ogden mustangs 100518 Artur Ogandzhanyan

Ogden Mustangs goalie Artur Ogandzhanyan stops a shot as Casper Bobcats forward Alex Roth (15) skates in during a three-game series Oct. 5-7, 2018, at the Ice Sheet in Ogden. 

The Ogden Mustangs started their 2018-19 home schedule with three victories over the Casper Bobcats in a 7-3, 7-1, 7-0 sweep on Oct. 5-7 at the Ice Sheet.

The wins put the Mustangs at 4-0 and first place overall in the Western States Hockey League, still early into the 51-game schedule. The Mustangs also have the two top scorers in the WSHL in Rhett Rampinelli and Kerry Kruzel. Both have four goals and five assists in four games.

The Mustangs will take the early successes but have plenty to work on as head coach Jake Laime focuses on playing a full 60 minutes, the same discipline that’s led the Mustangs to back-to-back Thorne Cup Finals appearances.

“We didn’t win the right way,” Laime said about the weekend series sweep. “Offensively, we were able to control most of the play but we neglected our structure and gave them the neutral zone. There’s still work to be done on the defensive side of the puck and we need to be more opportunistic offensively.”

Ogden gets a chance to get right back to work this weekend with what’s expected to be one of the tougher tests they’ll face on home ice this season. The Northern Colorado Eagles come to town for a series Oct. 12-14.

The Eagles and Mustangs have a history of thrilling matchups over the past few seasons. Most recently, the Mustangs ended the Eagles’ 2017-18 season in the division semifinals last March. It was a wild series with the Eagles stunning the Mustangs in the first game and the Mustangs bouncing back with consecutive comeback victories to take the series.

Friday with be the 40th all-time meeting between the Mustangs and Eagles. Remarkably, 13 of the 39 previous meetings have come in the playoffs.

With Rampinelli and Kruzel notching nine points a piece, Ryan Mascali is right behind them with eight points — all assists — Ian Currie has seven points, and Ammon Anderson and Harry Gulliver have six points. Those leaders are all the six returners from last season.

Bryson Bartell and Matts Thielemann, who were both on last season’s team and started this season with NAHL teams, are now back with the Mustangs, making the returning corps stronger at eight.

New additions have pulled their weight, perhaps most notably Artur Ogandzhanyan, who has been a brick wall in goal. He made a number of remarkable saves through Friday and Saturday’s games last weekend. Ethan Racz and Alex Neverve shared time as well between the pipes for the Mustangs. Offensively, newcomers Lukas Vacin, Samuel Sabos, Oliver Wieringa and Shane Gilbert each have multiple points.

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available online at tickets.ogdenmustangs.com.

Jon McBride is a broadcasting and media specialist for the Ogden Mustangs. He can be reached at jonathanmcbride@gmail.com.

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