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    October 19, 2021 South Salt Lake, Utah RSS |

    The biggest adjustment former Liberty University ACHA Division I men’s hockey forward Quinn Ryan has had to make since being invited to preseason camp with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies is the 4,300-foot altitude in the area in South Salt Lake, where he now lives and will play.

    Ryan, who graduated last May as the Flames’ third highest career scorer with 248 points in 159 games, had four points in his first ECHL preseason series. (Photo courtesy of the Utah Grizzlies)

    “It’s awesome out here around Salt Lake City,” Ryan said Monday, a day after surviving a week of tryouts and signing his first professional contract with the Grizzlies. “I really like it. It is a beautiful city and a great area. The elevation took some getting used to as it is easy to lose your breath, but it’s fun.”

    The Grizzlies’ home ice is in West Valley City at the 10,100-seat Maverik Center, originally built for the ice hockey and figure skating events at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

    “I don’t know much about the fan base, but our arena has a really nice rink,” Ryan said. “We have great facilities, a great locker room, and amazing staff from the coaches to the trainers.”

    Through a recommendation from FCA Hockey National Director Rick Randazzo, who he previously played in FCA tournaments and summer camps under growing up in New Jersey, Ryan started skating with the Grizzlies last Monday.

    “He reached out to Utah for me and got me connected out here and I signed a training camp agreement before I arrived and signed a contract on Sunday,” Ryan said. “I am super grateful to get the opportunity. I have had a lot of people supporting me, especially the coaching staff at Liberty and (Club Sports Director of Strength & Conditioning) Chris Kerr, who I worked with for almost a year now, one-on-one. I definitely came to camp feeling my best.”

    Ryan made it through intensive on-ice workouts on Wednesday and Thursday before scoring one goal and assisting three others in the Grizzlies’ two preseason games, a home-and-away series with the Idaho Steelheads on Friday and Saturday.

    “These guys are really good, and they make it easy on you, easy to play with,” Ryan said, crediting his teammates for the scores. “They did most of the work.”

    He said the level of play, like the altitude compared to that of Lynchburg, Va., is considerably higher than the ACHA.

    “It’s a really big jump,” Ryan said. “A lot of these guys are coming from other pro teams, or were NCAA Division I players or on major juniors programs in Canada. They’re really good players and it is a bit of an adjustment.”

    Ryan will be in uniform when the Grizzlies officially open their 2021-22 season with another series against the Steelheads, this Friday in Boise, Idaho, and Saturday at the Maverik Center. That is the closest ECHL team at a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, with flights required to travel to most of the 25 other league members located around the United States and even in Canada.

    He has never played with any of his current teammates, but did represent Liberty and Team USA at the Winter World University Games in Russia in 2018 with two members of the Steelheads’ active roster.

    The 27 ECHL teams all have affiliations with NHL franchises and the Grizzlies are connected to the Colorado Avalanche organization, which has the Colorado Eagles as its American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, one tier below the NHL.

    Ryan said nothing is guaranteed, but he is hopeful of remaining in the ECHL for the foreseeable future and eventually moving up the ranks.

    “I am really excited for the season, and excited for this group,” he said. “We have a really good team, with a handful of draft picks and a lot of guys with two-way contracts with the Eagles. Having a lot of talented guys on the ice makes it a lot of fun, and I hope to make the most of it this coming year and to keep improving.”

    Ryan was named ACHA Division I men’s hockey’s Player of the Year in 2020-21. (Photo by Ellie Richardson)

    That is exactly what Ryan did in his five seasons at Liberty, after arriving the year of the LaHaye Ice Center’s renovation completed during the 2015-16 season.

    “With the great staff and using the whole facility at Liberty, players are able to push themselves to get better,” Ryan said. “There is no excuse to not be the best that you can be (upon graduating from Liberty).”

    As exciting as thriving in the professional game will be for Ryan, he said sharing his faith in a predominantly Mormon city will be paramount to his purpose for being there.

    “That’s even bigger than the sport,” he said. “This is just a platform that I have and I have to use that — not just for my own good, but for the sake of others.”


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

    Ryan is congratulated by some of his younger fans as he leaves the LaHaye Ice Center rink after the Feb. 21-22, 2020 sweep of Adrian College. (Photo by Jenna McKenney)