The Utah Grizzlies and Alaska Aces is one of the marquee rivalries in the ECHL, and Saturday at the Maverik Center marked the 126th time the two clubs squared off.
There will not be a 127th.
With Alaska folding at the end of the season and both teams vying for the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division, it was fitting that the final matchup would be closely contested. Ultimately Alaska couldn't contain Colin Martin, and behind his hat trick, the Grizzlies prevailed 5-4.
"This whole series I don't think we put together a full 60 minutes until tonight," Martin said. "We took it to them from the puck drop to the final buzzer. That's what we need to do every night. It's playoff hockey and it's time to go."
The game was tied at 4 in the third following Alaska defenseman Nolan Descoteaux's second goal of the evening. However, Utah wouldn't be denied as Mathieu Aubin provided the game winner and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Utah came out of the gates blazing with a pair of goals. Jon Puskar, receiving a pass from Ralph Cuddemi, spun and fired a rocket past Aces goalie Kevin Carr. Martin began his campaign by rifling a shot at point blank range to give the Grizzlies a 2-0 lead. Utah would withstand a five on three Aces power play but couldn't stop Yan-Pavel Laplante from getting the visitors on the board to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
The Grizzlies were clicking on all cylinders early in the second period and were awarded when Martin scored his second for a 3-1 advantage. However, Alaska pushed back and tied the contest with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart when Descoteaux and Daniel Moynihan scored. Martin, though, ensured the Grizzlies would end the period with the lead when he completed his hat trick.
"We were determined as a group and we talked about it on the bench that we were going to win this hockey game," Utah coach Tim Branham said.