Ogden Mustangs open hockey season with 2 road wins; home opener Friday
GREELEY, Colo. — The Ogden Mustangs are back, and so might be a heated rivalry that has been burgeoning since both teams rejoined the same division last season.
The Mustangs opened the 2021-22 season in Greeley for three games against the Northern Colorado Eagles.
With a good turnout for game one at the Ice Haus on Friday, Sept. 17, the energy in the building was through the roof. Both teams were charged up and ready to begin their quests for a national championship in the United States Premier Hockey League.
NoCo got on the board first with a power-play goal 7:27 into the opening period of the season. Ogden forward Cade Herrera announced his return with a wicked wrist shot in the closing minutes of the period; however, his goal was greeted with a resounding roar when the Eagles answered with another goal 13 seconds later.
“It’s always key to get the first goal in every game,” Herrera said. “I’m just trying to help my team win every night. It’s always team-first in my mind, and that is always what my intentions are.”
Trailing 2-1 entering the 2nd period, Lukas Washco and Jake Meure connected on a counter-attack to knot the score 2-2 before the game changed for good. Washco was sent flying into the net following his goal and the Eagles were assessed a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking. The Mustangs scored four consecutive power-play goals, and three in a span of 3:12, before ending the period with a commanding 8-3 lead.
Gio Ursillo, Seth Jones, Nicholas Cimino and Meure all collected their first goals this season, while Luke Faas and Dimitri Voyatzis scored their first career junior goals. Savva Serdiuk earned his first career junior win with a 34-save effort while his team finished a 9-3 win.
Saturday, Ogden goalie Antonio Tarantino was nothing less than stellar. In a game that saw another parade to the penalty box, Tarantino was perfect in a 35-save, 4-0 shutout to earn his first victory of the season.
“Getting the shutout means a lot,” Tarantino said. “I spent plenty of time this offseason skating, developing, and getting into shape back home. It’s a confidence booster and makes you feel good about all of the work you’ve put in over the summer.”
Voyatzis scored the eventual game-winning goal 1:24 into the game with an early power-play awarded seconds before his goal. Minutes later, Ursillo and Washco found the back of the net, and Ogden never looked back despite being outshot 23-15 in the final two periods.
“After the first game, we got our feet wet, but we want to play a three-zone game,” Herrera said. “We can improve that effort by staying consistent, taking care of the defensive zone first and let the offensive zone take care of itself.”
Despite winning the first two games, Ogden had one more job to do: complete the sweep on Sunday. Unfortunately, the Eagles would have none of that on their home ice as their power play was 3 of 6 and never trailed while handing the Mustangs their first loss this season with a 5-1 score.
Andrew Alonzo registered his first career junior goal off a rebound in the 2nd period for the Mustangs. Randon Striplin made his junior debut in goal Sunday but was put in challenging situations throughout while attempting to track various odd-man rushes and breakaways. He made 18 saves in two periods before Serdiuk entered the third period and stopped 11 shots on 12 attempts.
Ogden was 6 of 17 on the power play until going 0 of 4 on Sunday. Still, 28% on the power play against a NoCo team is a foundation for a lethal unit with several different groups that can convert on the man-advantage. Both teams combined for 139 penalty minutes during the series, but only 24 in the final game.
The penalty kill was humming through the weekend, surrendering just a single power-play goal until NoCo broke through for three on Sunday. Like the power play, nearly 81% penalty kill rate is a solid number through the first weekend, but the Mustangs will look to improve that number this Friday during their regular-season home opener.
The Mustangs open their home schedule Friday, Sept. 24, when the Northern Colorado Eagles make their first trip to Ogden this season. The first 250 fans at The Ice Sheet will receive a free rally towel.
Steffen Bell is the broadcaster for the Ogden Mustangs. The Mustangs are a junior hockey team playing in the third-tier USPHL, which stretches from coast to coast. This story originally appeared on ogdenmustangs.com, is republished with permission, and has been edited for style and space.