Facebook Twitter

Sabbatical finally over for Grizzlies

SHARE Sabbatical finally over for Grizzlies

The Utah Grizzlies practiced all season to get to the postseason capable of playing good playoff hockey. So it's the postseason, and what happens?

They wait six days after the end of the regular season to start the playoffs. Then they dispose of Kansas City in a three-game sweep and then spend the next eight days practicing."It's almost too much time," says coach Butch Goring following Utah's last practice Thursday afternoon at the Cottonwood Recreation Center. "They want to play games. They want to play in the worst way."

The Grizzlies (43-33-6, 3-0 in playoffs) do finally get back to competition tonight at Long Beach Arena at 8 p.m. MDT against the regular-season Western Conference-champion Ice Dogs (54-19-9, 3-0 in playoffs) in a conference-semifinal series that's tough to pick.

The Grizz are 7-4-1 this season against Long Beach but lost the last three, two by one goal and the last by two goals. The Dogs have won 33 of their last 34 home games, 13 in a row, and have the home advantage in this 2-3-2 best-of-seven series. Utah, however, has changed its roster considerably since its last game with the Dogs with goalie Don Beaupre and former Grizz playoff scoring leader Andy Brickley both added to the roster while Long Beach is essentially the same.

Long Beach had to come from behind twice and won two of its three against Milwaukee in the first round in overtime. All three Dog wins were by one goal. Dominic Pittis scored both overtime winning goals.

Game 2 is Sunday at 5 p.m. MDT in Long Beach. The rest of the dates can't be set until the Jazz's second-round home games are scheduled, but Utah will have three at home sometime next week.

"It's just time to start playing," says Grizz assistant captain Chris Taylor.

Captain Gord Dineen says waiting's been tough, though Long Beach has had almost the same amount of time off. "We had a pretty good week of practice," Dineen says. "Pretty intense. But you kind of lose that playoff edge (being idle)." He predicted tonight's first period will be slow and maybe mistake-filled.

While Goring doesn't care for the playoff layoff, he does say that every day the Grizz are in the playoffs now, they're getting better because all of the new players have learned their places.

"I look up and know the guy's name now," says goalie Beaupre, 3-0 with a 1.56 goals-against playoff average. He arrived the last week of the regular season from St. John's (Newfoundland) of the AHL and admits he feels a bit "like a hired gun," in taking the starting position. Goring acquired Beaupre because of his 17 years NHL experience.

With a week or two to go in the regular season, Goring was dismayed, saying his club didn't seem to have any of the characteristics of his last two IHL Turner Cup championship teams in Denver and Utah. Now, that good feeling is building, and Goring's much more comfortable. The practices have been quite good for the last two weeks, says Goring, and, with all the new players beginning to contribute, "The longer they leave us in the playoffs, the tougher we will be. If we hang around for the finals, we'll be on all eight cylinders."

With Andrey Vasilyev having scored four goals in his last two games to get his confidence up, the Grizz are now well-stocked with playoff scorers. "We're getting scoring from everyone, and that was always a mark of the Grizzlies," says Goring. "We never relied on anybody to carry us; we had no easy lines."