The playoff participants in each division of the Western
States Hockey League were set going into the second-to-last weekend of the
regular season but there was still a little bit of wiggle room, as third and
fourth place teams tried desperately to jump into second for a home playoff
Dallas Ice Jets
(26-12-5, 2nd in Mid-West Division) @ El Paso Rhinos (35-9-2, 1st
in Mid-West Division)
The marquee matchup of the weekend pitted the top two squads
in the powerful Mid-West Division against one-another, as the first-place
Rhinos played host to the second-place Ice Jets.
The Ice Jets led the division much of the season but have
fallen back recently, due more to the recent surge of the Rhinos than poor play
on their own part. They came into the weekend far enough back of El Paso that
there was no chance for them to take over first place but they still looked to
make a mark before playoffs.
In game one, Richard
Bohan and Austin Azurdia scored
39 seconds apart in the second period for the Ice Jets, giving them a 4-2 lead
heading into the third.
marker pulled the Rhinos back within a goal in the third but Christian Elsborg found an empty net
late, to give the Ice Jets the victory in the opening contest.
In the second game, the Ice Jets held a 2-1 first period
lead and blew the door wide open in the second with three straight goals to
begin the period. Newly acquired Chace
Jackson notched two and Johnny
Henson picked up a goal and an assist as Dallas took a 6-2 lead into the
third and held on for the 6-3 win.
The Ice Jets looked well on their way to a sweep in the
opening period of the finale, as they held a 3-0 lead after just 20 minutes of
The Rhinos' offense awoke in the second and notched three of
their own however, with two of the three coming from forward John Morales.
Johnny Henson's goal 8:23 into the third gave the Ice Jets
the lead back but Mr. Clutch, Matthew Tritsch put one home on the power play just
minutes later to knot the game at four.
It only took 51 seconds of extra time for Trey Hughes to end the game with his 27th
goal of the season, giving the Rhinos the win, while narrowly avoiding the
The Ice Jets proved once again they can hang with anyone in
the league and in only their first season to boot. In six regular season games
against the perennial power in the Mid-West, Dallas picked up six points.
The Rhinos are locked into first and prior to the weekend,
were playing some of their best hockey of the year. It's possible Head Coach
Cory Herman rested a few top guys or maybe the Rhinos knew they had nothing to
gain from the weekend but if these two teams meet in the playoffs, Dallas now
knows they can beat the Rhinos on their home ice.
New Mexico Renegades
(18-23-2, 4th in Mid-West Division) @ Boulder Bison (33-10-3, 2nd
in Mountain Division)
Both the Boulder Bison and New Mexico Renegades are locked
into a playoff spot, with no chance of moving up or down. That didn't stop the
two former division rivals from battling it out in Superior, Colorado over the
n the opening game, the Renegades showed up in the second
period but were outscored in the first and third by a combined 6-0, as they
were run out of the building by a score of 9-2.
The two Gauthier's,
Mathieu and Ryan (no relation) each notched four points for the Bison, while Dylan Meier continued his hot play with
two goals and an assist in the win.
In the middle game of the series, the score was tied at one
after 20 minutes of play before Boulder's offense awoke in the second, as four
different players found twine, giving the Bison a 5-2 lead after two periods of
The Renegades got back within a goal late but Scott Folden's marker sealed the deal,
as the Bison were well on the their way to a sweep after two games.
In the final game of the series, New Mexico fell asleep at
the wheel, as the Bison took the sweep behind a 5-0 win and shutout by
goaltender Dax Deadrick.
scored twice and also picked up an assist, while captain Anthony Cullen notched two of his own for Boulder.
The Bison seem back on track after some struggles in
January. They will meet Cheyenne in the opening round of the playoffs, a team they
beat five out of six meetings in the regular season.
New Mexico will make their first-ever playoff appearance but
are in danger of backing-in. Some nights they have it, other nights they don't
but one thing is for sure; this team will need to be "on" every game against El
Paso if they hope to move on to the second round.
