The Utah Grizzlies have made 10 consecutive playoff appearances. The plan for the 2017-18 season is to make it 11, and make a deep postseason run, at that.
Anything short of that will be a disappointment.
“Our expectations are to win and we need to get off to a fast start,” Grizzlies coach and general manager Tim Branham said, as his team prepped for a this weekend’s season-opening games against rival Colorado — Friday on the Front Range and Saturday at the Maverik Center (7 p.m.). “We have good goaltending and we have fast players with a lot of skill. We want to put on an exciting brand of hockey for our fans and we will.”
The Grizzlies’ speed and skill will be on display with a cast that includes nine players returning from last year’s squad, notably Taylor Richart, Erik Higby, and the team recently re-signed fan favorite Jon Puskar.
C.J. Eick, who accumulated 21 points on 10 goals last season, has been named team captain. With 21 points on 10 goals last season, Eick is embracing his role as leader of this team.
“It’s something that I relish,” Eick said. “With the staff we have and the players we have, anything less than a really, really deep playoff run would be considered a disappointment. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be in the situation of playing for a Kelly Cup”.
Goaltending appears to be one of the team’s strengths as the club will feature Gordon Defiel and Kevin Carr. Having played for the rival Alaska Aces last year,Carr will be donning a Grizzlies jersey for the first time and is set to receive the majority of the work between the pipes.
“I can’t wait to hit the ice and everyone is excited to get things started,” Carr said. My expectations are the same as everyone else, and that is to bring home a Kelly Cup.”
Having folded their tents at the end of last season, Utah’s longtime rival, the Alaska Aces are no more. However, familiar foes still remain in the Idaho Steelheads, Allen Americans, Rapid City Rush, and the defending Kelly Cup champion Colorado Eagles.
Needless to say, the Grizzlies appear to be housed in one of the tougher divisions in the league. Several new teams will visit the Maverik Center this season — the Kansas City Mavericks, Norfolk Admirals, and the Worcester Railers, commencing new rivalries.
“We have such a good group of guys in this locker room and none of us can wait to get things going,” Eick said. “The offseason was way too long and we can’t wait to hit the ice on Friday and open things for our fans Saturday.”
Friday • Grizzlies at Colorado
Saturday • Colorado at Grizzlies
Both games start at 7 p.m.