Don't print the Utah Grizzlies logo on the IHL Western Conference finals ticket just yet.
The Grizz had a prime opportunity to clinch their second-round series as they took a 1-0 lead over the seventh-seeded Peoria Rivermen into the final 20 minutes of play Saturday night.However, the Rivermen bounced back to score a pair of unanswered goals in the final period to take a 2-1 victory over Utah and avoid being eliminated in front of their hometown crowd.
The series, which Utah leads 3-2, now moves back to the Delta Center after three straight games in Peoria. Game 6 is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m., and if Peoria wins, the decisive Game 7 will be played on Wednesday.
The biggest mystery on Saturday was trying to figure out what exactly happened to the Grizzlies offense. Then again, aside from Friday night's nine-goal explosion, that's been a puzzle throughout the postseason.
Just 24 hours after their 9-2 blowout win in Game 4, the Grizzlies only managed a second-period goal by rookie Brett Lievers. Go figure.
Meanwhile, both defenses and goalies, for that matter, played as well as they have the entire series. Peoria's Andre Racicot, who was on the receiving end of eight Grizz goals on Friday, made 25 of 26 saves in the win. Utah netminder Tommy Salo continued to play well, stopping 27 of 29 Rivermen shots.
After a scoreless first period, Lievers put the Grizz up 1-0 by racing down the length of the ice to beat Racicot for his fourth goal in two games. He had his first pro hat trick on Friday.
Peoria's Daniel Gauthier responded in the beginning of the third with a backhander that evened the score at 1-1.
The game-winning goal came at the 7:03 mark of the final period when former Grizzly Barry Nieckar rifled a shot by Salo from the faceoff circle.