After winning the inaugural Mountain West Hockey League championship last season, the Park City Pioneers are anxious to get the 2013-14 season underway.
Plenty of familiar faces will return to the ice captain David Imonti, assistant captains Matt Long and Sean Baron, leading scorer Brian Babbitt and MWHL goalie of the year Kyle Gover, to name a few alongside some new players that Imonti thinks will give the Pioneers their strongest roster yet.
"We upgraded in a lot of areas and added a couple new guys," he said. "We have a huge roster, like 35 guys."
Among the newcomers is George Cantrall, a winger from Springfield, Ill., who Imonti thinks will bring some more physical play to Park City.
"He's played 175 pro games," Imonti said. "The highlight of that career was a 59-game season where he picked up 321 penalty minutes. He's not shy about the physical aspect of the game, but he can put up points too. He'll be a huge boost to our lineup."
Imonti is also excited about the Dommer brothers Brad and Aaron who will bring some youth to the Pioneers' roster.
"It's good to have a variety of guys like that," he said.
The new roster hasn't had much practice time together, but Imonti isn't too worried about that heading into Saturday's exhibition match against Weber State University at the Park City Ice Arena.
"We've been training informally for about a month and a half now," he said. "[Wednesday] night was our first official practice though.
He thinks the strong core of players the Pioneers brought back this offseason can use veteran play to slow down a strong college squad like the Wildcats.
"They're a good team, one of the top in their region," he said. "The advantage we have is that our team, at least on paper, is a more skilled team. If we can kind of slow the game down and out-think them, we should be fine. Most of our guys have played together for three, four or five years, so we have a lot of chemistry."
Saturday's game, which begins at 6 p.m., will be free to the public, according to Imonti.
"We're doing free admission for everyone and starting the game an hour earlier than we normally do to allow some families who don't get to make it to our later games a chance to come out," he said. "We want to try to generate a little bit of interest before the official season starts."
The Pioneers' regular season begins on Oct. 26 with a game in Murray against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. They'll play the Golden Eagles in Murray again on Nov. 1 before Salt Lake makes the trek up to Park City for the Pioneers' home opener on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7:15 p.m. Proceeds from the Nov. 2 game will benefit the Furburbia animal adoption center.