Games of Jan. 9-22
(By Joshua Boyd)
We have three teams already set for the Northwest Division playoffs, so congratulations are in order for Vernal Oilers, Seattle Totems and Rock Springs Prospectors. There is one more spot up for grabs, but the Bellingham Blazers and Rogue Valley Royals may be dueling it out right to the final game. We’ll check in with the couple of teams that have gone at least .500 since Jan. 9, and look at what all the teams are up to through the end of January.
Seattle Totems (4-1)
Nearing the end of 2022, the Totems didn’t look like they would be able to catch up with a red-hot Vernal OIlers team that won 20 in a row. However, over their last 10 games going back to 2022, they went 6-3-1-0, including three straight wins through mid-January. Now, that puts them just nine points back of the Oilers in their quest for the Northwest Division title.
- Seattle is a Top 10 team in the USPHL Premier for shots on goal, firing 45.09 per game.
- No other USPHL Premier has as many goals in the last two weeks as Seattle’s Raine Hodge, who has posted 13 goals in five games, along with three assists for 16 points. He has four games this month in which he has posted three or more goals, including two games in which he put in four. He is on an eight-game point streak with 20-4-24 totals in that time.
- Also on a hot streak, Nahom Gashaw Teshome has a 10-20-30 line over his last 13 games.
- Derek Eaton is on a five-game assists streak of 11 helpers going back to his final USPHL Las Vegas Showcase game on Dec. 22.
- Goaltender Felix Flodman is on a four-game winning streak, with four in January and the start of the streak back on Nov. 18. He has a .923 save percentage in that span (120 saves on 130 shots).
The Road Ahead: The Totems are off from game action this weekend, but lots of eyes are turning towards their Feb. 4-5 showdown with the Vernal Oilers. Those games will be the second and third of a six-game home stand at Olympic View Arena. The Oilers have won all four meetings this season, including a three-game Oilers home stand in October.
Bellingham Blazers (2-2)
It’s time to just get it done, because if the Blazers can’t pull ahead of the Rogue Valley Royals in one way or another – and there’s still some runway left and only two points to bridge – they will have to go home before March. And March is too much fun to miss. In technical terms, they have seven games and thus 14 available points to earn, but Rogue Valley has 10 games remaining and 20 points, or in other words three games in hand. This weekend means a ton for both teams, when they face each other in Medford, Ore., Saturday and Sunday. This could end up coming close to (eventually) determining the final playoff berth for the first-ever USPHL Premier Northwest Division playoffs.
The Blazers defeated the Royals 3-2 in a shootout and 9-3 the next night, while falling the next week to the Totems 6-2, 5-3.
- Bellingham is the Premier’s best team in the shootout among teams with multiple 1v1 challenges. They have scored on five of their six shot attempts.
- The Blazers won both of their recent games against the Royals after being tied after two periods. They are 4-1-0-0 when breaking ties at the 40-minute mark, accounting for more than half their total wins.
The Road Ahead: The last two meetings might have gone the Blazers’ way, but Rogue Valley holds a 7-4-0-1 series lead thus far. Game 1 begins on Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.
In Other Action
The Vernal Oilers are still enjoying a lofty spot at No. 1 in the Northwest, leading by nine points over Seattle. However, recently, it’s been one challenge after another. They fell in a shootout, 7-6, on Jan. 13 to the Provo Predators. One weekend later, they went east to Ogden and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Mustangs and completed their three-game swing against Mountain Division competition with a 7-3 defeat against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Next up is a three-game home-and-home with Vernal hosting Friday and Sunday on either side of a trip to Rock Springs on Saturday. The Oilers are 9-0-0-1 this season against Rock Springs.
The Rock Springs Prospectors have played five games since Jan. 9, going 1-3-1. They went 1-1-1 in a three-game weekend hosting Seattle. After a 4-3 OT loss, they came back to win 7-3 on Jan. 14, before falling the next day, 6-3. Their trip to Utah to face a pair of Mountain Division teams was an eye-opener. While they weren’t close with the victorious Ogden Mustangs, they fell by a little closer score of 11-6 against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. As mentioned above, Rock Springs has Vernal for three this weekend.
The Rogue Valley Royals were off from game action this past weekend, after falling in a pair on Jan. 14-15 against Bellingham. They now play host to the Blazers and are enjoying a 7-4-0-1 series lead.
(By Grace Mello)
San Diego Sabers (3-0)
It was the first sweep of the New Year for the Sabers as they finished the weekend with three wins over the Bakersfield Roughnecks with scores of 6-1, 6-4, and 8-1. San Diego is now 9-0 over the Roughnecks this season. The Sabers are at second points, just behind Fresno, with 50 points, alongside Ontario Jr. Reign in second place in the division. Both are seven points back of the Monsters.
- The Sabers are tied for most wins in games where they were tied after one period, going 10-3-1-0.
- Lucas Lundy, an ‘02 from Delta, B.C., aided quite a bit in these wins with five points (three goals, two assists) including the GWG in game two of the weekend. With more than 10 games to go, he is already the second-leading defenseman scorer in the Sabers’ USPHL history and just five points from tying former Saber Ludvig Nilsson for first all-time.
- Czechia’s Michal Novak had a stellar weekend with 10 points recording three goals and seven assists. Novak is just four points off becoming the Sabers’ all-time leading scorer. He has recorded a 4-9-13 line in January’s five games so far.
- Following close behind was ‘04 Nevio D’Alessandro with eight points (one goal, seven assists).
- Felix Gouin has a 5-4-9 in scoring in all January games so far.
- Ethan Blackburn is 4-0-1-0 in his last five appearances, going back to the start of the USPHL Las Vegas Showcase on Dec. 19.
The Road Ahead: San Diego will look to continue their six-game win streak as they head to Lake Tahoe and face the Lakers on Jan. 27. The Sabers won all three meetings when they met between Oct. 29-31. The two teams split a six-game series last year, giving the Sabers an all-time lead of 6-3-0-0.
Fresno Monsters (5-1)
Big couple of weekends for Fresno as they extended their lead in the Pacific Division. They kicked off the New Year with two wins over the Las Vegas Thunderbirds. Prior to this the Monsters, had only faced the Thunderbirds one time – at the USPHL Las Vegas Showcase, hosted by the T-Birds – and lost by a score of 4-2.
They currently are tied in the season series 2-2 with Las Vegas and will be facing them again this upcoming weekend. Fresno began the weekend with an 8-4 victory and continued into Game 2 with a 5-4 victory.
Sollefta, Sweden’s Noak Persson has been a heavy hitter for Fresno since he arrived. This weekend he earned nine points with four goals and five assists. Monterrey, Mexico’s Marcelo Garcia had one of his best weekends thus far with four points (three goals, one assist) all of his goals were on the PP, including a GWG.
Fresno continued on to sweep Long Beach with scores of 6-4, 7-2, and 4-3. They are now 6-0 over the Shredders this season. Emil Loov (‘03/Sweden) had a big presence on the ice for the Monsters over the weekend with eight points (three goals, five assists) including a game-winning PP goal; Christopher Miraldo, an ‘02 from Montreal, also picked up eight points (four goals, four assists) with a game-winning PP goal. He currently leads Fresno with 83 points, also seeing him ranked No. 3 in the USPHL Premier. Fresno has clinched a playoff position and currently leads the Pacific Division with 57 points. The Sabers are seven points behind with two games in hand.
- The Monsters are tied for most points earned as the away team this year, thanks to a 15-4-1-0 record for 31 points, tied with the Southeast Division’s Charlotte Rush.
- Fresno ranks in the top 10 for goals for per game (5.47, tied for sixth), shots on goal per game (45.03, ninth) and fewest shots on goal against per game (29.59, 10th).
- It couldn’t last forever, but Miraldo’s scoring streak stretched 25 games and produced 68 points between Oct. 8 and Jan. 13. While not the longest scoring streak of the season (Collin Patterson, of the Florida Eels, made it to 30 games), the 68 points is the third-most points total accrued on a scoring streak going back to 2018-19, when current Utica College standout Brandon Osmundson posted 80 points in 35 games. Last year, Fresno’s own Stepan Skvirskii put up 71 points in 20 games.
- Ethan Jourden is the Premier’s only undefeated goaltender to have played at least 660 minutes this season. He is currently at 14-0, with his 14 wins good for a tie for sixth in the league.
The Road Ahead: This weekend, the Monsters will travel to Las Vegas to face the Thunderbirds once again. Las Vegas leads the all-time series at 14-9-1-0.
Las Vegas Thunderbirds (4-2)
The Thunderbirds ended their weekend in Fresno in a big way, with a 4-3 win over the Monsters
which helped them to keep a 2-2 record with them so far this season. Narek Aleksanyan, an ‘02 who currently leads the T-Birds in points, with 78, set the tone with two goals and one assist in the win. Las Vegas then traveled to Lake Tahoe where they swept the Lakers by scores of 9-3, 3-2 in OT, and 3-2.
The T-Birds’ No.2 scorer, Samuel Dumont, out of Québec City, Que., had a five point weekend with three goals and two assists, scoring the GWG in their first win. Fellow Quebecois Frederic Pinel picked up four points (two goals, two assists) including the GWG in OT of game two and the GWG of game three. Las Vegas currently sits just three points away from the Jr. Reign and the Sabers with 47 points. They will host Fresno next in hopes to rise up the ranks.
- Las Vegas is one of only two USPHL Premier teams still undefeated as the home team, at 11-0 (the New York Aviators are the other, at 17-0). All but the last three of the T-Birds’ remaining 15 games will be home games for them, switching between the USPHL Las Vegas Showcase sites of City National Arena (in Summerlin, Nev.) and Lifeguard Arena (in Henderson, Nev.). Their last road trip will be Feb. 24-26 to Bakersfield.
- Las Vegas has the Premier’s fourth-best offense at 6.03 goals per game, and fire the second-most shots on goal at 47.13 on average.
- With a 9-15-24 scoring line going back to Nov. 20, Narek Aleksanyan’s current scoring streak of 14 games is the league’s third-longest active streak.
- Gavin Frack has a 5-3-8 line in his six games of January so far, including scoring goals in five of the six contests so far. Also on current hot streaks are Frederic Pinel (6-8-14 in 10 games) and Antoine Tourigny (2-5-7 in five games).
The Road Ahead: See above for Fresno vs. Las Vegas series history.
Ontario Jr. Reign (2-0)
With just two games over the weekend, the Jr. Reign managed to take them both with scores of
5-1 and 5-4 over the Bakersfield Roughnecks. Max Kathol earned himself five points with two goals and three assists. Lare Pahtayken earned five points (two goals, three assists) and securing the GWG in Game 1 and also earned his highest-scoring game this season with three points.
Goalie Josh Henson, an ‘04 from Port Moody, B.C., picked up a win with 40 saves on 41 shots. Ontario holds the No. 2 position in the Pacific Division alongside San Diego with 50 points.
- The Jr. Reign are fifth in shorthanded goals in the USPHL Premier with 12.
- They are sixth in offense in the league at 5.47 goals per game.
- There are just three teams who have won as many as four games when trailing after two periods, and the Jr. Reign are one, along with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and Hampton Roads Whalers.
- Matteo Pero has scored in every single January game (seven in five games) and is on an 8-13-21 streak in his last eight games.
- Ethan McKibbin posted a 10-10-20 scoring streak in 12 games, just two off the length of his longest streak this season of 14 (Sept. 23-Nov. 12).
- Jacob Pelletier has 2-8-10 over his last six games.
The Road Ahead: Ontario will take the upcoming weekend off and travel to Las Vegas on Feb. 2 to take on the Thunderbirds for three games. A light five-game January will give way to a 12-game February with action in 12 of the 24 days between Feb. 2 and 25.
The Bakersfield Roughnecks will host the Long Beach Shredders this weekend. The Roughnecks are 2-1 this season against the Shredders.
Ari Rossi’s third-period goal helped the Lakers push the Thunderbirds to OT on Jan. 21, giving the Lakers their first point against the T-Birds after going 4-2 against Las Vegas last year.
(By Brendan Price and Joshua Boyd)
Utah Outliers (4-0)
The Outliers finally evened out their record against their traditional rivals the Ogden Mustangs, with their 7-4 win on Jan. 14 putting the Outliers at 3-3-1-1 this year against Ogden. Utah then swept the visiting Pueblo Bulls between Jan. 20-22, 3-0, 3-1, 4-0. The Outliers rule the USPHL Premier points leaderboard with 68 points, with a five-point lead over the second-place Charlotte Rush. Their .872 winning percentage is a close second to the Vernal Oilers’ .883 compiled after 30 games.
- After 39 games, the Outliers have kept their opponents to one or zero goals 16 times with February and March still to come on the regular season schedule. They only did so 13 times all of last year.
- While limiting the opposition on one end, second year sensation and Lawrence University recruit Miles McCue continues to produce. With 108 points in 86 career games, McCue is the Outliers’ all-time USPHL leading scorer. 58 of those points have come this year, including seven points so far in his seven January games.
- Winger and linemate Will Cohen is racing up the franchise leaderboard as well after a four-point weekend. He, McCue and Nikolas Schwab became the fifth, sixth and seventh players to crack 100 points in an Outlier sweater all this season. Cohen did so at the fastest pace of anyone (75 games), and his 1.35 points per game is the best for the Outliers’ century club. He has a 6-4-10 scoring line in his last six games straight, continuing that streak into his next action.
- The Outliers’ have the cleanest game for any team in the western three divisions of the USPHL Premier, averaging just 12.28 penalty minutes per game.
- At 19-2-1-1 as the home team this season, the Outliers also lead all Premier team in home points with 40. Accord Ice Arena is home, sweet home indeed.
- While McCue was announced for Lawrence, teammate Matthew Koepke has also committed to NCAA hockey at Concordia University in Wisconsin. The defenseman has 23 points in 33 games this year.
- Utah has scored the first goal in the most games (31) and has the most wins from that situation (27).
The Road Ahead: The Outliers are ready to hit the road to Northern Colorado to face the Eagles. The Outliers are 18-5-0-1 all-time against the Eagles, including a 5-0 run this year.
Ogden Mustangs (3-2)
The Mustangs occupy a very strong second place in the Mountain Division, and they still have their eyes on first place. The Utah Outliers are 12 points ahead, and both teams still have 13 games remaining. It’s not out of the realm of possibility but still requires a lot going right for Ogden and a lot going not right for the Outliers. The Outliers were one of the two teams that put a loss on the Mustangs in the middle weekend of January, defeating them 7-4, one night after a 4-2 loss to the Pueblo Bulls. On Jan. 15, after the game against Utah, the Mustangs rebounded to beat the Bulls by an 8-4 score. The last weekend saw the Mustangs take on a couple of Northwest Division opponents – they defeated the Vernal Oilers, 4-3, in overtime and then decisively beat the Rock Springs Prospectors.
- No surprise who has the No. 1 power play in the land. It would be the team with 75 power play goals, a USPHL Premier record. They’ve scored on 35.7 percent of their chances (75 for 210). The Mustangs really get under their opponents’ skin, as the 210 power plays is second only to Charlotte’s 219.
- Call it a monopoly, go ahead. The Mustangs are all alone in the top four for power play points in the USPHL Premier. Meure has 39 in first, followed by Dimitri Voyatzis (30), Luke Faas (29) and Teddie Hember (28).
- With a 39-38-77 line, Buffalo State College recruit Jake Meure is sixth in league scoring and tied for fourth in goals. The #MeureWatch is active, as he has passed the 200-point mark and entered this weekend just 19 points off tying the all-time record of 221 set last year by Toledo’s Bailey Byrd.
- Center Dimitri Voyatzis became just the 3rd ‘Stang to reach the 100-point plateau in the USPHL era. With 59 points this year, he is currently at 102 for his career in 84 games. He currently has 17 points in 17 games against this weekend’s opponents, the Pueblo Bulls.
- Defenseman Teddie Hember continues to be a rock defensively; he was up over 800 minutes of ice time in 32 games and has committed just one penalty all year. Only one other player in the USPHL has played more than 700 minutes and been equally as penalty free.(Ko Sekiguchi, Rogue Valley).
- Owen Yancey second in the USPHL in wins (187), just two behind first place.
The Road Ahead: When Ogden and Pueblo get together, it’ll be a lot of….something. Seven of their 25 all-time meetings have featured ten or more goals. Another five of their 25 all-time meetings have had 70 penalty minutes or more. Another six of their 25 all-time meetings have been one-goal games. Did we mention they play three times this weekend?
- The Mustangs and Bulls are each 2-2 this season, and Ogden holds an all-time USPHL lead of 17-8-0-1.
Northern Colorado Eagles (3-3)
By sweeping Pueblo over the first weekend of January, the Eagles had their longest winning streak of the season. They were just unable to push it to five, when the Idaho Falls Spud Kings defeated them on Jan. 12, 6-2. The Eagles came back the next two nights with 2-1 and 2-0 victories. Their next weekend, against the Provo Predators, ended up being a 1-2 stretch. The Eagles won their middle game, 6-2, but Provo won Friday and Sunday with scores of 4-2 and 5-4, respectively.
- Defenseman Xavier Fortin, who rang in his 100th game as an Eagle with a shootout winner on Jan. 7, has set career highs in all major categories, and has been a rock for NoCo, averaging nearly 31:00 of ice time per game.
- The Eagles are enjoying their undefeated streak in shootouts over their three-year stand in the USPHL. They’ve won three this year and they are 9-0-0-0 all-time in the 1v1 challenge.
The Road Ahead: It’s a big three-game weekend against the Utah Outliers. The Eagles hope to put a chink in the armor of the USPHL Premier’s No. 1 team, but the Outliers have won all five of their meetings so far and have an 18-5-0-1 all-time record against the Eagles.
Idaho Falls Spud Kings (3-2)
After winning back-to-back games for the first time this season against Provo and Ogden in the opening weekend of 2023 action, the Spud Kings kept up the beat and are now 9-9 at the new Mountain America Center.
They went 1-1-1 against the Northern Colorado Eagles, starting with a 6-2 victory (for their third straight W), then fell 2-1 in OT and 2-0. The next weekend, the Spud Kings won 11-7 against Vernal and 7-3 against the Rock Springs Prospectors. After their rough first couple months, .500 won’t be within reach (they don’t have enough games left to get there), but the Spud Kings are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 games.
Idaho Falls leads the league in average attendance (2,058) per game in their brand-new home. The goal light operators have gotten quite the workout; at least one team has scored five goals or more in 15 of their 18 home games. The Spud Kings have done it six times, going 8-1-0 in those games.
- Justin Davis doubled his previous season high single game output of three points when he had a hat trick and three assists for six points on Jan. 20 against Rock Springs.
- Those operators can thank George Goodwin and SJ Lecomte, who really like to score. A lot. Goodwin has 25 goals in 27 games since joining the Spud Kings and his line mate Lecomte has 34 points (14-20-34) since Goodwin’s arrival.
- Speaking of new arrivals, defenseman Matteo Mitrovic and Tyler Rose are both averaging over
a point per game since they arrived in Idaho Falls. Rose has 21 points in 20 games (2-19-21)
and Mitrovic leads all Mountain Division skaters with 28 assists since November.
The Road Ahead: The Spud Kings bring the Provo Predators in for Friday and Saturday evening games, both kicking off at 7:05 p.m. at the packed and loud Mountain America Center. The Spud Kings are 4-1-0-1 against Provo, including all three of their most recent meetings going back to Dec. 3.
Provo Predators (3-2)
The Predators played against the Vernal Oilers for the second time, avenging an earlier 7-5 loss with a 7-6 OT Predators win. The Predators were taking on a few future NCDC Predators, as Provo has tendered three of the top Oilers, all from Slovakia – Alex Rene Bartakovics, Filip Molnar and Filip Lezzani. From there, the Predators fell to Pueblo, 4-2. The next weekend, Provo went 2-1 against the Eagles, with wins of 4-2 and 5-4 on either side of a 6-2 Eagles win.
- The Predators and Spud Kings are both tied at 28 points apiece and continue to jockey for the fifth seed in the playoffs. They are both still mathematically eligible to climb as high as third place.
- Provo is undefeated in both overtime (3-0) and the shootout (2-0) this season.
- Khyle Flynn has been amazing the last couple weeks, putting up 4-9-13 in the most recent five games for Provo. He’s had at least one point in each, with five points coming on Jan. 13 against Vernal.
The Road Ahead: The Predators travel to Idaho Falls for two games and hope to even out their record against the Spud Kings. Provo has won two of their six meetings.
In Other Action
Pueblo went 2-4 over the last couple weekends. After the high of beating Ogden twice in a row away and at home by 4-2 scores on Jan. 13-14, the Mustangs came back on Jan. 15 with an 8-4 win. The Bulls’ next trip was to face the Utah Outliers, which resulted in Outlier wins of 3-0, 3-1 and 4-0. The Bulls are facing the Ogden Mustangs at home this weekend.
The big wins for the Bulls this weekend were two NCAA commitments. Scott Bugarin and goaltender Alex Timmons will reunite next year at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Congratulations to both and look for upcoming features!
Drop The Pucks!