Weekend preview 03.05.20
SOUTHERN OREGON SPARTANS VS. #3 SEATTLE TOTEMS/ #4 BELLINGHAM BLAZERS
Southern Oregon Spartans will end its season on three road games sharing two tilts with the Totems tonight and tomorrow, and closing out in Bellingham on a single game. Southern Oregon doesn't hold any playoff implications but both Seattle and Bellingham clubs should be weary of dropping games as it may not be the freshest breath of air going into post-season play.
The Totems hope to remain undefeated against the Spartans who failed to pick up wins in seven games through out the season series. Each win for Seattle includes a multiple goal margin proving to never really have an issue when facing the Medford squad. It's biggest victory was a 9-1 score reached earlier this month while its slightest victory comes as a recent 5-2 score.
As of late, Bellingham has also entertained success with three heaping victories over Southern Oregon. But they have had their share of close encounters. In early Feb., the season-series between Bellingham and Southern Oregon was closer than the picture paints.
The Spartans defeated Bellingham 7-6 in a shootout and took them to overtime the night before. In total, a third of their tilts have been one-goal games. However, the big picture will show you that Bellingham owns an 8-1 season series record.
There won't be any movement in the Northwest Division Standings as the Blazers have at most, six points, remaining on the schedule and trail the Totems by eight points.
#2 HINTON TIMBERWOLVES VS. #3 BARRHEAD BOMBERS/ #4 COLD LAKE HORNETS
Hinton Timberwolves will start its two-game weekend against the Cold Lake Hornets, and then finish at the Barrhead Agrena against their likely playoff opponent, Barrhead Bombers.
The Hornets need an upset victory if they want to snap out of the six game losing streak. Chances are they have better odds against a team they have upset before. Which is why the Hornets face a big test this weekend, and must look back to their 5-2 victory over Hinton last Nov.
Anson Smith gave the Hornets a fighting chance scoring a hat trick in that game, and Riley Tucker made 56 saves. Should Tucker start, his assignment will be to fend off a 242-goal offensive unit that the Timberwolves will be bringing.
The Barrhead Bombers are coming off a 10-goal victory over Cold Lake. Just two games ago, Barrhead really put Hinton on its heels forcing them to rally from behind. Timberwolves barely won the game 6-5 as Jamahl Eakett was awarded the game winner, but Barrhead was knocking on their door even with 20-seconds remaining.
Two of their last three games have been one goal games including an overtime appearance at the Murray Rec.
It was arguably the Bombers' best effort of the season. If they can keep the same pace from those two games, expect a very special first round of playoffs.
#1 EDSON AEROS VS. #4 COLD LAKE HORNETS
This will serve as a preview since the Edson Aeros and Cold Lake Hornets will likely face each other in the first round of divisional playoffs. Division leading Aeros seek to put a cherry on top of their perfect season at Repsol Place on this final regular-season game.
It wasn't too long ago that the Hornets were able to make a slight push in the standings. They knocked off the Bombers from third place for about a week's length, before entering the six game slump they are currently experiencing. Cold Lake has been held to 13 goals in the six game span; Their goals in favor is dwarfed by the amount conceded.
Hornets leading scorers Yauheni Lavrov and Anson Smith are tied with 66-points, and are among the WSHL's Top-20 scorers. But that also points to a problem for the team. They haven't had the luxury of scoring depth since Lavrov and Smith more than double the points of their third leading scorer, Terrell Hood.
#4 ONTARIO AVALANCHE VS. VALENCIA FLYERS
Ontario Avalanche will see the last of Valencia Flyers when they make their final two appearances at the Valencia Ice Station this weekend. Avalanche have six points left to contend but won't make any strides in the standings since they trail Las Vegas by eight points.
Valencia has struggled mightily this season. Offense hasn't been present and it becomes very clear when looking at their previous six games in which they only managed three goals. All three goals were against the Avalanche—in a game where the Flyers conceded 10—and they were shutout in five of the six.
Valencia secured a pair of wins over the Avalanche earlier this season. Following a front-loaded schedule, the clubs didn't see each other from Nov. 16, to just recently on Feb. 17., as the Avs put 18 goals in two games past them.
Ontario's goaltending can surprise teams going into the post season as both Romi Huunonen and Jonathan Kornreder hold save percentages above .900.
Valencia has been without their tandem of goalies, Brendan Culbertson-Bond, traded to Hinton, and Brooks DiMarino, who started the season with the squad. Ian Sotlar and Carter Wickson have been welcomed between the pipes following their transition from the Provincial Division's Barrhead Bombers and Hinton Timberwolves respectively; Patrick Villain has shouldered the load with five starts.
#2 SAN DIEGO SABERS VS. #1 EL PASO RHINOS
Western Division members, San Diego Sabers, have the most difficult end to the regular season taking on the two-time defending champions, El Paso Rhinos, at the County Events Center. The rarest of matchups in the WSHL, both clubs haven't played against each other since 2017.
San Diego may have wiped that recollection from their memory since it didn't go well for them being greatly outscored in three games. However, the Sabers have plugged away over the years and found the combination of players to merit a winning season. 2019-2020 will be the first time in team history that the Sabers finish second in the Western Division.
