(Photo by Bayleigh Schroeder, Ice Rink Photography, Outliers)
SEATTLE TOTEMS VS. UTAH OUTLIERS
The Utah Outliers were able to reach 12 consecutive wins after blanking the Seattle Totems 6-0 last night at Olympicview Arena. The West Valley squad can force a sweep if it continues with the same pace tonight and tomorrow.
In their previous series at the Accord Ice Arena, Seattle opened to a 3-2 overtime decision flustering the Outliers. The Totems can still surpass the 1-2 mark from that weekend if it can win the next two at home. The white and green is still looking to bounce back from three tough losses at the hands of thee Ogden Mustangs. It will take a galvanizing effort to reverse sweep the remainder of the weekend, but it surely isn't something Seattle hasn't done before.
It comes with no surprise that Utah is the third highest scoring team in the league, now at 260 goals in favor, behind the Edson Aeros and Ogden Mustangs. Andrei Shmakov, Utah's leading scoring among active skaters, has scored nine points in his last three games, including a five point night versus the Totes yesterday.
Shutout leader, Oscar Wahlgren, made 33 saves and moves to 10 shutouts in the season. He has three shutouts in his last five games and owns an eight game win streak stretching back to Jan. 25, versus Seattle.
ONTARIO AVALANCHE VS. FRESO MONSTERS
Ontario Avalanche is enjoying their time playing in Selland Arena, home of the Fresno monsters. The Avalanche pushed to its third consecutive win at Selland Arena with a 5-4 win last night. Ontario scored three unanswered tallies between the second and third periods to edge the Monsters.
Eric Moran and Nicholas Abernathy have been connecting very well and combined on two consecutive plays to give the Avalanche its first go ahead goal of the night. Monsters will need to do a better job of containing the actions of the two U.S. forwards.
Ultimately, the Avalanche has had Fresno's number in winning the last four games since Dec. 15 at Anaheim Ice. This weekend will be the final time each of these clubs will face each other in the regular season.
NORTHERN COLORADO EAGLES VS. PUEBLO BULLS
What was a much tighter race for the second spot in the Midwest-Mountain Division is starting to look more like it belongs to the Northern Colorado Eagles. However, their in-state rival could narrow the 14-point gap—from fourth to second—with a few home victories this weekend at Pueblo Ice Arena.
Northern Colorado is heading into the weekend with a three game win streak after shutting down the rugged Oklahoma City Blazers; as are the Pueblo Bulls who claim four consecutive wins over the Wichita Jr. Thunder and Dallas Snipers.
The matchup is long overdue since both clubs are stationed only about three hours down the road, through Denver. The Greeley side will attempt to assert its dominance as tested veterans, but the Bulls have had their share of battles in their inaugural season.
They'll have plenty of time to get along and play 'king-of-the-hill,' as they are facing six straight games starting in Pueblo, and then Greeley next weekend. Bull's leading scorer, Ondrej Blaha, has points in his last six games, while Ethan Knudsen has a peaking 26-points in his last 11 games, including a hat trick in his last game.
Jacob Elik and Brennen McFarland each have points in their last four games, so both clubs have players who are coming in hot for the six game series. To further peak interest, the two starting goaltenders, Marshap Murphy and Henre Dennee, have won their last three games.
VALENCIA FLYERS VS. LAS VEGAS THUNDERBIRDS
Valencia Flyers will try to snap out of an 18 game skid to reach its first win since Showcase. Flyers are recovering from two tough overtime losses versus the Bellingham Blazers but need to upset Las Vegas to get back on the win column.
Thunderbirds are in a hasty race for second place in the Western Division with only a two point lead over third place San Diego Sabers. They are within reach of first place as well, seven points from the leading Monsters, and two impending meetings with them to close out the regular season.
Needless to say, Las Vegas still has a lot to play for, and won't make things any easier for the Flyers. T-Birds recently skated to three big-time wins over Valencia. They have played their last 10 games against either Ontario or Valencia, having only struggled against the Avalanche.
Flyers will have one crack at the Thunderbirds as only a single matchup is on the schedule between the two. Valencia will make the trip from Sobe Arena to Escondido Iceoplex to face the San Diego Sabers for a pair of tilts.
VALENCIA FLYERS VS. SAN DIEGO SABERS
Two points back of the Thunderbirds; Las Vegas side scheduled for only one game...The Sabers can overtake second place in the division with two regulation victories over the Valencia Flyers. In six games, Valencia defeated the Sabers in the very first game of the season, a 5-4 overtime decision in early Oct.
