With a 2-0 shutout victory Sept. 29 on the road against the Utah Outliers, season No. 8 of Ogden Mustangs hockey is underway.
Far in the rearview now is last season’s heartbreak, falling by a single goal in Western States Hockey League championship game in El Paso, Texas.
Each season in the franchise’s history has been a step forward — from just 13 wins in the team’s inaugural season, a remarkable division championship in season three, and now three Thorne Cup Finals appearances and 38-plus wins in each of their past four seasons.
This season’s focus is taking home the league’s ultimate prize.
“After last season, I don’t want to settle for anything less than the Thorne Cup,” said Mustangs forward and second-year player Ian Currie. “We came so close and it got taken from us. This is our year.”
The WSHL has already announced that Ogden will host the Thorne Cup Finals this season, but that’s a long way away and the roster has been put together methodically by head coach Jake Laime.
“I’m happy with the character, work ethic and the attitudes of the guys that are coming back this year,” Laime said. “We don’t have a 150-point guy, but I think that we are going to be a blue-collar team.”
Although a small sample size, that work ethic and character was evident in the Mustangs’ season-opening victory against the Outliers. While it was two returners scoring the goals in 17-year-old Syracuse native Ammon Anderson and top returning scorer from last season, Rhett Rampinelli, other contributions came from throughout the lineup.
Ryan Mascali will anchor the defense as a third-year player. Harry Gulliver is the Mustangs’ other third-year guy and will be a key contributor up front, growing one inch and putting on 10 pounds in the offseason. Kerry Kruzel had the primary assist on Anderson’s game-winning goal in the opener and was the third member of the Mustangs No. 1 line with Rampinelli and Anderson.
There are a host of new guys ready to make an impact. Perhaps no newcomer stood out so much on Saturday as Ukrainian goaltender Artur Ogandzhanyan, who picked up the shutout in his first game as a Mustang — the first goalie in team history to do that.
Canadian defenseman Oliver Wieringa is an imposing force on the ice at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Nikita Boyko is a relentless, tenacious defender from Kazakhstan who, with sheer effort, started the play from his own defensive zone that got the Mustangs their second goal Saturday. Ethan McKinley, Aidan McAleer, Shane Gilbert and Ogden native Cannon Rogers all bring a lot of speed and depth up front.
The roster usually continues to take shape as the season progresses, adding key pieces in trades with other leagues.
With the departure of Ogden’s all-time leading scorer Matus Spodniak — who is playing NCAA DI hockey this season — and the loss of last season’s No. 2 and No. 3 scorers Jacob Lauren and Ross Bartlett, the Mustangs lost a staggering 400 points of offensive production from last season. Still, players say they’re ready to step up and replace those points by committee.
“The team is looking good,” Gulliver said. “We have younger team than last year but they are all talented and hungry to play.”
The Mustangs open their home schedule this weekend as the Casper Bobcats come to town for three games. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5-6, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.
Jon McBride is a broadcasting and media specialist for the Ogden Mustangs. He can be reached at email@example.com.