02/04/2014 8:23 AM -
Below is a summary of each weekend series/game:
Wichita Jr. Thunder (4-32-1, 6th in Midwest Division) @ El Paso Rhinos (29-2-0, 1st in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in El Paso, Texas
Coming off of a sweep of the Dallas Ice Jets over three tight games, the El Paso Rhinos were able to open it up to the delight of the home crowd and score 40 goals over three games, as they remained perfect in 2014 with a sweep of the Wichita Jr. Thunder over the weekend.
Leading just 3-1 after the opening period of game one on Thursday night, the Rhinos clicked into another gear in the middle frame, scoring seven times and continuing on to a 14-2 win.
The Plesa brothers combined for 16 points on their own, with Matthew leading the way with an astounding eight on the night, Nick picking up five and Peter adding three assists.
Austin Hoff, just back from a few months in the NAHL, also notched three points in the win, as did Tom Bartel and Krisztian Nagy.
Ryan Buttazzoni got a rare start in net and did well while giving Adam Vay the night off, as he stopped 22 of 24 in the victory.
Wichita was led by forward Jack McClelland, who notched a goal and an assist, while goaltender Jake Larson was able to keep the Jr. Thunder in the game early but was ultimately pulled after two periods of play, giving up 10 goals on 44 shots in the loss, before being replaced by Dakota McDonald.
Rhinos head coach Cory Herman took the opportunity to get more of his depth guys some ice time the next night and rested a few of his studs, including the Plesa brothers but it made no difference in the final score, as El Paso scored 14 for the second straight night, this time in a 14-3 win.
Tom Bartel’s five assists led the team on the night, while Krisztian Nagy notched four goals.
The Jr. Thunder were once again led by Jack McClelland, who tallied a goal and an assist for the second straight game.
Olivier Gervais picked up the win in net, as he stopped 22 of 25, while Marco Medina was a little busier at the other end for Wichita, facing 65 shots and stopping 51 in the loss.
The Plesa brothers were back in the line-up for the finale of the three-game set and quickly made their presence felt, as the trio hooked up for a goal just 51 seconds into regulation and helped the Rhinos cruise to a 12-1 victory.
Peter notched three goals and three assists, Nick was one assist behind with five points and Matthew added four assists.
Ryan Buttazzoni picked up his second win of the weekend in net for El Paso, facing 12 shots and topping all but one in a light day of work.
Jack McClelland put home the lone Wichita goal, while Marco Medina allowed 12 goals on 49 shots in net.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this series one other than the fact that Wichita was purely overmatched, as a lot of teams have been against the Rhinos this season.
These were two teams who are going completely separate ways at this point, as the Rhinos are steaming toward the playoffs and Wichita is just trying to make it through the season and build toward the 2014-2015 campaign.
Now 9-0-0 in 2014, the Rhinos will head to New Mexico for three games against another last place team, the New Mexico Renegades, which includes an outdoor game on Saturday night.
With just nine games left in their season, Wichita will return home for six straight games, which begin next Friday against Texas.
Tulsa Jr. Oilers (6-29-0, 5th in Midwest Division) @ Dallas Ice Jets (22-9-2, 2nd in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in Grapevine, Texas
The Dallas Ice Jets were able to bounce back after dropping the three games to El Paso last weekend, as they welcomed in a short-benched Tulsa Jr. Oilers squad and took full advantage of it, outscoring the visitors 24-1 and taking all three weekend games.
The Ice Jets really focused on getting back to their systems over the weekend and not just running around and attempting to run the score up, as it was obvious Paul Taylor wanted his team to form some good habits moving forward.
Scoreless after the opening period of game one on Friday night, thanks to a 20-save effort from current Jr. Oilers and former Ice Jets goaltender Teke Murphy, Dallas was able to open it up for five goals in the middle frame, before adding another in the third in a 6-0 victory.
Luke Simon and Scott Folden each notched two goals, with Simon also adding an assist, while Chris Schutz, Yannick Aube and Dmitriy Kuznetsov each added a pair of points.
Coming with the man advantage, Aube’s goal broke a 0-30 slide for Dallas’ vaunted power play.
