Photo provided by: Mark Mauno
BELLINGHAM BLAZERS (23-18-3, 49 pts)
Another strong week has pushed the Bellingham Blazers into a second-place tie and stretched their winning streak to nine games.
The Blazers, who have spent most of the season near the bottom of the division, seem to have figured things out as the postseason draws near. They swept Southern Oregon last weekend and are one of the league's hottest teams.
Despite his team's recent success, Bellingham Head Coach Mark Collins knows there's still plenty of time left in the regular season.
"I still feel like it will be difficult to catch Tahoe and finish in second place," Collins said. "Much will be riding on what happens between Tahoe and Southern Oregon this weekend."
Collins may be wise to tamper his expectations, as his team is slated to take on powerhouse Idaho in a three-game set at home next weekend. Idaho is a club against which the Blazers have yet to log a competitive game.
"As far as Idaho, they were able to add even more players and will most likely be more difficult," Collins continued. "We will need to be very diligent with our preparation in order to steal a couple games from them."
The Idaho series will be preceded by this Friday night's matchup against West Sound at Bellingham Sportsplex. It's a game the Blazers will almost certainly need to win to have any shot at the first-round bye that comes with finishing in second place.
"It is certainly nice to be at home over the next few games," Collins said. "We have found a way to win on the road, and hopefully we can carry that momentum into these home series."
IDAHO ICECATS (39-4-2, 80 pts)
After beating Ogden in the first two games of a three-game set last weekend, the Idaho IceCats suffered a rare loss via a shootout in the final contest.
The loss put a halt to the IceCats' winning streak, which ended at 17 games. It was their first defeat of the second half, and only their sixth of the season.
For the second week in a row, Idaho took on the Mountain Division leader. It swept Utah to knock the Outliers out of first place in the division a couple of weeks ago before holding Ogden to just two points last weekend, creating a tie between the two teams at the top of the division.
The two-week stretch against Utah and Ogden was considered the IceCats' biggest test of the second half, and they passed with flying colors. With victories in five of six games and 11 of 12 possible points earned, Idaho proved that it can match up well with the best the Mountain Division has to offer.
Over the next couple of weeks, the IceCats will close out their regular season. After taking on Seattle at home this weekend, they will travel to Bellingham for a three-game set against the surging Blazers.
The remaining games will give Idaho plenty of time to work in some new faces on its roster as it vies for its sixth Thorne Cup title.
SEATTLE TOTEMS (11-26-6, 28 pts)
The Seattle Totems fought hard against a tough Ontario squad on the road last weekend but could not keep up with the Avalanche, who are fighting for a potential Western Division crown.
All three contests were close, and Seattle led 3-1 midway through the second period on Sunday before Ontario took control in the third for a 7-5 win.
Over the final few weeks of the regular season, Seattle will be tasked with what is arguably the toughest schedule in the league.
After taking on Idaho on the road this weekend, the Totems will close out their regular season with a five-game homestand that will feature series against Southern Oregon and Fresno.
Southern Oregon will be hungry, as the two-game set could potentially represent its last chance to leapfrog Seattle and avoid a last-place finish.
Heading into this weekend, Fresno is just five points out of first in the Western Division and is in the midst of a dogfight with Long Beach and Ontario, meaning it will need all the points it can get.
All in all, it's clear there will be no easy wins for the Totems from here on out. They'll need to earn it if they hope to hang onto fifth place and likely play a first-round series against West Sound.
SOUTHERN OREGON SPARTANS (11-34-1, 23 pts)
The Southern Oregon Spartans ran into a Bellingham team playing its best hockey of the season and suffered a three-game sweep, failing to pick up any points and staying in sixth place with five games left on their schedule.
Southern Oregon has lost some heartbreakers over the past couple of weeks, leading to its current six-game losing streak, including last week's 2-0 setback against the Blazers.
If the Spartans can't pull off a win or two in this weekend's three-game tilt against Tahoe, they will have one more chance to right the ship before the playoffs: a two-game series in Seattle next weekend that marks the end of their regular season.
