Outliers Pounce on Predators

by Paul Taylor

The Mountain Division-leading Utah Outliers looked to keep a steady lead in the division as they faced off against the Provo Predators. The Outliers are unbeaten against the Predators this season and were determined to continue that streak on Saturday. 

Utah Outliers 5, Provo Predators 2 (Saturday, February 4)

After a modified week of practice due to travel issues and being stuck in Colorado, the Outlier's game plan against Provo was to start fast and try to dominate the early 5-on-5 play. The team's plan worked to perfection when just a minute into the contest, Utah defenseman Matt Koepke made a breakout pass to teammate Leyton Pettypiece who barreled up the ice into the Predator's zone and found defenseman Mark Mussbacher trailing the play. Mussbacher skated toward the goal and ripped his shot top shelf past the Provo netminder for a 1-0 Utah lead. 

The Outliers’ continued to control the early portions of the game and press the pace as they peppered the Provo net with a multitude of shots to try and extend their lead. Unfortunately for the Outliers, the Predator's netminder was on his game and stood tall between the pipes to deny Utah its next goal. 

Utah finally solved the Predator's netminder to take a 2-0 lead while playing on the power play. Utah defenseman, Donovan Burdette took a pass at the point and walked the blue line, and rifled a shot into the top corner past a screened Provo goaltender. This goal would give the Outliers some breathing room as they headed into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. 

Utah outshot the Predators by a margin of 10-9 in the first period. Utah netminder, Nathan Dickey was rock solid in the opening frame as he made some timely saves to deny Provo any offensive success and keep the opponents off the scoreboard. 

In the second period, Utah continued its aggressive play while showing off its offensive skill as the team controlled a lot of the puck possession and attacked the Predator's end of the ice. The Outlier's consistent offensive attacks had a 'fatigue effect' on Provo as they were called for a penalty that put Utah back on the power play. For Donovan Burdette, lightning does strike twice. Burdette once again collected the puck at the point and walked the blue line and took a carbon copy shot of his first goal that once again found the back of the net for a 3-0 Outliers lead. 

Goaltender Nathan Dickey continued to shut the door for Utah and keep a clean slate until his team showed a crack in its defensive armor and Predators forward Tristen Friedman scored to put Provo on the board and make it a 3-1 game.

The second period came to an end with Utah holding a 3-1 lead behind 2 power play goals from Donovan Burdette and some stingy defense by Utah. The Outliers once again outshot Provo by a margin of 15-9 in the second frame. 

As the third period got underway, the Outliers hoped to protect their lead and grab the two points on the night. The Predators had other ideas on their mind and were in no mood to pack it in for the game. Provo came out buzzing early in the final period and just a minute into the third period they found their second goal, Provo forward Emmanuel Nkombo grabbed his 15th goal of the season and narrowed the Utah lead to 3-2. With Provo gaining some life and pressing the Utah net, Nathan Dickey came answering the call with some key saves to keep the Outliers in front. 

At the 15-minute mark, newly acquired Utah forward, Dylan McCormick broke up ice off the rush and whistled a shot past the Predators netminder to give the Outliers a 4-2 lead. The Outliers then added another power play goal on the evening when Utah Matthew Koepke blasted a shot from the right face-off circle past a screened Provo goaltender. 

The Outlier lead would stay at three goals behind another great performance for Nathan Dickey. The Outliers netminder grabbed his 14th win on the season with a record of 14-2-2. He faced 31 shots on net, making 29 saves and earning a .935 save percentage on the night. 

The Outliers are back in action next weekend as they work towards locking up first place in the Mountain division. Utah will play host to the Ogden Mustangs Friday, Feb 10th at 7 pm and Saturday, Feb 11th at 630 pm. The team will also play host to the Idaho Falls Spud Kings at noon on Sunday. All games will be played at the Acord Ice Center in West Valley. All the games will be broadcasted on Livestream on HockeyTV.com