A couple more teams made their Western States debuts during week two of the 2014-2015 regular season, which featured nine divisional match-ups in total.
Below is a summary of each weekend series/game:
El Paso Rhinos (3-0-0, T-1st in Midwest Division) @ Dallas Snipers (0-3-0, T-3rd in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in Plano, Texas
The El Paso Rhinos picked up right where they left off last season, as they opened the defense of their Thorne Cup title with a sweep of the Dallas Snipers.
Much like they did last year, the Snipers were able to stay close to the Rhinos throughout the weekend but El Paso was just too much in the end, despite only having a handful of returners on the roster.
The Rhinos pulled away in the opening game of the weekend, scoring the final four goals of the night en route to a 6-2 victory. Latvian import Reinis Vitolins led the way with three points, while four other players recorded two each. Adam Vay returned to the pipes for the Rhinos and the big Hungarian stopped 23 of 25 in the win.
Power play goals from Carl Sandsten and Alexander Yunanov paced Dallas to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play the next night but the Rhinos found a way to turn it up once again and notched seven of the next eight goals in a 6-3 win.
Sebastian Borg, Jiri Pestuka, Reinis Vitolins and Lukas Znosko each amassed three points, while Casey Parker turned aside 20 of 23 in net.
Sandsten led the Snipers with a pair of points, while goaltender Aaron Craft allowed six goals on 49 shots.
Game three was much tighter, especially early on but El Paso finished strong, both on the day and the weekend, as they scored the final three goals in a 4-1 win.
The Rhinos took a 1-0 lead on a David Brancik marker but the Snipers evened things up before the end of the opening frame on a goal from veteran forward Jean Cobo.
Brennan Kosloski and Bryton Tomko would then scored in the second for El Paso, before Lukas Znosko iced it in the third.
Brancik finished with a game-high three points, while Vay returned to the pipes for El Paso and stopped all but one of the 23 shots he faced.
The Snipers played hard and look like they’ve only gotten better since last season but the Rhinos are strong once again, as Cory Herman continues to recruit well and put together dominant teams.
Missoula Maulers (2-4-0, T-4th in Northwest Division) @ Idaho Jr. Steelheads (5-0-1, T-1st in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in McCall, Idaho
In a re-match from the 2014 Thorne Cup Playoffs, the Missoula Maulers took to the road to face the Idaho Jr. Steelheads and took game one in overtime, before John Olver and Co. turned it up and grabbed the final two games of the series.
After a scoreless first period in Friday’s opener, the two teams then traded single goals in the second and third periods, before heading to overtime. Alex Shalamov would score just 2:16 into the first extra period to give the Maulers the surprise win.
Aron Holmgren stood on his head in the Missoula crease and stopped 39 of 41 in the win, while Tyler Hough allowed three goals on 23 shots for Idaho in the overtime loss.
Idaho responded quickly the next night, as the Steelies notched four first period goals and cruised to a 6-1 victory.
Oleg Losev led Idaho with two goals and an assist, while Gunnar Merrick and Nikita Zgirskis added two points each. Austin Althaus stopped 19 of 20 in net, while Holmgren gave up six goals on 47 shots for Missoula.
The Jr. Steelheads put together another big first period in the finale, scoring five times and then locking it down over the final two periods in a 7-1 win.
Veteran forward Macky Power led the offensive charge with a goal and three assists, Elliot Lorraine notched two goals and an assist and Alex Criswell scored twice, while Tyler Hough stopped 16 of 17 in a light day of work in net.
Tanner Todd notched the lone Missoula goal, while Noah Parker stopped 44 of 51 in net.
Missoula did well to go into hostile territory and pick up a win in game one but Idaho awoke from that point on and played the kind of lockdown hockey we have come to expect from them under Olver.
Casper Coyotes (3-3-0, 2nd in Mountain Division) @ Colorado Jr. Eagles (1-1-1, 5th in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Fort Collins, Colorado
The Casper Coyotes took to the road for the first time and more than competed well, as they took two of three games from the Colorado Jr. Eagles.
After going up 1-0 on a second period goal from Kasper Elo in the opener, the Coyotes then allowed the Jr. Eagles to take a 2-1 lead in the third on goals from Brad Pershing and Tyler Weber.
Chris Lugg’s power play marker with 5:08 left in regulation tied it up, before defenseman Erik Stenbacka netted the winner at 3:09 of the first overtime period.
Rikard Landfeldt stopped 34 of 36 for Casper in the win, while Quinn Wold turned aside 36 of 39 in the overtime loss for Colorado.
The score was the same the next night and Stenbacka again provided the winner but this time, overtime wasn’t needed.
Casper again went up 1-0 on a goal from Elo but Colorado responded with two form Tanner Ulland and Tyler Weber to take a lead early in the second.
