Pictured: Northern Colorado Eagles goaltender and SUNY-Fredonia Winter 2023 semester recruit Charles-Anthony Barbeau is congratulated by teammates for winning his final game as an Eagle against the No. 3-ranked team in the entire USPHL Premier, the Toledo Cherokee, in their closing game at the USPHL Chicago Showcase on Dec. 18. Photo by Joshua Boyd / USPHL
(Games of Dec. 5-18)
Seattle Totems (2-0-0-1)
It’s been eight days since the Totems wrapped up a five-point weekend with the regional rival Bellingham Blazers between Dec. 9-11. A 7-4 win and an even more decisive second victory were a great start, but the Blazers ended up getting the final win in the shootout, 4-3.
- The Blazers and Totems have split the last four games going back to Nov. 23, with Seattle earning one more point in the recent exchange. Seattle holds the clear lead in the ongoing Battle of the Evergreen State, 6-1-0-1.
- The Totems remain in second at 15-6-0-1, 10 points back of the 19-0-0-1 Vernal Oilers.
- Seattle loves to shoot and shoot a lot, as they stand sixth in the league at 46.55 biscuits on goal per game.
- Three players doubled up their points per game in the series against Bellingham, with Nahom Gashaw Teshome, Raine Hodge and Derek Eaton all posting six points over that weekend.
- Nine Totems players are averaging at least one point per game over December’s four games so far, led by Hodge’s 11 points in four games, including six goals (he had five in his debut on Dec. 3).
- Teshome is on a tear, with 6-11-15, with that scoring streak filling all three November games and all four December games so far, as well as his last two in October. It should also be noted that Austin Tessier is enjoying a seven-game scoring streak of 4-5-9.
The Road Ahead: Seattle’s schedule shows Monday against the San Diego Sabers (2:30 p.m.), Tuesday vs. the Ontario Jr. Reign (9:50 a.m.), Wednesday vs. the host Las Vegas Thunderbirds (2:30 p.m.) and Thursday vs. the Bakersfield Roughnecks (9:50 a.m.)
Vernal Oilers (1-0-0-1)
The Vernal Oilers are coming to Vegas in hopes of exiting 2022 with 23 wins and no losses. It’ll be a hard fight, but they’re ready for the challenge, entering the fray as the only USPHL Premier team undefeated in regulation (20-0-0-1).
- The Oilers’ streak of going undefeated in regulation (or overtime for that matter) remains the best active point streak in the USPHL, two points ahead of the New York Aviators’ current 19-0-1-0 run.
- The Oilers just barely missed tying the history made by the 2019-20 Islanders Hockey Club and 2021-22 Metro Jets, both of whom went 20-0 out of the gate before suffering their first loss. However, they do equal both teams in terms of point gains. The Rock Springs Prospectors ended the winning streak with a 4-3 shootout victory on Dec. 16. A day later, it was the Oilers looking to start a new streak. They won 7-4 at home in their final pre-showcase game and hope to start a new streak. With 23 games remaining, they still have the opportunity to make history.
After winning overtime games earlier in the season against Seattle and Bellingham, Vernal played in its first-ever shootout, but they were unable to connect on their three attempts while Rock Springs sank one goal out of two shots.
- Be it a Vernal penalty or an opponent penalty, the Oilers are liable to strike paydirt. They have the fourth best power play in the league at 31.6 percent, and they are third in shorthanded goals with 11.
- Vernal remains the league’s best offensive team, firing the most goals (7.43) and most shots on goal (52.11). They are the only USPHL Premier team averaging better than 50 shots per game. Tellingly, they have more games decided by six or more goals – six, and all in their favor – than any category of differential of five goals or less.
- Defenseman Kyle Russell remains unreal on offense, leading the Oilers in the Rock Springs series by posting a 3-4-7 line. He has the league’s sixth-best active scoring streak at 13 games (8-23-31), which is also best among league defensemen. His streak is second overall among defensemen with scoring streaks this season, just behind Motor City’s Aidan Canady, who posted a 15-game streak.
- Alex Rene Bartakovics, who is tied for eighth in league scoring with 57 points, is on a 10-game streak of 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points.
- Goalie Antonio Tarantino is second in both wins (13) and save percentage (.946).
The Road Ahead: The Oilers face, in order Monday to Thursday, the Long Beach Shredders, Lake Tahoe Lakes and Ontario Jr. Reign (all at 12:10 p.m. each day) and a big showdown Thursday with the Fresno Monsters at 2:30 p.m. EST. Vernal, at .976, and Fresno, at .854, have the two best winning percentages of all Las Vegas Showcase teams.
