OUTLIERS BATTLE PROVO
The Outliers fell short of completing a weekend sweep against the Provo Predators. Utah had to settle with a series split as they earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Friday but ended up dropping Saturday's game by a score of 5-3.
OUTLIERS 2, PREDATORS 1 (JAN 26TH)
The Outliers came out ready to play on Friday in front of a large crowd at the Acord Ice Center. The team was determined to find their game early and entertain the home crowd.
Philip Rondina was back in the net for the Outliers and looking to add another victory to the win column. Rondina who has been rock solid for his club all season didn't disappoint as he once again rose to the challenge in this contest.
The Outliers started quickly in the opening period when Rhyle Shevlin opened the scoring for Utah at the 7:08 mark to give his club a 1-0 lead. While possessing the puck in the Predators zone, Utah's Evan England took a shot from the goalline that hit the net and bounced out into the slot to a wide-open Shevlin. Gathering the puck quickly, Shevlin fired a hard shot that hit the post and bounced off the Provo goaltender and into the back of the net.
The second period was a tight-checking affair with both teams applying aggressive pressure and making it difficult for either team's offense to generate any meaningful opportunities. When scoring chances were manufactured, both goaltenders were up to the task and shut the door.
It appeared as if the second period would end scoreless but with just 12 seconds remaining on the clock, Provo tied the game 1-1. During a face-off in the Outliers zone, Provo won possession of the puck and took a quick shot on Outliers goalie Philip Rondina who made the initial save but was unable to control the rebound. The rebound would land on the stick of a Predator player who tapped it into the net to even the score.
In the third period, Utah came out flying and carried a lot of the offensive play but struggled to convert and find the back of the net. Fortunately for the Outliers, their persistence eventually paid off late in the third period when they scored with just over three minutes remaining in the game to take a 2-1 lead.
Utah's second goal of the contest would come courtesy of Outliers forward Michael Schwartz who dazzled the home crowd with a highlight reel scoring play. Schwartz took control of a loose puck just inside the Predators zone and then skated towards the net where he made a nifty one-on-one move to undress the Provo defender and shoot the puck into the top corner of the net.
The Predators pulled their goalie in the dying minutes of the game but Utah's defense held strong to deny any scoring attempts and hold on for a 2-1 victory.
Shots in the game favored Utah by a margin of 37-25 and the team earned another two points for its 25th win of the season.
OUTLIERS 3, PREDATORS 5 (JAN 27TH)
Utah came into Saturday's game feeling confident from their 2-1 win the previous night against Provo and the group was eager to earn a series sweep against their Utah rival.
Unfortunately, in this game, Utah struggled out of the gate early and had a hard time finding their rhythm for most of the night. The team fell behind early and could never find a way to play with the lead and capture any lasting momentum.
Provo opened up the scoring at the 1:35 mark of the first period. The visitors moved the puck around the Outliers zone and eventually found some time and space to make a play at the net where Predators captain, Ben Picard found himself all alone at the Utah net. Picard would receive a pass in front of the goal and rip his shot top shelf past goalie Philip Rondina.
Despite the slow start, Utah regained their composure and capitalized on the power play to tie the score 1-1. While working the puck around in the Provo zone, Outliers Defenseman, Jentzen Kaebel collected a pass at the blue line and skated towards the net where he fired a hard shot that beat the Predators netminder low on the blocker side. The goal was assisted by Carson Teckenburg.
The first period ended with the score deadlocked at 1-1 and Provo outshooting Utah by a margin of 13-12. Both goalies made several key saves throughout the opening frame to deny any additional scoring.
The second period saw a lot of even play from both teams as the action went back and forth but eventually, it was Provo taking the lead again at the 11:21 mark when forward Einar Naslund found the back of the net, much to the chagrin of the Outliers fans.
Just five minutes later, Provo's Ryan Roethke potted his fifteenth of the season when he rushed the puck into the Outliers zone and cut through the defense to hand Provo a 3-1 lead.
Despite the deficit, Utah did not fold as they were able to draw within one when newly acquired Outliers forward Carson Strapon made a nifty deflection off defenseman Jentzen Kaebel's point shot in the dying minutes of the second frame.
The teams would head into their respective locker rooms with Provo leading by a score of 3-2 but Utah had gained some momentum from their late-period goal and set them up for a big third period. Shots in the second frame were 12-9 in favor of the Outliers.
Utah came out for the third period with a frantic pace that would help them draw a power play opportunity. The powerplay converted quickly when Outliers forward Makar Klochkov drilled his shot from the top of the circle into the top corner and tied the game 3-3.
Despite a hot start to the period by Utah, the Predators wound up answering back with a quick goal on a poor defensive breakdown by the Outliers and took a 4-3 lead. The visitors added one more goal on this evening to skate off with a 5-3 win.
Shots for the game ended 39-33 in favor of the Predators. Utah netminder Phil Rondina, turned away 34 shots while Provo goaltender Michael Polston stopped 30 of the 33 shots. This win by the Predators was their second of the season against Utah and their first in regulation.
Utah will be back in action next weekend as they host the Pueblo Bulls for a pair of games at the Acord Ice Center. Be sure to catch all the action on flohockeytv.com.