Brady Griffin knotted things up at 8:29 of the middle stanza and Stenbacka scored what would hold up to be the game-winner at 11:36, before a scoreless third period ensued.
Griffin factored into all three of the Casper tallies, with a goal and two assists, while Landfeldt picked up his second win of the weekend in net, stopping 33 of 35.
Tyler Weber notched a goal and an assist for Colorado, while Wold stopped 22 of 25 in net.
Continuing the trend of the weekend, the Coyotes got goals from Elo and Stenbacka in the finale but this time, it wasn’t enough, as Colorado scored three straight late in the opening period and held on for a 4-2 win.
Nick Buchholtz, Nick Davidson, Tyler Weber and Cade Warner scored the goals for Colorado and Breandan Colgan stopped 26 of 28 in net for the win.
Alexandre Lussier got the start in the Casper crease and was pulled after allowing four goals on 24 shots, before Christoph Mutschin stopped all eight shots he faced in relief duty.
The Jr. Eagles needed to pick up a win to get going and they got that on Sunday but they may have been surprised by Casper’s skill in games one and two, as the first-year club is showing they can play and are already vastly improved from week one.
Butte Cobras (1-5-0, T-6th in Northwest Division) @ Southern Oregon Spartans (5-0-1, T-1st in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Medford, Oregon
The Southern Oregon Spartans continued the strong start to their season with a three-game sweep of the first-year Butte Cobras.
Tymen Edelkoort III was sensational in net once again for the Spartans in Friday’s opener, stopping all 27 shots he faced in a 2-0 shutout win.
Billy Saxton got the scoring started at 9:36 of the opening frame and Denis Creighton sealed it with his goal at 3:40 of the third, as the Spartans were able to lock it down behind Edelkoort’s effort in net.
Goals were aplenty the next night however, as the two teams combined for 12 but the Spartans notched four of the five scored in the third and came from behind to win 7-5.
The Cobras came out hard to start the second period and behind two goals from Johan Lovestrom, were able to take a 4-3 lead into the intermission.
Southern Oregon would eventually take the lead back on a Drew Carriere maker but just a few minutes later, Anton Bokull knotted it at five.
The Spartans wouldn’t be denied however, as Luke Fraser and Jonathon Lovelace added goals in the 7-5 win.
Five Spartans, including Lovelace, recorded two points on the night, while Edelkoort stopped 24 of 29 in net.
Lovestrom and Anton Zimmer led Butte with three points each, while Reed Kinsey, just back form a stint in the NAHL, allowed seven goals on 43 shots in the loss.
Luke Fraser scored two goals in the finale, both of which came via Mackenzie Wood assists and it would be enough to lift the Spartans to a 2-1 win and series sweep, thanks to a 27-save effort from goaltender Tyler Van Vliet.
The Spartans, just six games into the tenure of head coach David Cole, are 5-0-1 and look strong in every aspect, especially in net, where Edelkoort has put on a show.
Butte has had a rough-go over their first six games but they’ll be returning home soon and continue adding pieces to their roster, which should help them compete better late in games.
Whitefish Wolverines (2-4-0, T-4th in Northwest Division) @ Lake Tahoe Blue (1-2-0, T-6th in Northwest Division)
Three game series in South Lake Tahoe, California
The Whitefish Wolverines put one in the win column and followed it up with another, as they went on the road and took two of three from the Lake Tahoe Blue.
Despite being outshot, the Blue took the opener in a runaway, winning by a score of 7-1.
David Raus led the way with three points, while Charlie Hammerback and Aksel Friberg each notched two. Nick Bretzger was strong in between the pipes, stopping 48 of 49 to help secure the big win.
The Wolverines responded nicely the next night however, scoring two goals, 24 seconds apart late in the second period to break a 1-1 tie, before carrying on to a 4-1 win, the first in franchise history.
Aleksei Garin, Brian Polmear and Kristian Evans each picked up two points to lead Whitefish’s offensive efforts, while Joakim Hidestrand stopped all but one of the 28 shots he faced in net.
Danny Roe’s two first period goals in the finale would wind up being all the Wolverines needed, as they cruised to a 5-1 victory.
Sam Summers and Kieffer Helbing each picked up two points, as well, while Hidestrand looked strong again in net, stopping 39 of 40 in the win.
The Wolverines two wins are big for their confidence moving forward, while Lake Tahoe still has a few kinks to work out, as their new regime gets things going.
These two teams will be battling for a playoff spot all season and each should only get better as the season goes along.
Las Vegas Storm (2-1-0, 2nd in Western Division) @ San Diego Gulls (1-2-0, 3rd in Western Division)
Three-game series in Escondido, California
The Las Vegas Storm got a taste of just how tough the Western Division is going to be in their opening weekend clash with the San Diego Gulls. The good thing for Gabe Gauthier and Co. is that they battled hard and won two of the three games on the road.
