Outliers advance to division finals
The Utah Outliers are heading to the Mountain Division Finals after an intense second round of playoffs against the Superior Roughriders this past weekend. The number one seed welcomed in the hungry Roughriders who were riding a wave of momentum having beaten the Outliers in their previous meeting, and who also made quick work of the Casper Coyotes in the first round. Although Utah held the edge in the regular season by a 5-1 margin, Superior came in with a mission, and pushed Utah to the edge multiple times. All three games were very close, but in the end, the Outliers were able to get the job done and take the series two games to one.
Game one set the tone for the series, as both teams traded hits and took a bit of time to feel out their opponents. Having played six games prior, each team had a good idea of what to expect of their opponent. The intensity was ramped up as the playoffs are unlike the regular season, and everything is on the line. A scoreless first period set the stage for what would be a common thread throughout the weekend, defensive style hockey. In the second frame, the Outliers were able to finally crack through goaltender Marshall Murphy as Benji Mickel continued to stay hot, scoring a beautiful wrist shot from the slot with assists coming from Kaeden Meuer and Vladislav Buyanov. As has been customary with the Roughriders, they responded a few minutes later on a power play. Although Utah outshot their opponents 20-9 through two periods, the score would remain at ones until late in the third. While playing 4v4, the always-dangerous Nikita Sheberov gathered the puck behind the net and found a wide-open David Waterman in front of the net. The Outliers managed to pump 16 shots on Murphy in the third, but to no success. The Roughriders went on to take game one by a 2-1 margin.
Saturday’s contest featured a do-or-die situation for the Outliers and the team responded accordingly. In the first period, Brandon Krumpschmid scored an absolute bullet on the power play to give the home team a one-goal edge. The lead lasted the length of the first period and one minute into the second, it was doubled thanks to Buyanov. Utah continued to pressure Superior and got rewarded for its offensive game when Krumpschmid would score his second and third goals of the game 40 seconds apart, completing his hattrick. Up 4-0 going into the third period, the Roughriders hoped to set the tone for game three, tacking on two goals, bringing the final to a 4-2 conclusion.
In the winner-take-all Sunday game, each team fought tooth and nail to advance to the division finals. Neither team wanted to see the other victorious, and have their season come to a crashing halt. The first period mirrored the common theme of the weekend, Utah putting on the pressure and Superior playing excellent defense and getting phenomenal goaltending. The end of the first saw the Outliers blast 15 shots to the ‘Riders 5, but the score remained knotted at 0. Oskars Ancitis scored early in the second to give the home team a lead, but another powerplay goal from the Roughriders saw the lead erase and once again tie the game. The end of regulation
saw the Outliers outshoot the Roughriders 42-27, and in overtime it would only take three shots before captain Jacob Wanstrom ended the game. The winning goal was a result of Kane Toriumi applying an aggressive forecheck before knocking the puck behind the net to Zach Dornseifer who skated right to left and placed a beautiful pass to a streaking Wanstrom coming down the slot. The puck was deflected off the Roughriders goalie and back on Wanstroms stick at the side of the net. The outliers captain made no mistake as he elevated the puck into the top left corner of the net.
For the Roughriders, it was a terrific season and a great battle throughout the season and the playoffs. The Outliers now set their sights on in-state rivals, the Ogden Mustangs. The ‘Stangs also had a three game series this weekend against the number three seed Colorado Jr. Eagles. The Mountain Division Title is heading to Utah for what is sure to be a grueling and fantastic weekend of hockey. Games one and two will take place at the Acord Ice Arena at 7:30 PM, and if necessary, a game three will take place at the County Ice Center, in Murray at 8PM. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis of the upcoming series later on this week.