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Grizzlies on verge of elimination

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Being home in the Delta Center didn't make a bit of difference for the Utah Grizzlies Wednesday night.

They started with the same first-period 1-0 lead they've had for four straight games, three in this IHL West semifinal series, and for the third straight time, that was all they got while the Long Beach Ice Dogs barked four times for that same 4-1 score that the Grizz lost by on Sunday in site of the Queen Mary.Utah's playoff slogan - We Want Three - is now We Got Three, and it refers to losses, not Turner Cups.

This best-of-7 playoff against the IHL West regular-season champions could be over as early as Friday night. The 'Dogs could sweep the Grizz out of the Delta Center with their tails.

If Utah manages to win Friday, the if-necessary Game 5 is Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Delta Center. If Utah can't win both 4 and 5, plus the possible Games 6 and 7 next week in Long Beach, then either Friday or Saturday will be the final pro hockey game in the Jazz's house for some time. The Grizz are to move to their new West Valley Events Center next season.

"Well, we may have a few nails in the coffin," said Grizzly coach Butch Goring, whose franchise has never been down 0-3 before, "but we're not quite in the ground yet. The task at hand is certainly uphill, but it's been done before, so we're not about to say it's over," he said, referring to a four-win comeback. But it's never been done in the 51-year-old IHL.

Oddly, the veteran Grizz are losing these games with their heads. The effort's there, but so are mental mistakes. "I still believe if we can get it together where our energy goes with our minds, where our hockey sense goes with our effort, we're going to be fine," Goring said.

Utah got more shots and quality opportunities than in the other two games, but bounces went the wrong way. "We couldn't get it in the ocean from the pier," Goring said. "Tommy Draper (Beach goalie) played very well, and when he didn't, their defense played well."

Again, Long Beach's special teams crushed the Grizz. There were only 12 total penalty minutes, and The Beach scored three special-teams goals. And again it was the second period that bit Utah. Chris Taylor scored his first playoff goal 3:14 into the first period, but :34 into the second, 'Dog defenseman Mark Ferner scored on a power play, and at 5:24 of the second, 'Dog center Stephane Morin scored the first of his two short-handed goals for the night. The 'Dogs added two early third-period scores, Patrik Augusta getting their only even-strength goal at 2:48, and Morin scoring short-handed at 4:01. GAME OVER.

"It felt like a 10-1 hockey game," said Grizz goalie Don Beaupre. "They outplayed us in every position. It's almost to the point of being embarrassing to me. I don't think it was a very good effort. I want to be real positive, but we have to be more desperate.

Beaupre said Utah can win the next game, "and that's the only game you need to be concerned with now, but it's going to take more than we've shown the last three games."

"We've got a lot of determination, a lot of grit on this team," said Grizz defender Jeff Sharples. "We're going to have to pick it up a notch, but tonight was a lot better effort. Credit Long Beach. They're one of the hardest-working teams in the league.

"Let's just see what happens Friday," Sharples said. "We're going to keep on playing until someone tells us otherwise. They're finding a way to win. Now it's our turn. We have to find ways to win," Sharples said. One way, he said, is to play with a heightened intensity level while also being loose and smart. And, "Maybe we'll let them have the first one (goal) Friday and turn our fortunes around a little bit."