Perhaps it was because Denver outscored the Brahmas 12 to 4 in their previous meetings, handily taking the first two games in the season series between the teams. Or maybe it was because the Cutthroats were coming off of two solid wins that saw only one puck make it past their netminder in regulation. Most likely it was because they simply took the Brahmas for granted, underestimating their skill and desire to win.
Head coach Derek Armstrong didn't mince words about the way his team performed. "We didn't come out to play. We took them too lightly. We didn't show up tonight."
The Brahmas took an early lead with two goals from Phil Fox within the first six minutes of play. Slow feet and clumsy passes made the Cutthroats easy pickings, and Fort Worth successfully kept Denver at bay, limiting them to just three shots on net in the first period.
As the second period got under way, it looked as if the Cutthroats had finally found their feet. Play picked up, and so did the physicality of both teams. Tempers flared, just as they have in previous meetings with the Brahmas. The home team started generating some chances, one of which finally found the back of the net. Gabe Gauthier scored his 7th goal of the season at 6:47 in the second, extending his goal streak to five games. Assists went to Brett Lutes and Jean-Phillippe Chabot.
Towards the end of the middle frame and throughout the third, the Brahmas turned up the heat, forcing some highlight reel saves by Cutthroats' goaltender Kent Patterson, including a breakaway robbery, some mad scrambles in the crease, and a diving save that left Fox shaking his head in disbelief. Patterson's teammates weren't leaving him out to dry, though, as they sacrificed their bodies to block shots. It's something Armstrong has emphasized lately, and the work has shown.
Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough. Between the aggressive play by the Fort Worth forwards and the calm backstopping by goalie Brad Fogal, the Fish just couldn't get their offense going.
In the second half of the third, a four-on-four scrum erupted in the corners after Jamie MacQueen was sent crashing hard into the boards. It ended with Mario Boilard and Mike Towns of the Fish and Riley Boychuk and Adam Hogg of the Brahmas getting matching roughing penalties. Surprisingly, Boilard was given an extra unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, served by Brad Smyth, leaving his team down a man. The Cutthroats never recovered, and Fort Worth tacked on two more goals—Sy Nutkevitch with a shot from his knees and TJ Fox with the empty netter.
Denver looks to recover from the poor performance as they hit the road again. They visit Rapid City to face the Rush on Wednesday and Friday; then the Fish return home for two more games against Rapid City on Saturday and Sunday.
1. Phil Fox (Brahmas)
2. Sy Nutkevitch (Brahmas)
3. Gabe Gauthier (Cutthroats)
Postgame Notes: Denver now leads the season series against Fort Worth with a 2-1-0 record… With tonight’s loss the Cutthroats have yet to win three consecutive games this season… Gauthier’s goal was the 199th point of his pro career… Luke Fulghum saw his assist streak come to an end at four games tonight…