An unfamiliar foe will take the ice opposite the Park City Pioneers this weekend, providing the hometown squad with the toughest challenge of its brief history.
The New York St. Nicks, featuring several players from top Division I college programs and Ryan Lannon, who played for the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, will be in Park City for a two-game series at the Park City Ice Arena.
Pioneers captain David Imonti said he expects the weekend to be a good learning experience for the struggling squad.
"They're legit they're very legit," he said. "I looked at their roster, and their worst guy is as good as our best guy. It'll be interesting, to say the least."
Coming off a weekend series in which the Pioneers dropped two games to the Sun Valley Suns 8-4 on Friday night and 7-6 on Saturday night Imonti hopes the St. Nicks will spark Park City (11-9 overall) to play better.
"I think playing a lot of the weaker teams early in the season hurt us a little bit," he said. "Now we're shell-shocked playing better teams right now. We got maybe a little more complacent playing lower-caliber clubs."
Imonti wants this weekend to be a wake-up call for the entire Park City roster.
"Our goal is to keep the games as competitive as possible and hopefully be able to keep the scores close," he said. "Then who knows what can happen if we get a couple lucky bounces."
Win or lose, Imonti added the weekend's games will be a great way to support a good cause and see some outstanding hockey.
"I think it'll be the best team that people in Park City will ever see play here," he said. "Everyone on their team has played Division I hockey. All of them have played pro, almost, and they're pretty much all under 30."
Proceeds from this weekend's games will benefit the Park City Day School. Friday's game begins at 8:15 p.m. and the puck will drop at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday night. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids and students and $3 for youth hockey players and resort employees.