WEST VALLEY CITY The best-scoring team in the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs with the best power-play record in the ECHL playoffs will be in the E Center tonight and it's the Utah Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies have been at the bottom of the ECHL power play statistics most of the past couple years, and they've not been especially known for high scoring, but they are both of those things as well as winners of their first two playoff games as they make their 2008 Kelly Cup home debut at 7 in the West Valley rink against the Fresno Falcons.
Utah beat the Falcons 6-1 Sunday, its first-ever Kelly Cup playoff victory, and followed that with a three-overtime 4-3 win Monday night in Fresno against a team that in the regular season was 42-22-4-4 and second in the Pacific Division to Utah's 32-30-2-8 and fourth in the West Division.
This is somewhat of a surprise to most except Utah team captain Travis Rycroft, who last week looked at his team having a full roster again with most of its players back from AHL Bridgeport, which did not qualify for playoffs, and was brimming with confidence, even though Utah lost all 12 games it played in March and then took two of three at home to conclude the regular season.
Knowing that players like Jeff Dwyer, Micheal Haley, Keith Johnson, Olivier Labelle, Justin Bourne, Mike Mole and Tyler Haskins would be back from Bridgeport for the playoffs to mix with regulars like Scott Burt, Ryan Kinasewich, Ian Forbes, Rob Sirianni and Nathan Lawson, Rycroft was supremely confident of his team's abilities.
"We've got everybody back, and I've seen it. I've seen us beat everybody in this (conference)," Rycroft said.
"I just know as a captain, this is our ship, and I know how it runs, and when it's running how we want it to, I don't think there's any team that can beat us. Absolutely. I'm very confident in everybody, from goaltenders on out."
Goalie Nathan Lawson ranks fourth in the Kelly Cup standings with a 2-0 mark and goals-against average of 1.44.
Bourne got Monday's game-winning goal at about 12:45 a.m. MDT from Haskins. It was Utah's fourth goal in a row after spotting the Falcons a 3-0 lead. Johnson got the game-winner in Sunday's opener. Haley had two goals and two assists in Sunday's game.
Utah's defense is playing as well as it has all season, and the Grizzlies lead the league in scoring at 5.0 a game and in power-play percentage at 37.5, 6-for-16.
And Utah played the first two games without scoring co-leader Kinasewich, who was hurt in Saturday's practice but is expected back in the lineup tonight.Game 3 is tonight in the E Center at 7, and Game 4 is Friday in the E Center. Utah will host Game 5, if needed, on Saturday, and the best-of-seven first-round series would conclude in Fresno Monday and next Wednesday in Fresno, if it goes that long.
Utah Grizzlies vs. Fresno Falcons
Game 1: Utah 6, Fresno 1
Game 2: Utah 4, Fresno 3 (3OT)
Game 3: Today, Fresno at Utah, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Friday, Fresno at Utah, 7 p.m.
Game 5: Saturday, Fresno at Utah, 7 p.m., if necessary
Game 6: Monday, Utah at Fresno, 8 p.m., if necessary
Game 7: Wednesday, Utah at Fresno, 8 p.m., if necessary