OGDEN — Entering season No. 9, the Ogden Mustangs have the same goal but with a new look
The Mustangs are coming off of back-to-back seasons where they’ve gone all the way to the Western States Hockey League championship game. In both of those games, the Mustangs have come up just short of hoisting their first championship trophy.
This season, newly designed jerseys aren’t the only things that will be different about the Mustangs. Expect a more physical, hard-nosed, grinding style of hockey in Ogden, to go along with the usual speed and skill the Mustangs play with.
“Looking back at teams that have played us especially tough in the past — the Oklahomas, Northern Colorados and El Pasos — they just play with that heavy style,” said Ogden head coach Jake Laime. “We’ve brought in some bigger and heavier forwards to compliment our speed and skill.”
This could be the deepest group of forwards Laime has ever had in Ogden. Leading the way up front are a pair of players who will do something this season that only one Mustang has ever done previously: play four seasons in Ogden. Both Bryson Bartell and Harry Gulliver will look to end their junior hockey careers on a high note in their fourth and final seasons, securing that elusive Thorne Cup Championship.
“I just wanted to finish in Ogden,” Gulliver said. “I love the fans, and I’m ready to win a Thorne Cup in my last year. I’ve had a great three seasons here, so I don’t know why I wouldn’t come back for my last one and finish what I started.”
Gulliver will have a bit of a delayed start to the season after suffering a collarbone injury in practice.
Bartell has significantly upped his production in each of his first three seasons and is the highest returning point getter from last season. He’s expected to have a big season and will be relied on heavily.
A total of nine players are returning from last season’s team. At a level of hockey where players are expected to move onward and upward, this will be the most returners the Mustangs have ever had come back from one season to the next. All nine are looking for elevated roles this season. Eight of the returners are forwards and create a healthy competition up front for roles and playing time.
The lone returner on defense is 6-foot-5, 230-pound Canadian defenseman Oliver Wieringa. He’ll be joined by Johan Zöllner, the third of three Zöllner brothers out of Sweden to play for Ogden. The Mustangs also just picked up top-tier WSHL defenseman Ramil Talipov, who played for the Edson Aeros last season.
In goal, the Mustangs have former Long Beach Bomber Matthew Genter, and TPH Thunder product and late-USHL-cut Mason Palmer as their top two guys.
Other newcomers to keep an eye on this season include shifty Californian playmaker Zach Pires, NOJHL-champion power forward Caleb Dolman and Ukranian goal-scoring speedster Gleb Krivoshapkin.
The Mustangs have five local players on this season’s roster, an all-time high: Titan Anderson (Wellsville), Diego Contreras (Layton), Nick Garza (Kaysville), Christian Phinney (Draper) and Cannon Rogers (Ogden).
It all starts this weekend as the Mustangs will host the Ontario Avalanche for the first time in franchise history. The Avalanche make the trek from the WSHL’s Western Division in California to The Ice Sheet.
The puck drops on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s game will start at 1:30 p.m.