02/24/2014 7:29 PM -
With just two weekends remaining in the regular season, it’s obvious many teams have taken their game to another level, as El Paso, Idaho, Fresno and a few others, including the red-hot Long Beach Bombers, try to separate from the pack and head into the playoffs on a roll.
Below is a summary of each weekend series/game:
New Mexico Renegades (5-34-1, 6th in Mountain Division) @ Arizona Redhawks (12-27-4, 5th in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Peoria, Arizona
The bottom two teams in the Mountain Division met over the weekend and despite neither having a shot at the playoffs, both teams competed valiantly in a very close series. In the end, the host Redhawks skated off with four points in two victories, while the New Mexico Renegades collected three.
The Renegades enjoyed their best offensive effort of the season in the opener on Friday night, as former Redhawk Connor Rickabus notched five points to help lead New Mexico to a 7-6 victory.
Also enjoying breakout nights for the Renegades were veteran forwardsZach Comfort and Damond Brokke, two of their most consistent performers this season, as they notched four and three points, respectively.
Shane Fitzpatrick and Garry Mindus led Arizona in the loss, with each player recording three points.
In net, Jacob Garvey earned his first-ever WSHL victory, as the rookie stopped 26 of 32 for New Mexico, while David Deadman allowed seven goals on 20 shots at the other end, before being pulled early in the third period in favor of Troy Anderson.
The Redhawks rebounded the next night and picked up their first victory since January 11, which coincidentally, also came against the New Mexico Renegades.
After a scoreless opening period, the Redhawks received goals from Oscar Hagborg Olsson, who has had trouble creating opportunities without linemates Mitch Cobby and Mattias Marten, as well as another from Garry Mindus.
New Mexico got within one shortly thereafter on an AJ Mussfeldt marker but Shane Fitzpatrick responded quickly to give the Redhawks the two-goal lead back.
A Zach Comfort goal late in the second got New Mexico back within one again and Damond Brokke knotted it at three with his goal early in the third.
Picking up the pace in the final period of regulation, the Renegades took the lead just about three minutes later, as another former Redhawk, Rasmus Alamaa, put one home at 6:52 to hand New Mexico their first lead of the game.
The Redhawks didn’t go away however and fought back to force overtime behind a goal from Jonas Almgrund and after two scoreless overtime periods, the two teams headed to a shootout.
In that shootout, all three New Mexico shooters were stoned by Redhawks goaltender Troy Anderson, while Oscar Hagborg Olsson and Shane Fitzpatrick converted at the other end, helping lift Arizona to a 5-4 win.
Fitzpatrick and Hagborg Olsson each finished the game with a goal and two assists to lead the Redhawks offensive charge, while Anderson stopped 30 of 34 and all three shootout attempts in net.
Damond Brokke led the Renegades with a goal and an assist on the night and another rookie goaltender played well for New Mexico but took the shootout loss, as Austin Borchert stopped 36 of 40, before allowing two of three to get by him in the shootout.
Finishing things up on Sunday, the Redhawks broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period and pulled away late in a 5-2 victory.
Oscar Hagborg Olsson and Sebastian Viding each finished the game with four points to lead Arizona, while Rasmus Alamaa had two to lead New Mexico.
David Deadman made up for a rough outing on Friday night by playing well in Sunday’s victory, as the Arizona netmidner turned away all but two of the 26 shots he faced.
Jacob Garvey returned to the New Mexico crease and took the loss while allowing five goals on 36 shots.
In a series that could have been played at half speed and with zero intensity, these two teams know their seasons are coming to an end but still put it all on the line.
Both Arizona and New Mexico can take a number of positives from the series and look to build on it over the last few weekends and into the off-season.
The Redhawks will enjoy a bye weekend before finishing up with three in Boulder, while New Mexico plays three this weekend in Cheyenne, before hosting the Phoenix Knights to end the regular season.
Fresno Monsters (33-5-2, 1st in Western Division) @ San Diego Gulls (8-31-3, 6th in Western Division)
Three-game series in Escondido, California
With the Ontario Avalanche suddenly hot on their heels, the Fresno Monsters returned to the ice after a weekend off and didn’t miss a beat, as they headed south to San Diego and picked up six points with a sweep of the Gulls in a fiery series.
