Fort Wayne, Ind. • The Utah Grizzlies and Fort Wayne Komets have not played each other since 1999, when they were members of the International Hockey League.
The hiatus is over.
Utah opens the ECHL's Western Conference semifinals Friday night at Fort Wayne. The Grizzlies advanced to the best-of-seven series by defeating Colorado in the opening round, 4-2.
"We're feeling pretty good about ourselves, obviously," Utah coach Tim Branham said Thursday after the team arrived. "Colorado is a tough team to play. They come at you hard, they are physical and they try to wear you down. But I think we proved to ourselves that we can play any style. Now we have to get ready for the second round."
Against Colorado, sixth-seeded Utah got a lift from goaltender Ryan Faragher and forward Charles Sarault. Faragher allowed only 2.2 goals per game. Sarault had six goals and three assists in the six games.
Fort Wayne, the second seed in the West, advanced to the conference semifinals by winning Game 7 of a scintillating series versus Cincinnati.
The Komets lost the first two games and needed overtime to survive Games 4 and 6.
In Game 7, team captain Jamie Schaafsma scored twice and goaltender Pat Nagle stopped 33 shots to lead Fort Wayne to a 2-0 win.
"We learned how to play a playoff-style game," Schaafsma told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. "The first two games, we weren't playing the right way and weren't making the smart decisions on the ice."
Komet forward Garrett Thompson scored five goals against Cincinnati, including one in an 8-0 rout in Game 3 that got Fort Wayne back in the series.
Said Branham: "They've got a bunch of guys who can put the puck in the net. They have some highly skilled forwards, a lot like us."