Rock Springs Prospectors (3-2-0-0)
The Prospectors bounced back from a 7-4 loss to the Rogue Valley Royals with a pair of wins Dec. 10 and 11, taking 5-3 and 6-2 wins against the Royals to claim the weekend series win. From there, it was on to the aforementioned shootout win over Vernal and the 7-4 defeat.
- The Prospectors’ eight games were the most of any Northwest team entering the Vegas showcase. At 12-13-1-0, the stand with 25 points and just six shy of the second place Seattle Totems.
- Tyler Rayner goes down in history as the first player to score a shootout goal in Rock Springs history, and it also stands as the first shootout game-winner. A first-year team only halfway through the season, the Prospectors now have a win (and a loss) in overtime and a win in a shootout.
- Rock Springs is one of just eight teams with at least eight shorthanded goals scored this season.
- If the Prospectors can get on top after two, they’ve been able to hold on for victory through the third period, standing at 9-0 when up after two.
- Jorie Boyd continues to lead the team in scoring overall with 40 points, and also in the month of December. He has an active four-game point streak with six goals and four assists to 10 points, which also lead the team since Dec. 1.
The Road Ahead: Up this week for the Prospectors are, in order, the host Las Vegas Thunderbirds (2:30 p.m. Monday), Ontario Jr. Reign (6:10 p.m. Tuesday), Fresno Monsters (1 p.m. Wednesday) and San Diego Sabers (12:10 p.m., Thursday).
In Other Action
The Bellingham Blazers, who went 1-2 over the period from Dec. 5-18, winning 4-3 against Seattle on Dec. 11 to avenge two earlier losses that weekend. They draw the Fresno Monsters (Monday, 6:10 p.m.), Bakersfield Roughnecks (Tuesday, 1 p.m.), Lake Tahoe Lakers (Wednesday, 6:10 p.m.) and Long Beach Shredders (Thursday, 7 a.m.)
As mentioned above, Rogue Valley went 1-2 against the Prospectors in their last pre-showcase action Dec. 9-11. They won the opener of the weekend 7-4 before falling 5-3 and 6-2 in Games 2 and 3. They start Monday against the Bakersfield Roughnecks (1 p.m.), followed by facing the San Diego Sabers (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.), Long Beach Shredders (Wednesday, 9:50 a.m.) and Las Vegas Thunderbirds (Thursday, 12:10 p.m.)
There has been some movement in the Pacific Division over the last week and a half. The San Diego Sabers now stand alone, ranked No. 2 with 33 points. Following close behind are the Ontario Jr. Reign with 32 points, which moved the Las Vegas Thunderbirds to fourth place with 31 points. The Fresno Monsters remain the leaders of the division with 41 points, though they’ve been idle since the first weekend of December, covered in the last West Through The Numbers.
All seven Pacific Division teams will travel to Las Vegas on Monday for the Inaugural USPHL Las Vegas Showcase. Kicking off the week Monday, the Long Beach Shredders will take on the Vernal Oilers; Ontario Jr. Reign will play the Provo Predators; the Bakersfield Roughnecks go up against Rogue Valley Royals; the San Diego Sabers face the Seattle Totems; Las Vegas Thunderbirds will go up against the Rock Springs Prospectors; Fresno Monsters take on the Bellingham Blazers; and the Lake Tahoe Lakers will give the Provo Predators their second game of the day. All games throughout the week will be available on HockeyTV.
Bakersfield Roughnecks (2-0)
The Roughnecks picked up two wins over Lake Tahoe over the weekend with scores of 5-2 and
3-2. Ryan Mesenbrink picked up three goals – he is currently ranked No. 3 for
Bakersfield in points with 15 (eight goals and seven assists).
Goalies Connor Dumesnil and Curtis Fritschler both picked up wins. Dumesnil with 26 saves on 28 shots and Fritschler with 27 saves on 29 shots. Dumesnil, Fritschler and Mesenbrink are all ‘04’s. The Roughnecks now have 17 points.
- The two wins against the Lakers marked the second time Bakersfield has swept a weekend, with the previous time also being against Lake Tahoe in a three-game series Nov. 11-13.
- Bakersfield remains one of just five USPHL Premier teams to not have any shorthanded goals scored against them this year.
- Robin Benoit remains the leading scorer for the Roughnecks, with 26 points in 20 games.