(22-20-4, 4th in Western Division) @ Fresno Monsters (43-2-1, 1st
in Western Division)
The Arizona Redhawks are also set to make their first-ever
playoff appearance, after locking up a spot a couple of weeks ago. Their
performance in the first round of the playoffs will have to be far better than
it was against the Fresno Monsters last weekend; the same Fresno Monsters they'll
kick-off the playoffs against.
The two teams traded goals in the opening period of game
one, as the Redhawks were able to keep it close behind solid goaltending from Nick Carroll.
The second period was a completely different story however,
as Fresno rattled off six straight goals, three of which coming off the stick
of Josiah Nikkel, as they took a
six-goal lead into the second intermission.
added one for good measure in the third, as Fresno took game one by a score of
The second game was more of the same, as Fresno again put up
six in the second en route to a 10-2 shellacking of Arizona.
Josiah Nikkel again led the way, picking up four assists on
In the finale, Fresno made sure Arizona had to make the trip
back home without even sniffing victory, as the Monsters took the 4-2 victory
and sweep behind two goals and an assist from third-year forward Rob Kolander.
In 18 all-time meetings, Arizona has yet to best the
Monsters and now will go back to Fresno for the first round of the playoffs in
The Monsters have once again locked up the regular season
league title, doing so for the second time in just three seasons in the league.
Dallas Snipers (22-20-4,
5th in Mid-West Division) vs. Texas Brahmas (12-28-3, 3rd in
Mid-West Division) **Home-at-home series**
The Texas Brahmas and Dallas Snipers' home arenas are
separated by less than ten miles, which made for a quick home-at-home series
over the weekend and an easy one in terms of travel.
That was about the only thing easy for the Snipers however,
as the Brahmas took both games, while sweeping the season series from their
goal in the first period of game one gave the Snipers the early lead but it
wouldn't last long as Texas turned up the heat and out-scored the visitors 6-1
the rest of the way.
Six different skaters scored for the Brahmas, with the
leading-scoring defenseman in the league, Terry
Portra, heading the offensive charge with a goal and two assists.
In game two the Brahmas traveled to Euless and were not
effected by the change of scenery, as they took the 4-1 win behind stellar
goaltending from Joakim Moritz, who
stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced for his 12th win of the season.
The Brahmas keep moving along and are locked into a first
round clash with the Dallas Ice Jets, which won't be much to travel.
Despite a tough first season, the Snipers keep playing tough
and will look to upend the Ice Jets this weekend.
(22-17-6, 3rd in Western Division) @ Long Beach Bombers (16-23-3, 5th
in Western Division) ** Single Game **
The Valencia Flyers have been one of the hottest teams in
the entire WSHL in 2012, as they have gone from playoff afterthought to a real
threat to make some noise in the postseason.
On Friday, they traveled south to take on their closest
rival, the Long Beach Bombers, in a single game.
White's goal 11:56 into regulation gave the Bombers the early lead but it
didn't last long, as J.P. Bouchard
tied it for Valencia just 12 seconds later. The Flyers would add three more
before the end of the period to take a commanding 4-1 lead into the
Bryan Fiol picked
up his second of the game, scoring the only goal for either side in the second
period, before Valencia added four more in the third in taking the 9-3 win.
The Flyers have now moved within just a single point of San
Diego for second-place in the Western Division, a spot the Gulls had all but
locked up just a month ago.
The two teams will meet next Saturday in Escondido, a game
that may decide who gets home ice in round one.
San Diego Gulls
(23-16-5, 2nd in Western Division) @ Long Beach Bombers (16-23-3, 5th
in Western Division) ** Single Game **
The next evening the Bombers looked to play spoiler against the San Diego Gulls, a team they had failed
to beat in five previous meetings on the season.
After a scoreless first period, veterans Clay Blankenship and Weston Cydell each scored, as the Gulls
held a 2-1 after two periods of play.
After Long Beach tied it up, Tony Fiocco put one home 12:52 into the third period and it looked
like San Diego would squeeze out the win.
Bombers' forward Eric
Laporte had other ideas however and notched his 19th goal of the
season, sending the game into overtime.
