Week four of the 2014-2015 regular season entered the record books as the busiest in Western States Hockey League history, with all 24 of the 28 teams in action, competing across 31 total games.
Below is a summary of each weekend series/game:
El Paso Rhinos (5-1-0, 1st in Midwest Division) @ Springfield Express (4-2-0, T-2nd in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in Springfield, Missouri
The El Paso Rhinos tasted regular season defeat for the first time in nearly a year on Friday night but did well to bounce back and take the final two games against the Springfield Express.
Four different Express players scored goals in the opener and Phillip Babb stopped 39 of the 42 shots he faced in a huge 4-3 win.
It was a chippy game from the start and each team had their chances but the Express scored the final two goals of the night to get the win.
Reinis Vitolins led the Rhinos with a pair of goals, while Adam Vay stopped 27 of 31 in net.
The next night, it was the Rhinos getting goals from four different sources and picking up a 4-2 win.
Vay stopped 24 of 26 in the win, while Oliver Eklund allowed three goals on 40 shots in the loss for Springfield.
It was all Rhinos in the finale, as El Paso scored four straight second period goals to take control of the game in a 10-2 win.
Four different Rhinos, including Vitolins, recorded three points while Vay stopped 28 of 30 in his third outing of the weekend.
Quade Hamlin and Seth Ensor scored the two goals for Springfield, while Eklund was peppered with 51 shots in net.
The Express did a great job of getting the win on Friday and showing they could hang with one of the league’s elite. The Rhinos bounced back nicely and showed why they are defending champions. These two don’t like each other and it has the making of a fun rivalry moving forward.
Southern Oregon Spartans (11-0-1, 1st in Northwest Division) @ Butte Cobras (1-10-0, 7th in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Butte, Montana
The Southern Oregon Spartans improved on their division-leading record with a clean sweep of the Butte Cobras in a series that began on Thursday night.
The two teams combined for 22 power plays in a penalty-filled game one but the Spartans carried play at even strength in a 5-2 win.
Doug Gutierrez and Mackenzie Wood, two of the Spartans’ steadiest contributors this season, each had three points to lead Southern Oregon, while Anton Zimmer’s two assists led Butte.
Tymen Edelkoort III stopped 36 of 38 in net for the win, while Tor Tornqvist took the loss, allowing three goals on 14 first period shots before being pulled.
After a scoreless first period in game two, the Spartans scored twice in the second and added two more in the third for a 4-1 win.
It was again Gutierrez leading the Spartans with three points along with Jonathon Lovelace, while Tyler Van Vliet stopped all but one of the 27 shots he faced in net.
Butte’s Reed Kinsey did well to turn aside 59 of the 63 shots he saw but ended up taking the loss.
The Cobras took a 1-0 lead into the second period of game three thanks to a Danny Armstrong goal but the Spartans tied it up on a Mackenzie Wood marker.
Southern Oregon then took control of the game with four straight in the third en route to a 5-1 win.
Five different Spartans had a pair of points in the win, while Tymen Edelkoort III stopped 25 of 26 in another terrific effort in goal.
Justin Keener had to work a bit harder in the Butte crease and stopped 61 of 66 in the loss.
The Cobras have now dropped nine straight games and are experiencing the proverbial rut most first-year teams do. They’re still struggling to score goals but have shown a lot of fight and aren’t giving up anytime soon.
Southern Oregon just continues to roll and have now given up two or fewer goals in seven straight outings. Their goaltenders have been sensational, they play a strong defensive style and their offensive leaders are really starting to click.
Ogden Mustangs (7-3-1, 2nd in Mountain Division) @ Colorado RoughRiders (7-2-0, 3rd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Superior, Colorado ***
The Ogden Mustangs went into Colorado and won two of three over the weekend, beating both the surging RoughRiders and first-year Evolution.
It was the host RoughRiders picking up the win on Friday night however, as the two teams headed into the third period tied up at one, before Colorado got goals from Christian Akita and Gian Cervo in a 3-1 win.
Kirill Pustovalov stopped 29 of 30 for the RoughRiders, while Andreas Pettersson stopped 26 of 28 in the loss for Ogden.
Facing the Evolution the next night, the Mustangs got a hat trick from forward Jon Mencer in a 4-2 win.
Mencer broke a 2-2 tie late in the second period and then completed his hat trick early in the third.
Troy Turpin stopped 18 of 20 in the Ogden crease, while Sergii Pysarenko faced 47 shots and stopped 43 for Colorado.
Hunter Behrens and Thayne Trumbull scored power play goals in the opening period of Sunday’s game for the RoughRiders but Ogden came back with three goals in the second and held on for a 3-2 win.
Edvin Johansson scored a power play marker at 1:15 and a short-handed goal at 11:48 to tie things up, before Craig Moore’s late second period goal gave Ogden the lead for good.