The Monsters opened up the series with a strong first period on Friday night, as two Mike Fabie goals and another from Thomas Peach paced the visitors to a 3-0 lead.
After a second period void of any scoring but chock full of penalty minutes, 115 combined in total, the Gulls were able to get within two at 2:23 of the third period, thanks to an Ilya Sakhibgareev goal.
That would be as close as they would come however as Fresno clamped down on defense and skated off with a 3-1 win.
Jerry Kaukinen stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced in a light night of work for Fresno, while Erik Eidissen was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots for San Diego and was hit with the loss in net. Rookie netminder Brody Cavataio was fantastic after taking over for the Swede and stopped all 30 shots he faced.
Give credit to the Gulls, who have long been out of the Western Division playoff race, as they kept it close the whole weekend, including a very good showing on Saturday night.
In that game, a late first-period goal by Evan Ingram and another early in the second from Mike Nolan had the Monsters out to a 2-0 lead.
San Diego fought back however and got within one on a power play goal by Kyle Rimbach, who has responded well to an increased role and tied it up late in the period on another from Ilya Sakhibgareev.
Once again, Brody Cavataio, who is really starting to find a groove in net, gave the Gulls a fighting chance, stopping 21 shots in the third period alone but with just 2:47 left in regulation, Mike Fabie slid one by him on the power play to give the Monsters the 3-2 win.
In all, Cavataio stopped 55 of the 58 shots he faced but was hung with the loss in net, while Austin Piquette stopped 19 of 21 in the win for Fresno.
Both Mike Nolan and Mike Fabie notched two points to lead the Monsters scoring charge, while Kyle Rimbach did the same for the Gulls.
Tempers flared again late in the finale, as the two division rivals combined for 144 total penalty minutes but Fresno controlled the game throughout in a 5-2 victory.
Filip Winkler notched a goal and two assists to lead the way for Fresno, while Carter Dahl and Austin Browning added two points each. Jerry Kaukinen benefitted from another solid defensive performance in front of him and only faced 19 shots on the day, stopping all but two in the victory.
A pair of Swedes, Felix Kronwall and Linus Kleeman, tallied the two goals for San Diego, while Brody Cavataio stopped 37 of 42 in net.
The six points puts Fresno five points ahead of second-place Ontario, a team they’ll play host to for three huge games this weekend.
The Monsters were able to control each game throughout and if not for the goaltending of Cavataio, would have likely ran away with the series.
Craig Carlyle still has his team playing hard, despite being out of the playoff race since December and they’ll finish up the season with home-and-home series against both Valencia and Long Beach.
Phoenix Knights (26-12-2, 1st in Mountain Division) @ Long Beach Bombers (23-18-0, 4th in Western Division)
Three-game series in Lakewood, California
You got a feeling that if the Long Beach Bombers could figure out their defensive situation and match the level of play their offense has been clicking at all season, they would become a very tough team to play against. Well, they’ve done just that over their last nine games, all of which have been wins, three of which came this weekend in an impressive sweep of the Mountain Division leading Phoenix Knights.
With their offense nearly impossible to contain from the first puck drop back in September, the Bombers and head coach Chris White suffered through some ups and downs due to the play of their defense. Behind some hard work and a few key additions, Long Beach has turned a weakness into a strength and have now moved five points ahead of the Lake Tahoe Blue for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Division.
Playing against one of the top teams in the league, the Bombers struck fear into the rest of the division with three solid victories, while showcasing their tremendous offense, solid defense and suddenly red-hot goaltending.
The Bombers were able to jump out to a 2-0 first period lead on Friday night, behind goals from Tyler Forest and Martin Vachal, a skilled forward that was recently acquired from Lake Tahoe.
After Ryan McNeely got Phoenix on the board with his goal at 1:51 of the middle frame, the Bombers came right back to make it 4-1, with Vachal’s second of the game coming on the power play and another from Johan Beatty.
Phoenix would push back in the third and create a few scoring chances but were only able to get within two on a late goal from Quinn Thibeault, in a 4-2 loss.
