March 27: Game Day
03/27/2009 10:16 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies look to get back on track following a 4-2 setback Wednesday versus Phoenix. It’s a Utah team that recently has rebounded well though following a tough loss. The Grizzlies haven’t gone two games in a row without a win in their last 12 games.
However it is going to be tough despite the fact that Utah is 5-1-0-1 versus the Thunder this year and has held them to one goal twice, two goals three times and three goals once this year. Stockton is also battling for playoff position and won’t easily forget the beating that Tom May and Utah put on them last Thursday here.
Rob Hennigar definitely deserved finally getting the call back to the AHL after leading the ECHL in virtually every statistical category possible since coming to Utah at the first of the year. Congratulations to Rob and I would be surprised if we see him back at this level again. At the end of the day, there’s really no point for him to be here. He has proven to be above this level of play.
With Hennigar and also Walsh getting called-up to Grand Rapids yesterday, Andy Sertich will go back up front and play forward. I got the feeling last time that Kevin Colley really wished it was possible to play Sertich “on both sides of the ball” after his two game stint as a forward last weekend. Not to mention, I also think he is the best penalty-killer in the league and always valuable on the power-play. You never know, Andy could now transition back into a forward after becoming a fulltime defensemen his second pro game in 2006 after being drafted as a forward by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mike Mole, who left the game versus Phoenix in the second period Wednesday is not on the one-game trip for Utah and is listed as day-to-day. Robert Gherson will get the start tonight and looked just fantastic in place of Mike Mole Wednesday. He stopped all nine shots he saw after coming into the game in mid-sentence after keeping Trainer Mike Plandowski company for the first half of the game on the far side of the bench.
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March 25: Game Day
03/25/2009 8:45 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies look to officially punch their ticket to the post-season tonight with a win in regulation over the Phoenix RoadRunners.
Looking at the Grizzlies potential first round opponent, it is either going to be Alaska or Idaho. The Aces lead Idaho by seven points entering tonight but the Steelheads have three games in hand. Alaska finishes the year with still four games left on their eight-game road trip, two of which will be in Utah. The Aces will be in Las Vegas again tomorrow and Phoenix Saturday. Alaska has won three-straight and nine of their last ten.
Meanwhile, Idaho is home for seven-straight to complete the year starting tonight with Ontario opening a three-game series followed by a four-game series with Phoenix next week to wrap up the year. So while a seven-point Alaska lead looks pretty strong, a lot could still change and the Grizzlies can control their own destiny next weekend versus Alaska.
Just to give you a “blog entry game day” exclusive, it looks like if Utah opens in Alaska the playoffs will begin Thursday, April 9 or Friday, April 10 in Idaho.
It’s a Utah team that all of a sudden has 22 skaters on the roster and last night had four actual healthy scratches.
It’s also a Utah team that is starting to really excel playing on E-Center ice. Utah is 4-0-0-1 in their last five home games and has allowed just five goals during that stretch. Utah is 14-10-5-4 overall at the E-Center this year with points collected in 23 of their 33 games.
A win tonight also guarantees that Utah will finish March at .500 or better and will give them their fourth such straight-month and their fifth of six this year.
The Grizzlies have three of the ECHL’s ten leading scorers during the month of March with Hennigar leading the entire league with five goals and 17 assists. Tim Verbeek is seventh with five goals and nine assists in 12 games and Tom May leads the league with 11 goals in March and is tenth overall in scoring with 14 points.
March 24: Game Day
03/24/2009 7:46 AM - Adrian Denny
The Grizzlies and Kevin Colley will be in a position tonight that they have only been in 19 times this year in 68 games played. They have two goaltenders with at least a year of professional experience.
With Mike Mole returning from Bridgeport for the stretch run along side Robert Gherson, Colley won’t have to rely on goaltenders making stretches of 27,9,9,8 or seven starts in a row as Utah heads into the playoffs.
Looking at tonight’s game at Phoenix presents Colley with an intriguing situation when comparing his two goalies. Gherson is 2-0 at home and has only allowed three goals or more in two-straight games this year and the Grizzlies lost 4-1 in Bakersfield Friday. Mike Mole is 2-0-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage versus Phoenix this year whom he played for during the 2005-2006 season.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies have scored six goals each in their last two games against Phoenix with a player collecting Utah’s first two hat tricks of the year in James Brannigan on February 7 and Tyler Woodddisse on March 8.
While Utah recently acquired the RoadRunners rookie leading scorer from last year in Peder Skinner and of course has 2005-2006 Phoenix rookie goaltender phenom in Mike Mole, the RoadRunners have three former Grizzlies defensemen. 06-07 Utah d-men Gord Burnett and Brian Deeth, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Charlotte, join T.J. Campbell who was with Utah late last season after completing his college career.
