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The only IHL team the Utah Grizzlies have never beaten is the only team that lies in the path of their second straight Turner Cup championship. But you might want to put a big asterisk by the two victories the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Solar Bears had against the Grizz earlier this season for one reason - No. 35 was not on the ice.

Solar Bears, meet Tommy Salo.He was with the New York Islanders when first-year Orlando beat Utah back in October and again in late-December.

The Swedish goaltender carried the Grizzlies on his back during the first two series, holding Peoria and Kansas City to just 1.74 goals a game. His stats dropped somewhat against the high-powered Las Vegas offense - he has a 2.32 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage - but when the Grizz needed a big save he was there. And there's no time better the Turner Cup Finals to have a brick wall installed in front of your net.

As is often the case in hockey all the pressure of a championship series usually rides on the heavily padded man between the pipes. And that'll be the case when Orlando and Utah begin the quest for the Cup tonight at 5 p.m. at the O-rena.

"It'll come down to which goaltender outplays each other," said Utah coach Butch Goring.

Knowing that, the Solar Bears are feeling pretty good about their chances of taking the Cup in their first year like the Grizzlies did last season.

Orlando's goalie, veteran Allan Bester, ranks fifth in the postseason with a 2.87 goals-against average. He posted a shutout in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the Solar Bears edged Cincinnati 1-0.

"They've got Salo back there, who's the best in the league, I guess," said Orlando coach Curt Fraser. "But we've got a pretty good goalie in Bester, he's played very well for us."

Echoed Goring: "You don't get to the Finals with bad goaltending."

Both goaltenders - and defenses for that matter - will need to be at their best, too. Orlando was second in the IHL, just behind Las Vegas, with 4.29 goals a game. And Utah, which lives by the defense wins championships theory, has picked up its offensive production as the playoffs have progressed.

"I think we're not a team as we were early on in the playoffs when we relied on our goaltender to really carry us," said Goring. "I think we've gotten a little bit more settled and I would expect us to give Tommy a lot more offensive support than he got particularly in the first two series."

Utah has upped its scoring each series - 2.4 goals per game vs. Kansas City, 3.0 gpg vs. Peoria and 3.8 gpg against Las Vegas.

Orlando, on the other hand, has suffered a bit offensively in the playoffs, mostly because of injuries. The Solar Bears didn't have Craig Fisher, who led the IHL with a whopping 74 goals in the regular season, against Cincinnati for most of the series. He left in Game 1 after suffering a concussion and didn't return. Fisher's expected to play against Utah, though. With a healthy Fisher and Mark Beaufait, who leads the league in playoff scoring with 24 points, the Solar Bears like their chances against any goalie - even Salo.

Game 1 begins tonight at 5 p.m. It will be broadcast live on Prime Sports and on KAPN-AM 860.