The Outliers returned to the Acord Ice Center on Saturday for their home opener against the Northern Colorado Eagles. After defeating the Provo Predators the night before, Utah was determined to pick up their second win of the season in front of their home fans and earn the weekend sweep.
This contest would be the first meeting between the Outliers and the Eagles for the 2022-23 season. The two teams last met during last year's playoff finals where the Outliers swept the Eagles for the Mountain division championship.
In the opening period, the Outliers came out flying from the drop of the puck and established all sorts of pressure in the Eagles' zone. Much of this pressure came from a relentless forecheck that created numerous turnovers and scoring opportunities for the home team. Unfortunately, these early chances would be fended off by the Northern Colorado netminder, Ulrick Roussel.
Eventually, the home team's offensive pressure would pay dividends when Utah forward Emrik Froding broke loose for a breakaway and gave the Outliers the early lead it was hoping for. During an Eagles' attack in the Outliers' zone, a missed attempt at the net would rim around the boards, and Utah forward Emrik Froding would gain control of the puck and chip it past a Northern Colorado defenseman who was pinching at the blue line. Froding would blow past the defender and skate on a breakaway and beat the Eagles' goalie low to the stick side for a 1-0 Utah lead at the 16:43 mark.
The Outliers continued to press throughout the first period and pepper the Eagles' netminder Roussel with a barrage of shots, but the home team could not convert for its second goal of the night. The opening period ended with the Outliers outshooting the Eagles 15-5.
In the second period, the Eagles came out with a stronger and more determined effort to push back against Utah and generate opportunities of their own, but it was Utah's goalie Marco Felicetti's turn to shine as he stood tall to keep his team in the lead.
Eventually, a miscue on an Outliers breakout allowed the visitors to get on the board and tie the game 1-1. During an attempted breakout, Utah tried to pass the puck through the middle of the zone to initiate an exit but it was intercepted by an Eagles player who rifled a shot top corner to beat Felicetti and make the Outliers pay for their mistake.
Utah tried to get back to their game and regain in its offensive rhythm but that was cut short after the team was assessed a five-minute major penalty when Utah forward Diego Flota was called for charging the Eagles' goaltender during a loose puck race. Flota was ejected from the game and the Outliers' penalty kill was put to the test.
The Eagles' power play controlled the puck in the Outliers zone causing the home team to bend a little, but not break. A combination of tight defense, great shot blocks, and timely saves kept Northern Colorado from capitalizing on its chances.
The penalty kill would be tested even further when Utah defenseman Matt Koepke was given an interference penalty while the team was already killing the five-minute major. This penalty would offer the Eagles a five-on-three advantage and give the visitors a great opportunity to take control of the game.
Once again, the Outliers' penalty kill stood tall and the team dug in to thwart the Eagles' power play attempts and kill off both penalties, allowing Utah to get back to even strength with the game still tied. The second period came to an end with the score deadlocked at 1-1 and the Outliers spending the majority of the second half of the period playing defense on the penalty kill.
In the final frame, the Outliers played more energized as they returned to even-strength play. The team regained their skating legs and started to take back control and play more in the Eagles' zone. A flurry of chances were denied by the Northern Colorado goaltender but Utah ramped up the pressure on the Eagles and pushed the pace.
At the 16:46 mark, Utah converted its second goal of the evening. Similar to Utah's first goal of the game, the Eagles committed another turnover at the Outliers' blue line, setting up a 2-on-1 rush for Utah forward Leyton Pettypiece and teammate Paul Waldhauser.
Pettypiece skated into the Northern Colorado's zone with Waldhauser as it attacked for an odd-man rush. Pettypiece held onto the puck as he glided towards the visitors' net and fired a perfect shot that beat the Eagles' netminder on the short side to give his team the important 2-1 lead.
Utah then extended its lead to 3-1 while battling for the puck in the Eagles' zone. Outliers forward Miles McCue then gained control of a loose puck during a board battle that occurred along the half wall and fed Lucas Ouellette who was positioned high in the slot. Ouellette then caught the pass from McCue and ripped a perfect shot that zipped past Roussel and beat him to the far side just inside the post.
Northern Colorado pulled its goalie in the last couple of minutes of the game in an attempt to narrow the score, but that effort would come to no avail as Marco Felicetti blocked everything that came towards him.
Utah held on to its lead and skated off the ice victorious, defeating the Eagles by a score of 3-1. It was a good first weekend for the Outliers as they won on consecutive nights and started the season on a high note with a record of 2-0.
The Outliers' three stars of the night belonged to #1 Leyton Pettypiece, #2 Lucas Ouellette, and #3 Marco Felicetti.
Utah will be back in action next Friday, October 7th when they play host to their state rival, the Ogden Mustangs at 7 p.m. at the Acord Ice Center in West Valley. The game will be live broadcast on HockeyTV.com.