Coming off a second consecutive season where the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s hockey team missed the post-season, the page has been turned and a new era of Pronghorn hockey is set to begin under first-year head coach Spiros Anastas.
The ‘Horns open the 2014-15 Canada West season Sept. 25, hosting the front half of a home-and-home series with the Mount Royal Cougars. Game two of the home-and-home series will go Saturday night in Calgary.
Anastas was hired this past April and joins the Horns after spending the past two seasons as a member of the Detroit Red Wings organization, being an assistant coach with the Red Wings AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.
The ‘Horns return 19 players from last season’s team and Anastas has added a good mix of youth and experience with eight new recruits.
Among Anastas’s first recruiting class are two NCAA transfers, two CIS transfers and four true freshmen. Forwards Brandon Clowes and Manny Gialedakis took advantage of the CIS eligibility repatriation rule and set right into the Horns' line-up.
Goaltender Warren Shymko transfers from the University of Ottawa and will push returning goaltenders Damien Ketlo and Dylan Tait for time in the crease. Shymko had a solid freshman season with the Gee Gees, putting up a 2.76 goals-against-average and a 0.900 save percentage.
An area of strength for the Pronghorns this season should be their blue line, as the Horns return their entire top six defensemen from last season. Tim Campbell, David McMullen, Corbin Karl, Cason Machacek, Hayden Rintoul and Brent Henke will be the keys to Horns success this season.
“Our success relies on our six returning defensemen being able to play a solid all-around game, while making defence a priority,” says Anastas.
After scoring a league low 52 goals last season, the Horns forwards will need to up their production if the team is to have a resurgence this year. Following solid freshmen seasons, there are big expectations for Ryon Moser, Mitch Maxwell and Brock Hirsche.
Hirsche finished tied with Cass Mappin for the team lead in goals with seven, while Moser recorded six goals and 10 assists in 26 games last season.
Newcomers Clowes, Sam Wilbur and Artsiom Kalashnikov have shown some offensive flare during the Horns non-conference schedule and will be counted on to produce during their first season with the program.
Wilbur finished second in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) scoring last season with 36 goals and 50 assists, while Kalashnikov picked up 52 points in 55 games last season in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL).