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Valley Journals

Exciting finish to Grizzlies season

May 10, 2017 11:47AM ● By Greg James

The Utah Grizzlies mascot Grizzbee is one of the most recognizable parts of the team., he He takes theo time to interact with many like including youth hockey player Eddie Rappleye. (Ed Rappleye/Grizzly fan) Summary: The Utah Grizzlies advanced to the playoffs for the tenth 10th straight season. The team won seven of its final eight games.

By Greg James |  gregj@mycityjournals.com

Maverik Center in West Valley is the home of the Utah Grizzlies. Hockey has always been an obscure part of the community.

West Valley was the center of the hockey universe for two weeks in February of 2002. It hosted the best players in the world for the Olympic tournament. Stars like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull skated the ice.

Today the glitz and glamor is mostly gone, but mid-level minor league players in the ECHL (formerly the  East Coast Hockey League) call it home.

The Grizzly just completed their 21st season in Salt Lake City. Highs and lows were common this time around, but despite its rough patches, the Grizzlies still managed to close out the regular season with an opportunity to advance to the playoffs.

The Grizzlies finished the 2016-17 regular season on a tear. They won six straight contests in pursuit of their 10th straight playoff appearance. In mid-January, they found themselves 14 points out of playoff contention; an almost insurmountable task.

The rival Colorado Eagles paid a visit to the Grizzlies the week of March 20 and came away with a three- game sweep. Its playoff possibilities seemed bleak. They left the friendly confines for a five-game, 10-day road trip. They swept the road trip and controlled their own destiny in their final home stand. One victory and they would advance into the ECHL playoffs.

The Grizzlies captured a 5-3 victory over Missouri April 8 to secure a playoff spot. The playoffs were scheduled to begin April 12 (after press deadline).

At the team awards banquet April 6, Michael Pelech was named team MVP. He scored 20 goals this season and had 33 assists.

Goaltender Ryan Faragher averaged 3.09 goals allowed per game and rookie Kevin Boyle, a top prospect of the Anaheim Ducks, posted a 2.0 goals against average in his final 15 games with the team. NHL teams use minor league rosters to develop its talent.

National Hockey League opening night rosters boasted 11 former Grizzlies. They also have the most home wins in the ECHL in the past three seasons.

The Grizzlies have a strong connection with the community in its amateur leagues and youth participation. They have a partnership with the Junior Grizzlies and the Salt Lake County recreational program.

Grizzbee, the team’s mascot, is scheduled to make more than 150 appearances in the community throughout the year at schools, libraries and community events.

The Grizzlies moved to Salt Lake City in 1995 as a member of the International Hockey League and later the American Hockey League. The team played its home games in the then named Delta Center until moving to West Valley City in 1997.

In 1996, the Grizzlies won the IHL’s Turner Cup, in the fourth and final game of the championship series 17,381 fans attended the game and established a minor-league hockey attendance record. In 2005, the team was sold and moved to Cleveland. A new ownership group purchased the Grizzly identity and an East Coast Hockey League team, The Virginia Lancers, moved them to Utah. They became a part of the ECHL.

The Grizzlies averaged nearly 5,300 fans per game. That is fourth highest in the league.