By Brendan Price / USPHLPremier.com
It’s a battle for the division crown between these two Beehive State foes as the current #2 seed Ogden Mustangs will try and knock off defending division champion, the #1 seed Utah Outliers, in this weekend’s best-of-three series. The winner of this series will be the Mountain #1 seed at the USPHL Nationals in Utica, March 23-28, with the losing team advancing to Utica as Mountain #2.
All games to be played at Acord Ice Arena, West Valley, Utah
Game #1: Friday, March 17, 7:05 PM MST
Game #2: Saturday, March 18th – 6:35 PM MST
Game #3: Sunday, March 19th – 12:05 PM MST (if necessary)
What’s at stake: The ‘Stangs seek their first division title in their first Mountain Division Finals appearance. The Outliers are aiming for a three-peat, having won the last two Mountain Division titles.
How they got here: After a first round bye, Ogden gutted out a three-game series victory over the Pueblo Bulls in the semi-finals to win their first playoff series in USPHL history. Despite falling in overtime in Game 2, the ‘Stangs pushed past Pueblo with a decisive 5-0 win in Game 3 last Sunday.
On the other side, the Outliers sent a message in their two-game sweep over the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Utah outscored Idaho Falls 17-1 in their two-game sweep and have now won nine consecutive playoff games against division opponents.
Head-to-head: Ogden won the season series, going 7-4-0, and were the only team to post a winning record against the Outliers in the regular season. That being said, the games themselves were splitting hairs; five of the 11 meetings required overtime or a shootout and two more were decided in regulation by just one goal. ‘Stang center Dimi Voyatzis grabbed 20 points (10-10-20) in 11 games versus Utah while Outlier winger Will Cohen paced Utah skaters with 17 points (8-9-17) in 11 games versus Ogden.
‘Stangs to Watch: All eyes will obviously be on superstar forward and Buffalo State commit Jake Meure – the top scorer in USPHL Premier history – but he’s not the only weapon that Ogden has at its disposal. Second-year center Andrew Alonzo paced the ‘Stangs with five points (1-4-5) in the first round and rookie Jacob Williams grabbed a pair of goals, one in each Ogden victory in Game(s) 1 and 3. It’s not all offense either; goaltender David Ors Mag was a brick wall in the semis, going 2-0-0 with a microscopic 0.50 GAA, .983 save percentage, and a shutout.
Outliers to Watch: All but five skaters recorded a point in the two game series sweep, but it was their captain, defenseman Matthew Koepke, who stole the show. The Concordia University commit led the way with seven points (2-5-7) in the sweep. Center and Lawrence commit Miles McCue recorded a point in both games and finished the weekend with four points (2-2-4), punctuated by a two-goal performance in Utah’s 9-0 win in Game 2. Goaltender Thomas Pigeon grabbed his first career shutout thanks to a 25-save shutout in Game 1.