Vachal and Beatty led Long Beach with a two points each on the night, while Talon Miller stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced in net.
Luke Stripp was pulled from the Phoenix crease midway through the second period, after allowing three goals on 25 shots and took the loss. Alex Taylorstopped 15 of 16 after coming on in relief.
Tied at two after 40 minutes of play in game two, the Bombers offense carried play in the third and Phoenix couldn’t keep up, as Long Beach scored four goals and won by a score of 6-3.
Swedish sniper Marcus Viitanen record three points to lead the way for the Bombers, while Konstantin Kotkov, Filip Martinec and Martin Vachal each collected two. Talon Miller was once again strong in net, as the Alaska native stopped 21 of 24 for the win.
Phoenix was led by Ryan McNeely and his two points, while Alex Taylor stopped 34 of the 38 shots he faced in net.
A top line consisting of Two Czechs and a Slovak led the way for the Bombers in the finale, as Filip Martinec, who leads the league with 94 points on the season, Tomas Nemeth and Martin Vachal combined for 11 points in a 5-4 Long Beach victory.
Talon Miller earned his fourth straight win in net, as the veteran stopped 30 of the 34 shots he faced.
Colin Bresnehan and Ryan McNeely led Phoenix with two points a-piece, while Alex Taylor allowed five goals on 53 shots in net.
The three wins are huge for Long Beach especially coming against a tough team like Phoenix, who likely would have had their way with the Bombers defense earlier in the season but not the way they’re playing now.
Now that Chris White has everything working, we are seeing just how good the Bombers can be, as they are strong in every department and absolutely lethal up front.
With just five games left in the season, all of which are against non-playoff teams, one would think they would be able to extend their streak to 14 and head into the post-season on fire.
Phoenix’ big guns, including Mitch Cobby, Mattias Marten and Jordan Cullum, were held in check all weekend and were never able to get much space to work with.
Once a lock for the top spot in the Mountain Division, the Knights are now in danger of being passed up by Cheyenne, although they still have six games left on the docket, including three against New Mexico, so expect to see Tyler Ramsey right the ship immediately.
Ogden Mustangs (29-11-3, 2nd in Northwest Division) @ Southern Oregon Spartans (12-27-4, 5th in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Medford, Oregon
The Ogden Mustangs already know they will meet the nearby Salt Lake City Moose in the opening round of the playoffs but now it’s just a matter of deciding who will have the huge advantage of playing on their home ice. This weekend, the Mustangs were able to jump back ahead of the Moose and into second place, as they went into Medford and took two of three from the Southern Oregon Spartans.
Playing against a team that has been surprisingly stout even without a few of the top players they traded away, Ogden controlled play in the opener and got first period goals from Seth Giles and George Babos to get out to a 2-0 lead.
After Carl Edstrom and Craig Moore traded goals in the middle frame, Ogden tallied three more in the third, as Tyler Underwood, Martin Hallin andDusty Watt found twine in a 6-1 Mustangs victory.
Veteran forward Sean Haltam led the way with three assists for Ogden, while Tyler Fallica was once again solid in net, stopping all but one of the 31 shots he faced in the win.
Ian Dvorak took the loss for the Spartans, allowing six goals on 38 shots faced.
The Mustangs notched six goals again the next night and got an even better performance in net from Fallica, in a 6-2 win.
Leading scorer Dusty Watt led the way with four points, while George Babos, Tyler Underwood, Sean Haltam and Martin Hallin each notched two.
Fallica faced 38 shots and stopped 36 of them, including all 14 he saw in the third period alone.
The Spartans got goals from Cy Jenson and Jason Henry, while Marco Medina took the loss in net, allowing four goals on 17 shots before being pulled in favor of Jiri Ponikelsky.
Looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive the next night and knowing they must win out and receive some help to get in, the Spartans pulled out a 4-2 win in their last home game of the season.
After a scoreless opening stanza, Seth Giles’ goal at 2:26 of the second period paced the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later however, Tyler Spencer scored to knot things up for Southern Oregon, before Trevor Hillman put home another at 13:14 to make it 2-1 in favor of the Spartans.