Jordan Salas picked up his first shutout of the season in net for Dallas, as the rookie stopped all 18 shots he faced, while Murphy was strong in stopping 71 of 77 in the loss for Tulsa.
It didn’t take the Ice Jets too long to get going in the middle game of the series, as they tallied seven first period goals and never let up in a 13-1 thrashing.
Chris Schutz led the way with two goals and four assists in the big victory, while Nick Felan and Yannick Aube, two key cogs moving forward for Dallas, each added four points.
Vladyslav Slyusarchuk stopped all but one of the 17 shots he faced in net to pick up the win.
Brad Merchant, who is very familiar with the Ice Jets, having started the season with the Dallas Snipers, scored the lone goal for Tulsa, while Teke Murphy took the loss in net, stopping 28 of 35 before giving way to Adam Salisbury just over half way through the contest.
The Ice Jets finished things up with another shutout in Sunday’s finale, as they continued to work on systems and controlled the entire game in a 5-0 win.
Chris Schutz, Nick Felan and James Bohan each recorded a pair of points in the win, while Jordan Salas stopped all 12 shots he faced in his second shutout of the weekend.
Tulsa, playing more short-benched than usual with a few players now off the roster, received another good effort in net from Murphy, who stopped 56 of 61 in another loss.
Similar to the series in El Paso, there’s just not a whole lot to say about this one, as it was a struggling, short-benched team, getting outplayed thoroughly by one of the better teams in the league.
Dallas was in control of each game from the start and didn’t get out of hand or stray from the style Taylor likes them to employ, as they were able to work on things and get everyone in on the action, including some key depth guys.
If the Ice Jets can continue to find scoring depth behind Schutz, they’ll be even tougher to stop. They’ll come right back and play another weekday game against the Snipers this Tuesday.
Tulsa played hard in each game and have seemed to find their goaltender for next season, should Murphy stick around. Luckily for them, they play nine of their last 11 at home, with the Snipers coming into town a week from Wednesday.
Phoenix Knights (24-8-2, 1st in Mountain Division) @ Arizona Redhawks (10-23-4, 5th in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Peoria, Arizona
Normally comprised of close, competitive hockey games, the Battle of Arizona was renewed over the weekend but the Phoenix Knights must not have gotten the memo, as they throttled the rival Arizona Redhawks over three big wins.
The recent surge of the Cheyenne Stampede, combined with the Knights’ well-documented struggles of late, Phoenix came out and showed what they are capable of once they get rolling, as they used their depth, skill and size to frustrate the Redhawks all weekend.
The problem all season long for Arizona has been untimely breakdowns and a defense that tends to give up a lot of chances. In the first and third periods of the series opener on Friday night, Rob Powell’s team was right there with their bitter rival, as the Redhawks were outscored just 2-1 in the opening frame and each team notched three goals in the third. The problem however, is that the Knights outscored the Redhawks 5-0 in the middle frame and won going away, 10-4.
Leading 2-1 early in the second period, goals from Shane Fitzpatrick and former Redhawk Mitch Cobby, coming less than two minutes apart, extended Phoenix’ lead to 4-1.
Late in the period, the Knights continued their run, as two Robert Crisci goals, sandwiched around another from Cobby, all came in a span of just 2:32 and helped Phoenix open up a 7-1 lead in the big victory.
Crisci, Cobby and Jordan Kaspick each finished the game with three points to lead the Knights, while Mattias Marten’s goal and assist led Arizona on the night.
Playing his first game in a Phoenix uniform, Luke Stripp got the start in net for the Knights and stopped 23 of 27 in the victory. David Deadman got the start at the other end for the Redhawks and took the loss, as the former Knight allowed 10 goals on 33 shots.
Game two featured more of the same problems for the Redhawks, as each team scored a goal in the first and a goal in the third, the problem for Arizona, was that they were outscored 4-1 in the second, in a 6-3 loss.
The Redhawks took the lead just 2:41 into regulation on a Charles Alexander goal, before Phoenix fought back to take their first lead of the game, on goals from Charlie Allen and Jordan Cullum.
At 13:55 of the second period, Mattias Marten’s goal knotted things up for Arizona but Phoenix responded with three more before the end of the period to take control of the game and hold on for the win.
