NCDC 2023-24 Team Preview Series: Ogden Mustangs
As the light beams through The Ice Sheet’s giant windows, looking out upon the mountain-meets-desert landscape of Ogden, Utah, there’s the familiar sound of pucks hitting sticks and blades carving ice. Just another beautiful day in Mustang Country.
The Ogden Mustangs were originally founded in 2011 and have always found a way to be contenders. Out of their nine years in the former Western States Hockey League, they made the Thorne Cup Finals three times. The Mustangs jumped on board with several other former WSHL teams in joining the USPHL as the Mountain Division, formerly in the USPHL Premier, and they were once again pulling on the same rope with five other organizations advancing up to Tier II and the NCDC.
“Just like any other new team early on, it is a work in progress. The team is competing hard and willing to learn from each other which helps speed up the development process,” said Head Coach Kenny Orlando, whose team ended its Premier existence with a trip to the USPHL Nationals. “We are happy with the tremendous talent pool that is here in Ogden, but it is up to each of them to ‘bring it’ every single day and not get complacent. That is the attitude we want to carry within our room throughout the season.”
The Mustangs focused heavily on multiple factors when looking at the players who would be their first NCDC players – skill, speed, determination and simply playing smart hockey.
“From our roster makeup, the Mustangs will be a highly skilled team who plays with pace and does not give up,” Orlando said. “We take pride in having high IQ hockey players who make decisions tough on our opponents.”
It’s a big decision, however, to name a Captain for an inaugural team at a new, higher level, so the Mustangs are taking their time.
“As our team is a new pool of players with only two returners, we as a group are still in the feeling out process of the leaders within the room,” Orlando added. “The two returning players we do have, Dimitri Voyatzis and Teddie Hember, have both been vocally strong and leading by example on the ice. After the first couple of weeks, the new and younger players seem to lean on them for guidance.”
Voyatzis and Hember remain the only two players from the Premier Mustangs who will move up to the NCDC level with the organization. Both were Mountain Division All-Stars last year at the Premier level.
Voyatzis had 82 points in 50 games and has a combined 135 points in 107 regular season and playoff games with the Mustangs. Hember put up 58 points in 49 games last year, and also had a couple assists in the Mustangs’ three Nationals games.
Another top-level performer at the USPHL Premier last year was new Mustang Daniel Ellingson. Formerly with the Minnesota Squatch (a first-year organization in 2022-23), Ellingson was one of six 100-point scorers by putting up 103. That was just two more points than former Mustang Jake Meure, whose 101 points last year put him over the top and saw him leave as the Premier Conference’s all-time leading scorer with 222 points.
“Daniel is one of the hardest workers on the ice and will do whatever it takes to help his teammates be successful,” said Orlando. “Every time a puck is on his stick he makes something happen.”
On defense, watch for Ellingson’s former Squatch teammate Henri Mustonen, who put up 33 points in 42 games last year – his first in North America.
“Henri is a smooth-skating and high IQ hockey player. He is coachable and wants to get better every day,” said Orlando. “He has thrived so far on our Olympic sheet.”
In net, the Mustangs will feature an ‘06 rookie in the form of Vlad Bryzgalov. Maybe the surname rings a bell? His father Ilya Bryzgalov was a Stanley Cup Champion as part of his 512-game career, but it’s all Vlad’s ball game now. He’ll be ready to make a big name for himself in the NCDC.
“Vlad is a young talent and plays mature in the net,” Orlando added. “As an ‘06 birth year, he has impressed us quickly by competing his way to be considered one of our top-end goalies.”
The Mustangs utilized a Tender of an ‘06 forward as their first NCDC draft pick, and used that to select Syracuse, Utah’s own Sam Anderson. The former Pikes Peak Miner and Rocky Mountain Roughrider is also a Farmington High alum. He gives a great local flavor to the Mustangs.
“Sam is an elite forward that brings a high pace and skill game to the Mustangs forward group,” added Orlando. “He will make his debut in our home opener this Friday, Sept. 22.”
With so many organizations holding bright histories from their time before the NCDC and even before the USPHL, bragging rights alone among these historic rivals will drive amazing competition every night in the Mountain.
“The standard is set very high for the NCDC Mountain Division, even in Year 1,” added Orlando. “Each team in our division viciously recruits and wants to be the best which makes for a competitive game every night. I believe the parity will be tighter than it ever has before out here in the West resulting in many one-shot type hockey games.”
— Joshua Boyd/NCDCHockey.com
(September 19, 2023)