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Grizz at loss to explain shutout defeat to Moose

Some nights, the puck just doesn't bounce your way. That was the only explanation the Grizzlies could offer Saturday night after suffering a rare and frustrating shutout at home against the Manitoba Moose, 2-0.

It was a night of ironies. Normally invincible at the E Center, the Grizzlies fired 39 shots at Manitoba goalie Rich Parent, all for naught. They created numerous scoring opportunities, only to fritter them away with too many passes or with shots that were a split second too slow."You're going to have nights like that," said Utah Coach Butch Goring. "But I thought we played really hard. We're disappointed, but we have nothing to be ashamed of."

Those kinds of nights don't come too often for the Grizzlies. Utah had not been shutout at home since April 6, 1996, 68 games ago. The Grizzlies had never been shut out at the E Center. The loss was the team's first ever at home to Manitoba, dating back to the Grizzlies' origins in 1994 in Denver. Utah had beaten the Moose 10 straight times at home, including a 3-2 victory Friday night.

The Grizzlies are the International Hockey League's highest scoring team, averaging 3.52 goals per game, yet they were stumped by a team with the league's third-worst record.

And, to add to the frustration, Manitoba's first goal, scored only 2:55 into the game, came off a pass that was knocked into the net by Utah's Jeff Sharples, who had intended to deflect the puck away.

"Hockey is like that," said Goring. "There are night when the puck just won't go in."

The Grizzlies are one of the IHL's hottest first-period teams, having outscored opponents 63-37 in first periods this year. But they have never won a game this year when trailing after the first period. Friday was no exception. The 1-0 score held up until 22 seconds remained in the game. Utah had pulled its goalie, Scott LaGrand, and Manitoba's Greg Pankewicz fired a shot into the empty net.

The Grizzlies were playing their third game in four nights, but Goring wouldn't use fatigue as an excuse. "If you're a betting man, you've got to think Manitoba is going to beat us sooner or later," he said.

Utah was suffering from the loss of its leading scorer, Kip Miller, who was called up to the New York Islanders last week. But Goring said Miller has been reassigned to Utah, along with two other Grizzlies' stars, Vladimir Orszagh and Dan Plante. All three are expected to join the team following the IHL all-star game next Tuesday in Orlando.

To further add to the frustration, both Houston and Long Beach, the two teams fighting with Utah for leadership of the Southwest Division, lost on Friday. Utah, now in second place, missed a chance to move within one point of first.

SLAP SHOTS: The loss snapped an eight game home-winning streak, one short of the IHL's longest home streak this season, set by Fort Wayne . . . Utah goalie Scott LaGrand stopped 23 out of 24 shots . . . The announced attendance was 9,817.