The Sabers hold an eight game, home win streak, stretching back to a 6-2 victory on Nov. 25 versus the Flyers. The Sabers are playing with a lot of urgency especially after dropping three of its last four games. The Sabers have been braced by goaltender Calijah Hunter who holds a .920 SV%, and was among the Top-10 goalie leaders in SV% after 900 minutes of action, earlier this month.
Hunter has served them well considering the Sabers are the Western Division team with the fewest goals allowed.
EL PASO RHINOS VS. OKLAHOMA CITY BLAZERS
El Paso Rhinos look to start a new streak after dropping a game last series to the Northern Colorado Eagles. They will host the Oklahoma City Blazers at the County Events Center, though the Blazers have been stymied as of late, unable to get out of the late season-slump. Blazers have dropped to fifth in the division and must garner some type of inspiration to force big wins this weekend in Texas.
El Paso's home record of 17-1-1 can be daunting although the Blazers were able to defeat the Rhinos twice, earlier this season at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena. They are on a short list that has defeated the Rhinos twice this season, and can become the first team to defeat them three or more times.
Blazers workhorse in net, Joel Svensson, has only one win in his last six starts and will need to have a big weekend to spark some life. Having said that, it wasn't pretty in their last visit to the County Events Center. Oklahoma City was outscored 19-2 in three games and was blanked once.
COLD LAKE HORNETS VS. BARRHEAD BOMBERS
The two Alberta based squads are fighting for the third spot in the Provincial Division with only a single point difference. They have developed a rivalry over the course of 2019-2020, but the Bombers have the edge in the season-series. The Hornets have only made three trips to Barrhead Agrena, going 1-2, and are gearing up for three games in Barrhead this weekend.
Both teams will have a chance to snap out of losing streaks as the Bombers have dropped their previous four, and the Hornets their previous seven.
The Bombers are hoping to catch stride after pushing the Hinton Timberwolves to overtime for the first time in 2019-2020, and nearly completing the upset.
Although Barrhead ultimately endured the loss, it made great strides in achieving its closest game against a divisional powerhouse. Stran Backfat Redcrow played out to be the starlet for the Bombers, as he scored both goals to take a 2-1 lead.
Former Bomber, Wassim Saidani, has fit in nicely with Cold Lake and has registered 10-points, including five goals and five helpers, in his first six games as a Bomber.
SOUTHERN OREGON SPARTANS VS. BELLINGHAM BLAZERS
Southern Oregon played well against the Bellingham Blazers in their last series in Medford. The three-game set gave us two overtime periods, in which the Spartans claimed a 7-6 shootout victory in the latter game of that series. Spartan's netminder, Aidan Harding, played on his head to ensure the victory and kept Bellingham off the board after the third frame.
Southern Oregon has a decent chance to steal some points from the Blazers when you consider the fact that Bellingham sports a 2-13-1 home record.
This will be the first time in 2019-2020 that Southern Oregon makes the trip to Bellingham Sportsplex, all games prior to this have been in Medford. Bellingham went 5-0 against the Spartans before the Medford side could figure out its first win against them.
Bellingham's Milo Schneidmiller has been lighting it up with 14-points in his last three games including a hat trick over the Valencia Flyers last weekend. Schneidmiller has 21-points in six games against the Spartans this season and will likely cause damage to the Spartans if not contained.
HINTON TIMBERWOLVES VS. EDSON AEROS
The Edson Aeros can get closer to an undefeated season at home if they can persist through the Hinton Timberwolves in the first two games of this weekend series. The weekend will open at Repsol Place and close in Hinton at the Murray Rec. Center for a single game. The 16-0-0 record has wavered but never faltered; the story book narrative suites Hinton to be the team that breaks the stronghold, as they will likely battle it out for a spot at the Thorne Cup.
Edson is 4-1 against the Hinton Timberwolves who put a chink in the flawless Edson armor defeating them 5-1 to start the 2019-2020 season. The Timberwolves are still the only Provincial Division team to defeat the Aeros.
Edson's Niklas Froden will go back and forward with Hinton's Jamahl Eakett. Froden has points in his last seven games; Eakett boasts points in 11 of his last 12 outings. The Aeros have been without Sebastian Heden and Kevin Lundin but haven't slowed down in production.
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