“I thought at certain times that that is the best hockey we have played this year,” said Spud Kings head coach Marty Quarters. “I thought we tracked the puck really well and we played aggressively. We tilted the ice on them. Somehow they stayed around. I was not really happy about some of the calls but we cannot control that.”
Tale of the tape
“He played good in my opinion,” said Spud Kings captain Matteo Mitrovic. “I mean, we got two unlucky goals, you know, good screenshots. But he played solid overall. Communicated well with the defenseman, and then you know, got the win.”
Idaho Falls opened the scoring midway through the first period when a Rock Springs turnover in their own zone turned into a goal for Xavier Goodwin, making the score 1-0. DJ MacLeish was given an assist on the play.
The Grizzlies found themselves on the powerplay with a few minutes remaining in the first period when Easton Edwards was handed a penalty for boarding.
On the powerplay, Rock Springs cut their deficit to one goal when Owen Meyer found a loose puck and put it behind Carter, making the score 2-1. Thomas Dell and Peyton Smith were given assists on the powerplay goal.
After one period, the Spud Kings led the Grizzlies 2-1, while outshooting them 13-10.
“It was just keeping the game simple,” Mitrovic said. “Just putting pucks deep the first five minutes of the game and then skating them hard. Tracking them, playing physical and then we created turnovers. That is how we got our scoring chances.”
Rock Springs tied the game nearly a minute into the second period when Sean Karaman beat Carter over his right shoulder, tying the game at 2-2. Denis Kuzmenkov and Meyer collected assists on the play.
“It was like, oh they came back…” Xavier Goodwin said. “So we have to get going again. And then after that, we just kept going. So it was good.”
Matvei Naumov gave Idaho Falls the lead again when he found a loose puck and beat Inabinet, making the score 3-2 with the majority of the second period remaining. O’Rourke and Brenden Fields picked up assists on the go-ahead goal.
Xavier Goodwin struck with his second goal of the game when he pulled into the front of the net and gave them a 4-2 lead with 14:07 remaining in the period. Dario Sacino and Tobias Omholt collected assists on the goal. Sacino’s assist was his first point as a Spud King in his debut with the team.
“I am feeling on fire right now, I am probably going to score next game,” Xavier Goodwin joked. “Getting pucks deep, working hard down low, communicating with my teammates so that they know where I am and just taking the puck to the net.”
After two periods, Idaho Falls led Rock Springs 4-2, while outshooting them 27-17.
The Spud Kings were given a powerplay a few minutes into the period when Peyton Smith was handed a minor penalty for hooking.
On the powerplay, DJ MacLeish picked up his seventh goal of the season when his point shot beat Inabinet and gave Idaho Falls a 5-2 lead. George Goodwin and Mitrovic added assists on the goal.
The Spud Kings found themselves down two players when Sacino took a penalty for slashing midway through the period and Tyler Williams took a penalty for kneeing minutes later.
After the Sacino penalty expired, Rock Spring capitalized on the second powerplay when a shot hit the crossbar and William Donovan swept in the loose puck, making the score 5-3. Kuzmenkov and Alexander Cutter Lewis got assists on the goal.
“Tightened up on the bench, but we also kept the energy still,” Xavier Goodwin said. “So we keep that offense going and we keep our defense. So we were great. We were chilling.”
Idaho Falls had the chance to score an empty net goal after Rock Springs pulled their goaltender and Jackson Beach found the puck in the Grizzly’s end. However, an accidental icing call by a referee took the opportunity away.
“You know, the referees, they are trying to do their best,” Quarters said. “They missed the icing in there and then we should have scored on it, and then it is game over. And then (Rock Springs) do not even try anything. And instead, the guy blows it. I thought they blew a few icings today, but we can not control that. So we try to focus on what we can control.”
Tempers flared at the end of the game as four players were kicked out of the game for fighting and the Grizzlies had to be escorted off the ice by officials following the horn. In total, 53 minutes in penalties were handed out on the final second of the game.
“We know that that team is frustrated,” Quarters said. “They have only won one game this year. We are five and one against them now. But those days of hockey are over where you grab a guy with 0.3 seconds left and start to fill his head in. And so, I am not happy about that. I would have thought there would be more respect. But I would like our guys to respond a bit better. I was not happy with what happened at the faceoff at the end.”
In the end, the Spud Kings defeated the Grizzlies 5-4, while outshooting them 43-24.
With the win, Idaho Falls advanced their record to 9-7-1.
Carter collected the win for Idaho Falls, stopping 20/24 shots.
“I mean, Prestyn has seven wins on the season for us now,” Quarters said. “So there is a reason for that. I do not think he was as tested tonight, but he was still tested enough where they could have beat us. So, we are confident with our goalies.”
Inabinet was handed the loss, stopping 38/43 shots.
“Pueblo is a tough team to play against,” Mitrovic said. “It is going to be a chippy game. They are a chippy team. So, we just try and play our game. Keep calm, do the same thing as yesterday. Maybe tighten up on defense a little bit, but iron that out and we will be fine.”