You would never be able to tell by his performance, but Utah Grizzlies goaltender Mark McArthur really isn't a big fan of the IHL shootouts.
But like 'em or not, the 20-year-old has owned the extra shooting session in his young pro career. And that was the case again Friday night at the Delta Center as the Grizzlies nipped the Long Beach Ice Dogs 3-2 in a shootout.Utah center Brett Lievers and Grizz newcomer Jim Dowd each scored goals in the extra period, but it was McArthur's solid play between the pipes that sealed the victory.
"The nerves after a while take their toll in a shootout," said McArthur, who like the Grizz improved to 7-0 this year. "I'd prefer the overtime."
So probably would his opponents. McArthur stopped four of five shootout attempts to go along with his 28-save outing in regulation to prolong the franchise-best start against the Ice Dogs. He has won both of the Grizz's shootout games this year, during which opponents are 1-of-9 shooting, and improved to 6-0 in his two-year career.
"I thought McArthur made some big saves when he had to," said Utah coach Butch Goring. "He's played exceptionally well."
The shootout almost never happened, though. With just 25 seconds left and the score knotted at 2-all, Long Beach center Dan Lambert fired a slapshot that would have sizzled the back of the net if it would have been just inches to the left. Instead, the puck ricocheted off the post to preserve the tie.
"We certainly could have lost this game," said Goring, mentioning in particular that fortunate bounce that went the way of the Grizzlies.
That seemed to be the story of the night for Utah. The Grizz turned in a sub-par performance after going five days without playing a game but still managed to get the lucky bounces.
"Certainly the end result was very pleasing," admitted Goring, adding several buts to that phrase. "We were out of sync the whole game. From me right on down the line. The whole group of us - and I mean the whole group of us - didn't have a good game."
The power play again nearly was disastrous for the Grizzlies. Utah didn't score in seven tries, but Goring did say he saw a bit of improvement in the puck movement during the man-advantage situations.
The Grizzlies never trailed in the game as Brent Hughes, who was just sent down from the New York Islanders, and center Claude LaPointe each scored goals. Both were assisted by left winger Andrey Vasiljev.
The Ice Dogs tied the game midway through the second period in what was an overall tight-checking and somewhat sloppy game. Neither could score in the third, though, to force the shootout.
After a combined five players missed on their attempts in the shootout, Lievers made a nice stick fake to beat Long Beach goalie Mike O'Neill for the first score. Oleg Belov then tied it up, beating McArthur to begin the fourth round. Right after that, Dowd put Utah up for good by adjusting his shot to score on a backhand.
The two teams will play again tonight at 7 in the Delta Center.