Pettersson stopped 33 of 35 in the Ogden win, while Pustovalov allowed three goals on 34 shots for Colorado.
Colorado also beat Salt Lake City on Saturday night and despite Sunday’s loss to Ogden, the RoughRiders are still playing some of the best hockey in the league. Ogden is on the rise however and showing some consistency to their game, which is a bad sign for the rest of the Mountain Division.
Salt Lake City Moose (6-3-2, T-3rd in Mountain Division) @ Colorado Evolution (1-8-0, 6th in Mountain Division)
Three game series in Denver, Colorado ***
Traveling to the Centennial State along with the Mustangs, the Salt Lake City Moose picked up five out of a possible six points in a solid weekend of hockey.
After falling behind to the Evolution in game one on Friday night, the Moose rattled off six straight goals in a 6-4 win.
Devan Beck and Jonathan Svensson each had three points for Salt Lake, while Brad Robertson stopped 32 of 36 in net.
Nikita Sokov and Jon Dewerd (the first Hawaiian to play in the WSHL) each recorded two points to lead Colorado in the loss, while Sergii Pysarenko stopped 26 of 42.
Facing the RoughRiders on Saturday night, the Moose fought back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead on a Cole Corson goal midway through the third period.
Colorado would tie it up on a Nick Kukuris marker late in regulation however, before Nick Kuhn won it in the second overtime period.
Five different RoughRiders scored goals in the win and Pustovalov stopped 27 of 31 in net.
Ross Gahn led the Moose with three points and Robertson allowed five goals on 43 shots.
The Moose finished up the weekend against the Evolution on Sunday and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in a 4-2 victory.
Brett Myer led the way with three points and Ryan Gasparovic stopped 20 of 22 in net.
The Moose are a team that keeps getting better each time they take the ice and are a tough team to beat when they convert on their opportunities.
The Evolution is competing hard as a first-year team but are having trouble pulling out wins. They are able to stick around in most of their games but seem to tire out late.
Las Vegas Storm (4-2-0, T-3rd in Western Division) @ Phoenix Knights (1-4-1, 6th in Western Division)
Three-game series in Gilbert, Arizona
The Las Vegas Storm and Phoenix Knights faced-off over the weekend and it was the first-year Storm taking two of the three contests.
Friday night’s game was a back-and-forth affair, which headed to overtime after Jordan Cullum knotted things up with a late Phoenix goal.
Just 59 seconds into the first extra period however, the Storm picked up the win on a goal from Beau Ricketts.
Vincent Dekumbis and Arrigo Burgener each had three points to lead Las Vegas and Patrik Jokela stopped 14 of 18 in net.
Dylan Farmer led the Knights with three points, while Luke Stripp stopped 24 of 29 in net.
After dropping game two by a score of 6-3, the Knights came back and picked up their first win of the season in the finale.
Phoenix jumped out to a 5-0 lead and cruised to a 6-1 win, to finally get the monkey off their back.
Brynton MacNab led the Knights with four points, while five other Knights recorded multiple points. Rett Rook was strong in net, stopping 21 of 22 on the day.
The win is a big one for Phoenix, who were expected to contend for a Western Division title after coming over from the Mountain. They have plenty of talent and a great coaching staff and will look to shake off the slow start after gaining a bit of confidence.
Las Vegas has now won two of three in each of their first two weekends of play and look like a team that can contend all season long.
Dallas Snipers (2-6-1, 4th in Midwest Division) @ Wichita Jr. Thunder (4-5-0, T-2nd in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in Wichita, Kansas
Just nine games in, the Wichita Jr. Thunder have already tied their win total from last season, as they picked up two more victories over the Dallas Snipers.
The Snipers did take game one however, as they used a three-goal second period to carry them to a 5-2 win.
Erik Svensson led the way with three goals and an assist, while Renaud Gaboury, playing in his first game with the team, stopped 31 of 33 in net.
Wichita jumped out to a 5-0 lead the next night and went on to win by a score of 8-3.
Alex Smith, Peter Cicmanec and Ivan Brvenik each had four points for the Jr. Thunder, while Jake Larson stopped 51 of 54 in net.
Game three was a thriller that came down to the wire but it was Patrik Janac completing his hat trick in the second overtime period, as the Jr. Thunder won 6-5.
Janac scored two late third period goals to tie things up for Wichita, before getting the game-winner during three-on-three play.
Janac and Smith each had four points for Wichita, while Matej Varchola stopped 46 of 51 in net.
Justin Becton led the Snipers with three points and Gaboury stopped 41 of 47 in net.
The Jr. Thunder are not only competing; they’re winning. They still give up more shots than head coach Rob Weingartner would like to see but they have a dynamic offense and solid goaltending and are the surprise of the Midwest Division thus far.