The Road Ahead: Bakersfield starts Monday at 1 p.m. against another first-year USPHL team, the Rogue Valley Royals. From there it’s the Bellingham Blazers (1 p.m. Tuesday), Lake Tahoe (12:30 p.m. Wednesday) and Seattle Totems (9:50 a.m. Thursday).
Ontario Jr. Reign (2-1-0-0)
The Jr. Reign continue to come out on top over Las Vegas. After last weekend’s victories, they are 4-2 over the T-Birds this season and now sit just above them with 32 points. They won with scores of 2-1 and 4-3. Captain Max Kathol helped Ontario secure wins as he earned five points this weekend with three goals and two assists. These goals included two quick goals, including the GWG in the final minutes of Sunday afternoon’s game.
The Jr. Reign also played a single game against the San Diego Sabers, winning 2-0, giving Ontario their second shutout win.
- The Jr. Reign stand as a top 10 team in the league for offense, averaging 5.12 points per game, and they are one of just 14 squads to average at least five per game.
- Ontario is in a three-way tie for the most wins when trailing after one period, at five. Only they and the Boston Junior Bruins have a plus-.500 record in that situation at 5-4-0-0.
- Kathol, an ‘02 out of Alberta, has a 10-4-14 line over his last eight games straight. He also leads the league in shorthanded assists at five and shorthanded points with seven. The Jr. Reign are fourth in shorthanded points with 10.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Reign start out with the Provo Predators on Monday at 12:10 p.m. against the Mountain Division’s Provo Predators. They follow with Seattle on Tuesday at 9:50 a.m., and then a second Tuesday game at 6:10 p.m. against the Rock Springs Prospectors. Wednesday wraps it up for Ontario against the Vernal Oilers at 12:10 p.m.
San Diego Sabers (1-1-0-0)
While it was a quick weekend for the Sabers, they came away on top. With just one game over the Long Beach Shredders, San Diego pulled away with a 6-1 score. The Sabers have now moved into No. 2 in the division with 33 points. Impressive ‘05 Ulric Martel kicked off the game with two unanswered goals in the first period to help set the tone for the victory. Ethan Blackburn held the Shredders to just one goal with 37 saves. He also made 24 saves on 26 shots in the loss to Ontario.
- San Diego is not only having its best season to date at this point, but they are also just five points shy of their better of their first two years, which was 38 points posted in 2021-22. That is a milestone they have a chance to pass at the USPHL Las Vegas Showcase.
- Their .696 save percentage sees the Sabers as a top 20 team in the USPHL Premier in that category.
- The Sabers and Richmond Generals are tied for the most wins when tied after one period. Both are 8-3-0-0 to date in that situation.
- Michal Novak and Mario Paganini come to San Diego tied for the team lead in scoring with 34 points apiece.
The Road Ahead: The Sabers kick off their Vegas trip with the Seattle Totems at 2:30 on Monday, followed by the Rogue Valley Royals on Tuesday at 2:30, the Provo Predators on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., and the Rock Springs Prospectors on Thursday at 12:10 p.m.
In Other Action
The Fresno Monsters, idle from game action since Dec. 3, will start the showcase Monday against the Bellingham Blazers at 6:10 p.m., followed by Tuesday’s showdown with the Las Vegas Thunderbirds at 2:30 p.m. They take on the Rock Springs Prospectors at 1 p.m. Wednesday and close it out Thursday against the Vernal Oilers in a must-see matchup at 2:30 p.m.
The host Thunderbirds, who are hoping for a big week to rebound from their 1-2 stand against Ontario, will start Rock Springs at 2:30 Monday, followed by in order Tuesday to Thursday, Fresno (2:30 p.m.), Seattle (2:30 p.m.) and Rogue Valley (12:10 p.m.)
The Long Beach Shredders, who will play just their second game on Monday since Nov. 19, take on the Vernal Oilers at 12:10 p.m. From there, it’s Provo on Tuesday at 12:10 p.m., Rogue Valley on Wednesday at 9:50 a.m., and Bellingham at 7 a.m. on Thursday.
The Lake Tahoe Lakers schedule finds them facing Provo (8:30 p.m. Monday), Vernal (12:10 p.m. Tuesday), and in two Wednesday games, Bakersfield (12:10 p.m.) and Bellingham (6:10 p.m.)
