Weekend Wrap-Up (October 5-7)
Time is flying by, as we’re already done with the third week of the 2012-2013 regular season. This past weekend, 13 teams were in action over 14 games and as we’ve come to expect, there were plenty of surprises.
Below is a recap of each weekend series:
El Paso Rhinos (3-0-0, 1st in Mountain Division) @ Arizona Redhawks (1-4-1, 4th in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Peoria, Arizona
After much anticipation, the El Paso Rhinos finally made both their season and Mountain Division debut, with a trip to Arizona to take on the Redhawks over the weekend.
Game one was the tightest of the series, as the Redhawks fought back late to make a game of it but wound up falling by a score of 4-3.
In that game, goaltender Allan Cukier became not only the first player from Mexico to play in the Western States Hockey League but also the first to win a game in net, as he stopped what he had to, while facing few Arizona chances.
Game two was much more wide open, which favored the fast and physical style of the Rhinos, as the visitors scored three times in every period, en route to a 9-1 shellacking.
Veteran forward David Nelson led the offensive charge for Cory Herman’s squad, picking up four points on the night.
Game three was more of the same, as the Rhinos led 4-0 after 20 minutes of play and never looked back, running away with a 8-2 victory and series sweep.
With the game well in-hand, Rhinos’ forward John Ludwig scored a rare natural hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the third period, with no scoring in between.
After one weekend of play, the Rhinos are exactly where you many thought they’d be; right at the top of their division’s standings. They looked like their usual hard-hitting, highly skilled selves and showed depth they may have lacked last year.
After starting the year with a decent showing in Boulder, the Redhawks struggled against the speed and fore-check of the Rhinos, who are certainly the most relentless team they’ll see all year.
They were able to hang around in game one but seemed to wear down over the long weekend and it showed in their play on Sunday. Rob Powell’s team has proved they can play with anyone but they’ll need to compete better over tough weekends.
Ogden Mustangs (2-2-2, T-1st in Northwest Division) @ Bay Area Seals (3-5-0, T-4th in Pacific Division)
Three-game series in Daly City, California
Coming off a beating at the hands of the Fresno Monsters, the Bay Area Seals were back in action at the Cow Palace over the weekend, where they welcomed in the Ogden Mustangs.
The Mustangs hadn’t played since being swept in their opening weekend by the Valencia Flyers, which made for two hungry hockey teams.
Ogden showed no signs of the dreaded “bus legs” early in game one, as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Seals showed some resiliency, striking back for two of their own over the last three minutes of the period to knot the game at two.
After going back and forth over the final two periods of regulation, the two teams headed to overtime tied at four. Just 1:16 into the extra period, Casey Mertens’ first goal of the season gave Bay Area their first home victory in franchise history.
Game two was another tight one, as each team notched a goal in periods one and three but in between, the Mustangs scored three unanswered goals in the second period, in a 5-2 win.
In the finale, four different Mustangs scored in the opening frame and despite a late flurry from Bay Area, were able to hold on for a 6-2 win, taking the series from the host Seals.
The two victories are big for the Mustangs, who played well in their opening weekend against Valencia but failed to hold onto late leads. Their solid play in northern California should give them some much-needed momentum heading into next weekend’s divisional matchup with the Southern Oregon Spartans.
The Seals won’t be happy about losing five of their last six games but played much better this weekend than they did against Fresno.
The team was far more disciplined, structured and efficient in all three zones, a promising sign for head coach Zac Lytle.
Fresno Monsters (6-0-0, 1st in Pacific Division) @ San Diego Gulls (0-5-0, 6th in Pacific Division)
Thee-game series in Escondido, California
After going on the road and sweeping series’ from two divisional opponents to begin the year, the Fresno Monsters look cozy in their usual spot atop the division standings.
This weekend they traveled south to Escondido to clash with the Gulls, who are struggling through a rebuild early in the season.
