Entering Saturday night's ECHL playoff game, the Utah Grizzlies had an 8-0 record against the Colorado Eagles this year when leading or tied after one period of play. With 20 minutes of hockey elapsed Saturday night at the Maverik Center in their best-of-seven playoff series, the score was tied at 1. The Grizzlies had the Eagles right where they wanted them.
Utah improved that record to 9-0, and for the first time in the series a game was decided by more than one goal. The Grizzlies won going away, 7-2, and in doing so grabbed a commanding 3-1 series lead over their division rivals.
All the Grizzlies apparently needed on this night was Charles Sarault, as the Utah forward outscored Colorado on his own with three goals, garnering his first professional hat trick.
"For the past three months, Charlie has been an absolute professional, an absolute superstar, an absolute team leader, and he wants to win more than anything," Utah coach Tim Branham said. "When you've got a guy like that stepping up every single game, it's easy for the rest of the team to follow."
With time dwindling in the second period and the score tied at 2, Utah forward Ryan Hayes rifled a shot from an improbable angle, not only giving Utah the lead at 3-2 but providing the game winner.
Hayes improved his career total to nine playoff goals with Utah over two seasons.
Utah not only poured it on in the third, but embarrassed the Eagles as Sarault scored his second and third goals of the night. Forward C.J. Eick scored his first professional goal and Alex Krushelynski also got on the scoresheet.
Earlier in the second, Sarault blasted a deflection off a Connor Hardowa shot to make it 2-1 Grizzlies.
However, Utah found itself on the wrong end of a 4-on-3 power play, and Colorado took advantage of the open ice and tied the score at 2 courtesy of Trent Daavittila.
The Grizzlies spent most of the first 10 minutes of Thursday's contest on the power play yet came up empty. They weren't about to let good fortune go to waste Saturday night as Phil Pietroniro scored at 17:19 to put the Grizzlies up 1-0 at 2:55. Colorado responded as Everett Sheen evened the score at 1 at the 17:19 mark in the first.
It has been a total team effort as 11 players have scored goals for the Grizzlies so far in the series, and they'll look to wrap things up at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the Maverik Center.
"I have full confidence in our group. We have guys in this locker room that want to win and will do whatever it takes," Sarault said.