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The City Journals

Outliers win important games in northern division race

Dec 11, 2018 11:48AM ● By Greg James

The Outliers (black and yellow uniforms) currently play their home games at the Accord Ice Center in West Valley. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

The Utah Outliers make their home in West Valley’s Accord Ice Center, but before many of the junior hockey league team members take the ice they have completed a regiment of rituals to get them ready for game day.

“I chew gum on the way to the rink and listen to the same songs driving over,” Outlier defenseman Tristan Slot said. 

Slot is not the only player with a pre-game routine.

“It is my first time to live in the United States,” goaltender and Swedish citizen Oscar Wahlgren said. “I am here because I want to try something new and I felt like this is a good opportunity. I am 19 and I like it here. The hockey here is a little different. I take on the left skate first then I take on the right skate and then tie the left skate, then the right. It is what I do.”

Perhaps these routines have helped them, in some way, achieve success on and off the ice.

The Junior hockey team plays in the Western States Hockey League, a tier-two league for players ages 18-22. Their players are grooming themselves to achieve goals that many have had since they were youngsters. 

“I started playing hockey when I was four years old. I grew up in Houston until I was about eight years old and then I moved here (Salt Lake City) and continued,” Slot said. “It is nice to play here and have my family and girlfriend come and watch anytime they can. For the last three years I have not been here and it is nice to see my friends and play hockey at this level.”

Slot is the only player on the team from this area. He played his high school hockey at Corner Canyon High School. After graduation he played junior hockey in Manitoba, Canada and Wisconsin before returning to West Valley as part of the Outliers.

“It is good to play at this level,” Slot said. “I want to play college hockey and earn a scholarship. If I could go past that it would be super incredible, but if not, help for college and helping me get into sports medicine or psychology would be super cool.”

The WSHL is a tier-two level junior hockey league. In the United States there are only two tier-two leagues and one top-level tier-one league available for players. The competition level for these players mirrors that found in Canadian leagues. Players in these leagues are constantly evaluated by colleges and professional organizations.

Last season, defenseman Victor Burman became the fourth former Outlier to sign a professional contract in Sweden. The Outliers roster includes players from five countries—Sweden, Czech Republic, Canada, Russia and the United States. 

This is the third season the Outliers have competed in the WSHL. They won the league championship last year and represented the Mountain Division in the playoffs. 

The Outliers have played well this season.

“We do a lot of good things to create shots and we just need to get better at finishing,” Outlier head coach Paul Taylor said. “Our close games this season have been because of a lack of goal scoring. I think if we can solve that piece of the puzzle then I think we can be extremely competitive. It is just like any other sport if we can’t score then we are not going to be successful.”

The Outliers started this season 10-5. They have lost to their rivals, the Ogden Mustangs, three times. They will begin a seven game home stand Friday, Dec. 7 with three games against the Northern Colorado Eagles and includes a game against Ogden and three games with the Casper Bobcats. 

The players from different countries learn more than just high level hockey.

“I love sports and my teammates and my host family have showed me American sports like football. It has been fun,” Wahlgren said.

The players work part-time jobs, live with host families and train nearly six hours a day. 

“Our process is to develop these guys and we can win a lot of games. We have staff that contacts colleges and pro teams. We do a lot of leg work to help these guys get noticed,” Taylor said.

The team is currently in negotiations to move to Park City. This may be the last season in West Valley.

“This is a great group. They have put a lot on the line to come here and chase their dream,” Taylor said.