Utah coach Butch Goring didn't even hesitate to respond when asked what the biggest difference was in the Western Conference Finals.
"Special teams. No question about it," he instantly replied after the Grizzlies 7-4 victory over the Las Vegas Thunder in Game 6 Tuesday that clinched the series. "Our power play was a huge factor."The Grizzlies absolutely wrecked havoc on the Thunder's penalty-killing unit, which had posted the IHL's best numbers in the regular season.
Utah converted with the man-advantage a sizzling 34.5 percent of the time. The Grizz had at least one power play goal in all six games and notched four in their 4-3 victory in Game 3.
On the other end, the Grizz only allowed the Thunder four power-play goals in the entire series. Las Vegas made good on a dismal 12.5 percent of its attempts (4-of-32).
"The power play carried us through the series," said Utah center Chris Taylor, who had four assists in Tuesday's win. "What wins you series is the special teams."
As Las Vegas found out - the hard way.
BEST RECORD? BIG DEAL: The Las Vegas Thunder had an incredible regular season. The Thunder won 57 games and easily beat the Grizz (47-27-4) for the Southwest Division and Western Conference titles. But Utah's 4-2 series victory was enough to convince Las Vegas defenseman Greg Hawgood which was the better team.
"I always think that whoever wins the series is the best team," admitted Hawgood, who earned the IHL defenseman of the year award. "Whatever they had to do, they did to win. If I don't give a lot of credit to their team I'd be fooling myself."
He was especially impressed with the team effort the Grizz put forth to win the series.
"They have a lot of talent on their team; a lot of discipline. They have 23 guys that believe in a system that was put out for them and I think they carried it through to a 'T'. You have to give them all the credit in the world."
AIRBORNE ORANGES: Goring was understandably upset that fans were throwing oranges at he and his players on Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center. But he felt the time it took to clean up the mess (at least five minutes during the seven separate bombardments) hurt the Thunder more than anybody.
"The way they played the third period, if they hadn't of stopped they might've scored eight goals," he said of the Thunder who had three third-period goals. "I'm thankful for the stoppages, it saved me from using a timeout."
He also admitted that he wasn't too fond of the trout-tossing that goes on at the Delta Center of late.
"I'm not a big fan of what's going on at our building. I don't like it, but the fans maybe they do. Now you're seeing what happens when people carry it to extremes."
Remember the good old days when hockey players only had to watch out for flying pucks and elbows?
TICKETS ON SALE: Tickets for the upcoming Turner Cup Finals between the Grizz and the Orlando Solar Bears will go on sale on Friday at 9 a.m. at the Delta Center or all Smith Tix's locations. Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played in Utah.