Arrigo Burgener had a hand in all three of the Storm’s goals on Friday night, as they took the opener 3-2.
Keeping the import theme alive, Vincent Dekumbis also picked up two points, while Gernot Wegerer stopped 29 of 31 in net for Las Vegas.
Sebastian Gruhler assisted on both of San Diego’s goals, while Hunter Jackson stopped 38 of 41 in net.
The Storm showed off their special teams play the next night, notching two power play goals and another while short handed in another 3-2 victory.
Burgener, Kyle Pacheco and Nikita Larionov scored for Las Vegas, while Dennis Busch stopped all but two of the 42 shots he faced in net.
Ustin Molochkov and Nurbek Baltayev tallied for San Diego, while veteran netminder Brody Cavataio stopped 28 of 31.
The Gulls offense awoke in the finale, as it threw 53 shots on goal and guided them to a 5-2 win.
After taking the lead in the first and second period, only to be answered by a Storm goal each time, the Gulls notched three straight goals in the third to get the victory.
Pavel Bocharov notched three goals and an assist to lead the way, Ilya Sakhibgareev added two goals and an assist and former Seattle Totems goaltender Ilya Alyakin stopped 31 of 33 in net.
The Gulls didn’t get the start they wanted to the weekend but picked up the big win on Sunday and should gain some confidence from that. The Storm did well to open on the road with two wins in tight games, which they can expect to see all season long in a tough division.
Phoenix Knights (0-3-0, T-4th in Western Division) @ Ontario Avalanche (3-0-0, 1st in Western Division)
Three-game series in Ontario, California
Speaking of the Western Division, the Phoenix Knights were welcomed back, after being away for only a year, by the Ontario Avalanche, who swept the visitors clean over the weekend.
The Avs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opener, only to let the Knights get back within one before the end of the second period. Ontario tacked on four more in the third however and won by a score of 8-3.
Veteran forward Michael Thomas led the way with six points, Nick Anderson added five and Scott McHaffie had four. Chris Skeates only faced 21 shots on the night and stopped all but three.
Phoenix was led by a pair of veteran forwards, in Mitch Cobby and Jordan Cullum, both of whom had three points.
The Avalanche got a good start again the next night, as they took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission and held off a Knights push in a 7-5 win.
Antoine Maillard, Paul Ramsey and Zechariah Roberts each had three points to lead the offensive charge, while Daniel Cepila stopped 26 of 31 in net.
Capping the weekend with an exclamation point, Ontario doubled up Phoenix 10-5.
Seven different Avs players notched multiple points, led by Scott McHaffie and Zechariah Roberts, who had four each, while Kyle Mugica stopped 15 of 20 in net.
Phoenix got another strong effort from Cullum, who notched three points but had to pull their starting goaltender for the third consecutive game.
The Avalanche came out of the gates like a team with something to prove and dismantled the Mountain Division champions. Chris Shaw has another strong team on his hands and they can put the puck in the net better than we’ve ever seen from them.
Phoenix had some offense to show but allowed far too many shots and didn’t get the big save when they needed it. They have some talent and it’s early, so expect Tyler Ramsey to get things turned around in a hurry.
Colorado Evolution (1-2-0, T-4th in Mountain Division) @ Salt Lake City Moose (2-1-1, T-2nd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Salt Lake City, Utah
The Salt Lake City Moose played well but had trouble converting on their chances over the weekend and picked up a regulation win, regulation loss and overtime loss.
The Evolution did a good job of keeping the opening period of game one scoreless but the Moose turned it up and behind a Brett Myer hat-trick and continued on to a 4-1 win.
Dmitry Kuznetsov added a pair of points for the Moose, while Ryan Gasparovic stopped 25 of 26 in net.
Yaroslav Pomortsev notched the first goal in the Evolution’s history, while Hunter Marsh stopped 44 of 48 in net.
It was the RoughRiders who came to town the next night and flipped spots with the Evolution, who traveled to Ogden to face the Mustangs.
The Moose led 2-0 after 40 minutes of play, on a first period goal from Myer and second period marker from Kuznestov.
The RoughRiders got within one on a Thayne Trumbull goal at 13:20 of the third, only to have the Moose re-gain the two-goal lead at 17:04, thanks to a Brett Howard marker.
Gian Cervo got Colorado back within a goal just 10 seconds later and Nick Kuhn forced overtime with his goal at 18:47.
With 20 seconds left in the first overtime period, the RoughRiders completed the comeback, as Cody Oakes scored to give them a 4-3 win.
Oakes and Walker Harris led Colorado with two points each, while Kirill Pustovalov stopped 24 of 27 in net.
