Excitement and expectation quickly turned to disappointment for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men's hockey team last season.
This fall, the Horns approach the Canada West season with a guarded optimism, returning 17 players from a team that was labelled a contender but instead missed the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons.
A strong returning core will lead the way, with the forward unit boasting a host of veterans looking for better numbers after a down
Four of the team's top five scorers are back for head coach Greg Gatto but after posting the second best offence in the conference two years ago, last year's group struggled to find the back of the net. Canada West 2007 rookie of the year and scoring champion Mark Shefchyk had just 21 points last season after a 47-point freshman campaign, while Jason Roberts, third in conference scoring in 2007, also regressed from 35 to 24 points.
Defensively, the Pronghorns will be young. Sophomores Andrew Marshall and Ryan Pottruff are the veterans. Marshall, the power play quarterback, led Pronghorn defencemen in scoring with 14 points last season while Pottruff (a 2004 Carolina Hurricanes draft selection) joined the Horns for the second half last season and made an immediate impact.
Former WHL defencemen Paul MacDonald (a former Lethbridge Hurricane) and Landon Jones (who last played with Tri-City) are
newcomers to the blueline.
Scott Bowles enters his second season as the incumbent starter in net, playing in 23 of 28 games last season and boasting a .905 save percentage.
The Pronghorns open their Canada West home schedule Oct. 17-18 when they host University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Pronghorns women's team, guided by new head coach Chandy Kaip, opened the season with consecutive home weekends and won't be back at Nicholas Sheran until Nov. 8-9 when they also host Saskatchewan.