Forward Joel Holmberg has proven to be a reliable go-to option this season with 53 points (26-27-53) over 35 contests, making him the club's leading scorer by a wide margin.
Other than Holmberg, the only player scoring at a point-per-game pace is Yanneck Kumli, who has posted a 14-24-38 line over 34 appearances while racking up 100 penalty minutes.
Axel Low (8-24-32) is also having a nice season, but after that there is a drop-off in production. Holmberg and Kumli are the only two Spartans with double-digit goals.
Offensive depth has been a problem all season for Southern Oregon, and the club will need some of its under-the-radar scorers to step up over the next few weeks.
TAHOE ICEMEN (23-19-3, 49 pts)
The Tahoe Icemen have a legitimate challenger for the second seed in the division, as Bellingham took advantage of the multiple games in hand it had on the Icemen to tie Tahoe at 49 points apiece.
The Icemen, who were off last weekend, are set to kick off their final road trip of the season this weekend with a three-game set in Southern Oregon.
The six-game trip will conclude next weekend with three contests in West Sound against the struggling Warriors to mark the end of the regular season for Tahoe.
This weekend's series will give the Icemen an opportunity to suit up their new additions for the first time. Tahoe acquired Eric Easterson, Locke Wischman, and Kevyn McElligot prior to last week's trade deadline.
But that's not only thing Icemen fans can look forward to this week. Star forward Paul Frys (38-57-95) is on the verge of hitting the 100-point mark for the first time in his career.
Frys, who was chosen as Tahoe's captain in his first season with the club, is having his best season by a landslide. He has posted 19 points (7-12-19) through six games against Southern Oregon, so there's a good chance the veteran will have another productive series.
WEST SOUND WARRIORS (21-22-1, 43 pts)
The West Sound Warriors have struggled to the finish line after an impressive start to the second half of the season.
The Warriors have lost five of their last six games and each of their last four. They have seven games left to right the ship, which will need to happen if they hope to make a run in the playoffs.
A good start would be winning their only game this week when they host Bellingham on Friday night. A win over the streaking Blazers would allow West Sound to regain its confidence and build some momentum as it heads into March.
Depending on what happens over the next few weeks, the Warriors will take on Seattle or Southern Oregon in the first round of the Northwest Division playoffs.
No matter which club West Sound faces, it will have the luxury of home-ice advantage. Even though the Warriors' home and away records are quite similar this season, playing in front of their home fans in a playoff atmosphere should provide a big advantage.
--- Jared Tennant for Harrington Sports Media
Photo provided by: Mark Mauno
CASPER COYOTES (16-28-0, 32 pts)
Eliot Bergbauer scored with just 30 seconds left in the second game of the three-game sweep at the hands of Utah this past weekend. Bergbauer's third goal in just six games with Casper ended the Outliers' chance at a second straight shutout against the Coyotes. Hamish Campbell assisted on Bergbauer's goal, giving him eight on the season.
The Camerons connected for Casper's goal on Sunday with Cameron Cross scoring his sixth goal thanks to Cameron Braun's 18th assist, rounding out the only goals for Casper against one of the top teams in the Mountain Division.
Dylan Ossachuk, who has been as consistent as they come for Casper, made 42 saves in Friday's loss including 15 of 16 in the third period. Ossachuk ended with 80 saves in the series, and Tomas Svoboda added 40.
The 'Yotes played hard all weekend, putting pucks on net and ended the three-game set with 88 shots on net. Alas, the Casper was facing one of the league's top goaltenders and couldn't quite make a dent.
Casper finishes the regular season with an 8-17-0 record at home and now have just two more series before heading to the playoffs. The team will travel to Superior to take on the RoughRiders and then end the regular season at Oklahoma City.
CHEYENNE STAMPEDE (2-48-0, 4 pts)
The Cheyenne Stampede closed out their regular season over the weekend, losing two games in Colorado against the Jr. Eagles.
The Stamps finish with just two wins on the year, but with a ton to look forward to as a trio of teenagers paved the way this season for Cheyenne. That experience will carry this team for a few more years.
