The goal was simple for the Utah Grizzlies: win Friday night and clinch their 10th straight playoff appearance.
Someone forgot to tell the Missouri Mavericks.
Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, the Mavericks played the role of spoilers, defeating Utah 3-2. The Grizzlies still control their destiny, however. A Utah victory Saturday or a loss by the Alaska Aces on Friday or Saturday against the Idaho Steelheads and a postseason berth is secure.
"I was disappointed in our effort, and we dug ourselves a hole with a two-goal deficit and you can't play like that," head coach Tim Branham said. "We have to be hungry. The question is how bad do we want it. I don't want to leave it to chance with Idaho. We need to come out tomorrow and show what we're made of."
Only one goal was scored in the third period and unfortunately for Utah, it was recorded by the Mavericks. Missouri broke a 2-2 tie at the 7:38 mark of the third period on a two on one when Connor Bleakley threaded the needle to Matt Robertson, who lobbed the puck just out of the reach of Utah goalie Kevin Boyle.
The Grizzlies offense came out of the gates stagnant and they paid the price. Before Utah had even managed a shot on goal, the score was 2-0 Missouri. A pair of top-shelf goals was tallied by Dane Fox and Eric Scheid less than two minutes apart.
Utah would turn on the jets in the second period. Sandwiched around 19 minutes of hockey was a goal at the beginning and end of the period to tie the score at 2-2. A loose puck was batted at by several Grizzlie players until Mathieu Aubin's attempt was successful just 40 seconds into the period. Still trailing by a goal with just 11.9 seconds left, Austen Brassard fired a slapshot through the pads of Mavericks goalie Zach Nagelvoort to tie the contest.
"It was pretty disappointing and that slow start woke us up," Brassard said. "But we have to move past it and we have an opportunity to get the job done tomorrow and that's what we're focused on."