Dallas found their rhythm a bit over the weekend and picked up three points but would have liked to get more. They seem to have figured out their goaltending situations and are throwing a ton of shots on net. If they can keep doing that, things will start to turn around.
Fresno Monsters (5-0-1, T-1st in Western Division) @ Arizona Redhawks (0-6-0, 8th in Western Division)
Three-game series in Peoria, Arizona
The Fresno Monsters had their way with the Arizona Redhawks, outscoring them 42-1 over three big wins.
The Monsters outshot Arizona 62-12 in game one and cruised to an 11-0 win.
Jacob Haynes led the way with three goals and two assists and Austin Piquette stopped all 12 shots he faced in net.
The Monsters held Arizona to just eight shots in game two and won 14-1.
Mike Nolan had six points, Evan Ingram had five and Austin Browning had four to lead Fresno, while Nathan Churchill picked up the win in net.
Joshua Smith scored the lone goal for Arizona while on the power play.
The Monsters made it clear they weren’t letting up in the finale, jumping out to a 7-0 first period lead and continuing on to win 17-0.
Jacob Haynes and Brantt Heble each notched six points, while Austin Piquette stopped all 18 shots he faced to pick up his second shutout of the weekend.
Fresno showed just how dominant they can be and sent a message over the three big wins. There’s not much Arizona can take from the weekend, they’ll just have to leave it in the past and continue with the rebuild.
Lake Tahoe Blue (1-5-0, 6th in Northwest Division) @ Missoula Maulers (7-4-0, 3rd in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Missoula, Montana
After a slow start, the Missoula Maulers have now won five straight games, as they swept the Lake Tahoe Blue over the weekend.
The Maulers outshot the Blue 52-20 on Friday night and cruised to a 6-2 win.
Tanner Todd and Alex Shalamov each had two goals to lead the way, while Damon Hanson and Corey Schafer each notched three points.
Aron Holmgren stopped 18 of 20 in net, with Yanik Frisch and Hunter Lovdokken beating him for the two lone Lake Tahoe goals.
Game two followed a similar storyline, as the Maulers outshot the Blue heavily and won 6-3.
Schafer again had three points, while Sam Sevcik did the same. Noah Parker stopped 10 of 13 in net for the win.
The Blue showed some fight in the finale, tying things up with three straight goals in the second after falling behind 3-0 but the Maulers pulled away for the sweep with a 9-4 win.
Alex Shalamov and Matt Chamberlain each had four points for Missoula, while Aron Holmgren stopped 22 of 26 in net.
Kristers Seps led the Blue with two goals, while Nick Bretzger stopped 44 shots in the loss.
The Maulers are starting to click and a lot sooner than they did last season. They continue to play a strong defensive brand of hockey and are beginning to light the lamp now.
Lake Tahoe is competing well but are allowing teams to pull away from them late in games. They have some talent but they have to find ways to help their netminders out.
Seattle Totems (4-3-0, 4th in Northwest Division) @ Whitefish Wolverines (3-9-0, 5th in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Whitefish, Montana
In another Northwest Division battle in the state of Montana, the Seattle Totems picked up two wins over the Whitefish Wolverines.
Trailing 5-3 after a Danny Roe goal early in the third period of the opener, the Totems came back with three straight to pick up a 6-5 win.
Axel Martensson and August Cnattingius each had three points to lead the way for Seattle, while Alek Lazarski stopped 48 of 53 in net.
Ian Wiens led the Wolverines with four assists and Joakim Hidestrand stopped 35 of 41 in net.
Cnattingius, Erik Danna and Nathan Carter each collected a pair of points the next night, as the Totems pulled out a 3-2 win in a tight game.
Anton Vigre stopped 31 of 33 in net for the Totems, while Brendan Duff allowed three goals on 43 shots for Whitefish.
Whitefish snapped a five-game losing streak in the finale, as they pulled everything together in a 7-2 win.
The Wolverines outshot Seattle 43-28 and jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the big win.
Leading scorer Aleksei Garin had four points and Brendan Duff stopped 26 of 28 in net.
The Totems and Wolverines will both be battling for a playoff spot all season and played one another tough.
Seattle has a little more veteran leadership and it showed early in the series but the Wolverines did well to fight back and get the win on Sunday.
Cheyenne Stampede (0-5-0, 7th in Mountain Division) @ Casper Coyotes (8-3-0, 1st in Mountain Division)
Two-game series in Casper, Wyoming
The Casper Coyotes took the first-ever battle of Wyoming in the WSHL, sweeping a two-game set with the Cheyenne Stampede.
The surprise of the Mountain Division, the Coyotes ran their win streak to five, winning 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday.
Casper led 2-0 heading into the third period of the opener but the Stampede showed some life and tied things up on goals from Robert Crawford and Branko Oktavec.
Not deterred, the Coyotes came back with goals from Kasper Elo and Brady Griffin to earn the win.
