By CHRISTIAN MARTIN
The Grizzlies finally beat Cleveland in the E Center Friday night as they over powered Lumberjacks in a 2-0 victory.
In a highly physical game the Grizzlies were able to end their losing streak at home against Cleveland and start a new winning streak at the E Center this season. The Lumberjacks had spoiled the undefeated record that the Grizzlies enjoyed at home with their win the night before.
The tone of the game was set early as the hinges on the penalty box door almost wore off from so much use.
Utah found itself in the box three times in the early minutes. The Lumberjacks tried to capitalize as they fired nine shots on goal before the Grizzlies even attempted to score.
In Thursday night’s loss, the Grizzlies went 1 for 10 in power play opportunities. But Utah would not be denied again. As the first Cleveland player stepped into the penalty box, John Namestnikov sent the puck into the back of the net for what would turn out to be the winning goal.
While Cleveland’s goalie Pat Jablonski had another exceptional night defending the net, it was Utah goalie Wade Flaherty’s night to shine. Flaherty turned away all 33 shots that came his way.
“When a goal tender gets a shutout, it’s a team shutout,” Flaherty said. “It works both ways, the goal tender is not going to get a shutout if the team doesn’t play well.”
Cleveland had 12 power play opportunities and was turned away each time by the strength of the Grizzly defense. In fact, Utah seemed to control the puck even when they were shorthanded and almost scored several times in the second period while being a man down.
With 13:41 left to go in the game, the Grizzlies found themselves at a disadvantage for four minutes as Fred Knipscheer was caught and booked for a high sticking penalty. Utah’s defense tightened and barely allowed the Lumberjacks to attempt an attack at the net, let alone score.
John LeBlanc put the finishing touches on the game when he scored his second goal of the season at 11:11 into the final period. From there on, it was all Flaherty as he rejected Cleveland a few more times before the buzzer sounded.
“When we need to score goals, we score goals, but we’ve proven we can play in the low scoring games as well,” Flaherty said. “It’s a little early still but when it comes down to the playoffs, it’s pretty obvious that defense wins championships.”
Utah improved to 7-3-1 on the season and will now travel to Las Vegas to take on their rivals the Thunder on Tuesday. The Grizzlies will return to the E Center on Thursday to open a two game series against Milwaukee.