Striking early on in a period again, the Mustangs got a goal from Schuyler Seyfert at 1:01 of the third but Southern Oregon took the lead for good with anArturs Buss goal at 4:16 and iced it with another from Austin Sartorius at 11:52.
Buss, Sartorius and Spencer each collected two points for Southern Oregon, while Jiri Ponikelsky was strong in net, stopping 37 of the 39 shots he faced in the win.
Connor Webb gave Tyler Fallica a much-needed day off in the Ogden crease and took the loss while stopping 32 of 36.
Ogden would have loved to pick up the sweep but still played well in a tough place to play and are now three points ahead of Salt Lake for the second spot.
They have three games left, all of which are against the division-leading Idaho Jr. Steelheads, a team that is tough but may not have anything to play for, having already clinched the top spot.
Whether they play their starters against the Mustangs or not, if Ogden can continue to get the scoring depth they have and the goaltending from Fallica, they can more than hold their own.
The Spartans have been on life support for a number of weeks now but just won’t go away, as they keep pulling out wins when they need them the most.
With three games left in the season, they’ll need to sweep the team they’re trying to catch, the fourth-place Missoula Maulers this weekend, with every win coming in regulation and hope Seattle does the same the following weekend. Anything other than regulation wins from here on out for the Spartans or any Missoula points over their last five, will mean the end of Southern Oregon’s chances.
Cheyenne Stampede (25-14-1, 2nd in Mountain Division) @ Seattle Totems (11-29-4, 6th in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Mountlake Terrace, Washington
The Cheyenne Stampede continue to surge and with a strong showing in a weekend sweep of the Seattle Totems, now find themselves just two points back of Phoenix for the top spot in the Mountain Division.
With the Knights getting swept in Long Beach over the weekend, the Stampede made the most of their opportunity and have now made things very interesting in the race for the #1 seed.
Despite outshooting the host Totems by nearly double in the opener on Friday night, the Stampede needed a strong third period to pull out a 6-4 win, as rookie goaltender Eli Alyakin kept Seattle in the game as long as he could.
The Stampede led 3-1 after a Alexander Andersson goal at 7:57 of the middle frame but the Totems fought back to knot it up before the end of the period, as Lucas Walsh and Nikolay Mamadzhanov tallied to make it three-all.
Coming out firing to begin the third, Cheyenne took the lead back for good just 46 seconds in, as veteran forward Thayne Trumbull made it 4-3, beforeJimmie Kotilainen and Liam Slyne added on to it.
Seattle would get a late goal from Lucas Walsh abut that would be as close as they’d get, in the two-goal loss.
Thayne Trumbull, Alexander Andersson, Maans Gusatavsson and Jimmie Kotilianen led the way with two points each for Cheyenne, while Rasmus Hansson stopped 32 of 36 in net.
Lucas Walsh’s three points led Seattle, while Alyakin played well in net but was hit with the loss, allowing six goals on 68 shots.
After a scoreless first period the next night, a Robin Bjoernstad goal gave Seattle a 1-0 lead just 1:51 into the second. Cheyenne came roaring back however and notched the game’s next six goals in a 6-1 victory.
Showing their great depth yet again, six different Stampede players scored goals, four of which came via the power play, in the win.
Alexander Andersson, who has come on to lead the team in scoring now, led the way with three points, while six other players, including veterans Heath Lantz and Ryan Plessinger, notched two in the Cheyenne win. Veteran netminder Sam Mallory, who started the season slow but has really settled in as of late, stopped 28 of 29 in net.
Cody Stein was bombarded with 66 shots in the Seattle crease and stopped 60 of them in the loss.
Wrapping things up with a bow on Sunday, the Stampede broke a 2-2 tie with a Thayne Trumbull goal at 3:07 of the middle frame and never looked back, winning by a score of 7-2 behind five straight goals.
Trumbull finished up a solid weekend for himself with another three points to lead the way, while Ian Teal and Alexander Andersson each nabbed two.
Seattle was led by Nikolay Mamadzhanov and his two points, with linemate and leading scorer, Frank Flight, held in-check by the Stampede defense over the three games.
Sam Mallory took over for starter Fredrik Radbjer ato begin the second period and stopped 28 of the 29 shots over 40 minutes of play in the win. Eli Alyakin stopped 46 of 53 in the loss for the Totems.