Luke Erickson led the way with two points, while Rickard Landfeldt stopped 33 of 35 in net.
Corey Foster was strong in goal for Cheyenne despite the loss, stopping 47 of 50.
Casper again held a 2-0 lead on Saturday, thanks to goals from Erik Stenbacka and Brady Griffin but this time, the Stampede were never able to get even in a 3-1 loss. Alexandre Lussier was strong for Casper, stopping 25 of 26 in the win.
Branko Oktavec scored the lone Cheyenne goal in the loss, while Foster stopped 40 of 43 in another heavy night of work.
The Coyotes continue to get it done and are only getting better, with their offense coming alive. They are a hardworking team that competes the entire 60 minutes.
Cheyenne is off to a 0-5 start but haven’t really played that poorly. They haven’t been able to bury their chances and have given up far too many. Opening up their home slate this week will certainly help the cause.
Long Beach Bombers (2-2-0, 5th in Western Division) @ Valencia Flyers (1-2-0, 7th in Western Division)
Single game played Friday in Valencia, California
The Long Beach Bombers and Valencia Flyers renewed their rivalry on Friday night in Valencia and it was the visiting Bombers picking up the 5-2 win.
Tomas Nemeth led the way with a hat trick, including the empty netter that iced the win, while Amir Burguev notched three assists. Bailey Ketola stopped 36 of 38 in a strong effort in goal.
Ray Wilson had two assists for Valencia and Sander Berg allowed three goals on nine first period shots before being pulled.
The Bombers and Flyers will be battling it out all season but the first round went to Long Beach. Both teams are only going to get better and each has the tools to contend for a title.
Ontario Avalanche (5-0-1, T-1st in Western Division) @ San Diego Gulls (4-3-0, 3rd in Western Division)
Single game played Saturday in Escondido, California
A couple hours south the next night, the Ontario Avalanche and San Diego Gulls clashed in another great Western Division game.
Spencer McHaffie’s second goal of the night, scored with just 33 seconds left in the second period, would hold up as the game-winner however, as the Avs picked up a 4-3 win.
The two teams went back and forth over the first two periods but neither was able to light the lamp in the third, as McHaffie’s goal stood up.
Both Spencer and Scott McHaffie led Ontario with three points on the night, while Cameron Todd led the Gulls with two.
Chris Skeates picked up the win in net while stopping 32 of 35 and Ilya Alyakin took the loss for the Gulls, allowing four goals on 35 shots.
Much like Long Beach and Valencia, both the Gulls and Avs are contenders in a division where anyone can win on any given night.
The Western Division is truly going to be a full-season battle.
Hockey Wolf Three Stars of the Week
1. Mike Nolan (Forward, Fresno Monsters)- The Monsters leading scorer last season, Nolan had 3 goals and 10 assists as Fresno dominated the Arizona Redhawks in a three-game sweep. Bryce Dale and Co. aren’t letting up a bit, as they attempt to win their first-ever Thorne Cup.
2. Doug Gutierrez (Forward, Southern Oregon Spartans)- Along with Mackenzie Wood, Dough Gutierrez has been the focal point of the Southern Oregon Spartans offense and a key reason they are still unbeaten in regulation. In a weekend sweep of the Butte Cobras, the San Jose, California native notched four goals and four assists.
3. Alex Smith (Defenseman, Wichita Jr. Thunder)- Just nine games into the 2014-2015 campaign, the Wichita Jr. Thunder have tied their win total from last season. In another solid weekend against the Dallas Snipers, team captain and Wichita native Alex Smith amassed three goals and six assists and now leads all WSHL defensemen with 16 points.
Honorable Mentions: Edvin Johansson (Ogden Mustangs), Jonathan Svensson (Salt Lake City Moose), Anton Zimmer (Butte Cobras), Mackenzie Wood (Southern Oregon Spartans), Nick Kuhn (Colorado RoughRiders), Jon Dewerd (Colorado Evolution), Erik Svensson (Dallas Snipers), Patrik Janac (Wichita Jr. Thunder), Arrigo Burgener (Las Vegas Storm), Brynton MacNab (Phoenix Knights), Reinis Vitolins (El Paso Rhinos), Quade Hamlin (Springfield Express), Austin Piquette (Fresno Monsters), Jacob Haynes (Fresno Monsters), Alex Shalamov (Missoula Maulers), Corey Schafer (Missoula Maulers), August Cnattingius (Seattle Totems), Ian Wiens (Whitefish Wolverines), Brady Griffin (Casper Coyotes), Branko Oktavec (Cheyenne Stampede), Tomas Nemeth (Long Beach Bombers), Ray Wilson (Valencia Flyers), Spencer McHaffie (Ontario Avalanche), Scott McHaffie (Ontario Avalanche), Cameron Todd (San Diego Gulls)