The Utah Outliers are advancing to the Mountain Division Finals. The Outliers defeated the Idaho Falls Spud Kings by scores of 8-1 and 9-0 to earn the best-of-three series sweep and an opportunity at another division title.
Game 1: Utah Outliers 8, Idaho Falls 1 (Sat, Mar 11)
On Saturday night, the Outliers took the ice for game 1 of their playoff series in front of a packed Acord Ice Center. Utah used its trademark suffocating forecheck to take control of the game early and gain some much-needed momentum.
Just minutes into the game at the 16:24 mark, Utah gained possession of the puck in the Spud Kings zone where Outliers defenseman Mark Mussbacher fed teammate Emrik Froding with a pass into the slot. Froding collected the pass and worked his way to the net where he made a quick backhand move to lift the puck over a sprawling Idaho Falls netminder. This was the quick start Utah was looking for and it led to an early 1-0 lead.
The Outliers added to their lead at 5:36 of the opening frame off a breakout play. Blake Rothstein received a pass on the wing and slipped his pass across the ice to forward Paul Wauldhauser. The smooth-skating Waldhauser grabbed control of the puck and broke in all alone on the Spud Kings' goalie and buried his shot to give the Outliers a 2-0 lead.
Utah's pressure did not relinquish as the club added their third goal of the evening 44 seconds later when Outliers forward Isiah Parris drove wide down the left side of the ice and entered the Idaho Falls' zone. Parris skated the puck deep into the zone and then proceeded behind the net where he threw a pass to Lucas Ouellette who was positioned in the slot. Ouellete made no mistake with his shot and released a bullet through the legs of the Spud Kings' goaltender.
The first period drew to a close with Utah taking a commanding 3-0 lead and outshooting the Spud Kings by a margin of 19-7. Outliers netminder Nathan Dickey was not overly busy in the first period but he was up to the task with some solid saves.
In the second period, Idaho Falls tightened up their checking which made it more challenging for the Outliers to finish on some scoring chances. Utah got back on the board when the Spud Kings took a few undisciplined penalties to put the Outliers on a 5-on-3 powerplay.
While playing with the man advantage, Utah moved the puck around the zone with crisp passing and the puck eventually found its way onto the stick of Leyton Pettypiece. The gifted forward made a shifty fake on a Spud Kings defender and blasted his shot top corner to give Utah a 4-0 lead at the 3:46 mark.
Just twelve seconds later, while still playing on the power play, Utah increased its lead to 5-0. Utah captain Matt Koepke received a pass high at the blue line and found a clear lane to drive to the goal and rip his shot into the top corner of the net.
Idaho Falls eventually found the scoreboard late in the second period when they capitalized on a Utah mistake that led to a breakaway for the Spud Kings. Utah netminder, Nathan Dickey made the initial save with a poke check but the rebound found its way into the back of the net.
The second period came to an end with the Outliers leading by a score of 5-1 and outshooting Idaho Falls by a margin of 15-4. Utah's stingy defense made it difficult for Idaho Falls's offense to gain any momentum and produce many shots on goal.
The third period was all Outliers as they consistently controlled the play and pounded the Idaho Falls net with a plethora of shots. The home team's relentless attack was rewarded with three more goals in the final frame. Matthew Koepke, Nikolas Schwab, and Isiah Parris all found the back of the net for a dominating 8-1 victory.
Game 2: Utah Outliers 9, Idaho Falls 0 (Sun, Mar 12)
If there were any concerns about how the Outliers would start game 2 of this series, they were put to rest just 37 seconds into the contest.
Utah forward David Utkin received a pass from teammate Will Cohen and Utkin drilled his shot top shelf to give the home club an early 1-0 lead at the 19:23 mark.
Utah's early goal proved to be the lone goal of the opening frame as things tightened up defensively on both sides and the goalies were steady in the net. The Outliers gave the start in net to Thomas Pigeon and he did not disappoint as he made timely saves to lock the door on the Spud Kings.
In the second period, the Outliers came alive and once again proved how dangerous they can be offensively. Thirteen seconds into the period Utah got it rolling with its second goal of the game at the 19:47 mark. Outliers defenseman, Matthew Koepke drove wide into the Spud Kings' zone and laid a nifty pass into the slot to forward Miles McCue. The second-year forward released a quick shot through the legs of the Idaho Falls netminder.
Eleven seconds later at the 19:23 mark, Utah capitalized on its third goal of the game to make it 3-0. After winning a center-ice face-off, the Outliers stormed the Spud Kings' zone and defenseman Matthew Koepke ripped a shot from the blue line that was deflected by forward Lucas Ouellette.
Utah's attack would continue its scoring onslaught. At the 18:53 mark, newly acquired Outlier, Blake Rothstein made a centering pass to defenseman Magnus Einarson who deposited the puck into the net for a 4-0 lead.
The Outliers added two more goals in the middle frame to give them five goals in the period. Utah's Brian Fiides and David Utkin both found the back of the net and the Outliers headed into the second intermission with a commanding 6-0 lead.
The third period was a continuation of Utah's complete dominance in the series as they added three more goals in the final period. The Spud Kings' frustration and lack of discipline eventually caught up with the visitors as they took a series of penalties and game ejections.
Miles Mccue, Connor Mariner, and Blake Rothstein all netted a power play and the route was on as Utah exploded to a 9-0 victory.
Utah's goalie, Thomas Pigeon was steady in the net and slammed the door, earning a 25-save shutout.
Utah now advances to the Mountain Division finals. This is the team's third straight appearance in the finals as they have captured back-to-back division titles. The quest for a 3-peat begins next weekend as they play host to the Ogden Mustangs in a best-of-three series.