Under the Hood: Utah Outliers

by WSHL Staff

Utah Outliers

2018-2019 Finish: Mountain Division Finals 

Standings/Record: 33W-15L-1OTL-2OTW

The switch from Salt Lake City Moose—three years ago—to the Utah Outliers has been swiftly positive. They qualified for the Thorne Cup Finals in 2017-2018. Since the 2016-2017 season, the Outliers have finished at least third in their division and have gone to the division finals twice.

They almost found themselves in the Thorne Cup last year after defeating the Ogden Mustangs in Game 2 of the Mountain Division Finals. A great display of hockey ensued for Game 3, which took double overtime to decide the rightful owner of the divisional crown. In the end, the Outliers had to witness another heartbreaker to a bitter rival.

(Photo by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs)

“It was disappointing obviously losing two of the three games in overtime,” Head Coach Paul Taylor said. “I was proud of the effort that my players put forward but it was a tough one to swallow.”

The Outliers were a team that scored by committee and didn’t really have a severely lopsided spread of points. Every skater that played at least 30 games had over 20-points with the exception of two defenders.  

But their players also move on by committee…

The representatives of West Valley City will be without eight of their top 10 scorers from last season. Of the eight includes leading scorer Nicholas Ness (34G-38A-72Pts.), second leading scorer Matt Bartel (34G-37A-71Pts.), and fourth leading scorer Jan Dvorak (26G-34A-60Pts.). There will be some big skates to fill for the new season and the new division outlook that comes with higher competition.

“We’re kind of used to it; we pretty much only have about five returners every year with players going pro or going to college,” Coach Taylor said. “From that aspect, I think we have some good players coming in to replace the guys that have moved.”

If history tells us anything, it is worth mentioning that Utah has had 30+ win seasons since they changed names to the Outliers. 

“We put a lot of effort into our recruiting. It’s an intense battle for players and from the minute we lost to Ogden [in the division finals] we started up and it’s been going on all summer. It never really stops.” 

As for any returning players it all starts in net with the re-signing of Oscar Wahlgren. Wahlgren was a brick wall for the Outliers and played in 43 games in 2018-2019. The 6’3” Swedish netminder had a .917 SV% and a 2.02 GAA, making him one of the top goalies in the league. More impressive was his performance in the latter half of the season winning 12 of 13 starts from Dec. to March.

(Photo of Wahlgren, #1, by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs)

“I felt he was one of the top goalies in the league last year,” Coach Taylor said. “That’s a big returner for us.”

Utah brings back six other players in Miroslav Hradecky, Alex Charin, Jacob Lelek, Tristan Slot, Brad McCloskey, and Austin Heinrich.

Coach Taylor added that his returners all played to par last season. So much so that Taylor is convinced they are ready to take the next step in fulfilling the roles left behind.

“Those were good players for us last year. We expect them all to take another step this year and provide leadership, and kind of, help direct the team in the way we want to play and the work ethic or commitment it takes to be a strong team in the league.”

Coach Taylor is impressed with his new players and would rather not lay the responsibility to a few names. He has been able to trickle in forwards and defenders with decent size and copious amounts of competitiveness. There are high expectations going into the season as the new crop of players adopt the Outliers culture. 

“For us it’s always been this way. We have never had one or two players to carry our team. We typically try to work off the depth of our team. I think this year will be no different in that it will be a committee effort.”    

Just because the Outliers return very few players each year doesn’t mean they have to shift their play system and team identity around. They remain consistent with their methods in order to attract the same type of players. They have always been a skill, puck possessing team and will likely feature new players who fit that mold.

They were one of the bigger teams in the league last year but this year you can expect the Outliers to be a little smaller yet handle the same.

Coach Taylor would like this year’s group of Outliers to be a little more refined in their finish. Utah’s scoring was essentially sporadic in nature and mostly effective due to the volume of shots they put up.

“I thought the team created a lot of offense and we usually put up a lot of shots but we were a little inconsistent at times with our finish even when we would score seven in a game.”

The Outliers will shift their attention to the Northern Colorado Eagles this weekend to open their season. Coach Taylor named Austin Heinrich as the team captain and also has four assistant captains in Tristan Slot, Brad McCloskey, Alex Charin and Ben Doherty—Two for home games and two for away games.