WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Hockey season is here which means it’s time to preview the 2021-22 edition of the Utah Grizzlies. After losing in double overtime to the Allen Americans in game three of the first round of the playoffs, the Grizzlies look to rebound and make it further in the playoffs this year. One of the biggest changes this off-season was when the winningest head coach in Utah Grizzlies history, Tim Branham, departed Utah for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. Three weeks later, it was announced that former assistant coach Ryan Kinasewich will serve as head coach, while former captain Teigan Zahn will serve as assistant coach.
Last Season in Review
Record and Playoff Appearance: 35-26-5-6 (81 points)- 4th in Western Conference/ swept by the Allen Americans three games to zero
Season Summary: The Grizzlies started the 2020-21 campaign with some COVID issues and went into the holiday break only have played two games to that point. The Grizzlies were led by Ty Lewis, Matthew Boucher, Parker Gahagen just to name a few players who had an outstanding season with Utah.
Leading Scorer: Matthew Boucher – 52 points (25G, 27A)
Goals For/Against & League Rank: 207 Goals for (2.87/game) – 7th in ECHL; 219 goals for (3.04/game) – 10th best in ECHL
Power Play Conversion Pct. and League Rank: 47-280, 17% efficiency – Tied for 5th with three other teams in the ECHL
Penalty Kill Conversion Pct. and League Rank: 218-259, 84% kill rate- Tied for 4th with one other team in the ECHL
- Luke Martin: Martin was acquired in a trade with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on September 7 in exchange for Cedric Pare. Martin played at the University of Michigan from 2017-2020 where he had a +29 rating in the 139 games. In the two games vs Idaho during preseason, Martin picked up three points (2G,1A).
- Quinn Ryan: Played at Liberty University from 2016-21 where he played 147 games picking up a massive 235 points (88G, 157A). He will be a good offensive addition to this team. In the two preseason games, he picked up four points (1G, 3A).
- Parker Gahagen: Played last season with Utah after originally signing with the Newfoundland Growlers. He played 17 games with Utah going 10-4-1, with two shutouts, a 2.04 GAA, and a .939 save percentage. He was a star goaltender who left the Grizzlies with options if he needed to play many consecutive games in a row.
- Mitch Maxwell: Maxwell announced his retirement shortly after the Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs last season. He played with the Grizzlies for four seasons, going on to earn 56 points (23G, 33A) in 141 games played. He was a crucial player in the 2019-20 shortened season, leading in the top 10 in game-winning goals including shootouts.
2021-22 Schedule Breakdown
The Grizzlies welcome back long-time rival Idaho Steelheads to the ECHL after the Steelheads opted out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They play the Steelheads 17 times this season, starting with four straight against them. It will be interesting to see this rivalry renewed finally.
The Grizzlies also play non-division opponents 15 times this season. This season will also featured the first games against the expansion Iowa Heartlanders.
Top Storylines for 2021-22
- The Colorado Eagles sent 11 players down to Utah coming out of AHL camp. How many of those players stay for the full season, and how many of them are back-and-forth between Loveland and West Valley City.
- Matthew Boucher – It will be nice to see last year’s Rookie of the Year back in a Utah sweater this season after he scored 25 goals and 27 assists last season to lead the Grizzlies.
- Goaltending – The Grizzlies goaltending core has three solid starters in Peyton Jones, Garrett Metcalf, and Trent Miner. Which player breaks through and becomes the primary guy in the net?
- Utah vs. Idaho – These teams play each other 17 times this year after playing many times in the shortened 2019-20 shortened season, and in the 2019 ECHL playoffs where Idaho eliminated the Grizzlies
Prediction Sure to Go Right
I think the Grizzlies will finally get home-ice advantage in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs this year.
Prediction Sure to Go Wrong
Matthew Boucher will stay in Utah the whole year, never getting called up to the Eagles, and repeating his performance from a season ago.
How do you think the Grizzlies will do this season? Will they miss the playoffs in shocking fashion, cruise their way to an early playoff exit or maybe storm their way to a Kelly Cup? Let us know below!
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