The Outliers will head into the Christmas break on a six game winning streak after earning a sweep at the Frozen Futures Showcase. The event featured all six Mountain Division teams playing three games in front of NCAA scouts from all across the country. Utah was victorious in all of its showcase games as they defeated the Ogden Mustangs 5-3, beat the Idaho Falls Spud Kings 5-4, and finished off the sweep with a 6-3 victory over the Rock Springs Grizzlies.
OUTLIERS 5, MUSTANGS 3 (DEC 14)
The Outliers kicked off game 1 of their showcase with a matchup against their state rival, the Ogden Mustangs. The competition between these two clubs was intense from the drop of the puck as it is always a highly contested game when these two clubs face off against each other. Big hits, great plays, and highlight saves were constantly on display in this contest.
Utah got off to a quick start in this matinee game as they opened up the scoring just 2:47 into the first period. With the puck in Ogden's zone and the Outliers pressing for offense, Utah's Mason Keller intercepted an errant pass and quickly threw it into the slot to Magzhan Sagadiev who shot the puck into the back of the net. Despite the quick start for Utah, the Mustangs found their way back into the game just three minutes later when Parker Osborn deflected a shot from the point past Outliers goalie Phil Rondina.
The first period ended with the teams knotted up at 1-1 and the Mustangs outshooting the Outliers 11-8. Both goalies made some terrific saves in the opening frame to keep the score at one apiece.
In the second period, Ogden got off to a fast start and carried some of the play in the Outliers zone. Despite the slow start to the period and having to weather the storm against some Mustang scoring chances, Utah was able to hold the visitors off the scoreboard. Goaltender Phil Rondina was once again a big storyline for Utah as he made several huge saves in the period to keep the score tied.
The game appeared to be heading into the second intermission tied at 1-1 but with just four seconds remaining in the period, Utah forward Carson Teckenburg entered the Mustangs zone and fired a shot from the top of the circle where teammate Makar Klochkov capitalized on the rebound.
The period came to an end with the Outliers leading Ogden 2-1 and setting themselves up for a big third period and a chance to take home two points.
In the third period, the Outliers extended their lead to 3-1 at the 0:54 mark as Michael Schwartz buried his 6th goal of the season. Less than a minute later Outliers forward Nathan Huntington found the back of the net for his third of the season to put Utah up 4-1 and give them some breathing room.
Despite the great start by the Outliers the Mustangs were able to inch their way back into the game with a couple of goals themselves.
The game would remain at 4-3 until the 18:18 mark of the final frame when David Utkin found himself on a breakaway. Utkin would drive hard to the Ogden net and make a nifty fake move to slip the puck past the goaltender and give Utah a 5-3 victory.
OUTLIERS 5, SPUD KINGS 4 (DEC 15)
In game 2 of the showcase, Utah found itself in another tough battle against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings in front of a soldout crowd at the Mountain America Center. With the crowd against them, the Outliers were going to need another great effort in this contest to earn a victory and continue their winning streak.
Utah would be off and rolling quickly thanks to some terrific team speed and offensive pressure. The high-octane offense from the Outliers generated many solid scoring chances but the Spud Kings netminder Prestyn Carter took center stage and thwarted them all away with some spectacular saves.
It wasn't until 2:58 remaining in the opening period that Utah's Michael Schwartz finally solved Idaho Falls goaltender to get on the scoreboard. Schwartz captured the puck in the Spud Kings zone, rolled out of the corner, and drove to the net where he released a backhand shot that beat Carter cleanly to give the Outliers a 1-0 lead.
Before the opening frame would end, the Spud Kings came storming back to tie the game 1-1 in the last minute of the period. With just 22 seconds remaining, the Spud Kings generated an odd-man rush that produced a shot with the rebound falling right onto the stick of an Idaho Falls player who scored into the wide open net. The period ended 1-1 but the Outliers held an edge in shots on goal by a margin of 14-11.
In the second period, Utah's power play got them back on the scoreboard to give them a 2-1 lead. Outliers forward, Makar Klochkov would skate up the ice and enter the Spud Kings zone where he drove to the net hard and tucked his shot at the far post past the Idaho Falls goaltender. It was a terrific individual effort and a big goal in the game to put the Outliers ahead and silence the Idaho Falls crowd.