Showing off their depth again, six Knights recorded two points in the game, including veterans Jordan Cullum, Charlie Allen, Kelby Minshull and Tanner Branch.
Mattias Marten’s three points led the Redhawks once again, while both Oscar Hagborg Olsson and Charles Alexander chipped in two points.
Alex Taylor stopped 19 of the 22 shots he faced in the Phoenix crease in the win, while Colton Pankiw didn’t fare quite as well for Arizona, allowing six goals on 46 shots before being pulled late in the third.
After falling behind 1-0 just 26 seconds into the finale, on a goal by former Knight David Hornak, Phoenix responded to score the game’s next 11 goals, in a 14-5 smashing.
The Knights fired back to take a 3-1 lead after one and continuing the trend of big second periods, as they were able to outscore the Redhawks 7-0 in the middle frame, before finishing things off in the sweep.
Robert Smith recorded a game-high six points to lead the Knights and Max Mahood wasn’t far behind with five, while Nick Kujawa, Jordan Kaspick and Mitch Cobby each added four.
Mattias Marten led the Redhawks for the third straight game, as the veteran forward notched two goals and an assist in the loss.
Alex Taylor won for the second straight game in net, as the veteran stopped 17 of 22 in the Phoenix crease, while David Deadman allowed 10 goals on 32 shots, before being pulled in the loss for Arizona.
The three wins for the Knights are huge, as it puts them back into first place all by themselves but they won’t have any time to celebrate, as the second-place Cheyenne Stampede roll into town this weekend for what should be three terrific games.
If the Knights can continue to get their depth going, get scoring from the blue line and limit shots on their goaltenders, they should be able to continue their winning ways.
The ups-and-downs of a tough season for the Redhawks continue, as they hung with the Knights for two periods in each game but let big second periods for the opponent put them in a hole and couldn’t recover.
They have proven they can score goals with anyone but still struggle defensively and it hurt their playoff chances this weekend.
Now 10 points out of a playoff spot with just eight games to go, Arizona pretty much has to win out and get some help if they want to catch Colorado, who they host this weekend.
Seattle Totems (11-20-4, 5th in Northwest Division) @ Salt Lake City Moose (23-11-2, 3rd in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in West Valley City, Utah
Seeking revenge against a team that had their number all of last season, the Salt Lake City Moose played host to the Seattle Totems over the weekend and used their speed and depth to sweep the series.
Jumping on the visitors from the start on Friday night, the Moose never allowed the Totems to feel like they were in the game, as they took a 1-0 lead 1:20 in and never looked back in a 9-0 shutout victory.
The Moose’s depth was what stood out against a short-benched Seattle team, as the Totems were probably also dealing with the dreaded “bus legs” after making the trip in and were never able to get going.
Veteran forwards Martin Tolkner and Cole Corson each collected four points in the win, while rookie sensation Adam Kresl notched a hat-trick and Pat Dwyer added two goals and an assist.
Ryan Gasparovic stopped all 17 shots he faced in net to earn his fourth shutout of the season, while Cody Stein wasn’t as lucky at the other end, as the Seattle netminder allowed six goals on 27 shots, before being replaced late in regulation by Eli Alyakin.
Things were much tighter the next night, as the Totems came out hard and held a 2-1 lead after one period of play, thanks to goals from Sergey Kuznetsov and Marcus Triezenberg.
Salt Lake City came out just as hard to start the second however and notched three straight goals to take a 4-2 lead, as Tyler Keturi, Cole Corson and Martin Tolkner all found twine.
Marcus Triezenberg’s second goal of the game would get the Totems within one late in the second and defenseman Robin Bjoernstad knotted it up at four with the lone goal of the third period.
The Moose controlled the first overtime period but couldn’t beat Seattle goaltender Eli Alyakin on their five shots. It took just 1:04 of the three-on-three frame before Cole Corson got the game-winner however, as the Moose won 5-4.
Adam Kresl and Daniel Coley each collected three assists to lead Salt Lake City, while Tyler Keturi, Cole Corson and Martin Tolkner each had a pair of points in the win.
