Ogden Mustangs set for playoff run after best regular season in team history

Friday , March 17, 2017 - 12:00 AM

This information was supplied by Jon McBride of the Ogden Mustangs.

The Ogden Mustangs wrapped up their regular season last weekend, concluding the campaign with a 42-7-3 record for 87 points, finishing first in the Western States Hockey League’s Western Division for the first time in team history.

Finishing first gives the Mustangs a bye through the first round of the playoffs. Ogden will host a second-round series starting March 24 against the Casper Coyotes, Cheyenne Stampede or Superior RoughRiders.

The team’s 42 wins pass last season’s franchise record of 38, and 87 points pass least season’s record of 78.

“Obviously, I would consider the season to this point a success,” Mustangs head coach Jake Laime said. “We have set many organizational records and achieved many goals we set out to achieve in August. But like they say, the regular season is a marathon, and the playoffs a sprint.”

The Mustangs ran the marathon well. It began with with road games against two of the toughest road opponents for the Mustangs: the Coyotes and the Colorado Jr. Eagles. The Mustangs swept both series.

They also swept a home-and-home with the Utah Outliers, another road series against the Vancouver Rangers, the Las Vegas Storm at home, the RoughRiders on the road and one more on the road against the Outliers — all good for an 18-0 start, the best start by a WSHL team since the 2013-14 season.

Ogden also had a strong showing in Las Vegas at the Western States Shootout in December, playing four of the top teams in the league. The Mustangs were one of eight teams (out of 28) who picked up a point in each game played.

In the second half of the season, the Mustangs faced the defending league champion Idaho Jr. Steelheads six times, all on the road, and went 3-3 in those games. In between the two series in Idaho, the Mustangs put together a string of 11 victories.

“For us to find success, we need to earn it,” Laime said. That’s been his rallying cry all season long. Laime was not shy in saying there were some wins early on in the season that the team didn’t earn. After a few wake-up calls along the way, by the end of the season, the Mustangs have a good sampling of what it takes to win.

Matus Spodniak finished the season with a team-high (and single season franchise record) 89 points. He caught fire in the second half of the season and is currently on a 10-game point streak during which he has racked up 30 points.

Spodniak’s native Slovakian countryman Vladimir Cibulka has been the other star of the show this season. In goal, Cibulka racked up 27 wins, tied for best in the WSHL. His goals-against average of 1.89 and save percentage of .934 were third and fourth best, respectively.

The Mustangs are one of only two teams in the WSHL to have six or more players with 60 or more points this season. That depth has been a major weapon for the Mustangs as Spodniak, Montell Greene, Austin Shea, Henrik Axelsson, Alex Forbes and Corey Iapalucci have each stepped up to be key contributors.

Now, Ogden heads into the playoffs with all the right pieces in place. While no players are out indefinitely, the injury bug has taken its toll in the second half of the season. There are a few players currently listed as day-to-day, but none are ruled out for March 24.

As the playoff sprint begins, the Mustangs will have home ice for every game. Finishing first in the division gave them hosting rights for the divisional playoffs, and with the WSHL awarding Ogden’s bid, the six-team Thorne Cup Finals will take place April 12-16 at the Ice Sheet.

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