By Brendan Price / USPHLPremier.com
Seed: Mountain #1
Seeding round schedule
All games played at Utica University Nexus Center, Utica, N.Y.
Day 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Richmond Generals, 1:30 p.m. EST
Day 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Minnesota Moose, 10 a.m. EST
Remainder of schedule dependent on results of seeding round.
The Utah Outliers have their sights set on making noise at Nationals after being eliminated on the final day of pool play last season, grabbing a pair of wins on the tournament’s first two days. Utah will make their third consecutive trip to Nationals this season and do so with arguably their best team in franchise history.
“We once again have high expectations entering Nationals. We believe we have a hard working, skilled team that can make some noise at the tournament. There will be a lot of other very capable teams at Nationals so we’re going to have to focus on sticking to our style of play and continue to do the things that have brought us success all season,” said head coach Paul Taylor.
With two division titles under their belt, the Outliers knew that they were the team with a target on their back headed into 2022-23. Utah grabbed three separate win streaks of at least eight games en route to a dominant 43-win regular season, setting a franchise record in that category.
“I have a strong leadership group that I will rely on heavily to steer the team properly and make sure we are ready to go when the puck drops,” added coach Taylor.
Sensational sophomore campaigns from winger Will Cohen and Miles McCue paced an Outlier offense that scored 4.9 goals per game. Cohen finished second in the Mountain Division in scoring with 81 points (39-42-81) and became the all-time leading goal scorer in franchise history on January 14. The versatile center McCue shattered career highs everywhere, finishing with 77 points (24-53-77) and being one of just three Utah skaters to play in all 52 games during the regular season.
As dominant as the regular season was, the Outliers turned up the heat in the playoffs. They outscored their opposition 28-5 in four games, punctuated by a two-game rout over Idaho Falls in the semi-finals, en route to a third straight division title to punch their ticket to Utica.
“I thought our team played well in both the Mountain semifinals and finals. We made some key adjustments for each opponent and the players did a great job of executing and sticking to the plan. We knew that both rounds were going to present their challenges and we had to make sure we were well prepared. I thought the group did a tremendous job in both series,” Taylor added.
In preparation for a run at a National Championship, the Outliers continued to add depth pieces down the stretch. Bolstered by the acquisitions of David Utkin, Blake Rothstein, and Isaiah Parris among others, Outliers head coach Paul Taylor believes the additions bolster a balanced lineup and ready the group for a third straight trip to Nationals.
“We are a team that has a lot of depth and we win by committee. Each night, we have new faces that step their game up and make big plays when we need them the most. Some players are making big plays offensively and others are huge contributors defensively,” he explained.
Even with the tweaks, the core of the Outliers squad has been together for all three runs at a National Championship and experienced the highs and lows in pursuit of glory. Coach Taylor knows the turnaround from division champions to National Champion hopefuls comes fast.
“We celebrated as a team with family and friends after winning the Mountain Division title, but we
are also focused on getting our rest and recovery. We don’t have much time before Nationals
begin and it’s going to be a quick turnaround for us,” he added.
The clock is ticking louder as the Outliers get set for their seeding round opener against the