West Valley City • Utah Grizzlies forward Erik Bradford was recently named to the ECHL All-Star team and on Friday night against the Rapid City Rush, he showed why. With a pair of goals and an assist, Bradford dazzled the crowd and led the charge as Utah registered a comeback win against its division rivals, defeating the Rush 4-1.
"We're starting to come together as a team and we're coming together at the right time," Bradford said. "I thought we played really well tonight, and these are big games that we need to win if we're going to climb back in the standings."
It took Utah a while to figure out Rush goaltender Adam Morrison, but the Grizzlies finally tallied a pair of goals late in the second period to establish a lead. With Utah trailing by one, Morrison failed to secure a rebound from a Michael Pelech shot and Bradford simply slid the puck into the back of the exposed net to tie the contest. Shortly after, a one-man disadvantage proved no problem for Ralph Cuddemi, who flashed athleticism, deking a defender and beating Morrison glove-side high to give Utah the lead.
Any thought Rapid City had of a comeback was thwarted by the duo of Bradford and Cuddemi in the third period as each scored his second goal of the night.
Although the Grizzlies controlled the puck for the majority of the first period and outshot the Rush 10-7, they found themselves trailing by a goal and were fortunate the deficit wasn't greater. Rapid City took an early lead on its second shot of the contest when a two-on-one developed. Nicholas Miglio found the back of the net off an assist by Michael Young that caught Utah goalie Troy Redmann out of position. Shortly after, Utah had to stave off successive penalties, including a five-on-three that lasted one minute in which Redmann made some spectacular saves, including grabbing a rifled puck out of midair.
"The boys are confident and are playing with some swagger right now," Utah coach Tim Branham said. "Things are looking good for us and we need to continue to build."