Seattle’s leading scorer, Frank Flight, led the Totems with three assists on the night, while Marcus Triezenberg and Duncan Long each had two points in the loss.
Brad Robertson was in net for Salt Lake City, as he stopped 26 of 30 in the win, while Eli Alyakin allowed five goals on 42 shots in the overtime loss.
Possibly looking forward to the Super Bowl, where their beloved Seahawks were set to take on the Denver Broncos, the Totems allowed the Moose to notch five third period goals and sweep the series behind a 8-3 win.
Adam Kresl picked up his second hat-trick of the weekend, Pat Dwyer notched two goals and an assist and Ryan Gasparovic stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced in the big win for Salt Lake City.
Marcus Triezenberg continued a strong weekend with a goal for Seattle, while Eli Alyakin took the loss in net, allowing five goals on 36 shots before being pulled in favor of Cody Stein.
The three wins for the Moose, combined with a tough weekend for the Ogden Mustangs, means that Salt Lake City is now just three points behind their nearby rival for second place in the Northwest Division.
The Moose continue to get everyone in on the action, as they have some of the best depth in the league and can play both a skill and grind style.
With just 10 games left in their season, the Moose are all but assured of their first ever playoff appearance but will want to finish strong and try to catch Ogden. They’ll host the Southern Oregon Spartans this weekend and look to make the Mustangs sweat.
The Totems continue to fight hard with a short bench and are now just one point out of a playoff spot.
Their schedule down the stretch is tough and will begin this weekend with a home series against the Idaho Jr. Steelheads, so they’ll just have to focus on what’s in front of them for the time being.
Fresno Monsters (29-4-1, 1st in Western Division) @ Ogden Mustangs (24-10-3, 2nd in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Ogden, Utah
The series of the weekend took place just north of Utah’s capital, as the Ogden Mustangs and Fresno Monsters met for the first-time ever, with the Western Division leaders picking up three victories in three tight games that looked as though they were being played in April.
It was rather evident that these two teams didn’t like one another from the start, as the entire series was feisty and had a playoff like atmosphere in front of a rowdy crowd but the Monsters flourished and took advantage of their chances in three monumental wins.
Tied up at two after a Jon Mencer goal early in the second period pulled the Mustangs even in the opener, the Monsters roared back with three straight goals before the end of the frame to take control of the game and take a 5-2 lead into the intermission.
A Gunnar Dircks power play marker early in the third extended the Monsters lead to 6-2, before Ogden got back within three on a power play goal of their own, as Sven Johnson put one home at 6:51.
That would be it for the scoring however, as the Monsters held on for the gritty 6-3 win.
The veteran d-man Dircks led the Monsters with a goal and two assists on the evening, while rookie forward Jacob Haynes notched two goals in the win.
Jerry Kaukinen returned to the Fresno crease for the first time since January 11 and picked up the win, stopping all but three of the 30 shots he faced.
Simon Teodorsson led the Mustangs in scoring on the night with a goal and an assist, while Tyler Fallica took the loss in net, allowing six goals on 33 shots.
The middle game of the series wasn’t quite as open, as the two teams tightened things up defensively and the Mustangs looked strong over the first 40 minutes and took a 1-0 lead into the third.
The Monsters fought back however and were able to force overtime, before veteran forward Jordan Fontaine won it with a goal during the three-on-three frame to lift Fresno to a 3-2 win.
Please note that the scoresheet for this game is currently being updated and statistics from this game, including goaltenders of record, will be available shortly.
Sunday’s finale was just as tight as the previous night, although it didn’t look like it would be early on, as the Monsters jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead behind goals from Jacob Haynes, Mike Fabie and Carter Dahl.
Jon Mencer’s late second period marker would pull the Mustangs within two however and Martin Hallin would make it 3-2 midway through the third but that’s as close as they would get, as the Monsters held on for the win and series sweep.
Kyle Jelenski’s two assists led Fresno in the victory, while both Jon Mencer and Martin Hallin recorded a goal and an assist for Ogden.
Jerry Kaukinen was a calming presence in the Fresno net, as the Finn stopped 21 of 23 in the win, while Connor Webb allowed three goals on 13 first shots, before being pulled 14:10 into the contest in the loss for Ogden.