The Stampede continue to play well as a team, as they come out you in waves and make you pay for your mistakes, with their physicality and finishing ability.
Although they’re just two points back of Phoenix, it might be tough to catch the Knights, as Phoenix has a game in-hand and six games left, including three against New Mexico.
The Stampede will also face New Mexico this weekend and finish things up with a home-and-home against Colorado, so anything can happen, especially if they win-out, which they are very capable of doing.
Struggling through a short-bench all year, the Totems are really starting to show some wear but are still pushing as hard as they can to finish up the season.
A pair of rookie goaltenders has played well with Bryce Fink now gone to El Paso and if Mike Murphy can get a handful of players to return next season and build around them, the Totems could rise to power again.
Dallas Ice Jets (23-14-3, 2nd in Midwest Division) @ El Paso Rhinos (38-2-0, 1st in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in El Paso, Texas
Plain and simple; the El Paso Rhinos are a machine. Playing against one of the league’s most skilled teams this weekend, the divisions rival Dallas Ice Jets, Cory Herman’s team put on an offensive show, dominating all three games and improving to 18-0-0 in the new year.
It was all Rhinos in the opener, as El Paso took it to the Ice Jets from the start in a 12-2 thrashing, the biggest loss in Ice Jets history.
Two Nick Plesa goals and another from Dakota Beaulieu got the Rhinos out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play, before Chris Schutz got the Ice Jets on the board early in the second.
The Rhinos came roaring back to score six more goals before the end of the middle frame, three of which came off the stick of Matthew Plesa and two more for his brother Nick, who amassed four on the night.
Andrew Bradford, Jeremy Rezaeepour and Drew DePalma also converted in the third for the Rhinos, while Alex Devillier scored the lone goal in the period for Dallas in the loss.
The Plesa brothers, who have been downright unstoppable over the last few months, combined for 14 points in the game, with Matthew and Nick posting five each and Peter nabbing four, while Bryce Fink stopped 24 of 26 in net for the win.
John Groth was pulled from the Dallas pipes after allowing five goals on 13 shots and the man that took over for him, Vladyslav Slyusarchuk, didn’t fare much better, as he allowed seven goals on 18 shots.
Things were much tighter in game two, as shots were dead even at 38 and scoring chances were also close but the Rhinos killed off 12 of 13 Dallas power plays in a 4-2 win.
Trailing 3-1 entering the third, Bryan Siersma’s power play marker got the Ice Jets within one early in the period but the Rhinos killed off a five-minute major penalty to goaltender Adam Vay and got a late tally from Tom Bartel in the win.
Eric Baldwin and Dakota Beaulieu each notched a goal and an assist in the victory, while Vay, who has allowed the opposition to get under his skin far too often lately, stopped 26 of 28 before getting the boot late in regulation.
James Bohan scored the other Dallas goal in the loss, while John Groth stopped 29 of 32 before being pulled after Bartel’s goal late in the third.
The Rhinos penalty kill was on full display again in the finale, as they were short-handed 18 times and allowed just one goal, in a 7-1 win.
Tom Bartel’s three points led the way for the Rhinos, while Kalvis Ozols, Kristzian Nagy and Jiri Pestuka each added three. Bryce Fink stopped 32 of 33 in net for the win.
The Ice Jets leading scorer, forward Chris Schutz, notched Dallas’ lone goal of the contest, while John Groth allowed seven goals on 37 shots in net.
Three more big wins for El Paso has them looking like a Thorne Cup favorite, especially with it being on their home ice.
They are perfect in 2014, perfect at home and even perfect on the road, as their only two losses of the season have come on neutral ice in Las Vegas.
The amazing thing about this weekend’s wins, is that the Rhinos were very undisciplined, especially in games two and three, where they were short handed a combined 31 times but they still managed to win all three games, behind a tremendous penalty kill. It may not make a difference right now but against Idaho, Fresno and other top teams, penalty trouble will eventually come back to haunt them. If they can stay out of the box, there are very few teams that can skate with them at even strength.