Utah appeared to have the game under control as they played a lot of the period with the puck which kept the Spud Kings from playing much offense. Unfortunately for Outliers, the game quickly changed direction with just a couple of minutes remaining in the period.
With 1:27 left in the period, Idaho Falls gained control of the puck in the Outliers zone and made a cross-ice pass to an open player who converted his shot past Utah's netminder, Philip Rondina to tie the game at 1-1. Just seconds later at the 1:15 mark, the Spud Kings took the lead when they dumped the puck into the Outliers zone and it was misplayed at the net front and found its way into the back of the net and electrified the home crowd. A stunned Utah team would skate off the ice into the second intermission down 3-2 despite outshooting Idaho Falls 18-11 in the second frame.
The third period started exactly how the Outliers needed it to with them scoring a couple of much-needed goals. in the opening minute, while playing on the power play, Michael Schwartz converted on a slick pass from Garrett Joss to even the score at 3-3. Halfway through the period, it was Garrett Joss leading the way for Utah with an outstanding move on a Spud Kings defender to earn a breakaway and bury his shot into the top corner for a 4-3 Outliers' lead.
With just over five minutes remaining in the game, Utah's powerplay capitalized again when David Utkin rolled up high to the top of the Spud Kings zone and dished a pass to Makar Klochkov who drilled his shot into the top corner for a 5-3 Outliers' lead. Idaho Falls would find one more goal of their own late in the contest but Utah's Philip Rondina shut the door the rest of the night to give the club a 5-4 victory. The Outliers outshot the Spud Kings 13-10 in the final period for an overall advantage of 45-33 for the game.
OUTLIERS 6, GRIZZLIES 3 (DEC 16)
On Saturday, the Outliers squared off against the Rock Springs Grizzlies for their third and final game at the Frozen Futures Showcase. This game gave the Outliers a chance to be the only team to go undefeated at the showcase as well as put them just two points behind the Mustangs for first place in the Mountain Division standings.
The Outliers started rookie goaltender Sam Straff who came into the game searching for his first victory in his first career junior hockey game. The rookie goaltender would be tested throughout the day but came up big for the team when called upon.
The first period started quickly for the Utah squad as they were able to pepper the Grizzlies' netminder as well as spend significant time in the Grizzlies' zone. Despite the dominating opening 20 minutes, Utah was held off the board and the period ended 0-0 with shots 15-5 in favor of the Outliers.
The second period began with Utah dominating play with their intense forecheck coupled with an extremely efficient rush game. The fast-paced execution from the Outliers saw them finally get rewarded for their strong offensive play. Carson Teckenburg found himself on a short breakaway after an amazing spin-o-rama pass by Mason Keller who continued his impressive performances since moving from the position of defenseman to forward.
Despite the rapid start for the Outliers, the Grizzlies were able to find their game and scored at the 4:04 and 8:34 mark of the second frame to give themselves the 2-1 lead.
The Outliers eventually found their footing and showed off their skill by having an offensive explosion late in the second frame. The club scored three goals in under four minutes to put a stranglehold on the game.
The first Utah player to find the net in their scoring flurry was defenseman Brady Jones. Michael Schwartz followed next with a slippery move that beat the Rock Springs netminder and Utah's Makar Klochkov finished the period off with a nice goal. The period ended with Utah leading 4-2 and outshooting the Grizzlies 35-14.
The third period saw Utah defenseman Jakub Cervenka collect his first goal of the season at the 1:36 mark when he flew down the wide lane into the Rock Springs zone and blasted his heavy shot past the Rock Springs netminder.
The score held at 5-2 until the 15:07 mark when Makar Klochkov collected his 10th goal of the season. The Grizzlies answered by striking back less than a minute later to make the game 6-3. Despite the pushback by the Grizzlies, the game ended 6-3 to give the Outliers a sweep at the Frozen Futures Showcase and head into the holidays on a six-game win streak.
Utah Goalie Sam Straff solidified the win for the club with his strong debut. Straff was called upon to make several key saves throughout the game as he finished the contest with 21 saves.
The Outliers will now head into the Christmas break on a six-game win streak. The team has also won ten out of its past 11 games and sits two points out of first place in the Mountain division. The group will get some much-deserved rest before returning to action on Jan 29-31 in Colorado against the Pueblo Bulls.