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Grizz Game Preview: December 11, 2020 Utah at Rapid City

Friday, December 11th
Grizz Game Preview: December 11, 2020 Utah at Rapid City

Utah Grizzlies (34-17-7-4 record in 2019-20) at Rapid City Rush (29-25-5-1)December 11, 2020 | 7:05 PM | Game #1 | Rushmore Plaza Civic Center   Referees: Nolan Bloyer (31)Linesmen: Cade Bloomenrader (91), Davids Rozitis (90)

West Valley City, Utah – It’s opening night for the 2020-21 Utah Grizzlies season as they are in the Black Hills to take on the Rapid City Rush for the 1st of a 2 game weekend series. These teams will meet 5 times in the first 7 games of the season.   Opening Night

Last season ended with the Grizzlies defeating the Rush 7-4 on March 7th, 2020 in Rapid City. The season was suspended 5 days later and on March 14th, 2020 the season was officially cancelled. 9 months and 4 days later the Grizzlies return to Rapid City. The last goal scored that night was Christian Horn’s first in a Utah uniform. Horn is 1 of 7 players returning to the club. 

Grizzlies Have Been a Consistent Winner

Last season the Grizzlies were on pace to make the postseason with a .637 winning percentage, the best in team history. Utah has made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 seasons that completed with the playoffs (were on pace for 12 of 13 last season). In the 25 seasons the Grizzlies have a .500 winning % or better in 20 of those years. In the club’s first season in Utah, the Grizzlies won the IHL Turner Cup in the 1995-96 season.

New Players

Forward Cedric Pare played on the same line with the 2020 #1 overall NHL draft pick Alexis Lafreniere with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Océanic.  Last season was a breakthrough campaign for Pare, who finished in the league in goals (37), fifth in assists (51) and sixth in points (88). Pare was also part of the 2017 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL championship team.

Mike McNicholas played with the Maine Mariners the last 2 seasons and is their all-time leader in points (91), assists (67), and games played (125).

Diego Cuglietta led the NCAA with 25 goals in his senior season with Lake Superior State University in the 2018-19 season. Last year he split time with the AHL’s Texas Stars and ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads. Cuglietta was a teammate in Idaho last season with defenseman Tanner Jago, who also signed with Utah. While playing at Lake Superior State he was a teammate from 2017-2019 with forward Brayden Gelsinger. Brayden would have made his professional debut for Utah on March 13th, 2020 vs Allen but the game and eventually the season was cancelled. The same can be said with forward Matt Hoover, who had 4 successful seasons at Canisius College.

Jared Pike is a Sandy, Utah native. The local boy did good while playing for American International College in Springfield, Mass. Pike was awarded the 2020 Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, given annually to the NCAA Division 1 player judged to best exemplify the qualities of sportsmanship, competitiveness, intelligence and work ethic.

3 members of last season’s Minnesota State – Mankato team are new members of the Grizzlies family. Defensemen Ian Scheid and Edwin Hookinson reunite with forward Charlie Gerard in Utah. All 3 were teammates at Mankato for 4 seasons, winning 3 straight college conference championships.

A trio of Penn State Nittany Lions join the club. Goaltender Peyton Jones, defenseman Kris Mylleri and forward Denis Smirnov were each at Penn State for the past 4 seasons. Penn State won 85 games while they were in the program.

D-men Garrett Johnston and Miles Gendron each played with the Newfoundland Growlers last season. Johnston was a key defenseman for Newfoundland on their 2019 Kelly Cup Championship run.

Alex Lepkowski played at Acadia University for 4 seasons. Before that he spent the 2014-15 season with the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks.

Matt Abt split last season with Wilkes Barre/Scranton and Wheeling.

Tommy Besinger is a quality scorer, who had 20 goals in 32 games with Mulhouse in France last season.

Many Players Making Pro Debuts

There will be 11 players who will be making their professional debuts when they hit the ice for the first time this season.

Forwards: Jared Pike, Cedric Pare, Brayden Gelsinger, Denis Smirnov, Charlie Gerard, Tommy Besinger and Matt Hoover.