Cory Herman’s move to pick up Bryce Fink from Seattle at the trade deadline is looking even smarter now, as the veteran netminder provides great depth behind Vay, especially if Adam can’t settle down a bit, as he now has 29 penalty minutes on the season.
Dallas had a tough weekend and their power play, which is normally one of the league’s best, just couldn’t get it done against an aggressive Rhinos penalty kill.
With Tyler Hough out with an injury, the recently acquired John Groth hasn’t looked completely comfortable in net and will need to settle in soon, as he’s pretty much the guy from here on out.
With just two points separating them from Texas, the Ice Jets are going to have to fight off their rivals this weekend in a three-game set that will likely decide the second spot.
Missoula Maulers (15-22-4, 4th in Northwest Division) @ Idaho Jr. Steelheads (37-4-1, 1st in Northwest Division)
Two-game series in McCall, Idaho
Playing against a team that will likely be their first round playoff opponent, the Missoula Maulers put up a fight over two tough games in McCall but the Idaho Jr. Steelheads won both contests and left the Maulers still needing just one point to clinch a playoff berth.
Tied up at one after the opening period of play on Friday night, Idaho received goals from Drew Decker and Bryan Hodges 2:04 apart early in the second to take the lead for good.
Jordan Wheatly’s second of the game got Missoula back within a goal midway through the period but Bryan Hodges’ second of the game for Idaho iced it late in the third, in a 4-2 victory.
Victor Ivarsson, a veteran defenseman who recently committed to the University of Southern Maine, led the way with three points for the Jr. Steelheads, while Sean Healy stopped 17 of 19 in net.
Wheatly’s two goals led Missoula, while Sebastian Gronborg stopped 32 of 36 in net.
In another solid defensive effort in the concluding game of the short two-game set, the Steelies held Missoula to just 15 shots on goal and won by a score of 4-2 again.
Jesper Jensen and Macky Power each notched two points to lead Idaho, while Danny Kowalski stopped 13 of 15 for the win in net.
Cody Janzen stopped 33 of 37 in the loss for Missoula.
Idaho’s wins aren’t going to look as impressive in the box score as the ones like El Paso has been putting up lately but Kyle Grabowski has his team playing classic Jr. Steelheads hockey, centered around a great forecheck and a suffocating defense, which results in any mistakes their opponents make ending up in the back of the net, just like they were when they won each of their three Thorne Cup Championships.
Locked into the top spot in the Northwest Division, the Jr. Steelheads will still have a huge hand in playoff seeding in the Northwest Division, as they face both Ogden and Salt Lake City down the stretch, the two teams that are battling for the second spot in the division.
Missoula played well in both games and did a good job of keeping the games close and giving themselves a chance to win but just couldn’t create enough offense to get it done, as Idaho was staunch defensively.
With five games left, all they need is one point to clinch the fourth spot, as they host Southern Oregon for three this weekend, the team that is fighting to catch them.
If they do in fact make it in, they’ll be back in McCall March 14-16, playing against a team they went 0-6-0 against in the regular season but kept it close with every time.
Colorado Jr. Eagles (23-16-2, 3rd in Mountain Division) vs. Boulder Bison (21-19-0, 4th in Mountain Division)
Home-and-home series played Friday in Superior and Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado
Winless over their first four meetings with their in-state rivals, the Colorado Jr. Eagles swept a home-and-home series against the Boulder Bison this weekend and now have a firm grip on the third playoff spot in the Mountain Division.
A handful of new additions, many of which came from Colorado State University’s ACHA club team, helped the Jr. Eagles to an exhilarating 7-5 victory in the opener on Friday night.
Scott Smoot notched four points, Mitch Coan added three and Collin Abitz scored twice to lead the contingent of newcomers, while Kyle Arenson, Lance Pennington and Levi Weber, three of the key contributors all season for the Jr. Eagles, added two points a-piece, as well.
Chris Lupinski notched a hat-trick in just his fourth game back from injury to lead Boulder, while Daniel Orsborn also added three points in the loss.
Eric Messer turned aside 20 of the 25 shots he faced in the Colorado crease for the win, while Colin Champine stopped 32 of 39 in the tough loss for Boulder.