The Monsters scored twice in the opening period of game one and that was all they would need in a 2-1 victory, as goaltender Brenden Manquen was solid in a game that featured very few scoring chances.
Reed Kinsey’s goaltending was the only thing that kept the host Gulls in game two of the series, as the undersized netminder was busy all night.
Drew DePalma’s goal halfway through the third period actually tied the game for San Diego but the Monsters struck back for two late goals of their own and took the 4-2 win, with veteran forward Justin Plate picking up a goal and an assist.
It was the Nick McKee show in game three, as the Monsters’ leading scorer from last season notched the second natural hat-trick in the WSHL over the weekend, scoring all three of his goals within an amazing span of 1:43, which was enough to blow the door open and lead the Monsters to a 5-2 win and series sweep.
As usual, Bryce Dale and the Monsters are dominating the Pacific Division early in the season. After beating up on the Bay Area Seals, they’ve now swept their second marine animal in as many weeks. They may not be as deep as they have been in years past but so far, they’ve had more than enough to get by.
After two tight games last weekend, the Gulls are now winless after five games to start the year, which includes four home games. General Manager Bruce Miller said it would be a rebuilding year but the Gulls usually can find a way to win hockey games while retooling. Just two weeks into the season, it looks like head coach Craig Carlyle will have his work cut out for him in his second year with the program.
Seattle Totems (1-2-1, 4th in Northwest Division) @ Southern Oregon Spartans (3-1-0, T-1st in Northwest Division)
Two-game series in Medford, Oregon
Four games into the first WSHL campaign for each team and the Southern Oregon Spartans and Seattle Totems have only seen each other.
After an opening weekend in Seattle in which they split two games, they decided to do it again but in Medford, Oregon this time around.
The visiting Totems quieted the rowdy home crowd early in game one, as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 2:52 into the contest, behind goals from Jacob Stonecipher and Kyle Blondin.
Behind a relentless fore-check and four lines of forward depth, the Spartans were able to fight back and take the victory, with defenseman Alex O’Leary providing the game-winner 2:06 into the third period, in a 4-3 win.
With the Spartans leading by a goal heading into the third period of the second game of the short series, head coach Mike Stanaway needed a veteran leader to step-up and that man was Tim Talty, the leading scorer in the NORPAC last season.
The second-year forward notched his first two goals of the season and led his Spartans to a 5-2 victory, in a penalty-riddled affair.
The Totems have played Southern Oregon tight early in the season but haven’t found a way to stick around late, aside from one game. They seem to be lacking the high-powered offense they’ve shown in recent years and will have to find more scoring depth, to make up for the loss of a few top-end scorers.
Southern Oregon looks like a real force early in the season and should only get stronger with guys like Talty heating up.
Next weekend they’ll travel to Utah for what should be an interesting divisional series with the Ogden Mustangs.
Dallas Snipers (4-2-0, T-1st in Midwest Division) @ Texas Brahmas (2-4-1, 3rd in Midwest Division)
Game played Friday in North Richland Hills, Texas
Raise your hand if you predicted the Dallas Snipers would be sitting atop the Midwest division three weeks into the season.
In what has already been an amazing turnaround, the Snipers continue to prove they are no fluke in their second year in the league and have gotten off to a 4-2-0 start, including two wins over the Texas Brahmas.
After winning just five games all of last season, first-year head coach Travis Clayton is just one win away from tying that mark and we’re barely into October.
In a quick single game clash with the Brahmas on Friday night, the Snipers were the better team in nearly every facet and looked dominant in an 8-2 victory.
Six different players scored goals, showing depth the Snipers have never had, as Trey McMillen led the way with four points on the night.
They also showed some goaltending depth, as Alex Bebriss-Fedotovs looked solid in his second win of the season and combined with Thomas Scoggin, creates a nice little one-two punch in net.
I don’t know that there’s enough superlatives I can throw out here but the Snipers are now on everyone’s radar and looking like a true challenger.
