Outliers win game 1 against NOCO
It was playoff hockey at its finest in game one of the Mountain Division finals.
The Utah Outliers pulled off a tight-checking 3-2 victory over the Northern Colorado Eagles to earn game one of the series and put them one win away from punching their ticket to the USPHL National Championship.
Garrett Alderman was back in between the pipes for Utah and Charles-Anthony Barbeau got the start for the visitors in the net. Goaltending is expected to play a storyline in this series and both goalies proved they were up for the challenge in game one.
The game began on the wrong foot for the Outliers as they were assessed a penalty just 90 seconds into the contest. Nikolas Schwab was called for elbowing which sent Utah to the box and Northern Colorado to the power play.
The Eagles made the Outliers pay with the man advantage by capitalizing on a point shot and taking an early 1-0 lead. With just 35 seconds remaining in the Utah penalty, Northern Colorado moved the puck up high around the zone and took a shot from the left side of the zone. The shot was blocked by Utah but the rebound found its way back up top to defenseman Xavier Fortin who wristed a quick shot from the blue line that beat Alderman who was screened on the play.
Utah would climb back into the game just minutes later at the 15:20 mark to even the score at 1-1 with a power play goal of their own. Nikolas Schwab would make up for his penalty by drawing one for his team when he was hauled down in front of the Eagles' net.
Parker Willimas sent the home fans into a frenzy when he scored a beautiful goal off an individual effort while attacking off the rush. Williams picked up a pass in the neutral zone and attacked the Eagles' defenseman at the blue line with a nifty one-on-one move to break free from pressure and barrel in all alone on the Eagles' goalie. Once all alone on the netminder, Williams made a nice fake move and then slipped his shot through Barbeau's five-hole.
After two early goals and some high-octane offense to start the game, both teams settled in and the game became a lot more tight-checking with aggressive defense taking center stage. Since offensive space was hard to come by, a high number of turnovers occurred at each end of the rink which made it challenging to create offense for either team.
Through all the stingy defensive play, Utah would keep pushing the pace to take control of the game and get the puck into the Eagles' zone to create scoring chances. That hard work and determination were rewarded at the 7:27 mark when Noah Bourassa converted on a chance at the net to give the Outliers a 2-1 lead.
Matthew Koepke started the breakout for Utah by making a head man pass up the right wing to teammate Matthew Kreczman. Upon receiving the pass, Kreczman skated up ice through the neutral zone and made an indirect chip play that sent the puck into the Eagles' zone. Forward Noah Bourassa won the foot race off the Kreczman chip and collected the puck at the goal line where he threw out a no-look pass to the front of the net for Trent Gephart. The shot by Gephart was originally stopped by the Barbeau but the rebound squirted loose and Bourassa was in the perfect position to tap the puck into the back of the net. The home team headed into the intermission with a 2-1 lead.
The second period started similarly as it had with the first and Utah being sent to the penalty box just a minute into the frame. Once again, Nikolas Schwab would be called for the infraction and it was back to the penalty kill for Utah.
At 18:51, Northern Colorado won the draw in the Outliers' zone and move the puck to the point. The Eagles' defenseman took a quick shot on goal which was tipped along the way to the net and beat a surprised Alderman on the glove side. This gave the Eagles another early period goal and tied the game at 2-2.
Like they have done so often this season, Utah showed great resilience in quickly bouncing back after surrendering a goal. At 14:52 Nikolas Schwab and Nick Obourn would team up together to work a passing play from behind the net to give the Outliers the 3-2 lead.
The play originated with Jonsson-Edfast controlling the puck in the Eagles' zone along the right side of the zone and making a quick escape move on an Eagles defender and passing the puck behind the net to Schwab. Schwab received the pass and located Nick Obourn stationed all alone at the front of the net and gave him an excellent tape-to-tape pass. Obourn blasted a one-timer shot off of Schwab's pass to drill it past Barbeau who had no chance on the play.
The period wound down with Utah being up by a score of 3-2 heading into the intermission with a chance to close out the game and take home the victory. Although there were not a ton of shots through the first two periods, both teams had some quality chances but goaltenders Alderman and Barbeau stood tall when called upon to keep the game close.
The third period played itself out with many more tight-checking and strong defensive plays from both clubs. This game resembled playoff hockey with lots of board battles, physical play, and limited offensive space. Although each team had additional powerplay opportunities in the third period, neither team could convert with the man advantage.
With the game clock ticking down, the Eagles pulled their goaltender in the last minute of the third period to play with an extra attacker 6-on-5 and push for the tying goal. The Outliers dug deep and locked down its defensive game with a solid effort from Alderman during the frantic last seconds. The final buzzer ended and Utah took home the 3-2 victory in front of a loud and boisterous home crowd!
Buckle up for game two of the series on Saturday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Acord Ice Center. The Outliers will have a chance to sweep the best-of-three series and earn their chance to play for a National title. You can catch all the action streamed live on HockeyTV.