WSHL WEEKLY NOTES 01.22.19 – MID-WESTERN DIVISION
WSHL standings are expressed W-L-OTW-OTL (“W” and “L” represent regulation wins and losses; shootouts are included in overtime results). Three points are awarded for a regulation win, two for an overtime win and one for an overtime loss.
DALLAS SNIPERS (18-14-1-0, 56 pts.)
Even though they lost two of their three games, it was a big weekend for the Dallas Snipers. In their first series of the season against Oklahoma City, one of the top teams in the WSHL, the Snipers logged a 7-4 victory in the second game of the series.
Forward Jasa Jenko is largely responsible for Dallas’ big win. The rookie out of Slovenia racked up four goals and an assist, pushing his scoring line to a team-best 28-18-46.
Despite not scoring a goal, Eric Eaton had a huge game while serving as the Snipers’ primary playmaker. Eaton dished out five helpers, a career high, and factored in with assists on all four of Jenko’s goals.
Not only did the win give the Snipers some added confidence, it also tied them with idle Northern Colorado for third place in the Mid-Western Division. The Eagles have only one game in hand on Dallas heading into this weekend.
The Snipers will open a six-game homestand this weekend that features games against the top and bottom teams in the division. After taking on Wichita in a three-game set this weekend, Dallas will host first-place El Paso from February 1-3.
EL PASO RHINOS (24-7-3-2, 80 pts.)
The El Paso Rhinos swept Wichita on the road over the weekend to push their lead atop the Mid-Western Division to eight points.
The Rhinos have out-scored the Jr. Thunder 56-9 over six matchups this season. El Paso will have another three-game series against Wichita March 8-10 that will close out the regular season. The Rhinos could pick up some valuable points during that series if they continue to have the Jr. Thunder’s number.
The Rhinos have effectively defended home ice this season, winning 11 of 13 games at County Events Center. Prior to this weekend, El Paso’s record on the road was four games over .500, a respectable mark, but not up to the high standards the franchise has set for itself in the past.
Blueliner J.C. Dubecky is one of the highest-scoring defensemen in the league with 40 points (7-33-40) over 35 appearances. The Saskatchewan native is a veteran of over 130 WSHL games, all spent with the Rhinos.
Dubecky is not scoring at the same pace as last season when he collected 76 points (18-58-76), but he is one of the main contributors in an offense that ranks in the top five in the WSHL in goals scored.
The Rhinos will play host to the Ontario Avalanche this weekend in a three-game series. The Avs will be making the over 750-mile bus ride from California to El Paso.
NORTHERN COLORADO EAGLES (18-12-0-2, 56 pts.)
The Northern Colorado Eagles had to sit and watch last weekend as Dallas picked up three points and tied them for the third seed in the Mid-Western Division.
The Eagles will look to reclaim their spot this weekend with a tough three-game matchup at home against Oklahoma City. Northern Colorado has given the Blazers all they could handle on multiple occasions but has dropped four of its five games against OKC.
“They’re a good team, and we have to understand that we can only control our fate on how many points we earn,” said Eagles Head Coach Steve Haddon.
Haddon knows his team could easily be ahead in the season series against the Blazers and plans to prepare his players the same way he has all season.
“The mindset hasn’t changed from day one. We are always trying to get better every day and let our play do the talking on a group and individual level. That’s why you get a regular season, to work out the kinks for when everything’s on the line.”
After their series against Oklahoma City, the Eagles will take on a couple of their old Mountain Division rivals with a road game against the Cheyenne Stampede as well as a pair of home contests against the Casper Bobcats.
OKLAHOMA CITY BLAZERS (23-7-3-2, 72 pts.)
The Oklahoma City Blazers won two of three games against Dallas last weekend, but they needed a sweep in order to maintain their position as they chase division-leading El Paso.
The Blazers fell three more points behind the Rhinos and are now eight points out of first place with 18 games remaining on their schedule.
As the regular season draws closer to a conclusion, the upcoming three-game series between OKC and El Paso in Texas from February 22-24 could prove to be a deciding factor in the race for the top spot in the Mid-Western Division.
The Blazers have seven players scoring at a point-per-game pace, led by veteran forwards Vitali Mikhailov (33-32-65) and Stephane Doering (18-31-49). Doering, a 20-year-old German, had a 27-49-76 scoring line over 50 games for the Springfield Express last season.
OKC’s special teams units have shined all season long. The Blazers’ power-play is converting at a 28.6 percent (2nd in WSHL) clip while its penalty killers are keeping the opposition off the board a staggering 93.5 percent of the time, the best mark in the WSHL by over three percent.
Oklahoma City will face off against Northern Colorado on the road this weekend. The Blazers have won four of five games against the Eagles, but they haven’t dominated their matchups against Northern Colorado, logging multiple wins by two goals or less.
(Photo by Mark Mauno)
WICHITA JR. THUNDER (7-24-0-2, 23 pts.)
The losses continue to pile up for the Wichita Jr. Thunder as the young squad was overmatched in its three-game set against El Paso over the weekend.
There have certainly been some bright spots for the Jr. Thunder this season, such as their strong performance at the Western States Shootout and their 8-7 win over Dallas on December 16, but they have struggled to close out some close games.
Against Northern Colorado a couple of weeks ago, Wichita lost the first two games by a single goal before falling 6-0 in the series finale.
“We played so well against the Eagles without getting rewarded for our efforts and then had to face El Paso this weekend,” said Jr. Thunder Head Coach Rob Weingartner. “There is never an easy game in our division, especially since we’re getting close to playoff time.
“It is frustrating, but the boys are working hard and playing much better than the beginning of the year. El Paso is big, physical, and relentless; they are a tough matchup for a younger team.
Weingartner hopes that some recent roster additions will help his team this weekend as it plays a three-game series on the road against Dallas.
“I think that will give us some more depth,” he said. “We are a young team. If we can keep this group together, I think you will eventually start to see us win these close games. I think by playoff time if we stay on track, we might surprise some teams.”
---Jared Tennant for Harrington Sports Media