The three victories for Fresno are huge, as they went on the road to a tough place to play and beat one of the more skilled teams in the league and proved just how dangerous they are.
The Monsters are a feisty bunch that play hard for the full 60 minutes and didn’t back down from a big Ogden team for a second, sticking their nose in any and all of the action.
Making things easier on them is the fact that nine of their last 12 games of the season are at home but this weekend will be a task, as Valencia rolls into town for three.
Ogden won’t be happy with the results but stuck with the Monsters in each game despite some untimely penalties and mistakes.
Still one of the better teams around, the Mustangs need to use the sweep as fuel moving forward and get back to business over Valentine’s Day weekend on the road series in Medford against the Spartans, especially with the Moose now right on their tail.
Texas (16-14-3, 3rd in Midwest Division) @ Valencia Flyers (22-11-3, 3rd in Western Division)
Three-game series in Valencia, California
In a clash of styles, the speedy and skilled Valencia Flyers and super-physical Texas also met for the first time ever in Southern California over the weekend and each team managed to help themselves in the standings, with the Flyers picking up two key victories and Texas managing to accumulate three points.
Texas had the special teams working in game one on Friday night, as they notched two power play goals and held Valencia scoreless over seven chances with the man advantage but it was the Flyers prevailing at even strength and winning the tight-checking affair by a score of 3-2.
Jimmy Anderson’s first period power play marker had Texas in the lead after 20 minutes of play but the Flyers knotted things up in the second on a goal from defenseman Travis Wilson.
Just 39 seconds into the third, the Flyers took their first lead of the game on a goal from rookie forward Jakob Kranabetter, before Texas knotted it up on a Miguel Caron power play marker at 6:30 of the period.
Picking up their play as the period went along as they always seem to do, the Flyers showed their conditioning and really started to outwork a tired Texas team, with Wil Barnett scoring the eventual game-winner at 9:11.
With a couple of their top players out to injury, including leading scorer Austin Ehrlich, it was the rookie Kranabetter stepping up to lead the Flyers with a goal and an assist on the night.
In net, it was Mark Becica picking up another solid victory while stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced.
Miguel Caron led Texas with a goal and an assist, while Oliver Eklund was hung with the loss in net, allowing three goals on 42 shots.
Despite taking some untimely penalties and giving Valencia nine power play opportunities the next night, Texas worked hard to prevail by a score of 4-1 in the middle game of the series.
Miguel Caron opened the scoring just 47 seconds into regulation for Texas, before defensemen Jesse Foskey and Keith Bendall extended the lead to 3-0 with goals in the second.
Wil Barnett’s power play marker pulled Valencia within two at 13:12 of the third but Sebastien Tremblay sealed it just 23 seconds later for Texas.
Captain Landyn Howze led Texas with three assists on the night, while Ryan Mulka stopped all but one of the 43 shots he faced in net.
Luke Thompson got the start in net for the Flyers and was pulled after allowing three goals on 11 shots, with Mark Becica coming in and stopping seven of eight.
Wil Barnett and Dawson Keay scored two minutes apart early in the opening period of game three to pace Valencia to a 2-0 lead but Texas finished the period strong, scoring three goals in a span of just 1:13, two of which came off assists from Collin Young, to take a lead into the locker room.
Blake Aguilar’s goal late in the second period would knot things up for Valencia, before the two teams skated to a scoreless third period.
Just 16 seconds into the first overtime period, Niklas Giers converted on the Flyers’ ninth power play of the game to lift Valencia to the 4-3 win.
Mark Becica stopped 16 of 19 in the win for Valencia, while Oliver Eklund turned aside 34 of 38 in the overtime loss for Texas.
Picking up four points on the weekend gives the Flyers a seven-point gap between them and fourth place Lake Tahoe and has Valencia 15 points ahead of fifth-place Long Beach.
They were able to counter Texas’ physicality with their speed and puck possession and seemed to tire out the bigger team.
With top guys out, a handful of depth players, like Wil Barnett, really stepped up to help shoulder the load, as the Flyers outshot Texas heavily in each game.
