ECHL: Utah and Wichita go head-to-head for the first time this season

Wichita Thunder

The Grizzlies played the Wichita Thunder at the INTRUST Bank Arena on Friday, 4/3/23. It was the first Utah vs. Wichita series of the 2023 season, and both teams were racing toward a spot in the Kelly Cup. The Grizzlies currently sit in 5th place in the Mountain division, so they needed all the standing points they could get during this series.

Trent Miner returned from his up/down deal with the Colorado Eagles and started in goal for the Grizzlies. The 1st period seemed all about gathering momentum as each team fought to be the first on the board. At 14:21 into the 1st, James Shearer was put in the box for slashing (minor) and gave Wichita a power play. Quinn Preston took advantaged and scored the first goal of the game at 16:19.

The Grizzlies really stepped up to the plate during the 2nd period. The work they’ve put into passing and communication shined through as Dylan Fitze tied the game at 6:20 into the 2nd. Keaton Jameson followed closely behind, scoring again at 7:45 in, and Aaron Thow scored Grizzlies’ 3rd goal of the period at 8:26 in, giving Grizzlies a 3-1 lead against Wichita. But Wichita wasn’t about to back down. Brent Van O was given a penalty at 13:03 for slashing (minor), but that didn’t stop Jake Wahlin from scoring a short-handed goal at 13:15, putting Wichita just 1 point away from tying up the game.

At just 1:20 into the 3rd, Cameron Hough would do just that, and Wichita would tie up the score, 3-3. This started an intense battle as each team fought to take the lead. Aaron Thow scored his second goal of the game, giving the Grizzlies a temporary 4-3 lead, but Wichita’s Jay Dickman scored shortly after and tied the game back up at 4-4. Fans were on the edge of their seats as the two teams battled it out in the 3rd period, but no one could capitalize on the two power plays (1 for each team), and the game would go into overtime.

1:42 into overtime, Wichita’s Jay Dickman was given a high sticking penalty (minor), putting the Grizzlies in a great position to hammer shots off at Whichta’s goal. But Justin Kapelmaster didn’t let any shots through, and Grizzlies’ power play ended. Several more tense minutes would be played before Zack Tsekos finally scored the Grizzlies 5th and winning goal of the night at 6:22 into the power play! Wichita’s Jay Dickman was given a 10 minute misconduct after the game.

On Sunday, 3/6/23, Garrett Metcalf returned from his loan to Calgary, and the Grizzlies played the series’ 2nd (and last) game against Wichita. Miner started in goal again, and at 6:48 into the 1st, Wichita’s Austin Crossley received an interference penalty (minor). Grizzlies made it first on the board when Jordan Martell scored a powerplay goal at 8:23 into the 1st. Kyle Pouncy followed up at 10:24 in and scored Grizz’s 2nd goal of the game. Wichita’s Jake Wahlin was given a hooking penalty (minor) right after, and Grizzlies did not let this second opportunity pass them by. Tyler Penner scored another powerplay goal at 10:24 in, giving the Grizzlies a solid 3-0 lead in the 1st period.

Wichita was looking for any chance to get onto the board going into the 2nd period. Cole MacDonald would find that opportunity for them and score their 1st goal at 4:08 in. Wichita seemed to finally find some momentum, and Gavin Gould would get the next goal for Wichita at 8:10, settling the new score at 3-2. With only 1 goal to tie the game, both teams fought hard to gain the upper hand. Ultimately, James Shearer would score Grizzlies the insurance goal they were fighting for at 14:00, ending the 2nd period at 4-2.

Grizzlies started the 3rd period in a power play, but they couldn’t make anything happen. Wichita looked like a different team – they were more focused and driven to close in on the Grizzlies. But despite their determination, they couldn’t close the gap. 18:18 in, Wichita decided to pull a bold move and pull Roman Basran off the ice to give them an extra man. But Dylan Fitze would score on the empty net at 19:12 in, finalizing the game at 5-2! Grizzlies came in strong and swept the series against Wichita!

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