Pueblo, CO. -- The Mustangs have had a much different season so far than what is considered the norm for this organization. The opening weekend's difficult result had many holding their breath for Ogden's home-opener and the challenges that followed after. A dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory in late September has sent the Mustangs into overdrive and just made a statement on Sunday afternoon in Pueblo with a 9-2 win. The Mustangs have now won seven of their last nine games (including exhibition games vs. Las Vegas T-Birds) and four of six vs. the Mountain Division-leading Pueblo Bulls.
We have said many things about this team already: Resilient, gritty, young, etc., Sunday's performance showed that they had finally arrived. The forward lines were rolling; the defensive group was aggressive and swarming; the goaltending was outstanding; special teams were clicking—they put it all together and just before the most anticipated and heated rivalry draws near: the Outliers.
Head Coach Kenny Orlando was candid in breaking down the weekend, the identity of the Mustangs and the expectations moving forward.
"The effort was consistent throughout the weekend. We had a few breakdowns in our zone that led to good scoring chances for them [Pueblo], but the overall artwork of the 180 minutes was a solid and good effort. Our guys were rewarded for playing the right way and proved that it pays off when doing so".
Friday night, Ogden established themselves early with third-year forward Alex Engan scoring the opening goal just 1:13 into the first period. Both teams would exchange goals and head into the 2nd intermission tied 2-2. Pueblo took their first lead of the game 1:06 into the 3rd period and seemingly taking control of all momentum. The Mustangs refused to back down and traded shot-for-shot with the Bulls until Tucker Thorstad won a foot race down the ice and put a pass right on the tape for Walker Crum, who was left all alone in front of the net and buried the game-tying goal with 12:56 left in the 3rd. Fast-forward 43 seconds later, Cade Herrera blazed down the ice, picked up a long area pass from newcomer Deven Boldway, and scored on the breakaway to give Ogden the lead once again. Herrera would add another goal via Empty-Net and finish the game with two goals and one assist. Ogden would win 5-3 before the end was marred by post-game theatrics in front of the Ogden bench.
"All three games, we had solid goaltending. They gave us a chance to win every night. Our depth and secondary scoring stepped up against Pueblo and showed how deep our team is. Tucker getting on the board multiple times on Sunday helps boost his confidence and boosts the group's confidence as a whole. Walker Crum gave us a lot of momentum with his big goal that tied the game. The guys are starting to believe in themselves and believe that we are a deeper team than we thought, and we're very competitive when we play the right way".
Saturday night's game was another tight contest between both clubs. Ogden's Andrey Shmakov scored the game's opening goal late in the 1st period when he capitalized on a loose puck rebound in front of the net. Goaltender Domagoj Troha (4-2-1) was spectacular in net all weekend as he would split two games and stop 61 shots in those two appearances for Ogden.
The Bulls would score three unanswered goals before the Mustangs earned a two-man advantage for two whole minutes but could not solve the Pueblo goaltender. It seemed as the though Ogden scored late in the 3rd, but the official had blown the play dead when the net was knocked off its moorings. Pueblo eventually held on to secure the win, which left Sunday to be the series rubber match in this intense early rivalry.
"The guys are beginning to fully buy-in to what we are doing here. There was a learning curve for the team, and some players needed that adjustment to this caliber of hockey. After that opening weekend, the team has been a lot different. They are committed to playing a structurally-sound and defense-first style of hockey, and it shows in their confidence that they carry with them when they step onto the ice."
After the last meeting between these two teams, the Mustangs were hungry and determined to put an exclamation point on this series, and did they ever. Bryce Miller scored the opening goal on the powerplay in the 1st period before Pueblo would answer minutes later with consecutive goals in a span of 1:15. Eighteen seconds later, Thorstad went top-shelf to tie the game 2-2. Daniel Pfalzer applied the great forecheck and force a turnover that gave Thorstad a great chance in the slot area.
It was all Mustangs following that first-period goal by Thorstad as he led the way for his team by scoring three times on Sunday (once in each period), and the Mustangs scored eight unanswered to take the 9-2 victory on Sunday afternoon.
For Ogden, their play over the weekend was one to be proud of as their combination of speed, skill, and never-say-die attitude proved to frustrate Pueblo. Shift after shift, Ogden got faster, and it showed on Sunday as the Bulls would take 48 penalty minutes and two game misconducts. The Mustangs would score four powerplay goals courtesy of Cameron Hawks, Michael Heller, and the aforementioned Miller and Thorstad.
Anthony Seykora (1-0) dazzled in net on Sunday afternoon. He made 40 saves and picked up his first USPHL win as a member of the Ogden Mustangs.
Ogden will now begin their stretch of 15 divisional games that they will face either the Provo Riverblades or the Utah Outliers.
"From my perspective, everyone needs to expect consistency. When we have those lapses, and they will happen, I expect everyone to expect a bounce-back. The rivalry games will create a higher expectation of increased motivation and consistency to create separation within the division. By continuing to play the right way, avoiding the individualistic approach, and maintaining the team-first structure to each game, our team will be rewarded."
Thursday, Oct 29th | @ Provo Riverblades | 7:30 PM
Friday, Oct 30th | Vs. Utah Outliers | 7:30 PM | Trunk-Or-Treat
Kids Costume Night during the game and Trunk-Or-Treat in the parking lot before doors are open.
Sunday, Nov 1st | Vs. Utah Outliers | 1:30 PM MST
Forward Diego Contreras and Defenseman Pavel Gerasimenko have been released and are no longer with the team.
Tickets are available at tickets.ogdenmustangs.com
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