Their schedule gets really tough over the next two weeks however, as they head to Fresno to take on the Western Division leaders, before going to El Paso, to face the Midwest Division leaders, in an absolutely grueling stretch.
Texas took far too many penalties over the weekend and head coach Jeremy Law won’t like that but they’re getting back to their physical roots and playing a grind it out style, even with skilled guys like Caron leading the way.
Their special teams were solid, their goaltenders were great while facing a lot of work and they went on the road and picked up three big points in the standings.
Their next five game are against two teams that haven’t won in quite some time, as they head to Wichita for three, before playing host to Tulsa for two.
Idaho Jr. Steelheads (32-4-1, 1st in Northwest Division) @ Southern Oregon Spartans (10-21-3, 6th in Northwest Division)
Two-game series in Medford, Oregon
Despite recently trading away a number of key players, the Southern Oregon Spartans proved they aren’t out of the playoff hunt yet this weekend and certainly haven’t’ thrown in the towel, as they were able to split a two-game series with the three-time defending Thorne Cup Champion Idaho Jr. Steelheads.
Using the ruckus home crowd to their advantage, the Spartans were able to fight back from a 2-1 deficit and tally two third period goals to win game one 3-2 in regulation.
Goaltender Jiri Ponikelsky made 13 opening period saves to help the Spartans keep it scoreless through 20 minutes of play, before Idaho took a 1-0 lead on an Anton Virtanen power play goal scored exactly halfway through the middle period.
Just 3:04 later however, Justus Saldeen answered his fellow countryman with a power play goal of his own to pull Southern Oregon even.
With time dwindling down in the period, it was another Swedish defenseman converting for Idaho, as Viktor Ivarsson put one home at even strength to give the Jr. Steelheads the lead back.
Despite being outshot 22-9 in the third period, the Spartans got power play goals from both Tyler Lazarek and Austin Sartorius to pick up the come from behind victory, as their power play went 3-6 against one of the better penalty killing units in the league.
Sartorius finished the game with two points to lead the Spartans, while Ponikelsky stole the show in net, stopping 42 of 44 in his best effort of the season in the win.
Veteran forward Jan Blasko assisted on both Idaho goals, while Danny Kowalski, giving normal starter Sean Healy a night off in net, allowed three goals on 24 shots in the loss.
As good teams always seem to do however, the Jr. Steelheads came back with vengeance the next night and controlled the game throughout in a 7-1 victory.
Jesper Jensen, Victor Carlsson and Luc Gensler scored opening period goals to pace Idaho to a 3-0 lead, before Cy Jenson put Southern Oregon on the board 1:16 into the second period.
Not letting up however, Idaho got two more before the end of the period, as Jesper Jensen found twine for the second time in the game and Zach Walden added another to make it 5-1 entering the third.
Power play goals from both Ben Hull and Macky Power sealed the deal in the third for Idaho, as they came back with the big victory.
Both Jesper Jensen and Dak Dice picked up three points to lead Idaho, while Sean Healy returned to the crease and turned aside all but one of the 26 shots he faced in the win.
Jiri Ponikelsky couldn’t reproduce his fantastic performance from the night before for Southern Oregon, as he was pulled after allowing three goals on 15 shots and took the loss in net.
The win for Southern Oregon is huge, as even with a depleted roster, they fought hard and beat the best team in their division for the first time ever.
They are still a force, especially at home and although they won’t score a ton of goals, they play a solid defensive game and are now just four points out of a playoff spot.
Still with 12 games left in the regular season, they will head to Salt Lake City this weekend in search of any points they can get.
The loss on Friday stings a bit but Idaho is still locked into the top spot in the division and should have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
It should be a bit alarming however that they’ve lost series openers in back to back weeks now but hopefully for them, they can use it as fuel and learn that they can’t afford to give anything other than their full effort.
The Steelies will head to Seattle this weekend for three games against the Totems and the Spartans will certainly be rooting for them.
Boulder Bison (18-14-0, 3rd in Mountain Division) vs. Colorado Jr. Eagles (16-15-2, 4th in Mountain Division)
Home-and-home series played Friday in Superior and Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado
Injuries and other player movement has played a huge part in the Boulder Bison’s tumble over the last two months of the season. With some of their top players still out of the lineup, the Bison were able to pull together in a home-and-home series against the nearby Colorado Jr. Eagles and win both games, moving back into third place in the division in the process.
