West Valley City • Less than a minute after Idaho scored its first of five goals Monday afternoon, Steelhead defender Taylor Vichorek simultaneously dropped his gloves with Utah Grizzlies forward T.J. Battani.
Standing at a towering 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, Vichorek struggled against the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Battani as the two went at it, but the Idaho defender eventually got the upper hand before the officials broke it up.
The brawl ran parallel to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day game in West Valley that drew 7,238 fans the Grizzlies put up a fight, and, at times, were the aggressor, but they couldn't land the killer blow against a superior Idaho squad.
The Grizzlies outshot Idaho 53-24 and still came up short, falling 5-3.
Despite losing to the Steelheads, a short-handed Utah squad dictated a majority of the game. The issues, per usual, were defensive breakdowns and the inability to finish on golden opportunities.
"We need guys to show up and elevate their game and answer the bell," said Utah coach Kevin Colley.
Trailing 2-1 at the beginning of the second period, the Grizzlies knotted things up on a magnificent wrist-shot goal by defender Evan Stoflet, who rifled a shot from the right circle into the upper part of the net.
Utah dominated play in the second, outshooting Idaho 22-5, but the Steelheads had a more steely reserve, scoring two goals minutes after Stoflet tied the game.
"It's pretty easy not to get beat out of the corner and they somehow allowed that to happen and it cost us two goals," Colley said. "That's the difference right there."
Consistency is something the Grizzlies, at 15-18-2-3, lack. Flashes of bright spots popped up, but the finishing touch remains to be discovered. It was the second game in a row that Utah put up at least 50 shots on goal and lost.
"I haven't liked what I've seen for a little while now," Colley said. "Our culture is going to have to change a little bit and we're going to have to put in more time off the ice."
Now, the up-and-down Grizzlies head out on what appears to be a season-determining seven-game road trip that takes them to Stockton, Calif., and Boise, Idaho, to face two of the top teams in the West.
"It's just not good enough," Colley said. "As an organization, we just can't let this go on."
Forward Gaelan Patterson scored Utah's first goal, finishing a loose puck in front of the net, while forward Adam Estoclet scored a last-gasp goal with 27 seconds left in the game after the Grizzlies had pulled their goalie.
Steelheads 5, Grizzlies 3
R For the second game in a row, Utah puts up at least 50 shots but loses.
• After tying the game at 2-2 seconds into the second period, the Grizzlies give up two quick goals.
• Utah heads out on a seven-game road trip starting in Stockton, Calif., then onto Boise, Idaho.
• MLK Day crowd drew 7,238 fans to the Maverik Center in West Valley.