With a one-goal lead and a one-man power-play advantage with three minutes remaining in the third period, the Utah Grizzlies appeared to have their third consecutive win over the Idaho Steelheads locked in place.
Instead, a few costly turnovers late in the game allowed Idaho to score a short-handed, game-tying goal in the closing minutes of the third period and the game-winning goal in overtime to top the Grizzlies, 4-3.
Despite the overtime loss, Utah extends its season-best home unbeaten streak to eight games, going 5-0-1-2 during that stretch.
“It stings a little,” said coach Tim Branham. “You’ve got to chalk that one up to some inexperience … but there [are] a lot of good things out there. We have some … key guys out of the lineup, and we really have stepped up since Christmas. We had that one … chalk that one up to the hockey gods.”
After scoring two first-period goals in three of its last four games, Utah was held scoreless through the first 20 minutes of Monday’s contest, though the team did manage 15 shots compared with nine for Idaho in the opening period. But less than a minute into the second period, Michael Pelech controlled the puck behind the Steelheads’ net and fired a centering pass to teammate D.J. Jelitto, who wristed in the Grizzlies’ first goal.
And at 2:48 in the third period the native of West Valley City scored his second goal of the afternoon, a one-timer off a pass from Vinny Scarsella for his sixth goal to go along with eight assists since joining the Grizzlies.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Branham of Jelitto’s recent performance. “He’s been great — a great pickup and an even better human being. … “[He] and Pelech really [have] a lot of chemistry. … You can’t say enough about that kid.”
The Grizzlies killed a 5-minute game-misconduct penalty for elbowing midway through the third period and scored a go-ahead goal on David Vallorani’s team-leading 15th goal of the year, but it wasn’t enough as Idaho capitalized on Utah’s late mistakes to steal the victory.
“Every game from here on out is huge,” said Branham. “We’re playing some real good hockey … and we’ll be ready for [Bakersfield on Friday].”
Steelheads 4, Grizzlies 3 (OT)
R Igor Bobkov returns to the net for Utah for the first time since Dec. 6 and saves 27 of 31 shots.
• Utah outshoots Idaho 40-31 and finishes the series with five of eight available standings points.
• Vinny Scarsella records two assists to bring his six-game total to four goals and three assists.