From The Daily Utah Chronicle
By Chase Mullin
Attention all University of Utah sports fans: Now is the time to hop on the University of Utah men’s hockey team bandwagon, as they kick-off their 2021 campaign.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the Utah men’s D1 hockey team coming into the 2021-2022 season. For starters, the team, which has been an independent member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) since 2016, just joined a new conference: the Western Collegiate Hockey League (WCHL). The WCHL has built a reputation for being one of the tougher conferences in the ACHA, with several teams consistently finding themselves ranked in the top 25 nationally in recent years.
The Skatin’ Utes now find themselves in the Western Division of the WCHL alongside Grand Canyon University, rivals Arizona State and UNLV, and back-to-back WCHL champion, University of Arizona.
While the Utes have their work cut out for them in the WCHL West, the team is more than confident they can do some damage. After not having a season in 2019-2020 due to COVID-19, the Utes shifted their focus toward recruiting and their efforts have paid off, as the team is loaded with young talent from recent recruitment classes, with forwards Benjamin Mickel and Michael Urtis, to name a few.
Among the new recruits is also forward Landon Langenbrunner, whose last name is recognizable by essentially any hockey fan. Landon is the son of former NHL player, Stanley Cup Champion and team captain of the 2010 silver medal-winning United States men’s Olympic hockey team Jamie Langenbrunner.
Landon’s younger brother, Mason Langenbrunner, was also drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The team also possesses its fair share of veteran leadership, such as senior captain Alexander King, junior assistant captain Dylan Dix and senior assistant captain Steven Pawlow.
“We have a lot of young guys. A lot of young guys with talent. This is the most talented we’ve been since I’ve been here,” said the veteran assistant captain Pawlow.
The Utes come into this season with somewhat of a chip on their shoulder. The WCHL is undoubtedly a tough conference, but the Utes are more than ready to take on the challenge.
“We’ve always kind of been the underdog,” Dix said. “We joined a new league, the WCHL, so we’re kind of the new kids on the block on that front so we’re out to prove ourselves this year and show that we can compete in that league and compete for the title.”
With the combination of young talent, veteran leadership and a desire to prove they belong, the Utes could prove to be a dark horse coming into this season.
The Utes open up their 2021-2022 campaign with perhaps one of their biggest tests of the year, as they face the reigning back-to-back WCHL champions and current WCHL West favorites, the University of Arizona Wildcats at home on Friday, Oct. 1.
While Arizona will almost certainly be Utah’s biggest hurdle if they wish to win the division, Ute fans should also mark their calendars for when the University of Northern Las Vegas and Arizona State come to town. When asked who the team’s biggest rival is, assistant captains Dix and Pawlow agreed that the team has quite a history with both UNLV and ASU.
“Well we haven’t played Arizona in a couple years, so we’re looking to rekindle that rivalry, but I would definitely say either UNLV, those games are always great, or ASU — that’s always a fun weekend,” said Dix.
Arizona State visits Utah on Oct. 22-23, and UNLV comes to town on Nov. 12-13.
While only time will tell, this year should be quite an exciting one for the Skatin’ Utes, and even if the season doesn’t go the way the Utes want it to, the team is poised to be a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the next couple years.
If you don’t already do so, now is the time to start following the Skatin’ Utes. The team has already sold over 600 season tickets, and season tickets for students are on sale for $25, which includes tickets to the men’s D1 and D2 teams, the women’s D1 team (stay tuned: more coming on the women’s team soon), and perhaps most importantly, a free Skatin’ Utes Student Section (SUSS) t-shirt.
Even non-hockey fans will tell you that hockey is one of the best sports to see live. It should be a fun year for the Utah Men’s Hockey team, and the Utes hope to live up to the excitement.
(Originally published at https://dailyutahchronicle.com/2021/09/29/utah-mens-hockey/)