West Valley City • The last time the Utah Grizzlies dropped a contest on home ice when scoring first was Nov. 2 against the Idaho Steelheads. Although Utah forward Jon Puskar fired a successful shot on net at 4:07 of the second period for a 1-0 lead in Game 5 of their playoff series against the Colorado Eagles, the streak came abruptly to an end as Utah lost 5-2.
In doing so, Utah failed to wrap up the series at home, breathing life into the Eagles. Even though the Grizzlies still have a 3-2 series lead, they'll need to win at least one in Colorado as Game 6 and a potential Game 7 shift to Loveland.
"We learned a valuable lesson tonight that the last game is the hardest to win," coach Tim Branham said. "You have to make sure when you're playing a desperate hockey club that you play a full 60 minutes."
At one point, things were looking extremely optimistic for the Grizzlies. Having acquired a 2-0 lead late in the second period, Utah smelled blood. Then, calamity befell the home team. Colorado lodged three goals in the span of two minutes. Jesse Mychan scored twice, and in between his efforts, Collin Bowman found the back of the net. In the blink of an eye, a two-goal lead had turned into a one-goal deficit as the second period came to a close. Utah never recovered.
The Eagles took advantage of their newfound fortune in the third period. Trent Daavettila beat Ryan Faragher gloveside to put the visitors ahead 4-2. And although Utah found itself on a power play late and having pulled Faragher for a two-man advantage, the Grizzlies were unable to muster a goal. With the net exposed, Daavettila made it academic for the 5-2 final.
"We laid off the pedal there for a bit. They're a great team, they won the division and we gave them a sniff and they took it from there," Puskar said.
Utah recorded its second goal of the night as Connor Hardowa rifled a blazing, cross-ice pass to an open Matt Berry, who flipped the puck past an out-of-position Colorado goaltender in Clarke Saunders.
The Eagles have an impressive home-ice record of 24-5-2-1, good enough for third best in the ECHL.
However, Utah has won not only in the regular season in Colorado, but most importantly Game 1 of the series.
The team and Puskar aren't shying away from the challenge. "This is do or die from here on out for both teams. We're going down there with a great group of guys. If we put together a full 60 minutes, it's going to be a battle," he said.