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"Maybe Next Year"

by Matt Burch | November 22, 2018, 4:28 PM ET

This was supposed to be the season that everything came together.  The Mustangs were solidly built, with a dynamic offense, stalwart defense, and, let's just say, inspired goaltending.

Opening night was last night, and this reporter visited a local barbershop full of dedicated fans to gauge the excitement of the "common man".

"They won't lose a game this season, mark my words."  Said barbershop owner and lifelong Mustangs' fan Tanner Middriff.

An outburst of raucous support from Tanner's five customers filled the room.  Once the cheering died town, Tanner continued, "I mean, in 2013 da Express lost only 3 games and nothing strange at all was going on that season!  Same league, same players, same rules, same EVERYTHING".

One of Tanner's customers chimed in, "I heard they had magnetized the back of the net and put a piece of iron in the puck".

"I heard dem nets were 3 inches bigger that year and they didn't tell nobody" said another customer.

"Lou, Frankie," said Tanner, "I knows what you thinks but remember who cuts your hair?  That's right, it's me, and I'm here to tell you you's guys don't got a clue!"

It was then I realized that all the men in the barbershop were in their 50s or older, didn't need haircuts and yet somehow really needed haircuts.  When I asked how long they had all been in the barbershop, many of them replied with "days" and "weeks".  When I specified I only meant how long had they been here "today", they just stared blankly at me until Tanner exclaimed that the anthem was about to start, demanded silence, and pointed at his television wall.  His current customer stood from the chair with apron around neck and shaving cream on face.

As an aside, I literally mean a wall when I say "television wall".  A feature that Tanner Midriff had installed during Bozak's mad run of 2014-15 was a giant wall sized television screen so he and his pack of superfans wouldn't miss a detail of any game.

Seven minutes into the first period, and some of the superfans' hopes were dashed as David Krejci of the Fredericton Express scored the first goal of the game.  "Nuts!" one patron exclaimed, "there goes the shutout streak!"  Before I could ask what he meant, another shouted, "nobody wins the Cup when they don't score the first goal, that's a scientific fact that is!"

Through the rabble, I noticed one fan was sitting in a chair with his head in his hands.  When I went to him, I heard him muttering, "we never should've traded em", and he repeated it over and over again.  When I reached for his shoulder, he shot up and clasped me by the arms, and with tears in his eyes he weeped about the loss of a certain goaltender, "Big Ben Bishop, man!  We never shoulda let em go!"

It was then that Tanner came over and consoled him, "C'mon now, Nicky.  You know that was only a fair move for the GM to make.  If we hadn't of downgraded goalies it wouldn't have even been fun to watch us trounce everybody!"

The tender moment was  interrupted by another goal and a chorus of cheers as local Finnish heartthrob Jesper Fast scored his first goal of the season early in the second period.  "Der we go boys!" a fan could be heard shouting.

The cheers quickly turned to groans as local (in Fredericton) Finnish heartthrob Erik Haula scored back to back goals at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third to give the Express a permanent lead.

Evgeny "the Eagle" Kuznetsov made it interesting with a goal soon after Haula's last, but the Mustangs ultimately fell short.

"It was the injuries!"  Tanner shouted, "They can't beat us without hurting our boys!"

Winger Michal Frolik and center Mark Scheifele were both knocked out of the game early, with less than five minutes of playing time each.  While not out an extended period, Frolik and Scheifele will be the ninth and tenth players knocked out of a game early this season, counting pre-season.

"Get the golf bags out, boys, they're done!" Said one of the superfans.

"You get outta my shop Lou if you know what's good for ya!"  And a shouting match ensued, followed by a series of expressions of disgust and some serious hand-waving as if to say, "I'm done with this guy", or "this guy is crazy".

When I asked what he'll do now that the perfect season is out of reach, Tanner Midriff just shrugged, "hey, every dog has its day, you know what I'm sayin?"

When I replied that I really had no idea what he was saying, Tanner gave me a stare that sent chills down my back, pointed to the door.  I raised my hands in mock surrender, and told him, "I know, 'get outta here'", and so I left.

Before closing the door, I looked back to Tanner Midriff and asked, "can I come tomorrow for the [Acadia] Bears game?"  Tanner relaxed, put his finger down and mustered a smile, "sure pal".

 

Help Is Coming

Details are early, but it has been reported that the Mustangs have acquired a familiar face to share the netminding load with Robin Lehner and Louis Domingue.  The Calgary Mustangs send a 2019 3rd round pick to Hamburg for Jimmy Howard.  When asked if this go around will be better, Howard shrugged and said, "I could eat all the McDonald's I wanted in Hamburg, so this feels like a downgrade".

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New Prospect Rankings

Every new season we try to re-rank the Mustangs prospects based on developmental and projected achievements.  With no new names to add after the most recent draft, the top ten will stay MOSTLY the same:

1.  Robert Thomas

2.  Janne Kuokkanen

3.  Alex Nedeljkovicivcl

4.  Sami Niku

5.  Otto Somppi

6.  Aarne Talvitte

7.  Keith Petruzzelli

8.  Joonas Lyytinen

9.  Nicholas Caamano

10. Oleg Sosunov

 

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