Utah Outliers (3-1-1-0)
The Outliers are off to a 5-1-1 start in December and with 52 points, they are currently the best team in the USPHL Premier on overall points and fourth in winning percentage (.897). The Outliers defeated the Northern Colorado Eagles in a pair of Dec. 9 and 11 games, 6-4 and 4-3 in OT.
They were busy again between Dec. 15-17, first going to face the Idaho Falls Spud Kings and winning 8-3. The Outliers then gave up three points to the Ogden Mustangs in a home-and-home. The Mustangs won Friday, 5-4 in OT, and then 5-1 on Saturday.
- Forward Paul Waldhauser has been electric to start December; the Klagenfurt, Austria product has three hat tricks and already has 14 points (10-4-14) in seven games while building an early case for Player of the Month.
- Trailing entering the third, the Outliers scored three goals in the third period to force overtime in Friday’s 5-4 loss to Ogden.
- Utah hasn’t found themselves trailing often after two periods. In fact, the Outliers have trailed entering the third in only four of their 29 games so far; they’re 23-1-1-0 when leading or tied after two periods.
- With their overtime loss, goaltender Nathan Dickey’s eight-game winning streak in goal was snapped. Dickey is 9-0-1-1 and yet to lose in regulation. He’s got a 2.31 GAA and his three shutouts are tied for third in the USPHL.
- It’s tough to score on Utah, especially as they continue to dominate the faceoff circle. The team is 54 percent overall, good for top five in the USPHL. The trio of Miles McCue, Nikolas Schwab, and Kael Delzer have a combined 56 percent win rate and the Outliers win nearly 60 percent of faceoffs in their own defensive zone.
The Road Ahead: The Outliers are one of the few teams to have a set of games between Christmas and New Year’s, traveling to face the Idaho Falls Spud Kings Dec. 29-30.
Ogden Mustangs (3-0-1-1)
The Mustangs continued their trend of playing in nail-biting classics to start December, going 4-1-2-0 while playing three one-goal games. Ogden has now played in 11 one-goal games this season with a 6-1-1-3 record.
The ‘Stangs have played bonus hockey in three of their last four games and have played seven OT/shootout games, which is a league-high.
- Rookie defenseman Teddie Hember, who scored the OT GWG in Utah, is up to 34 points (5-29-34) in his first 29 games. The Stockholm, SWE product leads Mountain Division defenseman in points and is 2nd among rookie defenseman in the USPHL in that category.
- Forward Jake Meure is heating up during his seven-game point streak. The Fremont, CA product has 15 points (7-8-15) and with 60 points on the year is approaching a career-high (66 in ‘20-21). Meure is tied for fifth in the USPHL in scoring and leads all Mountain Division skaters in goals and points.
The Road Ahead: The Mustangs get back to business Jan. 5-7 against Idaho Falls for two and Utah for one game.
Northern Colorado Eagles (3-3-1-0)
The Eagles and Bulls both traveled to the USPHL Chicago Showcase last weekend, with the Eagles finishing 2-2 at the event. The Eagles and the Bulls both led the division in games played since the first weekend of December with seven apiece. One week prior to the showcase, the EAgles faced the Outliers and Ogden Mustangs in a trip to Utah, going 1-1-1 there, with a 6-4 loss to Utah on Dec. 9, a 4-3 shootout win over Ogden on Dec. 10, and a 4-3 OT loss to Utah on Dec. 11.
In Chicago, the Eagles offense hit a snag in the first two games, falling to the Hudson Havoc, 5-0 and the Metro Jets, 2-0. The Eagles turned it around and got a 6-0 shutout win on Dec. 17. Then, in SUNY Fredonia-bound goaltender Charles-Anthony Barbeau’s final game as an Eagle, the Eagles beat the Toledo Cherokee, 4-3. The Cherokee are the Great Lakes Division leaders, and they rank third in the USPHL Premier in both points (46) and winning percentage (.885). It was only the Cherokee’s third loss of the season and a massive statement win for the Eagles as they continue to prepare for the transition to NCDC West next year.
- The Eagles are 4-for-7 in shootout attempts, for a .571 success rate, putting them at third in the USPHL Premier in that category among teams with multiple shootouts. Utah leads at .750 with a 3-for-4 success rate. The Eagles goalies are tied for first, however, as they have given up just 1-for-6 so far, a .167 average for their opponents. Only the Springfield Pics in Massachusetts can match that performance so far.
- Northern Colorado has the fifth-best penalty kill at 88.9, eliminating all but 12 out of 108 opponent man-advantages.