Seventeen-year old Logan Syrup ended the season leading the team with a 14-8-22 line, 17-year old Evgenii Bastrakov chipped in a 6-7-13 line, 18-year old Devin Bain saw 12 games in net, and 17-year old Robbie Hufnagel led the team with 17 games played and an .851 SV%.
Hugnagel made 102 saves in five periods over the weekend including 50 in just the first two periods of Sunday's game.
Cheyenne will have to wait a few weeks before they know who they're going to be playing in the first round of the playoffs. Any one of the three teams at the top of the Mountain Division can see their current playoff ranking slip in the coming weeks, with the Stampede having to face the 3rd place team in the division.
Today, that team is Colorado, but Utah and Ogden are tied for first, just three points ahead of the Jr. Eagles. Utah and Colorado play this weekend, and Cheyenne will be sure to keep an eye on who their potential opponents will be.
COLORADO EAGLES (31-8-6, 68 pts)
The Colorado Jr. Eagles were busy this weekend, hosting Cheyenne for two games while sandwiching a win over Superior on Saturday. The three-win weekend closes out the regular season in Fort Collins, but the team still has two more series in the state of Utah to go.
Dawson Keay joined the team just two weeks ago and scored a 3-3-6 line against the Stampede, giving him a 4-3-7 in just six games with Colorado. Fellow newcomer Tom Ignatovich went 1-5-6 against Cheyenne, bringing his six game totals to 2-6-8 with the Jr. Eagles.
Goalie Will McEwen also joined the team two weeks ago, and got the call Friday against Cheyenne and Saturday against Superior. McEwen made 28 saves for the two victories.
The RoughRiders were able to take two of the previous four meetings between these two teams, so Saturday's win gave Colorado bragging rights as both teams head into the playoffs.
The Mountain Division has provided some of the best hockey in the WSHL this season, and now the division crown will come down to the wire with three teams within reach of ending the season as the top team. But, it's up to the Jr. Eagles if they want to win the season-long "King of the Mountain" between them, Utah, and Ogden.
The Jr. Eagles will travel to West Valley this weekend to take on the Outliers who currently sit tied for first with Ogden, just three points ahead of Colorado.
From there, it's on to Ogden for the Jr. Eagles to close out the season with a possibility of ending the season as division champs.
Colorado's eight regulation losses are the fewest in the division and their six overtime losses triple the rest of the division's OTLs. So, if a few bad bounces go Colorado's way, then the top of this division could very easily be the Jr. Eagles on top with Ogden (who has played three more games) or Utah looking up.
Colorado will be playing the WSHL Series of the Week these next two weeks and those types of competitions may be just what they need with the playoffs looming.
OGDEN MUSTANGS (35-12-1, 71 pts)
Ogden picked up two needed points by beating Idaho in Sunday's game after losing the first two to the IceCats. Unfortunately, Utah won all three of their games over the weekend and now the two teams sit tied, again, for first place in the Mountain Division. Colorado is only three points back of the two Utah teams.
The weekend finished the six-game season series between two of the top teams in the league. With every game being close – each team scored 26 goals – each team recorded a 3-2-1 record in the series.
This is important to note as Ogden and Idaho could very well face each other in the Thorne Cup Finals.
Ogden has a fight at home to worry about in the meantime. They've spent a majority of the season atop the division standings, until Utah caught up just a few weeks ago, and now find themselves in a position where they may depend on other teams losing in order to claim the division crown.
Three special teams goals in Saturday's third period tied the game for Ogden, but Idaho took the win with a goal midway through the period.
The team continued to trade punches on Sunday when the Mustangs found themselves with a 4-1 lead early in the second period, but the IceCats powered back, tying the game late in the third period. The two teams went through two overtimes before Tymen Edelkoort stood tall in the shootout to give the team the win.
Matus Spodniak went 5-5-10 on the weekend bringing his season totals to 69-74-144, just five points shy of the league record for points in a season.
The Mustangs will be scoreboard watching this weekend while on the bye. Utah and Colorado will battle it out with the results having huge implications on the playoffs. With Ogden closing out their season against Colorado in two weeks, they could find themselves out of a playoff bye if things go wrong between Utah and Colorado.
