Welcome to the first blog post of the 2018-19 season!
Currently all the teams are winding up their exhibition schedules as they try and whittle down their list of prospects and let the returning vets get used to new roles and new linemates.
The Mustangs are coming off a bounce back season that saw them make the playoffs for the first time in 3 yrs! Perennial bottom dwellers no more, their playoff appearance was bolstered on a strong start to the season which saw them tear up the standings like a toddler on Christmas day!
Led by rookie Joseph Karpyshyn, the Herd garnered enough points and respectability to make the post season and win more games by December/17 than they did the previous year! It was a good thing too as they stumbled in the New Year losing consecutive games but held on for enough points to make the dance.
An extra bonus was that they finished ahead of cross-town rival Canucks in the standings!
Players Yuri Chernichko, Riley Smith, Captain Salvatore Scalise, Nathan Walker, Eric Lemire (off to play Lacrosse) and coach Marian Gmitter
Extensions for Coaches Drader and Clarke. New assistant coaches Alex Mandolidis, Josh Watson and goalie coach Richie Hubbell. (For more on their bios, visit Bios.)
Players Reece Soukoroff, Ben Howard (G), Cole Basnett.
There was a seemingly strong off-season love affair with the Okotoks Oilers as Soukoroff, Howard, and Basnett are all from there but then can you blame them? A team as strong as the Oilers has a lot of talent that wasn't getting the ice time so now these players are rewarded with strong leadership roles and a chance to make an impact on the team led by Souks getting the 'A'.
Management and players will not be happy with a one and done appearance in the playoffs and expectations are high for this squad.
Newcomer goalie Ben Howard will be expected to bring his experience from having been mentored under one of the leagues top goaltenders in Riley Morris and as a result, with a log jam of goalies in the system, expect there to be a lot of competition between the pipes with all goalies pushing each other to succeed.
Soukoroff will have something to prove. The 20 yr old is out to prove that the Oilers made a mistake in trading him and it will be interesting to see how he handles it. With a leadership role and burgeoning additional ice time offered to him, does he squander this opportunity or does he grab the bull by the horns and kick some ass?
Karpyshyn will be called upon to prove that last year's scoring touch wasn't a fluke and that he can be a top 10 scorer in this league. Will he be able to get the timely goals that were Yuri's bread and butter last year?
'Salty' will need to continue his edgy play and increase his point production this year but he will also need to learn that the sin bin is where you go to feel shame.
Take a lesson from Denis Lemieux in Slapshot:
Jim Carr: You don’t do that?
Denis Lemieux: Oh no, never, never.
Jim Carr: Why not?
Denis Lemieux: Against the rules. You know, you’re stupid when you do that. Just some English pig with no brains, you know.
Denis Lemieux: You do that, you go to the box, you know. Two minutes, by yourself, you know and you feel shame, you know. And then you get free.
Coach Drader. Can he continue to get his message across to the team, consistently motivating them and at the same time teaching this young squad?
Games are won and lost by special teams. Never before have they had such an effect on the outcome of the game as they do in this day and age of parity.
For the Mustangs it was especially so because specialty teams were a mixed bag with this club in 2017-18.
The Ponies finished with the 6th best Penalty Kill in the league but the 4th worst Powerplay. Chances aplenty, they were unable to find the back of the twine with the extra man and instead gave up the 3rd most short-handed goals while on the PP.
Home is not where the hammer hangs.
Plain and simply last year saw the team own a league worst power play when playing at Father David Bauer, allowing the second most short handed goals against while only scoring on 15.5% of their power play chances. They took more penalties while at home than away but somehow scored the 2nd most short handed goals in the league.
Not exactly a trend that will keep Coach Drader’s hair the colour that it currently is!
Part of the reason was inexperience and back breaking goals at the wrong time (see shorthanded goals against above). This year with the added personnel goal-tending should be shored up by the competition that will be created with 3 goalies fighting for the starting role.
It will be up to pivot Soukoroff to not just fill the void on defence left when Savy moved on but to also quarterback the powerplay.
Of course, this all goes out the window when the puck drops on the regular season!