By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
The Idaho Falls Spud Kings were certainly one of the feelgood stories in the USPHL Premier last year. After a tough opener wherein they took a double digit loss, they finished so far from that reality that it was like night and day.
The Spud Kings even won their first playoff series – against the very team that pinned that tough loss on them in their season opener! Now that’s sweet revenge.
And what fun nights they were.
The Mountain America Center was packed every night the Spud Kings hosted opposition, putting 4,300 into the seats regularly for a raucous and fun-loving crowd. With King Tot, their mascot, pumping up the crowd, the Spud Kings can’t wait to bring a whole new and improved show to Idaho Falls when they start their Tier II existence
The Spud Kings feel that they have put together a great new NCDC roster that will challenge all in the Mountain Division.
“Our thoughts on the team are that we stayed true to the style of being a fast, hard and physical team. We like our depth in net and we feel that we’ve added a good mix of skill, size and grit to our back end on defense,” said Head Coach Marty Quarters, who will work alongside Associate Head Coach Josh Rabbani this year. “Offensively, we are filled with speed and skill. Our goaltending is definitely a strength of our team this season, and also our overall balance and speed throughout the roster.”
It should be noted that the new addition Rabbani is also the Director of Recruiting and he had a long and illustrious playing career including four years at RPI (NCAA Division I) and several pro years in Germany.
Spud Nation is still working through final decisions made on its roster, and likewise, the door is still open for players to emerge as letter-wearing leaders.
“Our captains have not been chosen yet but we are excited about the leadership and character shown throughout the roster,” added Quarters.
The Spud Kings do have a central core of returning players who are advancing from the Tier III Premier to the Tier II NCDC, such as Mountain Division All-Star defenseman Matteo Mitrovic, George Goodwin, Tyler Rose, Jackson Howell and Jack O’Rourke.
“They are all players that came to us mid-season and helped us to turn the season around,” Quarters said.
There are several newcomers that have already earned a lot of attention and are likely to become household names in Idaho Falls soon enough. From Czechia comes Lukas Malant, who somehow found a way to get the equivalent of two full seasons while splitting 2022-23 between the Des Moines Buccaneers 18U AAA team (24 games) and the NAHL’s Corpus Christi IceRays (29 games).
At defense, “Tobias Omholt and Mirko Fernandez should both play big minutes and key roles on the blueline,” added Quarters. Omholt is an ‘03 out of Norway and the ‘05 Fernandez comes from Quebec.
Xavier Goodwin (‘05) joins his brother George and enjoyed a high-scoring season with the Boston Junior Bruins 18U AAA team in the Tier 1 Hockey Federation. Ty Walker played in the NCDC last season, so he comes with experience in the league at forward, while Noah Bird is a junior rookie coming off a huge year with the Connecticut Chiefs 18U AAA squad.
“We are also looking forward to our trio of Detroit Little Caesars players (D.J. Macleish, Justin Taylor and goalie, Prestyn Carter) whose U18 team was ranked third in the country last season,” added Quarters.
One 2023 NCDC Draft pick who appears poised to make his debut this weekend is Whitefish, Mont.’s Landen Hindman, an ‘06 out of the Colorado Rampage 16U AAA team.
“A big rugged defenseman, Landen is a 2023 NCDC draft pick that we look forward to watching and developing throughout the season on the blue line,” Quarters said.
The quick climb from being almost blindsided students on the first day of school to being able to teach their first tormenters a lesson when it mattered most was a dizzying uphill climb for the 2022-23 Idaho Falls Spud Kings. The NCDC team wants to pick up where their Premier brethren left off and keep this roller coaster going in the same vertical direction.
“Our expectations are to pick up from where we left off last season. We feel that we have put together a deep roster that can play any style of play needed to be successful in the Mountain Division. We’ve stayed true to our culture of bringing a fast exciting style of play to the Mountain America Center,” Quarters added. “We don’t feel that there will be any surprises with Utah and Ogden being strong and top teams in the division, but we plan on being right there with them as every team in the division has improved with the jump to Tier II hockey.”