(Records Show Are From Games of Nov. 25-Dec. 5)
(By Joshua Boyd)
Vernal Oilers (4-0)
Well, let’s just say it – the Vernal Oilers continue to dominate the division and are making history. Not a single opponent from now two divisions have been able to stop the Oilers, who are now 19-0 overall and just one game away from tying the history made by the Metro Jets in 2021-22 and the Islanders Hockey Club in 2019-20. Both streaks have double history, as they are the longest winning streaks in USPHL Premier history while also being the best records from the start of a season.
The Oilers don’t have either of the streak-breaking organizations on their schedule. The Charlotte Rush ended the Jets’ streak last year on Nov. 21 at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, and the Florida Eels ended the Islanders’ run in the December 2019 USPHL Florida Showcase.
- What the Oilers do have, however, are the USPHL’s best-ever start, and longest winning streak, for a new USPHL Premier member (not including the inaugural 2017-18 season of the league). They long since blasted past the 2021-22 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights’ 13-0 mark.
- The Oilers have defeated all four Northwest Division teams multiple times, and also registered their first non-division win on Dec. 1 in a 7-5 victory against the Mountain Division’s Provo Predators.
- The toughest competition upcoming for the Oilers will be a must-see match-up against the Pacific Division leaders on Dec. 22, when they face the Fresno Monsters at the inaugural USPHL Las Vegas Showcase. Both have top 10 offenses, as the Oilers lead the league as of now with a 7.68 goals for average, versus Fresno’s 5.50 goals per game.
But with the goals against, it’s goosebump territory – they’re so close – Vernal is 10th at 2.42 and Fresno is 12th at 2.50. A lot could change between now and 17 days from now, but just save the date and either be at City National Arena or watch it on HockeyTV.com!
- Vernal gets the job done in regulation – they are one of just four teams league-wide to have not gone to OT or a shootout after at least 19 games. They’re joined in this respect by the Rogue Valley Royals, Hudson Havoc and Jersey Hitmen.
- Two-time Northwest Forward Of The Month selection Alex Rene Bartakovics stands eighth in the league points race at 54 points, and third in points per game as he’s attained that total in just 17 games (3.18 points per game).
- Two-time Defenseman Of The Month Kyle Russell joined two-time Forward Of The Month Filip Molnar as the offensive leaders for their Dec. 1-4 series against Provo and three against the Rock Springs Prospectors. Both had eight points, with Molnar playing in three of the games and Russell playing in all four. Russell has an active 11-game point streak including a 5-19-24 line.
- Two-time Goaltender Of The Month Antonio Tarantino remains the league’s wins leader with 13, including his three most recent this past weekend. He faced 40 or more shots twice over the weekend, but still got the wins against Provo (38 saves on 43 shots) and Rock Springs (38 on 40).
The Road Ahead: The Oilers don’t return to game action until a Dec. 16-17 home-and-home against Rock Springs – and then it’s the Vegas Showcase from Dec. 19-22, featuring games against the Monsters and fellow Pacific Division teams the Long Beach Shredders, Lake Tahoe Lakers and Ontario Jr. Reign.
Bellingham Blazers (1-1-0-0)
The Blazers split the weekend with the Rogue Valley Royals, who also faced (and fell to) the Seattle Totems. The Blazers registered their second shutout win of the season (both against Rogue Valley) on Dec. 2 in a 3-0 victory. The next game was also decided by three goals, but featured far more offense – the Royals left town with a 10-7 victory.
- Along with the Blazers’ 4-2 win on Nov. 23 against Seattle, the Blazers have two of their four wins in their last three games. It was also the first time Bellingham has stitched wins together this year.
- The 17 goals scored between the two teams between Bellingham and Rogue Valley was one of the largest totals in the league this year and also one of the closest with so many total goals.
- Roman Wolynec has tied teammate Kieran Maloney at the top of the scoring leaderboard for the Blazers. Both now have 36 points after Wolynec put up 15 points in his 10 games since Nov. 1. Maloney, to his credit, scored more points per game on average with 10 through just four contests in the same time span.
- Goalie Kai Rivas has all four Bellingham wins in his record, and also both shutouts. He made 39 saves in the 3-0 blanking this weekend, and he earlier posted 42 saves in an Oct. 23 win against Rogue Valley
The Road Ahead: Seattle and Bellingham have a three-day series, with two games in Bellingham (Friday and Sunday) on either side of Saturday’s home game at Seattle. The Totems are 4-1-0-0 against the Blazers so far this season.
Seattle Totems (1-0-0-0)
The Totems have taken this portion of their season a bit slower than earlier, and they are one of five teams to have played in just five games or less since Nov. 1. They only faced the Royals last weekend in their first game since a 4-2 loss on Nov. 23 against Bellingham. On Saturday, it was a 6-3 win for Seattle.
