we scored a goal early, and we did what we needed to do. Then, they got a couple power plays in the first and a little momentum regarding time of possession…I thought we still did a nice job of playing a good, hard first period.”
Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham on Idaho’s Solid Start, Faltering finish against Utah
Utah then decided to retaliate where it hurt the most: on the score sheet.
The Grizzlies went on to score five unanswered goals over the next three periods, relying on their roster depth beyond league-leading scorers Caleb Herbert and Cole Ully. Utah forward J.T. Henke scored two goals in the first period, followed by a second period tally from Taylor Richart and third period scores from team captain Teigan Zahn and forward Julien Nantel.
Utah led all three periods on the shot sheet, as well, holding Idaho to 21 shots on net for the game to the Grizzlies’ 29 total shots on goal. Idaho came into the night sixth in the league regarding shots for/game (33.22) while Utah was eighth in the ECHL with 33.08 shots for/game.
TALE OF TWO TENDYS
Utah netminder Kevin Carr turned away 20 of 21 shots on goal in the victory, with one goal allowed and a .952 save percentage. He moves to an impressive 8-1-1 on the season. Idaho goaltender Ryan Faragher stopped 24 of 29 shots, allowing all five Utah goals with a .828 save percentage on the night. His record drops to 3-3-1 on the year.
DESPERATE FOR D-MEN
Idaho skated five defensemen on Friday night, with forward Alexander Dahl filling in as the sixth man in his d-pairing with Clint Lewis. Other Idaho defensive pairings included Keegan Kanzig & Jeff King and Nolan Gluchowski & Ondrej Vala. Rostered defensemen on reserve include recent signee Geoff Crisfield, returning vet Charlie Dodero, and second-year Steelhead Eric Sweetman.
LEAGUE LEADERS LEASHED
Grizzlies forwards Caleb Herbert and Cole Ully, averaging 1.52 and 1.33 points per game respectively, were only held to one point between the two Friday night — a Herbert assist on Teigan Zahn’s third period goal. Herbert maintains first place in the league in points scored (38) while Ully is in a four-way tie for fourth with 32 points.
Idaho will get a second chance at a win against Utah Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena Boise (7:10pm MT,) playing their final home game of 2018 before finishing out the year on the road in Rapid City for a three-game set (December 28, 29, and 31).