After winning the first-ever Mountain West Hockey League championship last season, the Park City Pioneers are gearing up for a title defense.
They'll return several key players to the ice in 2013-14 MWHL MVP Matt Long, Goalie of the Year Kyle Gover, team captain David Imonti, and leading scorers Brian Babbitt and Tommy Rupp but there is still work to be done, according to Imonti.
The team will host tryouts at the Park City Ice Arena July 17-20.
"Depth is kind of the key word," said Imonti, who also acts as the team's general manager. "We know that we're probably not going to find a 50-goal scorer at an open tryout like this, but we can find lots of depth."
In addition to adding a couple of backup forwards, Imonti said the Pioneers hope to shore up the back end as well.
"We're looking for a little more depth on defense and maybe a third goalie," he said.
Though the team eventually righted the ship after a 1-7 start last season, Imonti said making sure the Pioneers start next year with a better roster is key.
"We have some holes we need to fill, obviously," he said. "We're always looking to upgrade."
Getting players like Long, Gover, Babbitt, Rupp and defenseman Aaron Dufford back was the first step.
"It's good, we always want to get those guys out of the way," Imonti said. "And we've got other guys returning who are unannounced yet."
With the top of the roster set, Imonti hopes the tryouts fill in the other shifts.
"We have 40 spots (in the tryouts) that are composed of some guys from last year, some guys from area colleges who just finished school there, a guy from Colorado and a guy from North Carolina coming out," he said.
Tryouts cost $50 for new players and $40 for players returning from last year. Imonti said there are seven or eight spots left, and interested athletes can sign up at pcpioneershockey.com .
"We're looking for work ethic and potential," he said. "It's the middle of summer, so obviously guys aren't going to be in top shape, but we're looking for guys who are good off the ice too and sort of fit into the group. It's always good to get fresh blood into the mix to make some other guys have a sense of urgency and make them aware that playing time isn't guaranteed."
He added that the Pioneers will be facing their toughest schedule ever in 2013-14, complete with six games against the rival Jackson Hole Moose and two games against the New York St. Nicks, a team that has won several championships in recent years.
"They've all played Division I college hockey," Imonti said of the St. Nicks. "It's a very, very good team. They'll definitely give us a couple good games. We've been trying to get them on the schedule for a couple years now, and it just happened to work out this year."
The Pioneers season begins on Sept. 6 and 7 with two exhibition games against Weber State University.