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Grizz get act together and soundly defeat tough Chicago Wolves

SHARE Grizz get act together and soundly defeat tough Chicago Wolves

For the Utah Grizzlies, most of the month of March has been like a hit movie - "Titanic." At least, it seemed at times as if the team was taking on water and sinking slowly into the Southwest Division.

All of a sudden, however, the Grizzlies have become, collectively, the "Man in the Iron Mask."Monday night, Utah soundly defeated the Chicago Wolves at the E Center, 5-2. It was the third win in a row, and two of those wins have been against division leaders. In those three games, against Eastern Conference leader Detroit, the Michigan K-Wings and Midwest Division leader Chicago, Utah has outscored the opposition 17-6.

The iron mask appears to be a playoff game-face.

"We're taking steps toward being ready for the playoffs," said Utah coach Butch Goring. "I want us to be on all cylinders when the playoffs show up."

Indeed, this game had a playoff intensity, as evidenced by the close-checking defense of both teams and the lack of penalties. Both teams combined for only five penalties all night, with Utah getting whistled for only one minor in each of the last two periods.

Chicago scored first near the mid-point of the first period on a pass that went through the crease and left Utah goalie Jamie Ram out of position. The Wolves kept the 1-0 lead at the end of the first period, which generally is an ominous sign for the Grizzlies. Utah had won only once this season when trailing after the first period, losing the other 15 times.

But the Grizzlies fought back in the second period, taking a 3-2 lead on goals by Jan Vopat, Ras-tis-lav Pavlikovsky and Mark Lawrence. That brought another season statistic to mind. Utah, whose defense can be especially stingy with a lead, almost always wins when ahead after two pe-ri-ods.

Sure enough, Dan Plante and Chris Taylor added goals for Utah in the third period and the defense clamped down, turning a close game into a route. As a result, Utah has won two of its three games this season against Chicago.

"This was a good test for us," Goring said. "These guys (the Wolves) are playing well."

The win gave Utah 100 points on the season, with a 46-22-8 record, and moved the team within two points of second-place Houston. Long Beach remains in first place, seven points ahead of the Grizzlies.

Grizzlies' officials decided to show the Utes' game on the E Center's video screens, as they did Saturday night. Still, the basketball game may have hurt attendance. The announced crowd was 7,286, but far fewer than that showed up, although many were dressed in Ute red and may have blended into the maroon-colored seats.

The Grizzlies next travel to Kansas City for a game Wednesday. The Blades would be Utah's first playoff opponent if the relative standings don't change by the end of the season.