Kearns • If every suspended game that ended 18 hours after it started winds up like his first one, Utah coach Tim Branham wouldn’t mind playing more of them.
David Vallorani scored his team-high 24th goal with 9:51 remaining Thursday afternoon to give the Grizzlies a 2-1 ECHL victory over Las Vegas at the Utah Olympic Oval.
The game began Wednesday night at the Maverick Center but was stopped with 6:12 left in the second period because a broken pipe resulted in damaged ice.
When play resumed, the Grizzlies got a win that was critical for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs when Vallorani converted a sweet pass from Charles Sarault.
Just four minutes earlier, Utah goaltender Aaron Dell stopped the Wranglers’ Chad Nehring on a breakaway to set the stage for Vallorani.
“Because of the circumstances and all the things that went on,” Branham said, “getting up for a game like this is tough. But I’m pretty proud of the way they responded. …
“We were a little slow in that second period, if you want to call it that. But the third period was better [and] Dell played really well. He made a couple of big saves for us. That was huge.”
Branham once played in Augusta (Ga.) when a game started five hours later because of damaged ice. But this was the first time he needed two days to earn two points in the standings.
“It’s really a weird way to win a game,” Branham said. “… But five years from, now they are not going to ask how we won this game. They’re just going to know we did.”
Vallorani’s game-winner came after solid work by Sarault along the board at center ice. He backhanded a pass to Vallorani, who scored from just inside the blue line despite being crowded by two defenders.
“He’s got the most points on our team,” Branham said, “so you try to put him out there when you need offense.”
The Grizzlies conclude the regular season Friday and Saturday against Idaho, presumably at the Maverik Center.
Utah and Idaho are battling for third and fourth place in the West, so the games will determine playoff positioning.
“We’re in third place right now,” Branham said. “It’s our place to lose. Idaho is a good team. … We have to be on our ‘A’ game. We have to be better than we were here today, that’s for sure.”
O David Vallorani scores the game-winning goal in Utah’s 2-1 victory over Las Vegas.
• The Grizzlies and Wranglers conclude a game suspended from Wednesday night.
• Goalie Aaron Dell stops 19 of 20 shots as Utah snaps a two-game losing streak.
O Regular season
Friday, 7 p.m. • Idaho at Utah
Saturday, 7 p.m. • Idaho at Utah
April 18, 7 p.m. • TBD at Utah
April 19, 7 p.m. • TBD at Utah