'Hometown boy' is a big key to Grizzlies' success

By David Winkworth

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30 2014 11:25 a.m. MST

The Utah Grizzlies' D.J. Jelitto slides on the ice in pursuit of the puck during a game against the Idaho Steelheads in Jelitto's first stint with the Grizzlies, from 2006-08. Jelitto, from West Valley City, has returned to play for the Grizzlies this year after spending some time in Europe.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

WEST VALLEY CITY — The Utah Grizzlies have been playing some stunning hockey since their Christmas break, and one of the key factors to the team's success has been the play of their forward, D.J. Jelitto.

Jelitto, who is nicknamed “the hometown boy,” is from West Valley City, where he started with the Utah Grizzlies in 2006-07, playing in 70 games, scoring 15 goals and adding 14 assists.

“It was pretty unique, I was young, 21 years old I believe," Jelitto said of his first time playing for the Grizzlies. "It was fun playing in front of family and friends. I went to Hunter High School, and my parents live fairly close, too, so I had a lot of friends and family come to the games.”

Before returning to the Grizzlies this season, Jelitto spent some time in Europe, where he played in 170 games and had 136 points in that span. "It was good, I was in Germany for four years in the city of Hannover, and this year I started in Lausitzer," he said. "I do miss some things about it, but it’s always good to be back and playing in front of my hometown.”

When asked what was a big factor in his decision to come back and play with the Grizzlies, Jelitto said, “I just wanted to continue playing and support my dad in his battle of cancer, that was my main reason for coming back. I’m going to continue working hard and play for these fans, coaching staff, and myself, too."

This season, Jelitto has scored seven goals and eight assists. He and the Grizzlies have been the best team in the ECHL since Christmas.

Jelitto hit a game-winning goal to break a 19-year-old team unbeaten streak record at home on Wednesday night in the Grizzlies' 2-1 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers. Jelitto said of the team’s success this season, “It means a lot (playing well in front of his friends and family). We need to have a strong push to get a good playoff position. This is good preparation for us.”

Follow David Winkworth on Twitter @RealDavidVito and listen to his podcast at http://sportsathome.webs.com/ for all the latest news and notes around the sporting world.

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