The Icedogs are 2 and 8 on the season thus far and getting better at every turn. Last year’s dismal showing is firmly in the past and so is the poor play that was associated with the club. Icedog fans are being treated to some very good hockey again and attendance is also improving.
The early goings of the season was difficult for the Icedogs due to a lack of ice time. Scheduling restrictions only allowed the team only 6 practices before their first three games of the season. The Icedogs battled and came close but all three games were losing efforts.
The first win of the season came in a double overtime thriller against the visiting Billings Bulls. A. J. Mussfeldt got the game winner with just 1:16 seconds left in the second overtime before going to the shootout.
It had been close to two years since the last home victory for the Icedogs. Head Coach Mark Vichorek said: “This was a huge win for the team and the organization and the community. It looked like we just won a championship the way the players and fans went crazy after the goal was scored. I think it was special to be against an old rival like Billings as well."
Great Falls has been the team to beat so far in the AWHL. Helena has also been playing very well. The Icedogs are lagging behind, in part, because they have been struggling to keep a full lineup on the ice after suspensions and injuries. Despite all that they have given Great Falls all they could handle.
Vichorek says, "Great Falls has a lot of depth and some talented players and we hung in there with them in every game. Unfortunately for us we ran out of gas and missed some of our key players each time we have played them. Make no mistake they can play and we have to match that level of play to be successful." The great part about being early in the season is there is always time to find more players and improve each time they take the ice.
Several of the Icedog players have been performing very well but, none more so than two of the team’s rookies: Gunar Mogck of Fargo, North Dakota and Kegan Couture of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota.
Mogck leads the team in scoring with 23 points in 10 games and is second in the league in scoring with 3 less games played than the leading scorer. Gunnar has 11 goals and 12 assists so far this season. He has 6 Power play goals and 6 power play assists, which has been a boon to that unit. Coach Vichorek had this to say about his top gun, "Gunnar is a very gifted player that sees the ice very well and has a great sense of the game. He has a very deceiving hard shot and surprises goalies sometimes with how quick it is.
“Gunnar is a player that went to a few NAHL camps this summer and I believe [Gunnar] deserves a better look than what he got at those camps. He works his butt off and loves the game and he can play at higher levels." Gunnar is in his first year with the Icedogs and junior hockey. Vichorek recruited him very hard this summer and it has worked out nicely for both player and coach so far. Mogck played for Davies High School in Fargo, ND last season.
Another rookie that is making a name for himself is Kegan Couture. Kegan recorded the first Hat trick of the season for the Icedogs against the Glacier Nationals this past weekend on the road. Kegan is second on the team in scoring as well as tied for 13th league-wide. Kegan is also a very good penalty killer for the ‘Dogs. According to Vichorek, “Kegan was a main priority this summer to have him come to Bozeman. I saw Kegan in the Brookings Blizzard Pre-Draft camp in Duluth, Minnesota and I thought he was a raw kid that had a ton of talent and the ability to improve to play in the USHL or the NAHL. I am glad I have this opportunity to help him achieve those goals. Kegan works hard and listens to improve every aspect of his game and it makes it easy to teach and coach a player like that."
Gunnar and Kegan have had a lot of help this season that has contributed to their success. Veteran players have taken these two players under their wing. Veteran players like Chase Engdahl, a defenseman from Sioux Falls, SD and team captain. Engdahl is one of Mogck's roommates as well. Ryan Erickson and Austin Nottke are Alternate Captains for the Icedogs and live together with Kegan.
Some other players that are key members of the team are local products. Steven Nisbet and Garrett Bryan played in Bozeman last year and returned for another year. Jake Nicks from Salmon, Idaho has been a main factor as well as an alternate captain.
Coach Vichorek says, “The leadership and personality of this hockey team is very good. These guys do things together other than hockey and enjoy being around each other and that helps keep a team tight and want to succeed for themselves and each other and that's excellent."
The Icedogs have some key games coming up to start making a run to the top of the standings. With games in hand, a chance to catch up in the point totals is always important. Vichorek agrees, but adds: “having games in hand can be a positive but, if you don't win them it does not mean a thing. With a couple player additions we will be even better than we are now. Adding some depth will be a key in making our run even better for the future of the Icedogs in Bozeman.”