#USPHLPlayoffs Series Preview: Pueblo Bulls vs. Provo Predators

All games played at the Pueblo Ice Arena

Game 1 – Friday, March 3, 7 p.m. MST

Game 2 – Saturday, March 4, 7 p.m. MST

Game 3 – Sunday, March 5, 2:00 p.m. MST (*if necessary)

The sixth-seeded Provo Predators travel to Pueblo for a first-round series against the
third-seeded Pueblo Bulls. This will be the second consecutive year the teams have met in the
first round.

The Bulls dominated the season series record, going 6-0-1, and finishing without a regular season loss against the Predators. The teams have played just once since Nov. 13; Pueblo defeated Provo 4-2 on Jan. 14. Three of the seven regular season meetings were decided by one goal.

Despite the regular season results, the Predators head into the playoffs as a team on the rise, thanks to a balanced scoring attack, physical defense, and the arrival of goaltender Saava Serdiuk from Ukraine. In the month of February, Provo had two or more goals from 11 different skaters, punctuated by rookie Emmanuel Nkombou, who has quickly become a force to be reckoned with.

The rookie has an 11-game point streak entering the playoffs and provides a physical presence in front of the net, particularly on the power play. The Predators enter the series with a 21.1 percent conversion rate on the power play and will be facing a Bulls team that has struggled on the penalty kill during 2022-23.

Defensively, the Predators will turn to a physical, big-bodied blue line led by Brent Scott, Diego Flota, and Aiden Moreau. The threesome all average over a hit and a half per game.

The Bulls used a weekend sweep over Northwest Division foe Vernal to leapfrog into the three seed on the regular season’s final day. Framingham State commit Scott Bugarin punctuated a career season with a four-goal game in the season finale; his 26 goals and 53 points were second only to linemate Thomas Soucy. Bugarin and Soucy are the Bulls’ two 50-point scorers that lead a balanced and high-powered Bulls’ scoring attack that features eight 10-goal scorers. Pueblo’s offense scored five or more goals 15 times during the regular season, including twice against the Predators.

The Bulls’ goaltending trio of Alex Timmons, Lukas Bjork, and Jack Sundhall have stymied the Predators during the regular season and gives Pueblo plenty of options between the pipes.