- Javen Heidergott was the only point-per-game average player for all seven games the past couple weeks, putting up a 1-6-7 line. Heidergott is now the leading scorer with 28 points in 30 games.
- Barbeau went 2-1-0-0 over his last couple of weeks as an Eagle, stopping 124 of 132 shots for a .932 save percentage. Overall, he leaves the Eagles with 27 wins, a .915 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average over 48 career regular season appearances. Best of luck to him in starting his NCAA career in January at SUNY-Fredonia.
- Evan Stringer is playing like the heir apparent to Barbeau, putting up a .942 save percentage, a shutout against Dells, and 65 saves on 69 shots in his last two games.
Idaho Falls Spud Kings (3-2-0-0)
After splitting this week’s games against Utah and Provo, the Spud Kings jumped into fifth place for the first time on the season. Idaho Falls is 4-4-0 in the month of December and continue to improve in the midst of their 21-game homestand.
Two of those four wins came in their 2-1 weekend against Pueblo Dec. 8-10, winning 4-1 and 5-3 on each side of a 7-2 loss. The Outliers beat them 8-3 on Dec. 15, and the Spud Kings rebounded against Provo for a 5-1 win.
- George Goodwin was on the shortlist for Forward of the Month in November and he is continuing to make an impact for the Spud Kings in December. Goodwin has 10 points (4-6-10) in eight games and has been a power play menace since arriving from Twin City. Goodwin has nine of 16 goals on the power play, good for 4th among USPHL skaters.
- After just one point in his first eleven games, S.J. Lecomte has 23 points (13-10-23) in his
last 22 games. Lecomte has six multi-point games on the year thus far and bagged a
six-point weekend (3-3-6) in matchups versus Utah and Provo.
The Road Ahead: The Spud Kings host the Utah Outliers over the holiday week between Dec. 29-30.
In other action
The Pueblo Bulls have quickly and quietly closed the gap on second-place Ogden, moving
within six points of second with a 5-5-0-0 December, punctuated by a first-time
sweep of their rivals, Northern Colorado. After the sweep over NoCo, the Bulls went 1-2 against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings Dec. 8-10, winning the middle game 7-2, while falling 4-1 and 5-3 in the first and third.
From there, it was the USPHL Chicago Showcase, where the Bulls went 1-3. They started out well enough with a 5-0 win over the Riverkings, before falling 5-3 to the Fort Wayne Spacemen, 4-3 to the Toledo Cherokee and 3-0 to the Metro Jets.
- Pueblo is 10-1-1 at home against anyone not named the Utah Outliers, and are outscoring those opponents 61-25.
- Goalscoring has been a strength for the Bulls; their 140 goals as a team is 7th best in the USPHL. It’s been a balanced goal-scoring effort for Pueblo as well; six different players have 10 goals or more (Claesson, Soucy, Bugarin, Avery, Williams, and Sandin).
- Since returning to the Pueblo lineup, Rylan Marcum has continued to build on his reputation as a well-rounded player in his second year with the Bulls. Marcum has six points (2-4-6) in his last five games and has a career high in goals (9) and points (21). Marcum is 56 percent in the faceoff circle as well and is the Bulls’ leader in the faceoff circle. The Bulls host the rival NoCo Eagles Jan. 6-7 in their 2023 return to action.
The Predators have the most balanced schedule of any Mountain Division side in December, playing seven different teams in 11 games, highlighted by their appearance at the USPHL Las Vegas Showcase this week.
The Predators will carry the division banner into matchups against Ontario, Lake Tahoe, Long Beach, and San Diego. Provo will need to shut down the dynamic duo of Ethan McKibbin and Max Kathol in their matchup versus Ontario. The Jr Reign forwards have combined for 89 points (38-51-89) and are the linchpins for the third-place club in the Pacific.
The middle of the Vegas Showcase brings matchups against Long Beach, whom the Predators have never played, and a struggling Lake Tahoe side. Predator forward Yuri Ushakov will look to shine under the lights of Las Vegas; last year, the winger notched five points in three games against the T-Birds and hopes for similar success in his return to Vegas.
The Predators close out the showcase in a matchup with a second-place San Diego Sabers squad that is one win shy of a franchise-best in the USPHL. This matchup may come down to goaltending; Provo netminder David Ors Mag has made 40 saves or more in six of his eight appearances while Sabers goaltender Ethan Blackburn has been lights out in his previous three starts, going 2-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .947 save percentage.
Drop The Pucks!