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The City Journals

Grizzlies start the season on a high note

Feb 18, 2021 02:06PM ● By Greg James

Joe Wegwerth finished last season with 14 goals and already has four this season. (Photo courtesy of the Utah Grizzlies)

By Greg James | [email protected]

The Utah Grizzlies lost their first game of the season and then reeled off four straight wins. This season could be full of excitement and constant change.

“This is a fun hockey team to watch,” Grizzlies radio announcer Tyson Whiting said. “It is so early in the season, but the team has looked sharp.”

The East Coast Hockey League began play and, despite one cancellation already, hopes to play a flexible season. They decided to expanded rosters from 16 to 18 active skaters and two goalies. The Colorado Avalanche will continue their working agreement with the Grizzlies and after the NHL season gets in full force the Grizzly roster could change.

The Grizzly roster contains four former players and several players that are making their first professional appearances.

Parker Gahagen is new to the team. He recently signed a contract to play goalie in Utah. He played college hockey for the Army at West Point. Last season, he was with the Newfoundland Growlers and saved 93.9% of his opponent’s shots. In his first game in Utah, he allowed two second-period goals in a 3-2 victory over the Rapid City Rush.

Peyton Jones has played six games in goal this season. He has saved 90.1% of the shots he has faced.

Ty Lewis, last season’s leading scorer, is currently in American Hockey League camps. It is possible that he and some other players might return to the league. Diego Cuglietta currently leads the team with eight points.

“With this strange season the NHL will start in January and the AHL soon after that. There will be plenty of players moving teams and plenty of roster changes,” Whiting said.

The forward line of Jack Jenkins, Joe Wegworth and Trey Bradley have scored six goals at press time. 

“We are doing a great job of generating chances,” Whiting said. “I see us getting better as we contest every bit of ice on the forecheck.”

Its 23 goals in the first seven games are the most in the ECHL. 

Yuri Terao is one of many players that can create his own shots.

“The magician (Terao) is a player that makes game-deciding plays. This is a team that is full of this type of player. There are guys that are scratches (not on the active roster) that are good hockey players. There is lots of depth on this roster. Tim (Branham) and Ryan (Kinasewich) have done a great job assembling this team,” Whiting said on his radio broadcast.

Branham is the winningest coach in team history and Kinasewich has the most goals, assists and points in franchise history.

The Grizzlies opened their season Dec. 11, 2020 against the Rapid City Rush. The ECHL currently only has 13 teams. The Idaho Steelheads, a natural rival to the Grizzlies, opted for a voluntary suspension of this season. 

The Grizzlies play in the ECHL’s mountain division against the Wichita Thunder, Tulsa Oilers, Kansas City Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, and Fort Wayne Komets.

The ECHL is announcing schedules one month at a time as the season progresses. They are scheduled to host the Allen Americans Jan. 29-31. 

Tickets can be purchased at www.utahgrizzlies.com, the games are limited to 1,500 fans and masks and social distancing is expected. The radio broadcast for the games can be heard on Mixlr. FloHockey.tv presents the video telecast of all this season’s games.