2019 THORNE CUP WRAP-UP: DAY 4 – SEMIFINALS
(Photo by Tim Broussard)
The match-up for the final game of the 2018-19 Western States Hockey League season is set as the El Paso Rhinos and Ogden Mustangs both won big in their respective semifinal games and will meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to decide who claims the 2019 Thorne Cup championship. It will be a re-match of last year’s championship game, won by El Paso, 3-2.
El Paso 7, Oklahoma City 2 – The El Paso Rhinos and Oklahoma City Blazers played through a scoreless first period, but the Rhinos broke things open with four unanswered goals in the second period on their way to a 7-2 win. El Paso will get the chance to defend their Thorne Cup title Saturday evening.
Easton Easterson scored two goals and assisted on a third and Richie Parent stopped 33 of 35 shots to lead the Rhinos to victory.
The Rhinos scored a pair of goals :19 apart late in the period to turn a 2-0 lead into a 4-0 lead.
El Paso was on the power play when Donald Alchin’s shot from the point was partially blocked on its way to the net and trickled to Jonas Burman at the left post. He was stuffed by OKC goalie Bobby Cloutier, but the puck remained free and Burman centered it. The puck slid through a crowd of players to Justin-Cole Dubecky who wristed it into the net from 35 feet out before Cloutier could regain his footing.
Shortly after the ensuing faceoff, Samuel Sykes attempted a wrap-around, but Cloutier denied him. The puck remained loose in the crease, however, and Easterson slid it into the net to give the Rhinos a four-goal lead. Oklahoma City never recovered.
The Blazers did not get onto the board until the third period when Tobias Thorner and Nathan Inniss found the net.
Cloutier made 26 saves before being relieved in the second period by Owen Liskiewicz (14 saves) but the goalie change did not spark a comeback by the Blazers.
Ogden 7, Edson 0 – The Ogden Mustangs will play for the 2019 Thorne Cup after a 7-0 win over the Edson Aeros in Friday’s late semifinal game. The Mustangs scored three goals in each of the first two periods and Artur Ogandzhanyan stopped all 23 shots he faced as Ogden rolled into the league final.
Lukas Vacin scored the first two goals of the game just :06 apart late in the first period.
The first goal came on the power play. Bryson Bartell put a shot on net from the high slot that Edson goalie Liam Austin tried to squeeze between his right arm and his body, but the puck dropped to the ice behind him. Vacin snuck in from the weak side and pushed the puck across the line to break the ice.
Vacin further excited the crowd by scoring right after the ensuing faceoff at center ice. The draw was won by Edson but they tried a D to D pass that Vacin anticipated. He picked it off and skated straight at Austin, snapping the puck past him to the stick side.
The Aeros composed themselves in the short term, but another miscue with the puck allowed the Mustangs to add a back-breaking goal in the final minute of the period. An Edson defenseman tried to ring the puck around behind his own net, but Bartell cut if off, circled the net, and pass the puck to John Shively in the high slot. Shively’s shot eluded Austin to make it 3-0 Ogden.
The Mustangs added three more goals in the second period to double their lead. Austin (32 saves) was replaced by Bronson Sudberry (13 saves), but returned midway through the third period.
SATURDAY’S GAME – 2019 THORNE CUP CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
7:30 p.m. El Paso Rhinos vs. Ogden Mustangs – What a match-up: The defending champs against the 2019 hosts, and the top team from the regular season, in a re-match of the 2018 title tilt wo by El Paso.
FINAL PRELIMINARY ROUND STANDINGS
regulation wins-regulation losses-OT wins-OT losses (points)
- El Paso Rhinos 2-0-1-0 (8 points)
- Ogden Mustangs 2-0-0-1 (7 points)
- Edson Aeros 2-1-0-0 (6 points)
- Oklahoma City Blazers 2-1-0-0 (6 points)
- Long Beach Bombers 0-3-0-0 (0 points)
- Bellingham Blazers 0-3-0-0 (0 points)
The Top four teams qualify for semifinals
--- Compiled by Scott Harrington for Harrington Sports Media