West Valley City • At the end of an exhilarating and sobering day, the Utah Grizzlies clinched the No. 3 seed in the upcoming ECHL playoffs.
Danick Paquette scored two goals, including the game-winner with 6:55 remaining, to lead Utah to a 3-2 victory over Idaho on Friday night at the Maverik Center.
Grizzlies 3,Steelheads 2
O Danick Paquette scores twice to lead Utah to an ECHL victory over Idaho.
» The Grizzlies clinch the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed in the upcoming playoffs.
» Goalie Aaron Dell stops 22 of 24 shots and improves his record to 19-7-0-2 this season.
The Grizzlies will open next week’s first round of the playoffs at home after finishing with their highest seed since 2000.
"It feels great," said Utah coach Tim Branham. "We came a long way since Christmas. We were in ninth place in the conference ... and the boys battled back. They should be proud of their effort because what they accomplished is good."
The Grizzlies’ opening-round opponent will be Colorado or Bakersfield.
"It’s just the beginning," Branham said. "All the hard work to get home-ice advantage is great. Now you have to do something with it in the playoffs. [But] we have the team to do it. There is a lot of character in that locker room. It’s exciting to be part of it."
The Grizzlies’ win came just hours after veteran forward Mathieu Aubin underwent surgery for a fractured neck.
He was injured in the first period of Wednesday night’s game against Las Vegas when he crashed face-first into the boards.
During the victory over Idaho, Aubin’s No. 7 jersey was hanging behind the Utah bench.
"I think it gave the guys motivation," Branham said. "I know you don’t need motivation to play this game. But if Mathieu Aubin is doing what he’s doing in the hospital, it’s nothing to block shots and take hits. … The boys really wanted to get that one for him, that’s for sure."
According to team officials, Aubin’s surgery went well, although the Grizzlies’ No. 3 goal-scorer won’t play again this season.
In Utah’s first game without him, however, Paquette led the way.
Midway through the second period, he pushed the puck past Idaho goalie Josh Robinson to erase a 1-0 deficit.
At 13:05 of the third period, Paquette snapped a 2-2 tie by converting passes by linemates Charles Sarault and David Vallorani.
It was Paquette’s 11th goal in the last 15 games and his 23rd of the season.
"He’s been phenomenal," Branham said. "... He’s tough, he can score, he hits hard and he works hard. He deserves every bit of success he’s had."
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