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Scarsella fitting in with ECHL

They were keeping track of the Atlantic Hockey championship game nearly 2,000 miles away.

While Vinny Scarsella and Brendan Jamison are teammates for the Utah Grizzlies, there was some friendly wagering going on between the former Canisius forward and the former Robert Morris defenseman.

“I thought they would repeat,” Scarsella said. “It was unlucky for me that I lost that bet, but it’s been exciting to see how far the program has come in the seven years since I was a freshman.”

It’s been an interesting hockey journey for Scarsella, too. The Lackawanna native and St. Francis alum is the second all-time leading scorer for the Canisius Golden Griffins. His 133 points were bolsted with 93 assists, thanks in large part to playing alongside Cory Conacher for four years.

After graduation, his hockey career took him overseas for seasons in Germany and Sweden.

Then came the opportunity to return to North America for a gig in the East Coast Hockey League.

It turned into a pretty good fit for both Scarsella and the organization. The 24-year old forward was recently named the team’s rookie of the year while the Grizzlies went from the worst teams in the conference to securing a sport in the ECHL playoffs.

“I signed a contract, went to training camp and made the team but the start of the year was rough for the team,” Scarsella said. “We were dead-last place in the conference and weren’t playing very well. We made a couple of trades and now we have the best record after Christmas, are in third place and it’s looking like we can get home ice for the playoffs which is nice. It’s been a fun year. It’s a group of guys. We get along well and that’s definitely been huge. There are no cliques. We all get along.”

In 60 games with Utah, Scarsella has 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists).

His contributions led him to earn the team-based rookie honor, although for the record he’s not considered a rookie by ECHL standards.

“This is the first official time that Vinny’s been considered old for something, He’s been playing professional hockey for three years,” Canisius coach Dave Smith joked.

“I’m happy for him. I know they are really enjoying him as a person and as a hockey player. His stat’s aren’t through the roof but he has good stats on a good team.”

The good team Utah has emerged after Christmas.

The Grizzlies were in last place in the Western Conference at Christmas with a 7-14-1-2 record (wins, losses, overtime losses, shootout losses).

They’ve since surged to third in the conference, owning the best mark in the ECHL since Dec. 27 going 28-8-2-3.

“We’re a close team and everyone went home for Christmas and took time to regroup,” Scarsella said. “I don’t know what the difference has been exactly but we’re finding ways to win. Before Christmas, we’d lose one-goal games late. Now, we’re finding ways to put pucks in late in the game.

“For me, I play a grinder-skill game. If I’m on the second or third line, it doesn’t matter to me. Everyone is a good player and all three lines are good.”

What matters most to Scarsella is having the opportunity to play around good people and enjoy his time in the game, however long that may be an wherever it may take him.

“I take it year by year,” Scarsella said. “I wouldn’t mind Europe next year or staying in North America, playing where it’s a good fit. I’ll enjoy myself anywhere I go. With me hockey is not about trying to make the NHL. It’s about having fun and hopefully I can play three or four more years before I have to go into the real world.”