Pioneers fall in MWHL semifinals |

Pioneers fall in MWHL semifinals

For the first time in the history of the Park City Pioneers, the team is ending its season without a championship trophy.

On Saturday, April 12, the Pioneers were in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Hockey League tournament. Park City faced off against the Wolves, who were serving as tournament hosts.

After jumping out to a 2-1 lead through one period of play, the Pioneers struggled through the second period before eventually coming back and tying the game at 8 as time wound down in the third.

In the overtime period, play was back and forth for a few minutes, neither team gaining an advantage, until Las Vegas eventually found the back of the net and advanced to the MWHL title game with a 9-8 victory.

"We battled back at the end and tied the game with 30 seconds left," Pioneers captain David Imonti said. "We came close a couple times in overtime, but we didn’t get the bounces we needed."

But, though the Pioneers are used to ending their seasons with tournament wins, Imonti said the MWHL loss didn’t leave too bitter a taste in their mouths.

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"No one is disappointed with the way that game went," he said. "It was hard to play in Vegas. They were at home and had a full bench and a home crowd. Circumstances didn’t work out for us that day."

That being said, Imonti added that Park City will sport a "title-or-bust" philosophy again next year.

"We’re not striving for mediocrity," he said. "Our motto has always been that if we can’t be the best, it’s not worth doing. [The loss] is disappointing, we hope to rectify that next season."

The Pioneers finished the year with a less-than-ideal 10-16 overall record. Though they did much better in MWHL play, where they posted a record of 10-4, Imonti said some offseason changes are going to be in order.

"After this year, it’s been a disappointing season on several fronts," he said. "I think a lot of our guys, they’ve kind of run their cycle. We’ve been together five years skills decline in that time."

So, in contrast to last year’s offseason, when many of the Pioneers focused on turning the team into a nonprofit organization, Imonti, who also serves as the team’s general manager, said a focus will be placed on recruiting some new players from across the country.

"It might be time for some fresh blood," he said. "This year, our focus is that we’ve got to blow it up a little bit."

Cameron Hope and Chris Jung were named to the MWHL all-star team after the playoffs ended in Las Vegas. Julien Hernandez, goalkeeper for the MWHL-champion Vail Yeti, won the league’s Most Valuable Player award.