by Scott Harrington

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.

(Mark Mauno Photo)

 CASPER BOBCATS (12-21-0-0, 36 pts)


 The Casper Bobcats took care of one challenger to their position in the division last week and get to address the other this week.

The fifth-place Cheyenne Stampede gave them a run for their money, but Casper managed to take all three games last weekend on home ice, including matching 3-2 victories on Saturday and Sunday.

This week, the Bobcats head to Steamboat Springs, CO to go head-to-head with the team directly behind them in the Mountain Division standings, the Steamboat Wranglers.

The fourth-place Wranglers, who were idle last week, are now 12 points behind Casper.  On top of that it is the Bobcats who hold games in hand – four of them – putting them in a position to take a stranglehold on third place if they can at least split on the road this week.

The importance of third place in the Mountain Division is that it would mean Casper would avoid the juggernaut Ogden Mustangs in a best-of-three division semifinal series.

Colorado-born forward Joel Rothman came up with a couple of big goals in the series against Cheyenne and now has four points (2-2-4) in his last four games after having just a single point in his previous six.  The 19-year-old will look to continue dotting the scoresheet this week as he returns to his native Centennial state.

CHEYENNE STAMPEDE (3-31-2-2, 15 pts)


 Failing to come back from Casper with any points in the standings pretty much removes any possibility that the Cheyenne Stampede can make a run for third place in the division standings with only 13 games left on their regular season schedule.

That does not mean there are not things to play for.  The focus for the Stampede has to be catching Steamboat, which would give them home ice advantage for a potential 4/5 play-in series.

Cheyenne is off this week, so they have time to rest up for a crucial homestand coming up in February.  The Wranglers will be at Cheyenne Ice and Events Center for a pair of games next weekend which are crucial to the race between the two clubs.  They are “must-win” games for Cheyenne.

The Stampede play 10 home games from February 1-24 before closing out the regular season with a three-game series at Ogden the first week of March.

Cheyenne goalie Brendan Carew eclipsed 1,000 saves last weekend.  His season total of 1,025 is 227 more than #2 on the list – Jordan Belley of Steamboat.  That means Carew has stopped 28% more pucks than the next-busiest goalie in the league.

OGDEN MUSTANGS (33-1-0-1, 100 pts)


The Ogden Mustangs have been the WSHL’s dominant team this season.  They hit the Century mark with a 7-1 win over the Utah Outliers on Saturday.  Although the league’s new 3-point scale obviously inflates point totals in the standings, the Mustangs have collected an impressive 100 of 105 possible points (.952).

The Mustangs will hit Southern California this weekend for a three-game set with the San Diego Sabers – a team that has been quite competitive this season in the Western Division.

The Mustangs are highest-scoring team in the WSHL with 237 total goals (6.9 per game). They’ve also allowed the fewest goals (58/1.7 per game). Their +179-goal differential is the best in the WSHL by a wide margin of 88.

Lukas Vacin has scored multiple goals in five of his last seven games, tinkling the twine 11 times in that span to give him 29 goals on the season.

Harry Gulliver has been away from the team representing Great Britain at the U20 World Championships (Division II – Group A) in Estonia. Gulliver had two points (1-1-2) and was +3 in five games for the Brits, who finished third.

STEAMBOAT WRANGLERS (7-28-1-1, 24 pts)


The Steamboat Wranglers return from a bye week to play a two-game Friday/Saturday set with the team they are chasing in the Mountain Division standings – the Casper Bobcats.

Finishing fourth would likely mean a play-in round against Cheyenne and a division semifinal match-up with Ogden should they advance.  The Wranglers can make their lives easier in the post-season if they can catch Casper now, and a pair of regulation wins would cut the 12-point gap in half.

As the Wranglers look at the 14-game stretch to the end of the regular season they see their final six games are all against the division’s top teams – Utah and Ogden.

But the Wranglers and balanced scoring and a goalie that can steal games.  There are worse formulas for success out there.  Seven Steamboat players have between 20-30 points and Jordan Belley sports a .904 save percentage.

Steamboat could be one of those teams nobody wants to play in the post-season.

Avery Albert hit the 100-penalty minute plateau for the third time in his WSHL career.  The 20-year-old blue liner is up to 387 career PIM and has cracked the top 20 of the league’s all-time list in tie spent in the sin bin.

UTAH OUTLIERS (24-12-1-1, 75 pts)


The Utah Outliers go into a bye week with seven wins in their last eight games.

Utah’s workhorse goaltender Oskar Wahlgren was rested in last week’s game at Ogden and now, with a bye for Utah this week, he has even more time to rest up for the stretch drive.

“Wahlgren has big very solid in net for us this season,” said Utah head coach Paul Taylor.  “He is a big goalie who moves well in the net and is very competitive. He has proven himself to be a guy who can make big saves and timely saves and he is a key piece to our team.”

Wahlgren is the lathest in a line of Swedish goaltenders Taylor has brought to West Valley City, but Taylor says that is just a coincidence and not a specific strategy on his part.

“We do not have a specific pipeline to Swedish goalies,” said Taylor.  “The last three years goalies were brought to our attention through different contacts. Although we have had good success with Swedish goalies it’s been more of a coincidence than us deliberately recruiting them.”

Zack Hoffman, who excelled in Utah last season, is plying his trade in Junior A hockey in Ontario this winter as a 20-year-old.  Hoffman has 28 points (7-21-28) and 45 penalty minutes in 45 games with the Navan Grads of the CCHL.

Hoffman, a 6’3”, 210-pound Newcastle, ON product, played two seasons of Junior B in the GOJHL before moving to Utah to play in the WSHL.

--- Compiled by Scott Harrington for Harrington Sports Media