OUTLIERS FINISH REGULAR SEASON ON WINNING NOTE
The Utah Outliers have returned from their last series in the regular season, and have also come away with three more wins. In what was a preview of their first playoff opponent, Utah set the tone for the playoffs, dominating all three games and shoring up weaknesses for a deep run. In the series, Utah outscored their opponents 21-2. They also demonstrated some of the best defense all season, as the team outshot the home team 189-44 in the set (a 63-14 average). The weekend went as well as it could have gone for the Outliers knowing that the same Bobcat team is heading to SLC for their playoff series in two weeks. The result of the weekend brings the Outliers final regular season record to 33-15-2-1, good for second place in the Mountain Division and seventh overall in the WSHL.
In game one, Utah came out swinging early, peppering 21 shots on Casper’s goaltender. Anthony Masanotti scored two goals in a span of thirteen seconds to give the visitors a solid lead, and Bradley Green tacked one more goal on to finish off the first period. In the second, Green returned the favor and dished out the 4th goal of the game to Austin Dennison. Jan Dvorak struck for a goal of near the end of the second, and that would be all the offense that Utah would need. The Outlier defense held the Bobcats to just 3 shots in the second, and 2 in the third period. Not allowing Casper to generate any offense, the boys in black showcased a suffocating defensive attack and helped Oscar Wahlgren earn an 11 save shutout. With his performance, Wahlgren took over as the WSHL regular season shutout leader with a total of 6.
Game two was more of the same, as the Outliers started like they were fired out of a cannon. In the first period the visiting team poured on 31 shots, while allowing just 1 shot against. Matt Bartel started the scoring early, followed by Green’s second in as many nights. Gabel Longshore kept the offense buzzing, and the first frame scoring was concluded courtesy of Jake Papesh powerplay goal. Casper showed some fight early in the second, scoring a powerplay goal of their own. Fortunately for Utah, that would be the only chink in their defense. Benji Mickel got the Outliers back on track, and Nick Ness continued his hot streak scoring another powerplay goal. In the final period, Utah went on to score 4 more goals while only allowing 4 shots against. Bartel scored his second of the game, and a minute later Niklas Lejon scored his first of the weekend. Ness went on to add his second goal of the night, and scoring for the game ended with Mickel’s second. Charles-Olivier Lepage turned away 14 shots in the win. Utah also put up a season high 83 shots, and the game was the sixth time the Outliers put up double digit goals in one game.
In the final contest of the weekend, and the regular season, Utah kept the momentum rolling. Just three minutes into the game, Dvorak scored his 25th of the season. Bryan Watters doubled Utah’s lead late in the first, as once again the Outliers applied the pressure with 23 shots. The middle frame became about defense again as Casper could only muster 3 shots. Captain Zach Dornseifer made the game memorable as he scored his 48th goal as an Outlier, breaking the record for the franchise all-time lead. Bartel added one more to keep his hot streak going before Dennison added another powerplay goal to end the second period. In the final frame of the season, more history was made as Dornseifer found Masanotti who buried his third of the weekend. The assist gave the Captain his 82nd assist and 129th point, breaking the franchise record in those categories as well. Although the weekend went the way of the Outliers all weekend, a late penalty allowed the Bobcats to strike with just one minute left, breaking Wahlgren’s 7th shutout bid. Wahlgren did pick up his 21st win of the season, giving him a share of 5th place in the league.
With second place secure, the Outliers will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The team will return to action next weekend at home against the very same Bobcat team they just faced. The winner will go on to play against the Ogden Mustangs or Steamboat Wranglers/Cheyenne Stampede for the Mountain Division finals, and a right to compete in the Thorne Cup Championship. Stay tuned for more information as Utah prepares for their deep playoff run.