- The Totems rank in the top 10 for shots on goal per game, averaging 46.05 and standing as one of just nine teams league-wide to average better than 45.
- Totems defenseman Peter Konopka ranks second in the division in puck touches (786) and he also has the best plus-minus (+11) of a non-Vernal player within the division.
- Nahom Gashaw Teshome, an ‘02 import from Finland, has been red-hot since late October, carrying a 4-7-11 scoring streak over his last seven games. He has 22 points in 16 games.
- Also with 22 points, second-year Premier veteran Austin Tessier is on a four-game streak of 3-3-6. Tessier and Teshome share the scoring lead three ways with Jordan Murray (12-10-22 in 16 games).
The Road Ahead: It’s another “Battle of I-5” between Seattle and Bellingham over the weekend. As aforementioned, they’ll play three with Seattle hosting the middle match-up on Saturday.
(By Grace Mello)
Fresno Monsters (3-0-0-0)
The story further down the West Coast continues to be the Fresno Monsters, the two-time Nationals participant who lead the way in the Pacific Division.
Fresno earned their sixth weekend series sweep of the season. The last time the Monsters faced the Ontario Jr. Reign was in October when they went 2-1, but this weekend they stepped up their game with scores of 4-2, 6-3, and 6-5. Continuing to lead the Pacific Division, Fresno currently has 41 points with an overall record of 20-3-1-0.
- Fresno newcomer Noak Persson (‘03/Sollefteå, Sweden) has been a dominant force for them. In just six games, he has picked up 19 points with 10 goals and nine assists. This weekend he earned 13 of those points – in Game 1, he had two goals and two assists, and earned the GWG; Game 2 saw a hat trick; and Game 3 saw two goals and four assists. Persson has the most points in the USPHL Premier since making his debut on Nov. 17.
- Assistant captain Christopher Miraldo (‘02/Montreal, Que.) continues to lead his team. Over the weekend he picked up 10 points with five goals and five assists. Miraldo earned the GWG in game three and now has 57 points, not only leading the division but he also stands in a tie for No. 2 in the USPHL Premier for points. He is second to Persson since the former’s debut, with 18 points since Nov. 17. Keep in mind most teams took the Thanksgiving weekend off, so that’s really nine points per weekend over two weekends.
- The Monsters will take the next two weekends off and prepare to travel to Las Vegas on Monday, Dec. 19, to take on the Bellingham Blazers in Game 1 of the Las Vegas Showcase.
- The Monsters’ stand at the showcase will also see them face the host Thunderbirds – the only other Pacific team with a winning percentage above .800 (14-3-1-0). Though showcases typically feature non-divisional games, this’ll be a great showdown on the big stage of a league event between the division’s top two teams since entering the USPHL in 2020-21 – Fresno has an all-time USPHL winning percentage of .741 and Las Vegas is second at .667. Las Vegas leads the all-time series, 12-7-1-0, though Fresno had a slight season series win in 2021-22 (3-2-1-0).
- The Monsters will also face the Rock Springs Prospectors (Dec. 21) and the Vernal Oilers (Dec. 22) at the showcase.
San Diego Sabers (3-0)
Crucial weekend for San Diego as they rise from fourth place to now sitting in a tie for second with Las Vegas at 29 points. The Sabers swept Bakersfield with scores of 3-2, 6-2, and 3-2 with game-winning goals from Ulric Martel (‘05/Victoriaville, Que.) and two straight from Chase Parry (‘03/Pittsburgh, Pa). Martel picked up points in all three games for a total of five with four assists and one goal.
- Herman Renden (‘03/Norway) picked up two wins from the net – he made 68 saves on 72 shots for a save percentage of .944 on the weekend. Together with Ethan Blackburn and other San Diego goalies who have seen action, the Sabers rank in the top 15 league-wide with a team save percentage of .923.
- Michal Novak, an ‘03 from Czechia, leads the team in scoring with 18 goals and 32 points in 21 games.
The Road Ahead: The Sabers will host Long Beach this Sunday for a single game. They won decisively in their first meeting on Nov. 6. After 10 meetings, San Diego leads 7-2-1-0 all time.
After facing Ontario on Dec. 16, it’s on to Las Vegas for the showcase, where San Diego will open with Seattle on Dec. 19.
In Other Action
This weekend, the Lake Tahoe Lakers will host the Bakersfield Roughnecks in a three-game-series before the two travel to the Las Vegas Showcase. The Roughnecks are currently 3-0 over the Lakers this season.
Tahoe will take on the Provo Predators in Game 1 of the showcase and Bakersfield will face the Rogue Valley Royals to start.
The Ontario Jr. Reign will host Las Vegas this weekend before their single game against San Diego. Ontario is currently 2-1 over the T-Birds this season and this faceoff will be crucial for their standing in the division.
