Mountain Division Key Questions
Casper: Can the Coyotes finally get past the Ogden Mustangs?
The Ogden Mustangs have been a pesky Thorne (get it?) in the Coyotes’ paws over the last three years. Casper has made the postseason each of their first three seasons in the WSHL and Ogden has eliminated them each time. The Coyotes have re-tooled this offseason, bringing in a mix of young talent and a new head coach in David Cole. It remains to be seen whether Casper and Ogden will cross paths again in the Thorne Cup playoffs but look for the Coyotes to make a run for the Mountain Division banner when March rolls around.
Colorado: Can the returning Eagles build off last year’s performances?
Colorado has a handful of returning players looking to build off of stellar results in 2016-17. Braden Lajoie’s 2.23 GAA was one of the lowest in the entire WSHL last season. Vincent Mastrandrea led the Eagles in scoring with 83 points, including 53 assists. New Colorado captain Carter Dahl led the team with seven short-handed goals. If they can continue that momentum of strong play, the Eagles could establish themselves as the team to beat in the Mountain Division.
Cheyenne: Can it be a lucky seventh season for the Stampede?
Cheyenne is entering their seventh season with a new head coach in Joe Pfleegor. Pfleegor’s task will be to get the Stampede back to the top of the Mountain Division. Cheyenne has finished fifth or lower in each of the last three seasons. In their first three years, the Stampede finished third or better in their division, including a second-place performance in 2013-14. Pfleegor could be the bench boss that elevates Cheyenne back to the top half of the Mountain pack.
Ogden: Can the Mustangs get back to the Thorne Cup Final tournament?
Ogden made the Thorne Cup Final tournament last season by virtue of being the host team. From there, they put on a strong showing in front of their home fans, advancing out of the group stage and coming within two wins of capturing the Thorne Cup title. The Mustangs will look to find the same success that powered them to a 42-7-3 record and first place in the Mountain Division last year. If they can replicate that result this year, there is a good possibility that Ogden will be playing hockey in April.
Superior: Can the RoughRiders rebound from last year’s setback?
The RoughRiders found themselves in unfamiliar territory last season, finishing at the bottom of the Mountain Division. It was Superior’s worst finish ranking-wise in their program’s history. There is no doubt the RoughRiders will be looking to get back on the right path this year. With their disciplined style of play, it is hard to see Superior staying in the basement this season.
Utah: Can the Outliers avoid another slow start?
Utah got off to a rough start last year, dropping eight of their first nine contests. It was not until the Western States Shootout that the Outliers really got rolling and powered their way to the division semifinals in the playoffs. The Outliers will look to start on the right track as they face Odgen and Colorado to start the season, the two teams that finished ahead of them in the standings. If Utah can get some wins against their rivals early, it could be the difference in getting into the top two and securing a first-round bye.
Be sure to follow Charles Woodall-Pike (@CactusonIce) for all things Mountain Division
Photo courtesy of Marc Mauno