It's no secret that the Utah Grizzlies and Alaska Aces don't like each other very much. With a skirmish taking place before the puck even dropped, the emotions boiled over onto the ice as Friday's contest featured a slew of fights and penalties.
Ultimately, Alaska, led by Stephen Perfetto's pair of goals, outlasted the Grizzlies 3-1 as the Aces increased their hold on the division's final playoff spot.
"We had our spurts when we played well," Utah coach Tim Branham said. "But they're a fast team and they work hard and their goalie made some great saves. It was a playoff-type game tonight and we'll be ready to go tomorrow."
The Grizzlies will have to figure out goalie Kevin Carr, who was sensational in net for the Aces, stopping all but one of the 33 shots Utah directed his way.
Each team tallied a goal in the opening period as the session ended in a 1-1 tie. Alaska got on the board first as a deflected puck off the stick of Perfetto found the back of the net. Utah responded just seconds into its second power play of the night as Michael Pelech jabbed at a loose puck that barely sneaked past the pads of Aces keeper Kevin Carr.
Alaska registered a goal with just 17 seconds remaining in the second period as Perfetto scored his second of the contest. But due to the steady goaltending of Ryan Faragher, Utah was fortunate its deficit wasn't greater. Utah's keeper stopped Peter Sivak on a breakaway and made a variety of incredible saves to keep the Grizzlies within striking distance.
Only one goal was scored in the final period and, unfortunately for Utah, it came courtesy of Aces forward Tim Wallace. The Grizzlies tried to muster an offensive attack, but were unable to take advantage of consecutive power plays as the game drew to a close.
With the second half of the season well underway, Utah will need to bounce back and cut into the Aces' lead if it hopes to maintain its streak of nine consecutive postseason appearances.