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Utah Lady Grizzlies ready to take the leap into districts

02/27/2014, 5:45pm EST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

The Utah Lady Grizzlies draw their roster from a wide area and search even farther for competition.

After years of building, the Lady Grizzlies, an Under-19 Tier II team, are ready for postseason competition this year.

The Rocky Mountain District girls’ tournament will include a Utah representative for the first time in several years when the Lady Grizzlies make the trip to Littleton, Colo. for the March 7-9 event.

“The girls come from the Provo area, clear up to Ogden and Brigham City and east of Park City,” said Derrick Radke, the team manager for four-plus seasons. “It’s kind of a state team, but it’s primarily the Salt Lake Valley area.”

The 17-player team often practices in Bountiful, Utah, to the north, but moves around the Salt Lake City area for practice and games wherever ice is available.

Radke said the Lady Grizzlies considered taking the step to postseason play last season. Uncertainty about the team’s competitiveness and the expense of making the trip all the way to Dallas contributed to waiting another year.

“We don’t want to mess up a tournament of high-quality teams with someone who might get blown out 10-0,” Radke said. “That’s where we thought we were.”

That has changed as the team has developed.

“We think we have a pretty good group,” Radke said. “We thought we’d cast the line out and see what happens.”

After losing more often than they won in previous seasons, the Lady Grizzlies have won the distinct majority of their games this season.

The team schedules creatively to get in more than 30 games per season.

The Lady Grizzlies play some women’s teams as well as some Peewee and Bantam boys’ teams to get in some local competition. They annually travel to Idaho and multiple Montana locations for tournaments, and this season the team added an early Colorado trip as well as the district tournament. The Lady Grizzlies made the trip to Lethbridge, Alberta, in February and went 2-1-2 in a tournament there.

The older players on the current team are around from a season in which the Lady Grizzlies also put together a U14 B team with the best young players from its U19 squad and some younger girls who were not quite ready. That team played a very limited schedule, and the Lady Grizzlies now encourage U14 players to contact the South Lake County Rec Department, which at times has a U14 Lady Lightning team.

The addition of two players from the Provo area improved the Lady Grizzlies the last two seasons and now a new coach, Stan Weiss, has helped take the program to more success.

Weiss has experience as a junior and college coach along with highly competitive age-group teams.

“He’s made a world of difference in how our girls play,” Radke said.

That helped convince the team’s parents and board that the Lady Grizzlies were ready to try district competition, where they will face two Colorado teams and one from Arizona.

“It was decided very early on in our season after Coach Weiss evaluated our girls and we played a couple of games,” Radke said. “He said, ‘We’ve got it, so let’s go.’ ”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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