Andrey Vasiljev could well have become a Salt Lake Golden Eagle had the club lasted another year.
The first time he skated on Delta Center ice - in February 1994 as the leading scorer of the Russian Central Red Army Penguins against the old Eagles in a game that counted in IHL standings - the young winger scored two goals and an assist to aid a 6-4 Russian victory and impress not only the Eagles but their parent team, the New York Islanders, who drafted Vasiljev in 1992.Andrey Vasiljev could well have become an Orlando Solar Bear, too.
He was Orlando's No. 1 pick in the IHL expansion draft, but Islander assistant general manager Darcy Regier says there's no way they'd have let Vasiljev go. He was a Type 4 free agent, which gave them the right of first refusal. They offered him a contract five days later, and he was happy to obtain ties with a team that could offer him NHL possibilities.
Vasiljev says there's no connection between his being drafted by Orlando and his scoring binge against the Solar Bears in this Turner Cup championship series, but he says he's, "real happy to play against Orlando" and that his scoring comes because his linemates Chris Taylor and Yan Kaminsky are playing well.
Still, the goal Vasiljev scored Thursday night to aid the Grizzlies' 4-2 victory that put them a win away from winning their second straight Turner Cup championship, was his fourth in three games against Orlando. He's also had a game-winning assist in overtime in this series that's just three games old with Game 4 and the Cup on the line Saturday night at 7 in the Delta Center.
Vasiljev pivoted out of a corner and skated across the crease, jamming in his own rebound for a 2-0 Utah lead. He called it a great play by teammate Marc Rodgers to chip the puck out from behind the net to him. Vasiljev said he faked a defenseman and went the other way. "It was luck," he said.
The 24-year-old Russian's luck is holding. He has a four-game scoring streak (five goals, two assists, seven points) and points in six of the last seven playoff games. He has 11 playoff goals, tied for second in the 1996 IHL playoff season. He is the leading IHL playoff goal-scorer still active in the playoffs. Two more goals would tie Vasiljev with Cincinnati's Scott Thomas, the overall leader with 13.
In 43 regular-season games with the Grizzlies, Vasiljev scored 46 points (26-20-46), and he had seven points (2-5-7) in 10 games with the Islanders.