Mustangs prep for final regular season series at home with playoff implications aplenty

by Jon McBride

Heading into the final weekend of regular season play, there are a few scenarios remaining in regards to the playoff seeding in the Western States Hockey League’s Mountain Division.

Here’s how the division currently looks:

Utah Outliers – 75 points

Ogden Mustangs – 71 points

Colorado Eagles – 71 points

Superior RoughRiders – 48 points

Casper Coyotes – 32 points

Cheyenne Stampede – 4 points

The bottom three spots are set. The top three spots are still technically up for grabs, with each team having just three games left.

For the Ogden Mustangs, at least two playoff home games are guaranteed at this point, but the questions remain: “when?” and “against who?”

There are two possibilities at this point. The Mustangs will either be hosting a first-round series against the Stampede March, 16-18, or they’ll be hosting a second-round series against the Eagles, March 23-25.

It all depends on what happens this weekend at The Ice Sheet.

It looks like the Outliers have the No. 1 spot in the division locked up after a big series victory over the Eagles last weekend. They just need one win in their three-game series at Superior this weekend to clinch. In their three previous matchups against each other just last month, the Outliers won 10-2, 5-2 and 5-2 over the RoughRiders. 

Now it’s the battle for second place that gets interesting. And that battle is taking place in Ogden this weekend, as the Mustangs host the Eagles for three games. Every advantage is crucial in a playoff series between these two teams. So while it seems inevitable that this’ll be the second-round matchup, it’s just a question of who will get that bye and home ice.

On the other side of that coin, though, that No. 3 spot could also have its advantages. The team that finishes third will host a first-round series against the Cheyenne Stampede. The Stampede have won only two games all season. Those games would basically serve as some possibly-valuable, in-game practice to prep for that second-round series, especially considering the possibility of the No. 2 teaming coming into that second-round series cold.

Looking at this weekend’s games, the mission is pretty simple for both teams to get that No. 2 

spot: Win two games.

There is a possible scenario where both teams could finish the weekend with four points a piece and technically finish tied with 75 points each in the standings. In that case, the team who wins two games this weekend will hold the tiebreaker.

The WSHL playoff format is as follows:

The top 6 teams from each of the four divisions qualify for the playoffs with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams receiving a first round bye. That will leave the first round-round matchups as No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchups. First round games will be played March 16-18. Best of three series.

From there the winners will move on and be reseeded with the No. 1 team playing the lowest remaining seed in the division and the No. 2 team drawing the highest remaining seed. Second round games will be played March 23-25. Best of three series.

Winners of the divisional semi-finals will then meet in the divisional finals, March 30-April 1. Best of three series.

The four winners of the divisional finals, the host El Paso Rhinos and a wildcard team will then move on to the Thorne Cup Finals, to be held this year in El Paso, Texas, April 11-15.