The Utah Grizzlies stole an extra point as they beat the Idaho Steelheads 4-3 in a shootout on Wednesday night at Qwest Arena.
The Steelheads outplayed the Grizzlies from the drop of the puck and played a very physical game which hasn’t been the case for them of late. Idaho welcomed back goaltender Tyler Beskorowany, who has been on an extended call up with its “AAA” affiliate Texas Stars since mid November, by playing solid defense and allowing just 22 shots on goal in regulation. The Steelheads pushed the pace in the first period and got on the board first as Evan Barlow scored his fourth goal of the year on the power play at 6:29. Barlow netted a rebound off a shot from Marty Flichel that Utah goalie Andrew Engelage couldn’t corral.
Utah tied the score early in the second after they capitalized on a defensive zone miscue by the Steelheads that left center Brent Gauvreau alone in the slot to find a mostly open net and notch his fifth goal of the season. Utah took the lead at 13:40 of the second after winger Tom May finished a nice passing play from center Brett Parnham that Beskorowany had little chance on. Idaho didn’t let the lead stay with the visitors very long as Michael Neal deflected a slap shot from the point by Aki Seitsonen just 17 seconds into a power play. Flichel got the secondary assist on Neal’s sixth of the season and tied the game at two apiece after two periods.
Idaho took the momentum of the Neal goal into the third and scored early on a very well played 3 on 2 break at 2:33. Cody Purves caused a turnover at the Idaho blue line and streaked down the right boards as newly acquired defenseman Matt Case went with him down the center. Purves made a great pass that Case one-timed on Engelage who kicked the puck straight back out onto the waiting stick of the trailing Barlow who made no mistake in scoring his second of the game and fifth of the year. Both teams played tight defense for most of the rest of the period until Utah turned up the wick on offense for the final five minutes. Idaho played solid defense and made it difficult for Utah to even pull its goaltender in the final minute for an extra attacker. Utah did finally get Engelage to the bench and took advantage of the extra man as winger Simon Ferguson got a puck between the pads of Beskorowany that crossed the goal line by just an inch with 18 seconds showing on the clock to send the game to overtime.
The overtime decided nothing except that it would take a shootout to declare a winner. The shootout was fairly uneventful or suspenseful as Utah’s first two shooters, Parnham and Kevin Deeth, each scored on their chances while Barlow, Neal, Derlago and Flichel were all denied by Engelage. The first place Grizzlies took the extra point and increased their lead over the Steelheads to seven points in the Mountain Division. Idaho still has a chance to gain back four points in this series as both teams will meet again on Friday and Saturday nights at Qwest Arena. Both games begin at 7:05 and the Steelheads will be playing 8 of their next 11 games on home ice.