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March 20: Game Day
03/20/2009 9:53 AM - Adrian Denny
If you missed any of the first 7:39 of the first period last night in Stockton, Tom May wasn’t going to wait around for you as he started his four-goal performance just seven seconds into the contest and completed his hat trick with goals two and three in a one minute and 21 second span.
With the team’s leading goal scorer in Tim Verbeek missing just his second game of the year, May tied him at 28 with goal three and took the team lead with his 29th of the year scoring into an empty-net late in the third period. May became just the third player in the 15-year history of the Grizzlies to have a four-goal night with Brad Herauf (November 3, 2007) and Garett Bembridge (February 1, 2008) also reaching the historic four-goal plateau. And of course Tom Shattered the all-time team record for fastest goal to start a game set by Paul Kruse 9 seconds into a contest March 25, 2000 at Houston.
While May scored four of the five goals and Jordan Hart, Peder Skinner, Rob Hennigar and Andy Sertich were the only players to make it to the scoring column, it was definitely a fantastic team effort. The Grizzlies jumped to the 3-0 lead and then put the focus on protecting Robert Gherson, who again made some great saves to improve to 5-2. Obviously a big swing in the game was when referee Shane Warschaw waved off a kicked in Stockton goal less than a minute before Andy Sertich scored to give Utah a 4-1 lead halfway through the third period; which again setoff the often excitable Stockton bench led by Head Coach Matt Thomas. Though after the game on Stockton Thunder radio, color commentator Derek Eisler came to the defense of Warschaw saying he was in the perfect position and made the right call.
Back in Bakersfield the Grizzlies wrap up five games here in the last 17 days, which has encountered four different trip into “Condors Town.” Overall during this stretch, the Grizzlies will have spent eight of the last 19 nights here in Kern County and only five nights in their own beds during that stretch. After being here over the last three weeks, I can tell you the shifts, schedules and idiosyncrasies of every single employee that works at this hotel and could also point out their strengths and weaknesses in the hospitality industry.
The Grizzlies are finally on the downhill slide for the 2008-2009 regular season. After tonight, Utah will have the next two Saturday and Sunday’s off and complete the year with four of the final five games at home which will take place over the next 16 days. This, after playing 26 games over the last 44 days. 15 of those 26 games have been played on the road meaning 24 nights in hotels over the last 44 days and just five nights at home since February 23. Also tonight completes a stretch of nine games over the last 23 and nine games in 38 days against the Condors.
March 19: Game Day
03/19/2009 9:49 AM - Adrian Denny
Early in 2007, I proclaimed Ryan Kinasewich to be without question, the best player in the ECHL. Well ladies and gentlemen here comes another proclamation: Rob Hennigar is currently the best player in the ECHL hands down.
I made my decision last night by watching Rob being a human penalty-killing unit after registering an assist and a point in his 27th of 34 games since joining the Grizzlies on January 2. 17 of his 34 games have been multi-point contests and eight have been evenings of three points or more.
I am sure Florida Everblades fans would tell me that I am ignorantly discounting Kevin Baker who Tuesday became the first ECHL player since 2000-2001 to score 50 goals in a season. However, I am looking more than just scoring. Hennigar and linemate Tim Verbeek are tied for the league lead with a plus-19 since Rob came to Utah. Baker is a plus-one overall this season and an even since January 2. Baker is also on without question on a team that has been the most talented group in the ECHL all season. Hennigar from, February 6-March 8, was on the scrappiest most pieced together team in the league and they managed to stay at .500 or better the entire time. Hennigar is averaging 1.55 points-per-game during that stretch since 1/2/09, Baker is at 1.52.
I think the real debate will start if, as currently hoped for Ryan Kinasewich, rejoins Utah for the playoff run.
We’ll talk exclusively about players named Robert in this blog; as I encourage you to visit robgherson.com for the complete ins and outs on 4-2 Utah goaltender Robert Gherson. There are a lot of great pictures from the early years of his hockey career, including some of his masks and a lot more; so check it out!
As the Grizzlies get reloaded, it was amazing to watch Jordan Hart and Andy Sertich last night as they played together for the first time in Utah since February 4. Those two are in a league of their own, especially when they are paired up.
The Grizzlies made pretty good time last night coming up from Bakersfield. The projected four hour trip from Bakersfield took less than three and a half hours and after unloading the gear at the arena, the team was at the hotel and checked-in by 2:15 a.m. Meanwhile, Stockton was in Ontario last night and pulled in around 4:30 a.m. following their six-hour ride from the Inland Empire. The Grizzlies look for their third-straight win on a travel day as they play on the same day as travel for the fourth time in 12 days.
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