The Utah Outliers are preparing for round two of the playoffs this week after earning a bye in round one of the division quarter-finals. The Outliers had another outstanding season, compiling a record of 43-5-4 and accumulating 90 points in the regular season and a first-place finish in the competitive Mountain division. The club has won the Mountain division title the past two seasons and the group is excited and energized about the opportunity to run it back for a 3-peat.
Much like last season, Utah will enter the Mountain division playoffs as the No.1 seed which allows them the opportunity to secure home-ice advantage for the duration of the division playoffs. The team is looking forward to carrying its momentum into postseason action and building on what has already been a very successful year.
"It has been another solid season for our program and this team proved to be our most successful regular season team by earning the most wins and points in club history. It is a real testament to the players and the hard work they have put in all season long. With the playoffs coming, we are going to have to find another level to our game and continue to play the 'Outliers Way.' I believe our team identity is built around a strong two-way game that is hard to play against." - Head Coach Paul Taylor.
The Outliers have been busy this past week at practice fine-tuning their 'way' as they prepare for their upcoming series on March 11-13. The coaching staff has been putting the team through its paces and working on various aspects of its team play and structure. After a hard week of practice, the team was rewarded with a memorable night of fun with a team getaway at the Black Rock Mountain Resort in Park City for some much-needed rest and recreation.
As the Outliers prepare for the playoffs, one of the greatest strengths of this year's group has been their consistent play. The team completed its 52-game regular season schedule and never lost twice in a row in regulation while manufacturing multiple 5-game winning streaks along with a 10-game win streak. The team's strong depth has played a big factor in the club's success as they have received consistent contributions from every position throughout the lineup.
Head Coach Paul Taylor, believes that the team's depth is a big reason it has produced at such a consistent rate all year long.
"I think when you look at our team you see a lot of different contributors each and every game. We don't rely on just a couple of guys to carry us but instead we lean on the entire group and we win by committee. We have a well-rounded team with balanced scoring and guys who play tough defense. We are going to need our depth more than ever come playoff time. I believe this group is up for the challenge and they are hungry to repeat as Mountain division champions."
Offensively, Utah has twelve players with 25 points or more on its roster. The team's ability to share its offense has made it very difficult for the opposition to shut them down. Defensively, the Outliers once again ranked at the top of the Mountain Division in allowing the fewest goals against during the regular season. This is a strong reflection of the club's talented defenseman and rock-solid goaltending.
Assistant coach Eric Verdi likes what he has seen from this year's version of the Outliers. Verdi has been behind the bench for the past two Mountain division titles and he sees a lot of similarities between the past champions and this season's group.
"This is a special group, no question about it. You don't collect 43 wins by accident. We have the most returners that we have ever had in a single season and these guys came back hungry to get back on top and chase a National Championship. The new players we have brought in have also been laser-focused from day one and together this group has gelled well and their performance on the ice is proof."
Winning in the playoffs requires a lot of sweat and sacrifice. If the Outliers are to repeat once again as Mountain division champions, the team will need to execute and play 'its way' for 60 minutes to continue picking up wins. There is no shortcut to success at this time of the year and Utah clearly understands that the stakes are high and the rewards are great.
"Playing in the playoffs is the most exciting part of the season because there is so much on the line. It's basically win or go home. It is as much of a mental battle as it is physical. Every game has so much meaning attached to it and there are a lot of ebbs and flows to the games. This is a hungry team and they have set some big goals for themselves from day one of training camp. I am excited to watch them rise to the occasion and be their best when it matters most," said assistant coach Richard Bohan.
The quest for a Mountain division title begins on March 11th and this Outliers team looks ready and poised to take a serious run at a 3-peat. They have proved they have a winning formula and now they need to take their magic into the postseason. The team's 'our way' mantra will be needed at every turn and it should prove to be one heck of a ride - Game on!