SUPERIOR ROUGHRIDERS (20-24-0, 40 pts)
Superior lost their final game against Colorado, after winning two of the previous four against their in-state rivals. The RoughRiders were outshot 39-17, and goalie Marshall Murphy made 36 saves in the loss.
Erik Back assisted on Kyle Cagnoni's fourth goal in six games with the RoughRiders after coming over from Springfield where he scored 21-20-41 in 40 games. David Waterman also earned an assist on the goal, giving him 2-5-7 in eight games with Superior.
Things got testy between these two rivals with the teams accumulating 69 PIMs between them.
Rookie Nikita Sheberov's 53-38-91 line leads the team and is good for top-four in the Mountain Division. In fact, with Thore Weyrauch's 30-40-70 line putting him sixth in the division, the two teammates lead the division in points for non-Ogden players. There're no trophies for that, but still.
Sheberov was held scoreless against Colorado, but with the team facing Casper this weekend, he'll have plenty of chances to score the two points needed to become the franchise's all-time leader in points.
Superior has a real chance to make some waves in this year's playoffs, with so much youth who have been playing well all year. This weekend will give them a chance to play their first-round opponents in Casper, and with the top teams in the division beating each other up for first place, a fresh RoughRiders team could jump on a worn out higher seed.
UTAH OUTLIERS (35-9-1, 71 pts)
The Utah Outliers got back on the winning track, and back to a first-place tie, after sweeping Casper this past weekend. The 25-goal output softens the blow of their previous sweep to Idaho the weekend before.
Dylan Massie went 3-5-8, Brandon Krumpshmid went 3-4-7, and Jacob Wanstrom scored a 2-4-6 line over the weekend. Benji Mickel added a hat trick on Saturday, and Jan Pixa scored a hat trick on Sunday while Zack Hoffman added three assists in the third game of the series.
Pixa now has a 7-6-13 line in just nine games with Utah.
New Outlier Eric Safstrom went 3-4-7 in his first three games with Utah. He scored a 22-37-59 line in 31 games while with the West Sound Warriors.
Casper was able to test the Utah goalies, putting 88 pucks on net, but Dawson Rodin continued his stellar season, making 59 saves in the first two games. Newcomer Cedric Lesiuer, who last played in the CPJHL, made 27 saves on Sunday for his first WSHL victory.
Krumpshmid (28-37-65) overtook Hoffman (15-48-63) for the team lead in points, and Kane Toriumi leads the team with 30 goals after scoring two goals on Friday.
The Outliers will close out their home season against a Colorado team looking to grab their own piece of the Mountain Division pie. They will then close out the regular season at Superior.
--- Tyler Whidden for Harrington Sports Media
Photo provided by: Mark Mauno
DALLAS SNIPERS (13-31-0, 26 pts)
Defenseman Arvidas Domeika notched his fourth goal of the year and Michal Pistak scored his 13th strike of the season on Sunday, marking the only goals the Snipers were able to get past OKC all weekend in a three-game sweep. Both goals were scored with Dallas on the man advantage.
The Snipers had entered the weekend with a six-game winning streak and had been playing well of late, but the Blazers are a team capable of scoring in bunches and the Snipers became the unwilling recipient of that firepower.
Goalie Manny Legace made 45 saves on Saturday, 19 in the first period, and Evan Williams stopped 39 in Sunday's 6-2 loss.
Sterling Cooper's 25-45-65 line leads the team and Jaroslav Vasicek's 26-33-59 has him in the team lead for goals.
The Snipers travel to El Paso for their final road games of the year before playing their final series of the season at home against Springfield. Dallas hasn't been able to stop either team this year, but have managed some close games with the Express and will look to jump into the playoffs on a strong note when they end their regular season with Springfield.
At the trade deadline, the Snipers signed 18-year old defenseman Nicklas Pehl from Germany.
EL PASO RHINOS (43-1-1, 87 pts)
The El Paso Rhinos have only one regulation loss and an overtime loss on their record this season and if their three-game sweep of Wichita is any indication, that's how they'll end the season.
Their 45 goals scored marked their highest three-game mark all year including their two highest scoring games of the season.
