Second-year Wichita Falls Wildcats head coach Paul Baxter says he's excited about this year's team.
Now, those are familiar words from just about every coach entering a new season.
But the Wildcats think they can turn that optimism into reality.
"We've had an opportunity to recruit for a full year for this season," said Baxter, who is also the team's general manager. "As opposed to maybe not as much time as we would have liked to last season."
The Wildcats are looking to climb back into playoff, and hopefully championship, contention.
Their players are confident that will happen.
"We look really good," said forward Tyler Ledford. His older brother Zach played for the Wildcats in 2009-2010 and now plays at Bentley College.
"I cannot see us having even close to a bad year," said Ledford. "We have five kids committed already to college. We have a lot of kids already talking (to schools), a goalie that's talking to the NHL and a bunch of other schools."
That goalie is Evan Cowley, the Wildcats' third-round draft pick this year.
He was graded a B-level prospect just this week by National Hockey League Central Scouting.
Coach Baxter explains that being a B-prospect means, "[Cowley]'s projected to go in the second or third round of the NHL Draft, so that's pretty exciting because he's the only B-rated player in the NAHL."
Another key this year is the power play. Last year the 'Cats struggled with the man-advantage, converting 10.59% of their chances.
Through four games this year they're at 21.05%, tied for seventh-best in the league.
"We're really starting to kinda jell together on the power play," said defenseman Erik Ouellette. "We know where each other are going to be, get shots on net, and we just happened to bury a couple this weekend so it worked out well for us."
The Wildcats will open their home schedule Friday night at 7:15 p.m. with the first of two games against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays.