Photo Courtesy Rogue Valley Royals / Rodney Rampy
By Brendan Price, Grace Mello and Joshua Boyd
Let’s spin the wheel and see how the best teams in the Mountain, Pacific and Northwest fared this past week.
Pueblo Bulls (3-0-0)
The Bulls polished off a commanding sweep over Idaho Falls, outscoring the Spud Kings by many degrees, and dominating all phases of the game, all weekend long. Forward Thomas Soucy (‘02) had five goals in three games, rookies Axel Claesson and Max Marsiglio added three a piece, and Alex Timmons notched a 27-save shutout on Saturday.
The Bulls are two points behind first-place Northern Colorado and the two meet next weekend in Greeley for a two-game series. The Eagles hold a 13-8-2-0 all-time series lead.
The Spud Kings are still searching for their first win in franchise history. Forward Ben Cesario (‘02) found the back of the net for the third time in five games and has 50% of the team’s goals so far. The goaltending trio of Ben DiFiore, Carsten Shrimpton, and Jude Ayling have given their collective all, having faced 412 shots in six games.
Utah Outliers (2-0)
Outscoring your opponents 11-3 is not a bad way to start your season. The Outliers defeated Provo 8-2 and the NoCo Eagles 3-1. The Outliers got three goals from newcomer Lucas Ouellette (‘03) and a pair more from winger Leyton Pettypiece (‘02). Goalscoring coupled with strong goaltending from Marco Felicetti (‘03) and Nathan Dickey (‘03), the Outliers look formidable in the early going. They will get their first crack at in-state nemesis Ogden this weekend in a highly-anticipated Friday night tilt. The Outliers also face Idaho Falls and Provo this weekend. All-time, Utah holds a 13-7-2-1 record against Ogden in USPHL play.
Ogden Mustangs (1-1-0-0)
Twice, Ogden fell behind early in the first period; they completed one comeback and just fell short in the other. Ogden got a pair of goals on the weekend from newcomer Teddie Hember (‘03) and third-year winger Jake Meure (‘02) chipped in three assists as well. After Friday’s win, the ‘Stangs are 3-0-0 in the USPHL in their home opener. Ogden faces off against Provo on Thursday in their first head-to-head meeting of the year. The Mustangs never lost in regulation to Provo last year (8-0-1-0), and Ogden won the 2020-21 series 5-3-0-1.
As for Northern Colorado, along with the split, they also took the aforementioned 3-1 loss to Utah. Eagles forward Erik Brink (‘02) stayed hot with four points over the weekend and is up to ten points (5-5-10) in his first five games. Goaltender Charles-Anthony Barbeau continues to show his fine form; he made 43 saves in Sunday’s win over Ogden and has a .922 save percentage through three starts. Both the ‘Stangs and Eagles have had particular career success against Pueblo, who come to town this weekend in an early season showdown.
Provo Predators (1-1)
It’s been balanced scoring for the Predators already – 10 different skaters have recorded a point and their top line of Darrian Cathey (‘03), Yuri Ushakov (‘03), and Jake Hornbarger (‘03) have two goals a piece. Rookie Bryson Stern was excellent between the pipes as well, stopping 55 of 58 shots in two appearances. The Predators will get a shot at both of their in-state rivals this week; they host Ogden on Thursday and travel to Utah on Sunday.
The Pacific Division teams have begun to show us what they’ve got as the second weekend of play has finished up. Las Vegas Thunderbirds lead the division, followed by the San Diego Sabers, and Ontario Jr Reign, both grabbing series wins over the weekend. Fresno also opened the 2022-23 season with a 3-0 mark.
Fresno Monsters (3-0)
The Monsters opened their season with a Thursday through Saturday sweep of the Long Beach Shredders, starting with a 6-1 and 3-2 victory and just building from there to an offensive celebration on Saturday. Christopher Miraldo (‘02) had six goals over the three games and leads with seven points so far. Returning defenseman Jacob Gagnon’s six points in three games, and his 2.00 points per game average is good for a tie for second among Premier defensemen with multiple games played so far. Bence Norbert Pal (‘05), Ethan Jourden (‘04) and Sebastian Skarzenski (‘02) each registered a win apiece in the three-victory series.