Both teams were much more defensive the next night, as the Jr. Eagles went on the road and picked up a hard-fought 2-0 victory, behind goals from Mitch Coan and Levi Weber.
The Bison went 0-8 on the power play in the loss and Brandon Yinger stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced.
Messer earned his first shutout in a Jr. Eagles uniform, stopping all 24 shots he faced, as it looks like the veteran has fully taken over the #1 job in Steve Haddon’s crease.
The two victories for Colorado are huge, as they are now six points ahead of the Bison with four games left on the schedule.
The key additions Haddon made at the deadline were big for Colorado in the series, as they added an offensive burst to an already solid team.
Colorado will head to Dallas for three with the Snipers this weekend, before finishing up with a home-and-home series against a team that could very well be their first round playoff opponent, the Cheyenne Stampede.
After playing so well against the Dallas Ice Jets last weekend, the Boulder Bison struggled a bit against Colorado and dropped two games when they needed it the most.
A few of their big guns were held quiet and the defense in front of Colin Champine struggled on Friday night.
The Bison will have a tough road if they want to catch the Jr. Eagles now, as they head to Phoenix to face the Knights, before hosting the Redhawks to finish the regular season.
Dallas Snipers (20-18-2, 4th in Midwest Division) vs. Texas (22-15-3, 3rd in Midwest Division)
Home-and-home series played Friday Plano and Saturday in in North Richland Hills, Texas
The playoff race in the Midwest Division is starting to get interesting, as the other two Dallas-area teams are looking to take advantage of the Dallas Ice Jets’ struggles and make a move up the standings. In an exciting home-and-home series this weekend, both the Dallas Snipers and Texas were able to pick up a win and inch closer to the second spot.
It’s very rare in home-and-home series when the road team wins both games but that’s exactly what happened this weekend, as Texas did it on Friday night in Plano and the Snipers returned the favor in North Richland Hills the next night.
Texas jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead on Friday night behind goals from Anatoly Uspenyev, Landyn Howze and Sebastien Tremblay, before Uspenyev traded goals with Dallas in both the second and third. Alexander Lehnbom pulled the Snipers within two at 11:35 of the middle frame, before Uspenyev’s second made it 4-1 Texas with 40 seconds left in the frame. Emil Melin then pulled Dallas within two again at 1:36 of the third but Uspenyev sealed it and completed his hat trick at 17:57 in the 5-2 win.
Uspenyev’s three goals led Texas in the victory, while both Lehnbom and Melin notched two points to lead Dallas.
Oliver Eklund was strong in net for Texas, stopping 40 of 42 in the win, while Emil Eriksson allowed five goals on 26 shots for Dallas in the loss.
Playing just down the road the next night, it was the Snipers putting together a solid road performance in a 5-4 win, despite being outshot by nearly double.
Christopher Stein, Alexander Lehnbom and Emil Melin each recorded two points in the win, with Melin registering the game-winner with just 2:38 left in regulation for the Snipers. Emil Eriksson was a rock in net, stopping 54 of 58 for the win.
Texas was led by forward Austin Murray, who recorded two points, while Ryan Mulka stopped 25 of 30 in net in the loss.
Texas is now just two points back of the Ice Jets for the second spot, a team they’ll play three times this weekend. If they can win a couple, they’ll be in the driver’s seat for the #2 spot, which comes with home ice in the opening round. They’ll finish up against Wichita the following weekend, a series in which they should be able to pick up six points.
The Snipers are a little bit further behind and it will be tough for them to move out of the fourth spot but they’ll have a chance in three games against Colorado this weekend, before finishing the regular season with three in El Paso against the Rhinos, a team they’ll likely meet in the opening round of the playoffs.
They skate, hard, fast and are a physical bunch, so you can’t count them out against anybody.
Ontario Avalanche (30-9-3, 2nd in Western Division) @ Valencia Flyers (24-15-4, 3rd in Western Division)
Single game played Sunday in Valencia, California
Needing just one point to clinch a playoff spot, the Valencia Flyers will have to wait at least one more weekend, as they dropped their fourth straight game in a Sunday matinee against Ontario, a team that is hot on Fresno’s tail for the top spot in the Western Division.