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West Valley City • Hopes were high for the Utah Grizzlies coming into Friday night's home contest against the Alaska Aces. After all, Utah had scored a combined seven goals in its last two games to win five of the team's last seven games at the Maverik Center and had hopes of stringing together three wins in a row for the first time this season.
But the Grizzlies' early season goal-scoring woes came back to haunt them on Friday as the team fell, 1-0, in a shootout loss to the Aces.
Even if the team's offense wasn't firing on all cylinders on Friday, defense has been the Grizzlies' calling card this season. Utah allowed only seven Alaska shots in each of the first two periods and kept the Aces scoreless on 24 shots on goal through three periods.
"I'm happy because come playoff time, we're going to love the way we're playing [defense]," said coach Tim Branham. "But in order to move up in the standings, we need goal-scorers … and we need to win games. In the ECHL, you need a high-scoring offensive team … and you need to button down defensively."
Despite the shootout loss, the Grizzlies killed all seven Alaska power plays and continue to lead the ECHL in penalty-kill percentage at home, allowing only four power-play goals at the Maverik Center this season.
"I didn't like some of our penalties," said Branham. "I thought we could have been a little more disciplined … but when your goalie is your best penalty killer, then you have success."
One game after recording his first shutout as a member of the Grizzlies, Igor Bobkov was outstanding again between the pipes for Utah. Bobkov saved all 26 Alaska shots through three periods, but the Aces goalie Olivier Roy matched Bobkov, save for save and stopped every Utah attempt in the shootout to preserve the win for the Aces.
"They battled," said Branham of his team's effort. "That's a good team we just played. They come hard. They were better tonight than they were last game, but I thought our boys were great."
Utah will face off against Alaska again Saturday night before leaving for a six-game trip.
Aces 1, Grizzlies 0 (SO)
O After starting the season by killing 48 of 52 penalties at home this season (the best in the ECHL), the Grizzlies kill all seven Alaska power-play chances.
• Utah three-game streak of outshooting its opponents is broken after Alaska puts up 26 shots, compared with 26 for the Grizz.
• After drawing 18 of 30 power plays over the last three games, Utah has only two power-play chances compared with seven for the Aces.