The Park City Pioneers' first weekend road trip of the season didn't go very well. The team lost to the Jackson Hole Moose 8-5 and 6-2 on Friday, Nov. 15, and Saturday, Nov. 16.
But, with a series against the Las Vegas Wolfpack at the Park City Ice Arena this weekend, the Pioneers are ready to get back on track in the friendly confines of their home arena.
"As always, we were a little bit short-handed on the road," Pioneers captain/general manager David Imonti said. "I thought we played well against Jackson Hole. We started slow both nights, but they were both really good games. But we were missing the Adamek brothers and some other guys we normally have at home games."
He added that the atmosphere was intense, with the Moose packing the arena both nights to celebrate the life and retire the number of former captain Joe Casey, who died suddenly last year.
"They had 1,400 people there," Imonti said. "It was a hard environment to play in as a visiting team."
Friday and Saturday night, the Pioneers will take the ice for the first time since those losses in mid-November. Though Imonti, who is in Austria, and a couple other key players will be missing from the lineup, he's confident the squad will be deep enough at home to take care of business.
"A lot of the new guys are going to have to step up," he said. "Guys like George Cantrall. He knows what he's doing and he's so hard to move off the puck. He's literally twice as big as everybody else."
As far as stopping the Wolfpack, who were known as the Las Vegas Hookers last year, the Pioneers will focus on keeping Cody Incognito contained. Incognito, the leading scorer in the Mountain West Hockey League last year, is one of Las Vegas's only offensive threats, Imonti said.
"We'll focus on stopping him, obviously," he said. "That's a good place to start. It's the same group of guys as last year, for the most part."
But, since last year's Las Vegas squad was the team Park City beat to win the inaugural MWHL title, the Pioneers won't be taking their task lightly.
This weekend's games will benefit the Park City Freestyle Ski Team. Imonti said the Pioneers' fledgling nonprofit status has been going quite well so far.
"We've attracted some new fans, not only to our team, but to the sport as well," he said. "We haven't had one negative response. We want to provide entertainment while also helping out some groups in town. We might not be able to offer a lot of help, but we'll do whatever we can do."
Friday night's game is set to start at 8:15 p.m. On Saturday, the puck will drop at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for children and students, $3 for youth hockey players and $3 for resort employees.