The Jr. Reign will also be traveling to Las Vegas for the showcase and will also take on the Provo Predators for Game 1. Las Vegas will play the Rock Springs Prospectors to kick off the showcase. Long Beach will also travel to Las Vegas and play the Vernal Oilers in their Dec. 19 opener.
(By Joshua Boyd)
Pueblo Bulls (5-1)
The second place Ogden Mustangs can hear the footsteps. From third place and six points back on Thanksgiving morning, the Bulls are now just two points out of second place after a furious 5-1-0-0 run since the holiday. Currently on a 4-0 winning streak, they are now 17-7-2-0. Their 36 points is a one-point improvement on their previous best at the same 26-game milestone in their first year of 2020-21.
Just after Thanksgiving, the Bulls took down the vastly improved Idaho Falls Spud Kings 4-3 in OT and 5-2 on either side of a 4-2 defeat. To start December, they swept their Rocky Mountain State rivals the Northern Colorado Eagles, 5-3, 2-1, 5-3.
- The Bulls have gone 2-1 against the Eagles in a single three-game series before, but they’ve never swept the Eagles until this past weekend.
- Their current 4-0 run is their second such this year, matching a season best from Sept. 30 through Oct. 8. Four wins in a row was also their best run in 2021-22.
- Thomas Soucy’s 17-game point streak, in which he’s put up an 11-14-25 line, is the second-longest point streak in the league (tied with Utah’s Leyton Pettypiece, who has 27 points). Fresno’s Christopher Miraldo has 50 points in 19 games, a still-active streak.
- Scott Bugarin still leads the team in scoring with 34 points in 23 games. For his three-year career, he now has 68 points in 78 career contests.
The Road Ahead: The Bulls head up to the Mountain America Center in Idaho Falls, where they played in front of 3,000+ fans a night over last weekend, their first home weekend. They will play Thursday through Saturday against a team over which they have a 5-1-0-0 record.
Utah Outliers (2-1-0-0)
The Outliers pulled a little bit farther away from the second place Ogden Mustangs thanks to a 2-1-0-0 run since Thanksgiving, rebounding from a defeat against Ogden to take two against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings and the very same Mustangs.
- The loss against the Mustangs was only the third time all season the Outliers were held to two goals. The Outliers are in the top 10 for goals per game at 5.40 per game.
- With a 22-2-0-1 record and 45 points, the Outliers are first in wins and points, four points ahead of the Fresno Monsters.
- The Outliers have an almost identical record to the same 25-game mark of last year, when they were first overall at 22-2-1-0.
- Going back to Oct. 22, November Forward Of The Month Leyton Pettypiece has the USPHL Premier’s second longest active scoring streak, extending now to 17 games and producing a line of 11-16-27.
- Kael Delzer has put together six assists, with helpers over the four games going back to Nov. 23.
The Road Ahead: The Outliers bring the Northern Colorado Eagles to Accord Ice Arena on Friday and Sunday. They are 3-0 currently against the Eagles this season, and 16-5-0-1 all-time.
Ogden Mustangs (3-2-0-0)
The Mustangs are second to the Bulls and Idaho Falls Spud Kings for having played the most games since Thanksgiving, with five contests.
They defeated the Outliers with a 3-2 score on Nov. 25, but then fell to the Provo Predators on Nov. 26. They next wrought vengeance on the Predators on Dec. 2 with a 6-2 win. But then they faced the Outliers again, falling 7-4 on Dec. 3. Then it was back to the winning side in a 6-2 victory against the Spud Kings.
The Mustangs may have been up and down, but their 18-6-0-2 record and 38 points still puts them in the top five for points in the USPHL Premier.
- Not very dissimilar to the Outliers, the Mustangs are on a similar pace as last year. They were 18-7-1-0 last year for 37 points and in fourth place last year.
- With 51 power play goals in 141 opportunities, the Mustangs’ 36.2 power play percentage is second in the league.
- Jake Meure has joined the all-time top 10 in USPHL Premier scoring, as his 51 points in 25 games are joined with his prior two seasons of production to give him 176 points in 119 career games. He is the only active player in the top 10, though Vegas’ Narek Aleksanyan is not far behind with 157 points.
The Road Ahead: The Mustangs play a Thursday-Friday home-and-home with Provo, and then take on the Northern Colorado Eagles on Saturday.
- The Mustangs are 4-1-0-0 against the Predators this season, and 17-4-1-1 all-time including against the former Provo Riverblades.
- Against the Eagles, the Mustangs are 3-2-0-1 this year (and the Eagles are 3-2-1-0). All-time, the Eagles have one more point in their season series at 15-11-1-0 (31 points) vs. the Mustangs’ record of 12-9-3-3 (30 points).
Drop The Pucks!