Austin Simpson dropped nine goals on Wichita giving him 32 on the year.
Some new Rhinos chipped in against the Jr. Thunder. Matthew Kesserling scored a goal in his first game with El Paso and Nikita Pintusov scored six goals over the weekend including the hat trick on Sunday. Pintusov now has a 6-1-7 line in his first five games with El Paso after scoring 32-22-54 with Valencia.
Jakob Kranabetter, who is the WSHL's all-time assists leader, now has six goals in six games with El Paso after scoring a half-dozen times against Wichita.
El Paso will look to close out one of the greatest seasons in the history of the WSHL with six straight home games against Dallas and the Jr. Thunder. El Paso is hosting this year's Thorne Cup Championship, so look for the Rhinos to begin their charge for the Cup in convincing fashion.
OKLAHOMA CITY BLAZERS (35-7-2, 72 pts)
The Oklahoma City Blazers were frustrated by Springfield a week prior and took out their frustrations on Dallas, scoring 26 goals in the three-game sweep of their Mid-Western Division rivals.
Griffin Wiencek's hat trick in Friday's win gave him 32 goals on the year and a 32-52-83 line on the season.
Bobby Cloutier's shutouts on Friday and Saturday give him six on the season. Cloutier (2.40/.921) earned the sweeping victory on Sunday for his 25th victory, good for second overall in the league.
Ivan Bondarenko scored a goal and an assist on Saturday, giving him 100 points on the season with 49 goals and 51 assists. That leads the Mid-Western Division in both goals and points. It's El Paso and OKC at the top of the scoring list in the division, and while Josh Chamberlain's 33-56-89 line technically has him in third, Jakob Karanabetter is second, but has only been in the division for a few weeks, so we'll count Chamberlain as the second-highest scorer in the Mid-Western.
The Blazers' 312 goals on the season puts them in the top-3 in scoring and their 99 goals against is the fourth-best number in the WSHL.
The Blazers picked up forwards Joseph Hebert (44-75-119 in 88 games with Valencia) and Jason Hickman (34-67-101 in 87 games with Valencia) from the Flyers at the trade deadline, giving OKC even more firepower.
This is a squad with very few, if any, weaknesses and they'll be ready to go come playoff time.
SPRINGFIELD EXPRESS (23-16-6, 52 pts)
The Springfield Express were off this past weekend, and are sporting a 12-4-0 record since the Western States Shootout as they look to close out their regular season.
Nikita Sokov leads the team with a 30-39-69 line and the Ledenkov brothers have been neck-and-neck with each other all season. Arkhip has scored a 31-31-62 line this season while brother Filimon's 19-41-60 line leads the team in assists.
Goalies Kayne Pasquet, Chad Purdy, and Connor Green have been consistent for the Express all season, with each posting better than an .860 SV%.
Springfield will close out their regular season with a trip to Dallas to face the Snipers in two weeks, and at home to against Wichita.
So, that'll be two weekends off between their two-win three-game series with OKC two weeks ago. They'll look to roll into the playoffs and provide this year's upset.
WICHITA JR. THUNDER (3-39-0, 6 pts)
The Wichita Jr. Thunder were bested by El Paso in three-straight games over the weekend. Hunter Litman, Braeden Thomas, and Garret Ropka each scored for Wichita against the league's best team.
After Brett Cameron scored his first junior goal two weeks ago against Dallas, Ropka's strike this past weekend marked his first in the WSHL.
Thomas now leads the team with an 11-10-21 line with Tyler Inlow not far behind scoring a 9-10-19 line on the year after scoring two assists against the Rhinos.
Tyler Alverson and John Lebar also added assists this weekend. Lebar's six penalty minutes on the weekend moved him to the team lead with 121 PIMs.
The Jr. Thunder will make the playoffs, but they're going to have a a few bumps along the way with another tilt against El Paso sandwiched between series with OKC and Springfield.
This upcoming weekend's series with the Blazers will mark the Jr. Thunder's final series at home.
--- Tyler Whidden for Harrington Sports Media
Written By: Jon McBride and Posted on: The Ogden Mustangs News