Their biggest test of the season thus far will come next weekend, when they face the Dallas Ice Jets in a home-and-home series, which will pit the division’s top two teams against one another.
The Brahmas are the team many thought would be where the Snipers are right now but so far, they look as though someone forgot to tell them the season has started.
Head coach Jeremy Law and his boys will have a good chance to turn it around next weekend, when they face the Tulsa Jr. Oilers in a three-game set.
Pacific Division One-Gamers
Long Beach Bombers (3-1-0, T-4th in division) @ Valencia Flyers (3-2-1, 3rd in division)
Game played Friday in Valencia, California
After getting lambasted in Long Beach by a score of 10-4 a week prior, the Valencia Flyers looked much better in their second clash of the season with the nearby Bombers.
After trailing early, the Flyers took the lead on Eddie Keshishian’s second goal of the season, scored about halfway through the second period. Untimely mistakes ultimately did the host team in however, as Long Beach was able to capitalize on many of their chances in a 4-3 victory.
Being outshot and outplayed for most of the night, the Bombers struck twice before the end of the second period, once on a JT Banard re-direct off a Valencia turnover and the dagger coming on a Jakub Sramek breakaway marker, which gave Long Beach a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
In the third, Banard put home his second of the game on an eerily similar play and it was enough to push the Bombers to a record of 3-0-0 on the season, at that point.
The Flyers began the year looking like a true favorite in the Pacific Division but have struggled since, losing all three games since returning from Utah.
Head coach Jocelyn Langlois was happy with the way his team played overall but felt a much-improved Long Beach team killed their momentum with backbreaking goals at the wrong time for his team.
Ontario Avalanche (4-2-0, 2nd in Division) @ Long Beach Bombers
Game played Saturday in Lakewood, California
The Bombers returned home the next night to get their first-ever look at the Ontario Avalanche and suffered their first loss of the season in a tight game that goes to show the parity in the Pacific Division.
Ontario outshot the host Bombers 41-19 in a game that head coach Chris Shaw had his well prepared for and despite the stellar goaltending of Bombers’ netminder Jiri Sykora, the Avs were able to beat him twice in a 2-1 win.
The win for Ontario is huge for their confidence, as they’ve now beaten four out of their five divisional opponents. What Shaw will be looking for in the coming weeks is consistency from his squad.
Long Beach has looked very good early in the season, as Chris White has done a great job of putting together a roster with high-end skill and tremendous depth.
They’re goaltending could be the best in the league with the big Czech, Sykora between the pipes, they just need to find a way to give him a little more help on the backend.
Three-Stars of the Week
1.Michael Rivera (Forward, El Paso Rhinos)- Rivera quietly went about his business in El Paso’s opening weekend of play, picking up two goals and five assists in a sweep of the Arizona Redhawks. He is not the type of player that is going to turn heads with flashy play but he does all of the little things coaches love and is a true competitor.
2.Nick McKee (Forward, Fresno Monsters)- McKee began the year playing up in Canada but has since returned to the Monsters and provided a huge boost to a young offensive group. In three games against San Diego over the weekend, the third-year forward picked up four goals, including a natural hat-trick in the third game of the series, in which he scored all three goals in a span of 1:43.
3.Sean Buckley (Goaltender, Southern Oregon Spartans)- Buckley’s numbers in two games against the Seattle Totems over the weekend won’t jump out at you but he led his team to two victories in a hard fought series against a division rival. I should also mention that Buckley played the last couple of seasons with the Totems, before getting shipped to Southern Oregon this off-season; talk about redemption.
Week four is just around the corner and is loaded with great series, including a battle of the Midwest Divisions’ top two teams, a rekindling of the El Paso/Boulder rivalry, a great Northwest Divisional battle in Ogden, Utah and the New Mexico Renegades finally making their season debut. Don’t miss a second, watch live on fasthockey.com.
Story by Brent Maranto does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Western States Hockey League
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