Outliers win game one
Game one of the Mountain Division semi-finals started just as the Utah Outliers hoped it would - with a win! The home team defeated the Pueblo Bulls by a score of 6-2 to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three format.
Utah's Garret Alderman and Pueblo's Alex Timmons got the start in goal for their respective teams. Both goalies were solid over the course of the evening making a number of timely saves to nullify the offense.
The game began with both teams competing hard and using an aggressive checking style to try and establish control over their opponent. Utah would eventually gain much of the early momentum as they consistently pushed the puck up ice into the Bulls' zone to work their offense and create traffic at the net. Through a series of nice play combinations, Utah was able to get some solid looks at the net but couldn't convert their opportunities into a goal, including a shot from the point by Matthew Koepke that rung off the crossbar but stayed out of the net.
Utah kept up the attack and offensive pressure which finally paid dividends for the home club. At 7:56, the Outliers applied a tenacious forecheck that led to the first goal of the game. Utah reclaimed the puck in the neutral zone and defenseman Magnus Einarson made a quick pass to forward Miles Mccue skating up the ice. Upon receiving the pass, Mccue was pressured hard by Pueblo so he quickly chipped the puck into the Bulls' zone and sprinted after it on the forecheck. McCue's hard work and hustle created a turnover along the end boards in which he took possession of the puck and skated to the side of the net where he found Will Cohen sitting all alone on the backdoor. Cohen would collect his pass from Mccue and deposit his shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Outliers added to their lead at the 4:10 mark of the first period when they won a defensive zone face-off that sent the puck into the Pueblo zone. It was again the aggressive forecheck by the Outliers' Nick Obourn and Carl Jonsson-Edfast that led to a turnover and a scoring chance at the Bulls' net. Jonsson-Edfast picked up the rebound after the initial shot and skated behind the net where he fed a pass to defenseman Matthew Koepke sliding down from the point. Koepke would grab the pass and release a quick shot that found its way through Timmons's legs for a 2-0 Utah lead.
In the second period, it was the Bulls wasting little time to find their first goal of the night when they converted on the power play just four minutes into the period. Nick Obourn was called for an infraction that sent Pueblo on the man advantage and they would make Utah pay with a shot from the slot.
The Bulls enter entered the Utah zone off the rush on the power play and quickly make a centering pass to the slot where the puck found the stick of Pueblo defenseman Connor Williams. The Bulls' defenseman showed good poise in hanging on to the puck and waiting for a screen to set up at the Outliers' net then made a perfectly placed shot that beat Alderman through a maze of bodies. Pueblo was now on the board to narrow Utah's lead to 2-1.
Utah grabbed their two-goal lead back when they capitalized on a power play of their own at 9:26 of the second period. The Outliers won an offensive zone face-off back to the point where defenseman Jakub Suran would walk the blue line and shoot a laser into the top corner that beat Timmons cleanly for a 3-1 lead.
The home team scored its fourth goal of the night and its second power-play goal of the game at the 3:23 mark. Leyton Pettypiece and Will Cohen worked the puck low to high in the Pueblo zone and then Cohen made a nifty cross-ice pass to teammate Miles Mccue on the right side of the zone. Mccue gathered the puck and skated down an open lane and pounded a heavy snapshot into the top corner to give the Outliers a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the intermission.
The third period was a strong display of defensive hockey by Utah as they protected their net with a collective effort and shut down the Bulls' offense five-on-five. Although Pueblo was able to add another goal on the man-advantage goal to make it 4-2, the Outliers responded by adding two empty-net goals during the final minutes of the game to give themselves a 6-2 victory.
Utah defenseman Matt Koepke and forward Parker Williams both found the empty net for the Outliers to help solidify the win and give Utah a 1-0 series lead. Garrett Alderman made 23 saves for his club and earn the victory between the pipes.
The Outliers' three stars of the night belonged to #1 Matthew Koepke #2 Miles Mccue #3 Garrett Alderman
The two teams will be back in action on Saturday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Acord Ice Center for the second game of the best of three series. The game will be live broadcast on HockeyTV.com