BOISE, ID – Idaho would be okay with never playing against the “Ryans of Utah” again.
Ryan Misiak, Ryan Olsen, and Ryan Walters have been the only Grizzles skaters to put up goals in the past three games against the Steelheads. While Idaho gained a shootout victory 3-2 on Monday and a regulation win 5-2 on Wednesday, both Misiak and Olsen added to the running Ryan marathon of goals with one apiece to net Utah a 2-1 win on Friday at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
In spite of Friday night’s loss, Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham was optimistic about his squad’s performance and how they’ve handled three games in five days.
Graham stated, “I thought we got better each period, including our third where we actually gave up two (goals). I thought our guys were executing pretty well in terms of recovering pucks in the o-zone, really eliminating a lot of their shots to the outside early. It’s unfortunate we got stung late.”
Both Idaho and Utah utilized a grinding physicality from the opening puck drop. Steelheads forward Mitch Moroz drove to the net early against Grizzlies goaltender Kevin Carr, only to be hooked by Utah’s James Melindy in his shooting attempt. The ensuing Idaho power play yielded only one shot for the Steelheads…a precedent of things to come, as both teams were held to 0-4 on their respective power play chances tonight.
Idaho goalie Philippe Desrosiers showed immense composure in the first period, stopping back-to-back saves from Utah attackers near the 12:00 mark and maintaining focus on a centering opportunity turned aside with less than four minutes remaining. He made 16 saves on 16 shots in period one, while Idaho only garnered ten shots on goal in the first.
The Steelheads began the second period on the power play after Utah’s Zach Saar was called for high-sticking at 19:40 of the first. As aforementioned, neither team converted on the power play this evening, as Idaho and Utah traded shots on one another’s goalies to no avail. The Steelheads forecheck increased at an impressive rate in the second, as Idaho defensemen Corbin Baldwin stood out as the most impactful and rattling forechecker against Utah’s skaters halfway through the period.
It wasn’t until the final minute of period two that first blood was finally drawn. Baldwin scooted a tape-to-tape pass to Corey Durocher in the offensive zone, who perfectly set up Moroz for a one-timer that blew by Utah’s Carr for the 1-0 tally. Increased scoring opportunities, combined with a cranked-down defensive effort, yielded a 13-7 shots on goal advantage for Idaho in the second frame. Both teams entered the second intermission with 23 shots on goal apiece.
Idaho continued winning the shots on goal battle in the third, notching 16 to Utah’s 11 in the final period. That didn’t stop Misiak from tying the game up at 4:13 in the third after both teams traded chances with a handful of odd-man rushes for the Steelheads. Even after Utah picked up some momentum following their first goal, Idaho came at Carr with everything that had, shooting four quality shots on goal in a short sequence at around the 7:10 mark. After killing a two-minute slashing penalty from Mitch Jones, the Grizzles’ Ryan Walters dialed up the aggression by shoving Daniel Tedesco to the ice after a stoppage of play. Walters’ increased physicality ended up playing a key role in the game’s outcome.
Just like the period beforehand, it was the final minute that produced goal-scoring drama. Walters was laid out in the Idaho zone by a huge Baldwin hit, getting the crowd to its feet as the game seemed destined for overtime. However, the hit caused a major distraction, as the puck squirted out from the remnants of the forecheck to a waiting Misiak behind Idaho’s net. Misiak passed to a wide-open Olsen in front of Desrosiers, who proceeded to drive home the centering pass for the go-ahead goal with forty seconds left in regulation.
The Steelheads’ record only slightly drops to 13-7-4 with the loss, while the Grizzles climb to 7-10-7. Idaho and Utah have one more match-up against each other on Saturday night when the puck drops at 7:10 pm at CenturyLink Arena. Tonight’s game will conclude four matches in six nights between the two clubs.