Playing at home on Friday night, the Bison trailed 1-0 after the opening period on a Lance Pennington power play marker.
Kevin Behrens, one of the Bison’s most consistent performers this season, pulled Boulder even with a goal just 46 seconds into the middle frame but Colorado took the lead back late in the period, as Tanner Ulland scored to make it 2-1 in favor of the visitors.
Still going back and forth, Mark Kepple’s power play goal at 5:57 of the third period pulled Boulder even again but not even two minutes later, the Jr. Eagles had regained the lead, as Jackson Wallis put one home.
With time winding down in regulation, the Bison began to push and started to show the combination of speed and skill that has made them so successful over the years, eventually tying it up on Kevin Behrens’ seconds goal of the night.
Just 1:02 after tying it, the Bison took the lead for good, as Daniel Orsborn, who has been fantastic in just a handful of games with the team this season, scored at 17:30 to make it 4-3 Boulder.
The Bison were able to hold strong late and help out goaltender Sean Cuscaden in the victory, as the rookie stopped 26 of 29 shots on the night, with normal starter Colin Champine still out for the foreseeable future.
Boulder was led offensively by veteran d-man Greg Sodbinow and his three assists, while both Daniel Orsborn and Kevin Behrens notched two points.
Former Bison Lance Pennington led Colorado with a goal and an assist on the night, while Quinn Wold stopped 24 of 28 in the loss in net.
Despite getting outshot by more than double on the road the next night, the Bison put together a gritty performance and grinded out a 5-1 win, behind a 33-save effort from Brandon Yinger.
Mark Kepple and Kevin Behrens each scored at almost the identical time in both the first and second periods, respectively, to give the Bison a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Tanner West would extend the lead to 3-0 with his goal at 6:58 of the third, before Colorado finally solved Yinger at 10:52, as RJ Haenz slid one past the Boulder netminder.
44 seconds later, Boulder seemed to ice it for good, as Greg Sodbinow put one home on the power play and Brendan Kelly added an empty-netter late for good measure, in the 5-1 victory.
Charles Joly led the Bison with four assists on the night, while Kevin Behrens, Tanner West and Greg Sodbinow each had a goal and an assist.
Colorado didn’t let up on the attack all game but had trouble getting it by Yinger. Tage Rustgi had an off night in net for the Jr. Eagles as well, as the rookie allowed four goals on 14 shots in the loss.
The back-to-back wins for Boulder definitely didn’t come via their best performances but it’s exactly what they have to do until the cavalry arrives. They didn’t make many mistakes, skated hard and took advantage of every opportunity they were given.
With the four points, the Bison leapfrogged Colorado and are now alone in third place, with a road trip to Missoula up next.
Dropping back to fourth in the division, the Jr. Eagles still have a solid hold on a playoff spot but will have to be good in their weekend series against Arizona, who are trying to catch them and could really make it interesting with a sweep.
Only two home games remain on the schedule, so Steve Haddon and Co. will have to be road warriors to secure their playoff spot.
Ontario Avalanche (24-8-3, 2nd in Western Division) @ San Diego Gulls (8-27-3, 6th in Western Division)
Single game played Friday night in Escondido, California
The Ontario Avalanche were able to push their winning streak to six over the weekend, as they headed south to San Diego on Friday night and beat the Gulls by a score of 6-4.
In an abnormally wide-open game, which doesn’t suit the style of the Avalanche, Ontario fell behind midway through the opening frame on a Drew DePalma goal.
Two veterans notched goals late in the period to give the visitors a lead heading into the second however, as both Michael Thomas and Alexander Roihjert found twine for Ontario.
After Lubomir Fetkovic scored early in the second to make it 3-1 Avs, the Gulls’ offense awoke and scored three straight to take a 4-3 lead, as two goals from veteran forward Eric Baldwin sandwiched a marker from rookie Nick Strohmeyer.