Possibly still shaking off the previous nights loss on Sunday, the Moose could only convert on one of their 12 power play chances and fell 3-2 to the Evolution, despite outshooting their opponent by more than double.
After a scoreless first period, Dmitry Kuznetsov gave the Moose a 1-0 lead just 57 seconds into the second but the Evolution responded with three of their own.
Kuznetsov would light the lamp again late in the third but it wasn’t enough, as the Evolution recorded the first win in club history, 3-2.
Kyle Lopes and Kirill Proskurin each tallied two points for Colorado, while Sergii Pysarenko stopped 45 of 47 in a great effort in net.
The Evolution competed well with a short bench and most of all, responded with their first win after getting beat-up on Saturday night in Ogden.
The Moose had their chances but just couldn’t convert enough to pull out a couple more wins. They have more than enough talent to get it done but may be trying to do too much early in the season.
Colorado RoughRiders (5-1-0, 1st in Mountain Division) @ Ogden Mustangs (2-2-1, T-3rd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Ogden, Utah
The Colorado RoughRiders continued their early season surge, as they picked up the Utah sweep, beating the Mustangs twice and the Moose in between.
Down 3-0 after the opening period of game one in Ogden, the RoughRiders began clawing their way back in, with Casey Riccatone and Walker Harris making it a 3-2 game heading into the third, before Padraic Ripple tied it and Charles Joly scored the game-winner, in a 4-3 victory.
Harris, along with Thayne Trumbull, notched two points to lead the RoughRiders offense, while Kirill Pustovalov came off the bench and stopped all 24 shots he faced in between the pipes to secure the win.
With the RoughRiders playing in Salt Lake City the next night, the Mustangs took to pounding the Evolution by a score of 13-2.
Corey Iapalucci, Edvin Johansson and Craig Moore each notched five points to lead the Stangs, while Martin Hallin and Taylor Bowman each had four. Troy Turpin stopped 24 of 26 to get the win in net, while Maksims Resetnikovs faced an astounding 66 shots and did well to stop 53 of them for Colorado.
Things were a lot tighter with the RoughRiders back in town for the finale, as goals by Charles Joly of Colorado and Corey Iapalucci of Ogden eventually forced overtime.
For the second straight day however, the RoughRiders pulled out the overtime win, as Nick Kukuris found twine during the three-on-three stage.
Kirill Pustovalov finished a fine weekend in net by stopping 40 of the 41 shots he faced for Colorado, while Andreas Pettersson stopped 27 of 29 for Ogden.
Much like their rival Moose, the Mustangs had their chances but just couldn’t take advantage of enough of them. They did play well and got a lot of players in on the action on Saturday, which showed what they can do when everything clicks.
The RoughRiders haven’t set the league on fire but they continue to play smart hockey, bury their chances and rely on their goaltending to get the job done.
Hockey Wolf Three Stars of the Week
1. Michael Thomas (Forward, Ontario Avalanche)- The Ontario Avalanche made a statement in their opening weekend sweep of the defending Mountain Division Champion Phoenix Knights. More known for their defensive prowess, the Avs put on an offensive show, with three players all notching 10 points on the weekend. One of those players was veteran forward Michael Thomas, who continues to lead by example and do everything head coach Chris Shaw asks of him.
2. Kirill Pustovalov (Goaltender, Colorado RoughRiders)- The Colorado RoughRiders took to the road this weekend and picked up the Utah sweep, beating the Salt Lake City Moose on Friday and Sunday and Ogden Mustangs on Saturday. Goaltender Kirill Pustovalov didn’t even get the start in Friday’s opener but came on in relief and stopped all 24 shots he faced to help Colorado get the win, before starting and winning on Saturday and Sunday, allowing just four goals on 58 combined shots in the process.
3. Corey Iapalucci (Forward, Ogden Mustangs)- Similar to years past, Ogden Mustangs head coach Jake Laime has a number of forwards he can lean on to get the job done. Corey Iapalucci has stood out above the rest so far however and the Canadian speedster now leads the Stangs with 10 points on the season, after an impressive seven point weekend.
Honorable Mentions: Reinis Vitolins (El Paso Rhinos), Elliot Lorraine (Idaho Jr. Steelheads), Kasper Elo (Casper Coyotes), Erik Stenbacka (Casper Coyotes), Tyler Weber (Colorado Jr. Eagles), Mackenzie Wood (Southern Oregon Spartans), Tymen Edelkoort III (Southern Oregon Spartans), Joakim Hidestrand (Whitefish Wolverines), Arrigo Burgener (Las Vegas Storm), Vincent Dekumbis (Las Vegas Storm), Pavel Bocharov (San Diego Gulls), Scott McHaffie (Ontario Avalanche), Nick Anderson (Ontario Avalanche), Brett Myer (Salt Lake City Moose)