The 2022-23 season has officially arrived for the Utah Outliers. The team hit the ice for its first regular season game of the USPHL season as they traveled to Provo to take on the Predators.
There has been a lot of excitement about this year's version of the Outliers with the club having 10 returners and the addition of new talent that is expected to make a big impact and bring depth to the lineup. The team did not disappoint in its first game of the season as they skated to a convincing 8-2 win.
The game started poorly for Utah when Provo struck for a quick goal during the first shift of the game. A loss draw in the Outliers' zone led to Provo gaining possession when Predators' forward Tristen Friedman scooped up the loose puck near the face-off circle and drove around the Outliers' net where he made a wraparound move at the far post and snuck the puck past Utah goalie Nathan Dickey for a 1-0 lead.
The Outliers eventually settled into their game and started controlling the play and working the puck into the Predators' zone. A strong forecheck and a big hit by Utah forward Lucas Ouellette led to a Provo turnover and Outliers' forward Miles McCue was the recipient of a loose puck and skated down the right side of the zone burying his shot top shelf to tie the game a 1-1 at the 13:59 mark.
A few minutes later Provo would strike again to take a 2-1 lead when they possessed the puck in the Outliers' zone. Provo moved the puck to the point to defenseman Petr Vanvoorhis who shot the puck at the net. The shot was stopped by Utah's Dickey as he thwarted his blocker at the puck but it took a strange bounce off the glass behind the net and bounced back out front of the net. Provo forward Yuri Ushakov was all alone and deposited the puck into the empty net.
Utah responded immediately just seconds later on a lucky break to even the game up at 2-2. During an Outliers' regroup deep in their zone, the puck was sent down the ice towards the Provo net where the Predators goalie left his net to play the puck but accidentally shot it off his defenseman and into the open net. Utah forward Angus England was credited with the goal as he was the last Outliers player to touch the puck before it entered the net.
At 6:48, the Outliers scored their third goal in the opening frame and took the lead for the first time in the game. While playing four-on-four, Utah captain, Matthew Koepke gained control of the puck off a zone entry and skated down an open lane in the Provo zone to rifle a shot over the blocker of the Predators' netminder. The period wound down with both teams having more chances, but the score would remain 3-2 in favor of the Outliers.
The second period would be all Utah. The club's experience and the depth of their lineup started to take their toll on the younger Predators. The quick skating Outliers started to control the play more and create chances around the Provo net.
At 15:32 of the period, the puck was sent into the Outliers' zone but they would execute a nice breakout against the Provo forecheck which would catch their forecheckers deep in the zone and their defenseman pinching. This breakdown in the forecheck by Provo led to a breakaway for Utah forward Nikolas Schwab who made no mistake and converted his shot over the shoulder of the Provo goalie for a 4-2 Utah lead.
Just a couple of minutes later, Utah created a turnover in the neutral zone and the puck was sent into the Provo zone. Outliers' defenseman, Matthew Koepke would win a race to a loose puck deep in the Predators zone and skate behind the net where he made a nifty no-look pass to teammate Leyton Pettypiece who quickly shot off the pass to beat the Predators' goalie. This extended Utah's lead to 5-2.
The Outliers then added one more goal in the second period when they defended a Provo rush and an errant pass by the home team found its way onto the stick of a Utah player. Once again, Provo was caught deep in the Outliers' zone, and the missed pass led to a 2-on-0 breakaway for Utah's Miles McCue and Itay Bondar. The two forwards made a nice passing play that ended up with Bondar burying his shot for a 6-2 Outliers' lead after two periods.
The third period saw much of the same offense and puck control by the Outliers as they controlled the play in the Provo zone. Utah's effort on the forecheck ended up leading to their 7th goal of the evening when Will Cohen created a turnover on the half boards in the Provo zone and dished a pass to teammate Miles McCue. After receiving the pass, McCue took a quick shot on the net where the rebound popped out to the slot, and Utah forward Lucas Ouellette pounced on the rebound and released a quick shot into the back of the net.
The final Outliers goal of the night would once again come off the stick of Utah's Lucas Ouellette. While on the power play, Utah worked the puck around the right side of the Predators' zone where Outliers' forward Kael Delzer made a slick cross-ice pass to the Provo goal crease and Ouellette made a crafty redirect that found its way into the back of the net.
It was a dominating performance by the Outliers as they skated off the ice with an 8-2 victory and peppered the Provo net with 42 shots. The game ended with Utah having seven different goal scorers and big contributions throughout the lineup. The team will play its next game on Saturday, Oct 1st as they play their home-opener against the Northern Colorado Eagles. The game time is 6:30 p.m. at the Acord in West Valley.