Outliers take down Riverblades
The 2020-21 season has been a whirlwind season for all involved in hockey in Utah this season wit never-ending challenges, but it has also been the season that a new rival for the Utah Outliers joined the league and the Mountain Division. The “Battle for Utah” is now split between three teams and with a division consisting of 5 teams with 4 teams that can go to playoffs. This fact leads to a risk that one team in Utah wouldn't make the playoffs.
That scenario was exactly what it all came down to this past Thursday night. The Utah Outliers went down to Provo to face off against the Provo Riverblades for the Riverblades’ last regular-season game and potentially the deciding game as to rather or not the Riverblades would earn the 4th spot in the playoffs.
The Riverblades, who struggled early in the season and then made a coaching change righ before the Christmas break, have arguably been the hottest team in the Mountain Division in 2021. The group completely turned their play around with a solid team effort each night and some dangerous offensive firepower. The Outliers knew how well the Riverblades have been playing of late and were determined to rise to the challenge and secure a playoff berth for themselves.
The Outliers entered this game knowing exactly how they had to play to be successful against the Riverblades. They wanted to get on the forecheck and be aggressive against Provo and try to take the puck out of the hands of their offensive players. Utah also knew it had to stay disciplined and not get into penalty trouble.
In the first period, the Riverblades broke the ice early in the game with a nifty passing play to convert on the power play to take a 1-0 lead. The Outliers did not panic and stuck to their game plan as they knew there was a lot of hockey left to play. The Outliers had a few chances of their own but couldn't find the back of the net. The first period would end with Provo leading by a score of 1-0 although the Outliers outshot Provo 18-12.
The second-period action saw both teams coming out with controlled yet fast pace play. The two teams were playing some desperate hockey and defending their net with aggression and blocking numerous shot attempts the first half of the period. The Outliers would finally get on the scoreboard and tie the game up at 1-1- when Nikolas Schwab scored for his team.
The Riverblades soon answered back with another goal of their own when a loose puck was collected at the net-front and shot past Utah goalie Collin Soderholm to put Provo up 2-1. The Outliers continued to work hard and manufacture chances at the Riverblades net. Utah forward Leeam Tivers would even the score at 2-2 when he deposited his shot past the Provo netminder. Outliers forward and team captain Josh Harrell assisted on the goal.
With the pressure to win running high for both teams, the intensity increased and a scuffle at the end of the period ensued between Outliers forward Micky Vignoli and Riverblades forward Micheal Urits. Both players were given 10-minute misconducts as well as Urtis receiving an extra 2-minute minor for his part in the scuffle. This would put the Outliers on the power play to begin the third period.
The second period would conclude with the score tied at 2-2 and the shots were 10 for the Outliers and 9 for the Riverblades.
The third-period action started with the Utah Outliers on the power play and they did not waste this opportunity to take the lead in the game. Just 92 seconds into the period forward Luke Volkman received a pass from Brett Morich upon entering the Riverblades zone on the power play. Morich would slide a pass from the right side of the zone to Volkmann in the middle of the slot. Volkmann made no mistake in hammering a one-timer shot past the Provo goalie. The Outliers finally had the lead in the game and the momentum to push towards victory.
The Outliers would once again play tight defense and limit Provo's scoring chances by defending the blue line and keeping them out of the slot and net-front area. Utah would also be tested to keep their discipline and not get caught up in the antagonistic play of the Riverblades.
In a last-ditch effort to tie the game up the RIverblades pulled their goalie with just over a minute left in the contest to gain the extra attacker. The Outliers would take advantage of this opportunity and increase their lead to 4-2 when Utah forward Dawson Armstrong received a pass from Micky Vignoli for the open net goal.
The Riverblades did not quit and answered back with another goal of their own to make it 4-3 with just 40 seconds left in the game. Fortunately for the Outliers, they would fend off Provo for the rest of the game and earn the 4-3 victory.
Netminder Collin Soderholm stayed strong and made some impressive saves throughout the game to help Utah skate off with the win. keeping the Riverblades limited while the Total shot for the game were 35 for the Outliers and 27 for Provo.
This game may have ended the season for the RIverblades, but they have become a formidable opponent in the Mountain Division and the Utah Outliers look forward to next season with the continuation of this rivalry and the “Battle for Utah” between the Outliers, Riverblades, and Ogden Mustangs.