West Valley City • Before the ECHL playoffs started, Utah coach Tim Branham predicted a close, physical first-round series against Bakersfield.
He wasn’t kidding.
Andrew Carroll deflected a shot past Aaron Dell with 15:01 left in the game Friday night and Bakersfield held on for a 1-0 victory over Utah at the Maverik Center.
Dell stopped 24 of the 25 shots, but the Condors’ Laurent Brossoit was just a little bit better and gave his team a quick start in the best-of-seven series that resumes Saturday night.
“We knew it would be like that,” Branham said. “You have to give kudos to their team — their goaltender. They played very well defensively. I thought both teams did. But they found a way to put the puck in the back of the net.”
The Grizzlies dominated early and took eight shots in the opening 10 minutes against Brossoit, but they could not score.
“We have to find a way to get more shots through because this goaltender is good — lights out,” Branham said. “We have to find a way to get more shots, more traffic, take his eyes away around the net.”
Carroll’s game-winning goal came 11 seconds after Dell made his best save of the game.
The Condors’ Ryan Dell strolled in and fired a wicked wrist shot, which Dell stopped. Bakersfield controlled the ensuing faceoff, however, and Utah was unable to clear the zone.
The Condors made the Grizzlies pay when Carroll, who scored only 10 goals during the regular season, tipped the puck past Dell.
Asked about his goalie, Branham said, “He played well. He gave us a chance to win. We lost coverage on that goal. The centerman lost his guy and we didn’t get in the shot lane. It’s a dirty goal. We knew a dirty goal would win the game and they happened to get it.”
The Grizzlies won the season series from Bakersfield, 4-2. But penalties helped doom their chances in the playoff opener.
There were seven power play opportunities in Game 1. The Condors enjoyed six of them, including two in the final 8:50 that helped seal the deal.
“I don’t think the penalties — the power plays — were quite the way they should have been,” Branham said. “... That’s how they got most of their momentum in this game — from the power play. So we have to make sure we are more disciplined and stay out of the box.”
Looking ahead to Game 2, Branham said, “It’s a seven-game series. We have to make sure we come out and play harder and win more battles. They won all the battles along the walls. We have to win more battles along the walls and be hungrier.”
Condors 1, Grizzlies 0
O Andrew Carroll scores with 15:01 left to give Bakersfield a win over Utah.
• The Condors grab a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven ECHL playoff series.
• Grizzlies goaltender Aaron Dell stops 24 of 25 shots.