When the puck drops this Friday night in West Valley City’s Maverik Centre, it will be a different Utah Grizzlies team than the one the Victoria Salmon Kings dominated in the last month of the regular season.
The Kings set up their second round, best-of-seven conference semifinal series against the Grizzlies with a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday against the Bakersfield Condors. The Kings took the best-of-five first-round series in four games.
Games 1 and 2 of round two go Friday and Saturday in Utah. The other semifinal has the Alaska Aces playing the winner of the Idaho Steelheads and Las Vegas Wranglers.
Beating Bakersfield brought a lot of good emotions to Victoria, coach and general manager Mark Morrison said.
“This is a long year, we (only) just made it into the playoffs but it’s a strange feeling. We knocked off the No. 2 seed because (this team has) always known they can beat anyone. We have nothing to lose.”
The biggest factor about facing the Grizzlies is the team won’t be relying on replacement players, who were outscored by the Salmon Kings 26 to 11 in the final four meetings.
Chad Painchaud said he isn’t surprised the Grizzlies are in the second round.
“They were first in the conference this year until they lost some of their players. It’s hard to gauge any team in this league when they lose players and have to fill those spots, but Utah has those players back.”
Painchaud expects Utah to be more like the team that shutout the Salmon Kings 1-0 and 2-0 on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, respectively.
The Salmon Kings left town on a sour note, losing Game 2 to Bakersfield 6-3. After that, veteran Adam Taylor refused to use the refereeing as an excuse.
“The best thing to do is shut your mouth and go out and kill it,” he said about penalties.
Goalie David Shantz shut the door in Game 3 against Bakersfield as the Salmon Kings won 2-0 on first-period goals by Jeff Caister and Matt Sidall.
In Saturday’s Game 4, the Kings owned a 2-1 lead late in the game on goals by Milan Gajic and Taylor, who was set up nicely by Ryan Dingle. When the Condors’ Josh Burrows tied it with 12 minutes left, the game became much more intense for Victoria, Painchaud said.
“We were down (mentally) and tried to stay loose between the third period and overtime.
“(Bakersfield) came out pretty hard the first couple of minutes and we hung in there and got a three-on-two breakout.”
That breakout led to Painchaud’s overtime winner, his second goal and fourth point of the playoffs.
“(Rob) Hennigar carried it over the line with me and (Chad) Klassen.
“Klassen took the shot from the slot which bounced off the glass. Goalie (Brian Stewart) had come out to the top of the crease. I scooted behind him and hit it (out of the air) into the net,” explained Painchaud.
“I’m not even sure how I got my stick on it, just lucky.”
Western conference semifinal sked
Game 1: Victoria at Utah, Friday, April 15, 6:05 p.m.Game 2: Victoria at Utah, Saturday, April 16, 6:05 p.m.
Game 3: Utah at Victoria, Wednesday, April 20, 7:05 p.m.Game 4: Utah at Victoria, Friday, April 22, 7:05 p.m.Game 5: Utah at Victoria, Saturday, April 23, 7:05 p.m.
Game 6: Victoria at Utah, Tuesday, April 26, 6:05 p.m.Game 7: Victoria at Utah, Wednesday, April 27, 6:05 p.m.