Defenseman: Edwin Hookenson, Kris Myllari, Ian Scheid.

Goaltender Peyton Jones.

Lots of College Connections

3 teammates from the Minnesota State -Mankato Mavericks have reunited out west. Edwin Hookenson, Ian Scheid and Charlie Gerard were each teammates for all 4 college seasons. They won 3 straight conference championships from 2018-2020. Scheid and Gerard were roommates. Diego Cuglietta and Tanner Jago each played for the Idaho Steelheads last season. Cuglietta and Brayden Gelsinger were teammates at Lake Superior State University for 3 seasons from 2017-2019.  Denis Smirnov and Kris Myllari were teammates at Penn State University for 4 years from 2017-2020. Garrett Johnston and Miles Gendron each played with the Newfoundland Growlers last season.

Current Grizzlies vs Rapid City

Joe Wegwerth had 4 goals and 5 assists in 10 games vs RC last season. Yuri Terao had 4 goals and 8 assists in 10 games vs the Rush. Mitch Maxwell had 2 goals and 1 assist in 6 games vs RC. Christian Horn scored the last goal of the season on March 7th at Rapid City. It was Horn’s debut with Utah after being acquired in a trade with Indy. Brad Barone is a former Rush goaltender. He had a 24 save shutout vs the Rush on December 7th, 2019. With Idaho last season Diego Cuglietta had 1 assist in 5 games vs the Rush. Cuglietta had 2 assists for Idaho vs Utah on February 29th, a game Idaho won 4-0. Tanner Jago had 1 assist in 8 games for Idaho vs RC last season.

About the Rapid City Rush

The Rush were in a playoff position when the season was canceled on March 14th.  They return their top 3 scorers from last season in Peter Quenneville (24 goals, 34 assists last season, Brennan Saulnier (22 goals, 24 assists) and Tyler Coulter (24 goals, 15 assists). Forward Avery Peterson had 1 goal and 1 assist in 2 games vs Utah last season as a member of the Atlanta Gladiators. Peterson had 16 goals and 13 assists in 51 games for Atlanta. The 16 goal, 13 assist season is the exact totals that new Rush forward Alex Rodriguez had for Norfolk last year. Garrett Klotz played for Utah last season and has rejoined the Rush, a team he played with in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Klotz had 4 goals and 5 assists in 35 games for the Grizz. Garrett is one of 4 veterans on the team, joining Mason Baptista, Joey Sides and Shawn Boutin. As a member of the KC Mavericks on February 18, 2019 Sides scored 3 goals vs Utah. Baptista has 4 straight seasons with double digit goals. There are 11 players returning who have previous experience in Rapid City, with Klotz, Sides and goaltender Adam Carlson coming back for a 2nd stint. Daniel Tetrault is entering his 4th season as Rush head coach.

2020-21 Opening Day Roster

Forwards: Tommy Besinger, Diego Cuglietta, Brayden Gelsinger, Charlie Gerard, Matt Hoover, Christian Horn, Jack Jenkins, Mitch Maxwell, Mike McNicholas, Cedric Pare, Jared Pike, Denis Smirnov, Yuri Terao, Joe Wegwerth.

Defenseman: Matt Abt, Miles Gendron, Edwin Hookenson, Tanner Jago, Garrett Johnston, Alex Lepkowski, Kris Myllari, Ian Scheid, Teigan Zahn.

Goaltenders: Brad Barone, Peyton Jones.

Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Tim Branham.

Assistant Coach: Ryan Kinasewich.

Equipment Manager: Matthew Schwegmann.

Trainer: Collin Lee.  

  Where to See and Hear the Game  

You can catch every game on Flohockey.TV, the new home for ECHL.TV. The game and also be heard on Mixlr, the new broadcast home for Grizzlies hockey.

Watch Live:  https://www.flohockey.tv/Listen Live: https://mixlr.com/utah-grizzlies

Upcoming Home Games

Full Schedule
America First Friday
Friday, March 8th
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Saturday, March 9th
Rapid City Rush @ Utah Grizzlies
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Smith's Family Night
Monday, March 11th
Smith's Family Night
Puck Drops:
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