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USPHL Premier 2020-21 Preview: Mountain Division

By Jim DenHollander/USPHL.com, 09/14/20, 6:45PM EDT

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One of two new Western U.S.-based divisions, the Mountain Division features four established teams from Colorado and Utah, as well as one brand new organization in Provo, Utah.

 

Northern Colorado Eagles

The Eagles will be looking to pick up where they left off last season when they finished with a 34-13-4 division in their prior league, qualifying for the postseason for a seventh straight season. The Eagles posted an average of 30-plus wins in all seven seasons of its existence.

Head Coach Steve Haddon said the team is looking forward to making its debut in a new league.

“The Northern Colorado Eagles are excited [that] the organization will be making the transition to the United States Premier Hockey League effective for the 2020-2021 season,” said Haddon. “This decision has been made to better align organizational goals and fundamentals with player development and advancement potential.”

A rare fifth-year returner, Wil Campbell brings the team stability on the blue line this season and he has already been presented with the “C” for his jersey.

Campbell will get help from Case Kantgias, a defender with a nose for the net who contributed 10 goals and 17 points after joining the Eagles halfway through last season.

Up front, Brennan McFarland returns after a 31-goal, 66-point season last year, along with Quinn O’Reilly, who contributed 23-goals and 56 points as a 17-year-old.

 

Ogden Mustangs

The Mustangs will face off in their 10th season of junior hockey, and their first in the USPHL, restoring some long-standing league rivalries while adding a new foe in Provo.

Head Coach Kenny Orlando said playing “in a new division will be electric for our fans this season.”

He is looking forward to key returners up front Alex Engan and Diego Contreras, along with blueliners Christian Phinney, Johan Zollner and Patrick Tuma, with Titan Anderson back in the crease.

Among the key additions up front will be Stanford Zito, Brice Miller, Lukas Washco and Seth Jones on the blue line,, along with goaltender Domagoj Troha.

Orlando said the team used a pair of camps to narrow down the field and target the top players.

"Our pre-season Mustangs and futures camps in Ogden and Hatfield, Pa., showcased a plethora of local talent and skill from the respective regions,” Orlando. “Our coaching staff was able to seek out players and do as good of a job as possible in scouting this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while being mindful of everything that is taking place in our world, ensuring that player safety is our No. 1 priority was critical when talking with prospective players and parents.”

 

 

Provo Riverblades

The Provo Riverblades will enter their inaugural season this fall out of Peaks Arena, a former Olympic venue, in picturesque Provo, Utah.

Head Coach Michael Callan will lead the team after having spent the last four years as a head coach at the NCAA Division III level.

The team has welcomed in players with junior hockey experience, in addition to hungry newcomers looking to prove themselves, and is excited to compete amongst its peers in the highly-respected Mountain Division.

 

Pueblo Bulls

Chris Wilhite, Head Coach of the Bulls, is looking forward to his team making a big impression in the Mountain Division this season.

“I am very excited about this upcoming season and the roster we have brought in,” said Wilhite, in a written report. “I believe we have a very good shot at making a name for ourselves our first year in the USPHL. We have a great group of returners that are hungry to win after the season getting cut short last year.”

 

The Bulls have 10 returning players, including Pueblo native forward Zech Wills, along with forwards Benjamin St-Onge (an NCDC South Shore Kings draft pick), Kale Lone, Dane Whittet, Milan Breczko, Wyatt Andres, Hunter Gruben and Ethan Knutsen, and defenders Brock McQuistan, Kaleb Ross and Andrei Ivanov.

 

Among the newcomers to watch are forwards Brigham Neuhold, Daniel Vujcich and Peter Taber along with defenseman Gavin Andres and goaltender Tyler Lambert.

 

Utah Outliers

The Outliers are celebrating their fifth anniversary and inaugural USPHL season with GM/Head Coach Paul Taylor running the bench.

The organization seeks to continue its strong winning tradition and assert itself as a top team in the USPHL. In each of the past four seasons, Utah has managed to post a 30-plus win season, and the Outliers look to continue that dominant streak heading into the 2020-21 season.

The roster will have a blend of returning players and new faces. Some key players with offensive firepower will lead the charge along with stout defenders on the back end. The biggest hole to be filled with this season's team is the loss of all-star goalie Oscar Wahlgren, who has moved on to play NCAA hockey with Curry College. 

The team is excited to welcome players from Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Oregon, Minnesota, Utah, Wisconsin, Indiana, Sweden, Russia, Hungary, Austria, Italy and Latvia. 

With a core group of eight returners - Josh Harrell, Trent Gephart, Jett Arminen, Dawson Armstrong, Alex Charin, Ryan Wirth, Helvijs Rudzajs, and Logan Johnson - mixing with the new talent, this is shaping up to be another strong team for the Outliers.