WSHL WEEKLY NOTES 02.07.19 – MOUNTAIN 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.
CASPER BOBCATS (12-24-1-0, 38 pts)
Three losses in a row have the Casper Bobcats in limbo in the middle of the Mountain Division standings - not closing the gap on second-place Utah but still maintaining a healthy 10-point lead with four games in hand on the fourth-place Steamboat Wranglers.
It is seeming less and less likely that the Bobcats will move either up or down before the conclusion of the regular season. That would mean a best-of-three Mountain Division Semifinal series at Utah to start the playoffs.
Prior to their recent three-game slide, which they will try to reverse when they visit Steamboat for games Friday and Saturday, the Bobcats won three in a row – each by a single goal with one of the games going to a shootout.
If the Bobcats even manage a split against the Wranglers at Howelsen Ice Complex this weekend, Steamboat will start running out of runway in their attempt to chase down the Bobcats.
This is a veteran team that is hoping to make a run in the post-season. Four of their top six defenseman are 19-years or older, as are all of their goaltenders. Their top 11 scorers consist of seven 1998-born players and three 1999s. The lone exception is 2001-born (17-year-old) Kade Bacon, a 6’5”, 220-pound forward and Casper native.
CHEYENNE STAMPEDE (5-32-2-2, 21 pts)
Wins and points are at a premium as the Western States Hockey League’s 2018-19 regular season schedule heads down the home stretch. The Cheyenne Stampede host the Utah Outliers in a three-game series this weekend looking to build on the momentum they generated with three fantastic efforts a week ago that saw them collect six of a possible nine points and close the gap on the Steamboat Wranglers in the Mountain Division standings.
Cheyenne is trying to catch Steamboat to earn home-ice advantage for a potential first-round playoff series between the two clubs next month.
Cheyenne’s Bryan Watters scored with 6:04 left in the third period to tie Friday’s game against Northern Colorado, 3-3, but the Eagles won it on Nikita Sheberov’s goal with 1:01 to go in regulation. Brendan Carew continued his fine season, making 56 saves, and stopping all 25 shots in the second period to keep the game tied going into the third period. Kody Kifer scored twice for the Stampede.
Then, encouraged by their effort against a strong WSHL team, the Stamps posted two huge comeback wins over Steamboat in a playoff atmosphere to move within seven points of the Wranglers.
On Saturday, the Stampede thrilled their fans with four goals in a span of 9:09 in the third period for a 6-3 comeback win. Leading scorer Watters figured in five of the six Cheyenne goals, scoring a pair and assisting on three more. Logan Syrup had a goal and three assists and Kifer had another pair of goals for the Stamps. Carew stopped all 16 shots in the third period to preserve the win.
Cheyenne trailed, 3-2, with 1:46 left in Sunday’s game, but scored twice to post a dramatic 4-3 regulation win, snatching three huge points away from the Wranglers. Steamboat again had leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 but the Stampede got the tying goal each time, then took their first lead of the game with 1:08 remaining in regulation time. Watters scored on a nifty one-on-one move to tie it and Hakan Salt pulled off an end-to-end rush for the game-winner. Cheyenne’s Spencer Northway made 46 saves for the dramatic win in his WSHL debut.
Keeping it going against Utah will not be easy, the Outliers are the primary challengers to the Ogden Mustangs in the division this year—and defeated the WSHL’s top team just last week.
OGDEN MUSTANGS (37-1-0-2, 113 pts)
The Ogden Mustangs will not add to their league-leading 37 wins 113 points this weekend. The ‘Stangs are idle this week to rest up for their February 15-17 three-in-three against the Long Beach Bombers in what will be one of the marquee inter-division match-ups in the WSHL this season outside of the Western States Shootout.
The Bombers have the inside track on their third straight Western Division regular season title and put the league on notice by winning all three of their games against elite competition at the league showcase. The upcoming three-game series will give the Thorne Cup host Mustangs and one of their top challengers a chance to feel each other out prior to the big stage.
The Mustangs and Bombers did not face each other in Las Vegas.
Ross Bartlett, who eclipsed the 100-point mark with the Mustangs last season (41-63-104), is playing regularly with Elmira College (NCAA Division III) this season. Bartlett, who also played a season with the Oklahoma City Blazers, has seven points (1-6-7) in 18 games for the Soaring Eagles this season. Bartlett was selected by the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights in the fifth round of the 2018 NAHL Entry Draft, but elected to go directly to school.
Bartlett scored his first collegiate goal – a power play marker – November 2 in a 7-3 win over Kings College.
STEAMBOAT WRANGLERS (8-30-1-2, 28 pts)
The playoffs have essentially begun already for the Steamboat Wranglers in their inaugural WSHL season. The Casper Bobcats roll into town for a pair of games this weekend with a 10-point buffer and four games (and 12 possible points) in hand. If Steamboat has any chance of catching them by the end of the season, they will need to win both of these games.
It is a quick return visit for the Bobcats, who were just in Steamboat January 25-26. The Wranglers took four of six points that weekend courtesy of a regulation win and an overtime loss. That should have them chomping at the bit to take all six points this time around. If they can, the plot thickens in the Mountain Division race.
If the Wranglers can catch the Bobcats, they could bypass a best-of-three play-in series against Cheyenne and go directly to the division semifinals. The Stampede took two games from them in Cheyenne last weekend, so earning a bye past them would be beneficial.
Quinn Baker, who played two seasons with the Wranglers, is paying his final year of junior hockey with the Philadelphia Little Flyers of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). Baker, originally from Santa Monica, CA, scored 25 goals in 30 RMJHL games for Steamboat in 2017-18. He has 15 points (6-9-15) in 24 games this season with the Flyers.
UTAH OUTLIERS (24-13-2-1, 77 pts)
Friday night the Utah Outliers made a statement. They defeated the Ogden Mustangs for the first time in six tries this season. They needed a shootout to do it, but they are now just one of two teams (Oklahoma City) that can say they have vanquished the WSHL’s top team this season.
Ogden led, 2-0, with 11:29 to go in the third period at the Accord Ice Arena Friday night, but Utah rallied to tie, then won the game, 3-2, in a shootout. Goals by Nicholas Ness and Jan Dvorak 2:02 apart knotted the score at 2-2.
Utah out-shot Ogden in every period including the overtime. The Outliers out-shot the Mustangs, 4-0, in the sudden-death period.
In the shootout, Utah’s Zach Dornseifer converted in the first round, skating in and sniping a snap shot just under the bar. Dornseifer was the only shooter to be successful. Oscar Wahlgren (25 saves) denied all five Mustangs shooters including Matthew Thielemann, the fifth and final shooter who needed to score to extend the shootout. He tried to go up over Wahlgren’s blocker but missed wide and the Outliers had their biggest win of the season.
Ogden won, 3-0, on Saturday, but the Outilers got a fantastic effort from one of their newest members. Goaltender Charles-Olivier Lepage is from Chicoutimi, Quebec, but he joined the Outliers from the Kerry Park Islanders (VIJHL, Junior B) on the other side of Canada where he spent the first two-thirds of the season. He also suited up for one game in the BCHL – the top Junior A circuit in Canada – with the Victoria Grizzlies.
Lepage, a 6’3”, 200-pound goalie with a 2000 birthdate, stopped 32 of 35 Ogden shots in his WSHL debut.
--- Compiled by Scott Harrington for Harrington Sports Media