The Grizzlies had victory in reach, but it slipped through their fingers as they fell to the Alaska Aces 5-4 in overtime.
Utah didn't get the win, but compared with how it had been playing, it played inspired hockey. The Grizzlies trailed 3-1 entering the third period, and in games past, the team would have packed it in.
On Saturday, they didn't do that. About eight minutes into the final period, Utah center Mitch Wahl scored a power-play goal to pull the Grizzlies within one.
About a minute and a half later, forward Brad Mills was sent to the penalty box. It didn't take long for Mills to redeem himself. As soon as he vacated the penalty box, he helped his teammates stop a potential Alaska scoring opportunity. Mills then controlled the puck at his own blue line and sprinted for the goal. On his way, he maintained position as he split two defenders and juked another. Mills fired a shot that was stopped by Alaska goaltender Mark Guggenberger. Mills stuck with it, got the rebound and scored on his second effort.
"I was upset about the penalty, and I wanted to direct that energy in a positive way," Mills said. "It was just one of those moments when your mind shuts down and your body takes over."
Energized by Mills' game-tying goal, Utah stayed aggressive and Collin Vock put the Grizzlies on top with a goal from the left side just 29 seconds later.
Unfortunately for Utah, the Aces didn't fold. With two minutes, 20 seconds remaining, Alaska earned a power play. Alaska's Nick Mazzolini found the net with just 33 seconds left to send it to overtime. In the extra period, Aces' right wing Alexandre Imbeault scored the game-winning goal 1 minute, 24 seconds before the final horn.
While there is no such thing as a moral victory, Grizzlies coach Kevin Colley was pleased to come away with one point.
"That is a good team with bona fide NHL players that we went up against," Colley said. "Of course we would've liked to come away with a win, but it was a step in the right direction. I can say that was our best game of the season."
Aces 5, Grizzlies 4 (OT)
R Alaska scored the game-winner with 1 minute, 24 seconds left in overtime.