Ontario Jr. Reign (3-0)
The Jr. Reign picked up the sweep against the Lake Tahoe Lakers, with scores of 11-7, 8-4 and 8-1. Ontario’s Ethan McKibbin (‘02/Chestermere, Alb.) showed up well with 11 goals and 15 points in just five games played. He is the leader of nine players with at least one point per game so far, and four are averaging two points or better.
Ontario moves on to face Bakersfield this weekend for the first time ever. Lake Tahoe hosts a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series against the Long Beach Shredders this weekend.
San Diego Sabers (2-1)
The Sabers have already improved upon their season series of 2021-22 against Las Vegas, when they went 1-7-0-0. San Diego’s Herman Renden (’03) and Ethan Blackburn (’02/
have earned themselves shutouts already this season, including the 1-0 win on Sunday. In the other two games in Carlsbad, Calif., Las Vegas won 7-3 and San Diego won 4-2.
The T-Birds players seem to have found their groove early as they have some of the top leaders in points. Narek Aleksanyan (‘02/East Angus, Que.) has earned himself 16 points in just
five games, following close behind are his teammates Ludovic Martel (‘05/Mirabel,
Que.) with 12 points and Nicholas Bonaldi (‘03/Las Vegas, Nev.) with 10. In the net, there have been some huge saves happening. Las Vegas’ Loic Morin (‘04/St-Charles-de-Drummond, Que.), has a shutout to his credit already this year.
San Diego hosts Fresno for three games this coming weekend, and Las Vegas is off before hosting San Diego Oct. 14-16.
The Northwest has seen the continuing dominance of the Seattle Totems, who remain undefeated at 5-0, while the Vernal OIlers and Rogue Valley Royals newly made their USPHL debuts this past weekend.
Seattle Totems (2-0)
The Totems visited The RRRink in Medford, Ore., to kick off the Rogue Valley Royals’ USPHL existence. It was Seattle that won both games, 5-2 and 8-3. With three assists on the weekend, Derek Eaton has scored points in all five games for the Totems so far. With a 3-4-7 line, he is tied in scoring with Jonas Rettell, who also had a 3-4-7 line and had an assist in the weekend-opening 5-2 victory. The ‘03-born Eaton is now in his third USPHL Premier season.
It’s only early October, but Seattle will face Bellingham for the third and fourth time this season over the coming weekend’s Friday-Saturday home-and-home series.
Rock Springs Prospectors (2-1)
The Prospectors came back from their first trip to Washington State to open at the home Family Recreation Ice Center. And they did it in great fashion, winning 5-1 against the Bellingham Blazers (their first-ever opponents a week earlier). They also won 7-2 two days later, on the other side of a 6-1 loss to the Provo Predators of the Mountain Division. Jorie Boyd (no relation to writer Joshua Boyd) continues to tear up the USPHL’s northwest corner, now sitting with 14 points in just six games. His 2.33 points per game is the third most among players with at least five games played. Nathan Proulx is the leader in net with a 2.50 goals against average and a .952 save percentage with a 2-0 record. Rock Springs faces Ogden out of the Mountain Division.
Vernal Oilers (1-0)
Opening their existence at Vernal’s Western Park Arena, the Oilers opening victory saw the biggest goal differential (11) for a first-ever game in USPHL Premier history (not counting the inaugural season of 2017-18). The previous record was set in 2019-20 when the Fort Wayne Spacemen won their first-ever game, 11-3. Alex Rene Bartakovics and FIlip Molnar both had hat tricks in the inaugural game (Bartakovics added two assists). USPHL veteran Antonio Tarantino stopped 31 of 32 shots for the win. Vernal makes a Friday through Sunday visit to Medford, Ore., to play the Rogue Valley Royals for the first time.