The Grizzlies have found postseason life a bit more treacherous in their ECHL second round series against the second seeded Fort Wayne Komets.
Although Utah was tied or within a goal as it entered the third period in Games 1 and 2 at Fort Wayne over the weekend, the club was unable to get over the hump in either contest. Facing an 0-2 deficit as they return home to the Maverik Center for the next three games, the question is: Can the Grizzlies bounce back?
"We've come out flat in both games, we haven't played anywhere near our best hockey and yet the games have been close," Grizzlies coach Tim Branham said. "We need to concentrate more on the defensive end and keep the puck out of our zone. Offensively, they have a lot of firepower and we need to do a better job shutting them down."
Not all has been doom and gloom for Utah. The offense has been mostly stellar. The Grizzlies are leading the ECHL with a 4.13 goals per game average in postseason play. Fort Wayne is second with a 3.78 per game average,
Leading the charge for the Grizzlies in the playoffs have been forwards Charles Sarault, Ryan Hayes, and Barry Almeida. Sarault is leading the league in playoff goals with seven; Hayes has a six-game scoring streak with three goals and eight assists; Almeida has five goals and six assists.
Goaltenders Ryan Faragher and Mark Owuya have been platooning, but Faragher was recalled to Anaheim's AHL affiliate in San Diego. The task of stopping the Komets shots on goal rests on the shoulders of Owuya. In limited time this season, Owuya has been good at home, going 4-1-0-1.
Utah will be looking to get out of the gates more quickly. Five of the 11 goals the Grizzlies gave up in Games 1 and 2 came in the first period. The Grizzlies recovered in both games, outscoring the Komets 7-6 in the final two periods. But the early holes have been too big to dig out of.
"We need to focus more on playing team defense which will translate into offense," Almeida said. "We have the talent to get back into this series and there isn't any panic in the locker room. We have the best fans in the ECHL and we're confident in our building. We know that if we focus on taking it one game at a time, good things will happen."