The Melfort Mustangs are moving in the right direction, albeit at a slower pace than what was hoped for.
After finishing dead last in the North Division last year with a 13-39-2-4 record, the Mustangs have nearly matched their win total through 34 games this season having posted a 12-19-1-2 ledger.
The biggest problem for the Mustangs is offense as the club has scored just 79 times this year, by far the lowest in the league.
“In some aspects we are pleased, but the biggest thing is we are struggling putting the puck in the net,” says Melfort head coach and general manager Gavin Holcomb. “Our defence, we are happy with that. We had a goal to give up less than 30 shots a game and on most nights we do that. Our penalty killing is really strong.”
“We’re still on the young side,” added Holcomb.
Brandon Formosa, a 19-year-old centre from Mission, B.C., and 19-year-old winger Brandon Sloan from Medicine Hat, Alta., lead the club offensively as each have recorded 23 points. Formosa, who played last year with the Creston Valley Thundercats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and had 79 points in 50 games, leads the Mustangs with 13 goals while Sloan, who was Melfort’s leading scorer last season, has 9-14-23 totals.
Brennen Bosovich, who played last year with the Kindersley Klippers, and Logan Sceviour, the former Flin Flon Bomber, have added to the Mustangs’ offense, but more is still needed for the team to make a second-half push for a playoff spot.
Other newcomers that are working their way into the line-up since joining the team via the trade route include Brady Goebel, Bryden Serafini and Scott Nordstrom.
Goebel was acquired from the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Nordstrom was picked up from the Grand Prairie Storm of the AJHL. Serafini played Junior B last year with the Prince Albert Icehawks and was secured in a deal with the Battlefords North Stars. All three have just played a handful of games and should have strong finishes to the season now that they have gotten familiar with the team and its systems.
A trio of rookies are also hitting their stride as Cole Hyrsky, Adam Fauchoux and Jay Aasen are starting to contribute offensively. Hyrsky is an 18-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and has four goals and seven assists in 30 games while Fauchoux, who played last year with the Prince Albert Mintos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, has three goals and five helpers in 28 contests. Aasen, a homegrown Melfort product who spent last year with the Tisdale Trojans of the SMAAAHL, has chipped in with 5-4-9 totals.
Aasen has also helped the Mustangs defensive corp. which is led by Matt Saunderson, Brandon Parrone, Cody Brown, Zachary Walker and Carter Berg. All, with the exception of Berg and Parrone, still have junior eligibility after this season so that bodes well for the future.
In goal, the duo of Jesse Wilkins and Patrick Johnson have provided solid netminding despite Johnson having been called up by the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades for nearly a month to cover for the departure of Andrey Makarov for the world junior championship in Ufa. Russia. Wilkins, the Mustangs’ most valuable player last year, has a 3.83 goals-against-average in 21 appearances while Johnson sports a 2.46 GAA in 15 games. Johnson has also collected two wins while with the Blades.
While Holcomb wishes there were more wins, the Mustangs are still in the hunt for a playoff spot and that fact alone has him optimistic the club is on the right track.
“I don’t feel we’re in a position this year to give up the future,” says Holcomb in reference to the upcoming trade deadline. “We’ll see what is out there, but one thing hinges on another. It is not easy to make a deal and we are not going to give up the future.”
The Mustangs have been acknowledging its 25th anniversary this year and nothing would cap off the celebrations better than an appearance in the playoffs. The final stretch should be exciting.