Facebook Twitter

Utah wins first 59 minutes, loses when it counts

SHARE Utah wins first 59 minutes, loses when it counts

The Utah Grizzlies were just 27.4 seconds away from re-hanging "Home, sweet home" signs in their new den Wednesday.

A goal by David Oliver, however, changed all that. The shot past Utah goalkeeper Mark McArthur tied the score, forced a shootout, and eventually led the Houston Aeros to a 5-4 victory in the E Center."We did everything right for 59 minutes," said Utah coach Butch Goring.

"But once they scored that goal, we did everything wrong."

The Grizzlies had limited the Aeros to just 13 shots-on-goal before surrendering the lead when Houston pulled its goalie and capitalized on the power play opportunity - a 6-4 advantage since Utah had a man in the penalty box at the time.

"We probably deserved a better result than we were dealt," said Goring.

"But that's hockey."

Goals by Mike Wiseman and Oliver were not matched in the shootout as Houston's rookie goal-keeper Ryan Bach stopped Grizz shooters Kip Miller, who had put Utah ahead 4-3 with a goal at 4:07 of the third period, Fred Knipscheer, John LeBlanc and Chris Taylor.

"I cleared my mind and tried to stay on my feet in the shootout," said Bach, who had deflected 24 shots in regulation. "I didn't want to start my IHL career with a loss."

He didn't, as Utah fell for the third straight time at home. The Grizzlies have now lost four of their past five games at the E Center.

"You've got to give full credit to the guy in the nets," said Goring.

"But for goal scorers, you've got to do better than we did."

The same can be said for Utah's slumping power play. The Grizzlies went one-for-29 during the three-game homestand.

"Getting one point (for the shootout loss) in the three games is, obviously, not how I wanted things to go," said Goring. "But we played three pretty good games. We don't have to make any dramatic changes."

And the defense, which gave up eight goals in losses to Milwaukee over the weekend, showed a marked improvement against Houston. The Aeros, however, found a way to make more from less.

McArthur, who stopped a season-high 39 shots in a 5-2 win the last time the teams met, found the Aeros a bit more selective this time around.

Mark Freer and Mike Maurice each scored in the second period, while Oliver added a goal early in the third, as Houston converted on three of its first eight shots-on-goal. The latter, which came just 53 seconds into the final period, tied the score. Utah had taken a 3-2 advantage on two goals by Vladimir Orszagh and a single score from Taylor.

"(McArthur) had a heckuva game in Houston," said Goring, who opted to use him instead of teammate Wade Flaherty - the International Hockey League's top goalkeeper for October. "That was my call. When a guy has a good game against someone, sometimes you see a repeat performance."

Apparently not in Utah's House of Horrors, though.

The game also featured the first two hockey fights in E Center history.

Utah left wing Sean O'Brien and Brent Hughes of Houston have the dubious distinction of headlining the first bout.

Utah's next home game is Nov. 15 against Las Vegas. Until then, the Grizzlies head for the comfort of the road where they have won three consecutive games. Utah visits Quebec Friday and Sunday before facing Fort Wayne Tuesday.

SLAP SHOTS: Utah ranks seventh in IHL attendance. Wednesday's crowd of 6,307 upped the Grizzlies' season total to 52,889 over eight games for an average of 6,611. Grand Rapids leads the 18-team circuit at 10,798 per game . . . The Grizz have released right wing Carlos Soke. He appeared in two games and logged four penalty minutes . . . Flaherty was presented with his IHL Goalkeeper of the Month plaque before the game. The Grizzly goalie went 6-1-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average in October. Flaherty joins Tommy Salo (December 1995), Jamie McLennan (January 1996) and McArthur (October 1996) as Utah winners of the award.