The Sabers are gelling and buzzing with a six game win streak going into the weekend against El Paso. Similarly, the Rhinos have won four straight since dropping a shootout decision to the Northern Colorado Eagles.
El Paso is well known for its heavy style of play. The rugged team grinds its opponents down therefore the Sabers will need to find the right combination of grit and discipline so as to not jeopardize their top guns.
PUEBLO BULLS VS. WICHITA JR. THUNDER
The Pueblo Bulls are in a really good spot to overtake third place in the Midwest-Mountain division. They are three points behind the Dallas Snipers who completed its regular season last weekend. Pueblo is undefeated against the Jr. Thunder in nine meetings, but this will be the first time the Bulls play at Wichita Ice Center.
Wichita has earned the bulk of its wins on the road only tallying a single win at home so the challenge may not be as great for the Bulls who are 11-6-3 on the road. The story for the Bulls in their first year has been spectacular to say the least. If they can scoop up nine total points over the Jr. Thunder they will move to second in the division by one point.
Northern Colorado has three games remaining against Oklahoma City who can potentially upset the Eagles immensely should they deny all nine points. In that case Pueblo would finish second.
The Jr. Thunder have traded away several players to different teams and the more recent trade of Quinn O'Reilly has taken from their punch.
Pueblo's startung netminder, Henrey Dennee, has won four of his last five games and may possibly get some rest, pending on any coaching decisions made at game time.
#3 LAS VEGAS THUNDERBIRDS VS. #1 FRESNO MONSTERS
Since routing the Valencia Flyers 10-0, Las Vegas Thunderbirds have lost their previous three games heading into this match against division leading Fresno Monsters. Fresno has been victorious in its last five games and won 12 of its last 13 since Jan. 25 at Selland Arena.
Fresno has been guided by top point-man, Narek Aleksanyan, who leads the Western Division with 98-points in his first year; And a breakout season for Zackory Turpin who has 88-points. Fresno starting netminder, Max Karlenzig, is victorious in his previous five.
The Thunderbirds and Monsters aren't as frequent of opponents as you would think being in the same division. You have to go back to the first four games of the season in early Oct. to recollect a solid cluster of games. But the Central California side has come a long way since dropping four straight at Sobe Arena.
Fresno was able to avenge itself after reaching back-to-back wins against Las Vegas in Selland Arena to kick off 2020. And the Thunderbirds clinched the most recent win in a tightly contested 2-1 decision at the Gateway Ice Center. Fresno will look to close out its regular season with a pair of wins over a team they won't see again unless they both reach the Western Division Finals.
Sin City will start a five game road trip as it must head to San Diego after this, for a Western Division Semi-Final dance against the Sabers. Monsters will stay put as it will welcome the Ontario Avalanche in their first playoff round.
OGDEN MUSTANG VS. UTAH OUTLIERS
The battle of Utah can't get any more enticing since both teams put their 17-game win streak to the test. It seems like they learned a valuable lesson when losing to the Seattle Totems. Both clubs started their winning streaks after dropping a game to the Seattle Totems as the Washington side was facing both Utah teams on succeeding weekends.
17 games later, the rivalry will reignite at the Ice Sheet—a venue that the Outliers can boastfully say they know how to win in. Utah is the only team to defeat the Mustangs at the Ice Sheet in 2019-2020 going back to a 3-1 road win in early Jan. Perhaps Ogden's worst moment of the season falling to 0-2 after the Showcase, and then 0-3 after meeting Seattle.
It's not an exaggeration to say that either team is a solid cup contender and that only adds fuel to the fire going into an already heated rivalry. The Mustangs possess the league's highest scoring offense while the Outliers are third in the WSHL. When it comes to goaltending, Utah's secret weapon has always been shutout leader, Oscar Wahlgren, who will have a big say in the weekend's result.
Overall, the Mustangs are 5-2 in the season series having dropped a second game to the Outliers in West Valley City at the Accord Ice Center.
NORTHERN COLORADO EAGLES VS. OKLAHOMA CITY BLAZERS
Northern Colorado can dig themselves out of a jam if they secure at least two of nine points over the Oklahoma City Blazers. And yes, it's a slight jam since the Bulls can still mathematically overtake the Eagles' 95-point total at the moment. The Thorne Cup hosts are looking to bounce back after a series that probably left a bitter taste in their mouth.
The Eagles were challenged by their instate rival, Pueblo Bulls, who was able to claim four straight wins against them dropping Northern Colorado to 2-4 in their last six. But Oklahoma is out of the playoffs, in the midst of an eight game skid, and isn't playing under the same high-stakes as NoCo is. Should that be a factor?
The Blazers still have a Top-20 scorer in Brigham Neuhold who can inflict some damage if the Eagles sleep. Lest the Eagles forget a Midwestern Division Semi-Final that flipped their fate in about a minute.
Northern Colorado is 5-1 over the Blazers this season and have had moments where they were in complete control including an 8-2 win in Greeley. All six of their previous games have been in Greeley but the Eagles will cap off its regular season at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Oklahoma City.