Outliers finish regular season on top
The Outliers finished their last two remaining games of the Regular Season on Saturday and Sunday with two more victories. Utah finished first in the USPHL Premier based on total points with 81 and a record of 38-6-4. The team's winning record also earned them the first-place seed in the Mountain Division heading into playoffs.
Saturday Feb 26, Outliers 8 vs. Riverblades 2
On Saturday the Outliers played in Provo at the Peaks Ice Arena against the Riverblades for their last road game of the regular season. Utah was coming off a big home win on Friday night and was looking to continue their winning ways with a strong performance to finish off the regular season on a high note.
This game did not begin the way the Outliers had planned as they quickly went down by a score of 2-0 as a result of a couple of costly and uncharacteristic giveaways. The Riverblades made good on both of the Outliers' miscues and grabbed the momentum early in the game.
Utah would show no panic and finally get their game moving in the right direction as they picked up their offensive play and started to carry the momentum against Provo. Leyton Pettypiece got the visitors on the scoreboard when he skated into the Provo zone and cut across the middle of the ice and released a quick shot that found its way through the Riverblades' netminder to narrow the score to 2-1.
Just over a minute later, the Outliers struck again as they controlled possession of the puck in the Riverblades end. The puck was moved around the zone by Utah and eventually ended up below the goal line where forward Donovan Burdette passed it to Miles Mccue who was skating through the slot. Mccue quickly fired his shot off of Burdette's pass and beat the Provo netminder over his glove hand to even the game at 2-2.
The period appeared as if it would close out with the game tied, but with 57 seconds remaining in the frame, the Outliers struck again for their third goal of the evening. The goal came off a neutral zone face-off which Utah won and forward Miles Mccue entered the Provo zone and executed a high delay move inside the blue line and then threw a cross-ice pass to Matthew Koepke. The Utah defenseman gathered the pass and skated down an open lane to thread his shot top corner giving the Outliers a 3-2 lead.
The second period went back and forth without much scoring until Utah was able to extend their lead to 4-2 at the 13:41 mark. Defenseman Jakub Suran controlled the puck in the Riverblades' zone and found teammate Trent Gephart all alone at the front of the net. Suran slid his pass through multiple Provo defenders as Gephart skillfully tapped the puck into the open cage.
Leyton Pettypiece made it 5-2 in Utah's favor when he scored his second goal of the game while the two team's played four-on-four hockey due to a pair of coincidental penalties. The Outliers gained the Provo zone and controlled puck possession as they maneuvered around the zone creating confusion for the Provo defenders. Forward Nick Urtis rolled down the boards and towards the Riverblades net but then made a quick drop pass to teammate Pettypiece who was skating past him. Pettypiece grabbed control of the puck off Urtis's pass and skated through the slot and scored bar down.
Seconds later, Utah was adding another goal to make it 6-2 while still playing four-on-four hockey. This time it was Nikolas Schwab controlling the puck in the Riverblades' zone and driving to the net with the puck. Schwab was stopped by a Provo defender on his attempt but the puck squirted loose at the front of the net and Miles McCue was there to pounce on it and shoot it past the Provo netminder for his second goal of the contest.
With eleven seconds remaining in the second period, the Outliers won an offensive zone face-off to set up a play at the Provo net. Defenseman Magnus Einarson secured control of the puck and skated towards the Riverblades' net where he released a shot on ner. Einarson's shot produced a rebound that Leyton Pettypiece tapped past the goalie for the hat trick and Utah's seventh goal of the night with just 0.1 seconds remaining in the period.
Utah added one more goal in the third period to increase their lead to 8-2 and skate away with the convincing victory. The final goal of the game belonged to Matt Kreczman who was the recipient of a Provo turnover. Forward Nick Obourn picked up the puck off a turnover in the neutral zone and then entered the Riverblades' zone where he fed a pass to Kreczman who skated in on goal and picked the far corner perfectly.
Utah goalies Lucas Brine and Garret Alderman shared the goaltending duties by splitting the game and sharing the workload. The two goalies faced a combined 20 shots from Provo while Utah placed 45 shots on the Riverblades net.
SUNDAY, Feb 27, Outliers 3 vs. Eagles 2
Sunday was the final regular-season game for the Outliers as they faced off against the Northern Colorado Eagles for a noon game at the Acord Ice Center. Utah had just beaten the Eagles on Friday night and was hoping to repeat that result and add another two points in the win column and earn a weekend sweep.
The game started favorably for Utah as they got off to a quick start and controlled most of the puck possession. Utah had a lot of energy early and it showed as they consistently peppered the Eagles netminder with a variety of shots in search of the game's first goal.
With a little over five minutes into the game, Utah forward Will Cohen skated through the middle of the ice in the neutral zone and entered the Eagles zone off the rush. When crossing over the blue line, Cohen dished a lateral pass to Miles Mccue skating down the right side of the zone. Mccue would collect the pass and drive towards the Eagles net where he made a centering pass to Leyton Pettypiece on the backdoor. Pettypiece whacked the puck off McCue's pass past the Northern Colorado goalie for a 1-0 Utah lead.
McCue helped extend Utah's lead when he grabbed a neutral zone turnover and burst into the Eagles' zone by aggressively skating the puck low into their zone. As McCue was being pressured by a couple of Northern Colorado defenders, he quickly centered a pass to Nick Obourn who found some open ice in the slot. Obourn gathered the Mccue pass and swiftly blasted it past the Eagles' goalie at the 4:36 mark. The period would wind down with the Outliers up by a score of 2-0.
The second period was filled with penalties and eliminated many of the five-on-five plays that had been played throughout the opening frame. With both teams making numerous trips to the penalty box, it was time for the penalty killers to shine for both clubs. Neither team was able to capitalize with the man advantage and the penalty kill proved to be a big part of the game as it held off the power plays on several attempts.
The final period started quickly for the Outliers as they scored just two minutes into the action. Defenseman Luke Clarke kept an Eagles' clearing attempt in at the offensive zone blue line and made a pass to Matt Kreczman positioned at the Northern Colorado net. Kreczman caught the pass from Clarke and spun off an Eagles defender, shooting the puck into the back of the net for a 3-0 Outliers lead.
Northern Colorado found its way onto the scoreboard when they converted on an opportunity at the 10:25 mark to make it 3-1. The Eagles scored another goal with just 3:05 remaining in the game when they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker and closed Utah's lead to 3-2.
The game's final minutes were fast and furious as Northern Colorado pulled their goaltender once again and applied intense pressure in the Outliers' zone. The home team hung tough and defended its net effectively to prevent any further scoring by Northern Colorado and Utah secured the 3-2 victory to earn the weekend sweep.
The Outliers will now prepare for the playoffs and the road to Nationals. Stay tuned for playoff announcements regarding the Mountain Division semi-finals which will be played March 11-13 at the Acord Ice Center.