If hockey were a 40-minute affair, the Utah Grizzlies might have swept the Allen Americans in their best-of-seven series.
Unfortunately, though, hockey lasts 60 minutes. For the fourth time in as many games, the Grizzlies had a lead against the defending champions, but in an eerily similar script to Wednesday night's contest, the Grizzlies unraveled in the third, losing 5-1 and finding themselves on the brink of elimination.
They now have been outscored 11-0 in the third periods of the series.
"Once again, it's discipline and you've got to go through it to understand it," Grizzlies coach Tim Branham said. "If you're not disciplined you roll the dice and when you aren't, bad things happen."
Clinging to a 1-0 lead as the third period began, Utah was assessed two early penalties to Erik Bradford and Austen Brassard and paid the price on both.
Allen's 29th and 30th shots on net were the first to escape the pads of Kevin Boyle as forward David Makowski and defenseman Eric Roy both wound and fired from the point, giving Allen a 2-1 lead.
Greger Hanson rubbed some salt in the wound moments later as the Americans suddenly found themselves in the driver's seat with a 3-1 lead with half the third period remaining. Once Wade MacLeod found the back of the net for Allen, the crowd began exiting the Maverik Center as what looked to be a promising night for the home team unraveled in a hurry. Alex Krushelynski finished the scoring with an empty-net shot.
The Americans dictated the pace of play in the first period, outshooting Utah 15 to 8 and possessing the puck in Utah's defensive zone for the majority of the session. That didn't prevent the Grizzlies from ending the period with a 1-0 lead, however. Utah struck first on an odd-man rush when Austen Brassard fed Cam Reid, who lobbed the puck past the reach of Allen goalie Riley Gil. Boyle's stellar play ensured that the Americans ended the period scoreless.
Utah had a chance to take a 2-0 lead when forward Ralph Cuddemi found himself on a breakaway, but he was stopped by Gil, who made his best save of the night.
Boyle stopped all 10 shots he faced during the second period. Utah had a pair of power-play opportunities in the period, but was unsuccessful on both.