The Outliers were back on the road for a pair of games this past weekend. On Friday night, the club traveled to Peaks Ice Arena to play the Provo Predators and on Saturday they played at the Mountain America Center against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Utah demonstrated its dominance in both games picking up two victories and winning by a score of 6-1 and 2-1 to secure second place in the Mountain Division.
OUTLIERS 6, PREDATORS 1 (FRI, DECEMBER 8TH)
Utah came into Friday's game off the heels of a 5-1 win last weekend against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings and looked determined to take it to the Predators early in this contest. The Outliers strong play from a week earlier seemed to carry momentum into this game as the club got off to a hot start and found its scoring touch early and often.
Utah opened up the scoring to take a 1-0 lead at the 4:55 mark of the first period when defenseman Jentzen Kaebel released a shot towards the Predators net that ended up being deflected off of teammate David Utkin. The Outliers' offensive pressure was rewarded again just two minutes after their first goal as they quickly converted on another scoring chance to jump ahead 2-0. This time it was Outliers' forward Mason Keller scoring his first career junior goal when he deflected a point shot from defenseman Kieran Ronan.
Utah's offensive skill was on full display this night as the club scored its third goal of the game when forward Nathan Huntington deposited his shot past the Provo netminder at the 7:51 mark. This third goal capped off an offensive explosion by the Outliers that saw the team score three goals in a matter of just 2:58 seconds. The first period concluded with the Outliers leading 3-0 and outshooting the Predators by a margin of 15-6.
Utah continued their stranglehold on the game in the second period as they established an intense forecheck that resulted in the club generating a plethora of scoring chances and dominating offensive zone time. Five minutes into the second frame, the Outliers scored their fourth goal courtesy of a Kieran Ronan point shot that beat Davis through the legs. Ronan's goal was assisted by forwards Nathan Huntington and Adrian Gomez. The second period wound down with Utah leading 4-1 following a late power play goal by Provo.
The third period was an exercise in keeping the foot on the pedal for the Outliers who remained in control and put together a full three periods of 'team hockey.' A fifth Utah goal came shorthanded at the halfway point of the period when Nathan Huntington created a turnover that led to a breakaway. Huntington was stymied on the breakaway by the Predators netminder but Utah's Evan England captured the rebound and slid it into the back of the net. Outliers defenseman Brady Jones scored the clubs sixth goal of the contest when he buried his first career junior goal on the power play to give Utah a dominant 6-1 victory.
Shots for the game ended 36-28 in favor of the Outliers. Utah's goalie Phil Rondina, who leads the NCDC in save percentage and goals-against average, turned away 27 shots for another strong performance between the pipes.
OUTLIERS 2, SPUD KINGS 1 (SATURDAY, DEC. 9TH)
On Saturday, the Outliers were back in action as the team traveled to Idaho Falls to play the Spud Kings. The Outliers had just come off a big win the previous night against the Provo Predators and were hoping to pick up another two points in Idaho Falls.
Utah's red-hot goaltender, Philip Rondina got the start in net again for the Outliers as he was coming off another sparkling performance against Provo where he made several key saves throughout the game.
In the first period Saturday, the Outliers came out ready to battle, pressing hard against the Spud Kings and forcing the home team to grind along the boards and play physically from the opening whistle.
Early in the game Utah got on the scoreboard when they forced a defensive breakdown by the Spud Kings. Utah forward Makar Klochkov recovered a puck along the boards in the Idaho Falls zone and fed teammate David Utkin a cross-ice pass into the slot area. Utkin quickly received the pass and fired a one-timer slapshot into the back of the net for a 1-0 Outliers' lead.
Neither team would be able to find another goal in the opening frame due to some outstanding goaltending by both netminders who stood tall for their respective teams. Utah outshot the Spud Kings by a 14-13 margin in the opening frame.
In the second period, the storyline was once again the goaltenders. Both teams manufactured many high-quality scoring chances but they could not solve the outstanding play of Utah's Philip Rondina and Idaho Falls Prestyn Carter. Both netminders found themselves in a 'goaltending battle' as they continually matched one another save-for-save. The shots for the period ended up 12-11 in favor of Utah and set up a third period that would be up for grabs.
The final period displayed a lot of back-and-forth action with both clubs trying to impose their will on their opponents. Utah was determined to play a strong period and hold onto their lead for another victory and capture the valuable two points. Unfortunately for the Outliers, Idaho Falls found the equalizer in the final frame off an odd-man rush. The spud Kings entered Utah's zone wide and made a cross-ice pass and a quick shot was taken. Rondina reacted quickly to make the initial save but the puck squeezed through his body and was tapped into the net by an Idaho Falls player. This goal would force the game into overtime. Shots in the third period favored the Outliers 12-9.
In overtime, the action was fast and furious with both clubs generating some great scoring chances but it was David Utkin scoring his second goal of the evening to give Utah a 2-1 OT win. After a rush up ice and shot attempt at the Spud Kings net, Utkin found himself all alone at the side of the net with the puck on his stick. The NCDC's leading goal scorer quickly scooped up the puck and shot into the top corner of the net past goaltender Carter. The Outliers piled off the bench to mob Utkin and celebrate a hard-fought win earning another two points and quickly climbing the Mountain Division standings.