West Valley City • In their last nine games, the Utah Grizzlies seem to have found a recipe for success. Oddly enough, that recipe has almost always included allowing the opposition to score the game’s first goal. Prior to Friday’s game against the Stockton Thunder, Utah had given up the game’s first goal in six of its last eight games, despite boasting a record of 5-1-1-1 during that stretch.
But on Friday, the comeback Grizz came up just short in yet another come-from-behind bid by falling to the Thunder 3-2, in a shootout loss — their second shootout loss in three games.
Only one minute into the first period, on a broken play for the Thunder, Stockton’s Matt Bergland found the puck close to the net and backhanded the game’s first goal past a diving Cody Reichard, who got the call at goalie for only the second time as a member of the Grizzlies.
After the game, coach Tim Branham praised his young goalie’s effort. “He had a rough start to the season, so he just needs to build confidence. He’s a really good goaltender. He made some really nice saves, especially late in the game. … We’re lucky to have him.”
After allowing the early goal, Utah responded quickly. At 11:06 in the first period, Gentry Zollars, appearing in his first game with the Grizzlies, rebounded the puck off a missed shot from Danick Paquette and found Vinny Scarsella who tipped the puck into the net to tie the game.
And less than a minute after Stockton scored to regain the lead, with only 38 seconds remaining in the second period, West Valley City native D.J. Jelitto led a 3-on-2 break down the ice before passing the puck to Vinny Scarcella, who then found Mike Folkes at the net for his first professional goal.
Utah had several goal-scoring chances in the third period and overtime, including during three power-play opportunities, but Stockton’s keeper stopped every attempt he saw in the third period and overtime and went on to save all four Utah shots in the shootout to preserve the win for the Thunder.
“We’ve been in so many tight games,” said Branham. “It’s really going to bode well for us as we come into the later parts of the season … because we’re going to get in those situations and we’re going to have been there before.”
Thunder 3, Grizzlies 2 (SO)
O In a matchup of the ECHL’s best power-play team (Stockton) and the league’s third best penalty-kill team at home (Utah), both teams combined to go 0 for 7 on the power play.
• Tending goal for his second time with the Grizzlies, Cody Reichard saves 24 of 26 shots through 65 minutes before giving up two shootout goals.