Still trailing by a goal entering the third, the Avalanche put together a complete period and scored three unanswered goals to come back and win it 6-4, as Fetkovic’s second of the game at 1:12 tied it, Antoine Maillard got the game-winning goal at 7:40 and Sage Cetrone sealed it with 1:21 left on the clock.
Brett Norman and Luke Rendino each recorded three assists to lead Ontario in the victory, while Daniel Cepila stopped 41 of 45 in net.
To the surprise of nobody, both Drew DePalma and Eric Baldwin led San Diego’s offensive efforts, as the two veterans each notched three points, while Brody Cavataio was hit with the loss in net, as the rookie allowed six goals on 54 shots.
The win for Ontario tested their fortitude, as the Gulls have given them a run for their money two weekends in a row but Chris Shaw’s boys worked hard and gutted out the win.
Still comfortably in the second spot in the division, they’ll head to Dallas this weekend for three with the Snipers, before going to New Mexico the following weekend, as they look to catch the Monsters at the top.
San Diego’s offense was solid all night but too many defensive breakdowns led to untimely Ontario goals and the story of the season continues in a down year for Craig Carlyle and his young team.
Long Beach Bombers (16-18-0, 5th in Midwest Division) @ San Diego Gulls
Single game played Saturday night in Escondido, California
Returning to the ice the next night, the Gulls couldn’t slow down the vaunted Long Beach Bombers attack and were doubled up 8-4 in another loss.
The Bombers were able to jump out to a 3-0 lead after the opening period but almost let the Gulls back in the game a couple of times, before bearing down and cruising to the finish line.
Two Filip Martinec goals and another from Valeriy Ledovskiy had Long Beach in front by a score of 3-0, before Eric Baldwin and Kalvis Ozols pulled the Gulls within one with goals in the second period.
Coming right back however, the Bombers scored two more before the end of the middle frame, as Blake Sundy and Marcus Viitanen each tallied in the second, before Konstanin Kotkov and another from Ledovskiy made it 7-2 early in the third.
Michael Leone and Drew DePalma would both score late but another from Viitanen sealed the big win for the Bomb squad.
Filip Martinec, Marcus Viitanen and Tomas Nemeth each notched three points to lead Long Beach, while Konstantin Kotkov, Valeriy Ledovskiy and Khalil East each added two points, showing off the Bombers’ tremendous forward depth.
Jakub Krejci was solid in net as well, stopping 28 of 32 in the win.
Once again, Eric Baldwin and Drew DePalma led the Gulls with three points each but goaltender Erik Eidissen struggled, as the Swede was pulled after two periods of play, in which he allowed five goals on 12 shots.
The win for the Bombers is big heading into a weekend series with the Lake Tahoe Blue, the team they’re trying to catch for fourth place in the Western Division.
A sweep would pull them within four points of a playoff spot and they currently hold three-games in hand on their rivals to the north.
If they can find a way to make it in, the Bombers are the kind of team that can make a lot of noise, as they don’t need a whole lot of defense to get the job done.
With seven games left in the season, the San Diego Gulls are officially out of playoff contention.
They’ve been a solid franchise for a long time and will surely look to play spoiler down the stretch, as Carlyle won’t allow his team to mail it in.
Hockey Wolf Three Stars of the Week
1. Adam Kresl (Forward, Salt Lake City Moose)- Threes were wild for rookie forward Adam Kresl in a weekend sweep of the Seattle Totems. The Salt Lake City Moose’s leading goal scorer notched three goals on both Friday and Sunday, with a three-assist effort sandwiched in between on Saturday.
2. Matthew Plesa (Forward, El Paso Rhinos)- Helping the top team in the Midwest Division remain perfect in 2014 with a dominant sweep of the Wichita Jr. Thunder, Matthew Plesa notched three goals and nine assists in just two games, as the forward, along with his two linemates (brothers) were able to rest in Saturday’s affair. The Calgary native now has 25 points over his last eight games and leads the team with 59 points on the season.
3. Chris Schutz (Forward, Dallas Ice Jets)- The Dallas Ice Jets’ leading scorer had his way with the Tulsa defense over the weekend, as Chris Schutz picked up three goals and seven assists over three big victories for his team.