After an extra period proved nothing, the two teams went to
a five-man shootout.
stood strong for the Bombers, allowing just one goal and JT Banard put home the winner, lifting the Bombers to the
San Diego can now fully feel the heat Valencia has put on
them, as they lead by only a point in the battle for second place. When on
their game they are as tough to beat as anyone in the league but they haven't
played to their full potential since the Showcase.
Long Beach will miss the playoffs again but can further
complicate matters for San Diego with a win this Friday, something they'd love
Park City Moose (5-36-3,
5th in Mountain Division) @ Ogden Mustangs (13-29-3, 4th in
Mountain Division) ** Single Game **
On Friday night, the Mustangs wrapped up their inaugural
season in Ogden with a clash against the Park City Moose.
If looking at records alone, many would believe the Mustangs
had a tough first-year but it's actually been quite the opposite.
They've had their fair share of ups and downs but since
moving to Ogden from Bakersfield, California, the team has been the talk of the
town and has played in front of some of the largest crowds in the entire
They will make their first-ever playoff appearance against
Idaho, which may not end well but the Mustangs have earned the adoration of a
city that has proven they can support sports franchises (see: Ogden Raptors).
The Mustangs hosted the supposed in-state rival Moose on
Friday night, who haven't been able to put up much of a fight since early in
It only took 43 games but Ogden goaltender Alex Glockner picked up his first
shutout of the season, stopping all 30 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory.
Veteran Forward Alex
Pizarro scored twice, including an empty-netter in which he beat two Park
City defenders to a loose puck, igniting the near-capacity crowd and sending
Ogden to the victory.
Park City continues to struggle and failed to compete with
anyone in the Mountain Division in their inaugural season in the league. It
will be back to the drawing board in the summer for Aaron Kinslow and company.
(13-29-3, 4th in Mountain Division) @ Idaho Jr. Steelheads (41-2-2, 1st
in Mountain Division) ** Single Game **
The next night failed to produce similar results for the
Mustangs, who played in their bordering state to the north against the Jr.
Steelheads; their first-round playoff opponent.
The Mustangs couldn't muster much offense at all, as Idaho
jumped out to a 5-0 lead and didn't take their foot off the pedal in a 9-3
Austin Parle and Sean Van Eysden each collected four
points for Idaho, who extended their league-best winning streak to 26 games.
These two teams will meet again in round one and it will be
interesting to see if Mustangs' Head Coach Joe Pfleegor can create a formula in
which his squad can stick with the powerful Jr. Steelheads.
THREE STARS OF THE
Nikkel-Forward (Fresno Monsters)- When you play on the top team in the
entire league, it's not always easy to standout, especially when you're not the
flashiest of players. Josiah Nikkel did just that over the weekend however, as
n is one of the league's best puck protectors and cycling forwards quietly went
about his business and picked up eight points in his Monsters' three-game sweep
of the Arizona Redhawks over the weekend.
Henson-Forward (Dallas Ice Jets)- The Dallas Ice Jets are one of the rare
expansion franchises succeeding in their first year in the league and forward
Johnny Henson has been a big part of it from the beginning. The diminutive
forward helped his Ice Jets pick up five of a possible six points against the
division-leading El Paso Rhinos over the weekend. The Denton, Texas native
notched three goals and four assists against one of the top defensive teams in
the entire league.
Glockner-Goaltender (Ogden Mustangs)- Only a few goaltenders in the entire
league have seen as many shots as Ogden goaltender Alex Glockner, who has
worked hard to keep his team in games they wouldn't otherwise be close in. He
was finally rewarded for his hard work on Friday night, as the Deephaven,
Minnesota native picked up his first shutout of the season, turning aside all
30 Park City shots he faced in a 4-0 victory.
The last weekend of the regular season will include some
good matchups and last hoorahs for a few teams not making the postseason:
The New Mexico Renegades head to Fort Worth for
three with the Brahmas
The Dallas Snipers and Ice Jets finish up their
inaugural season with a home-at-home set
San Diego claws to hang on to second place in
the West with single games against Long Beach and Valencia
Park City hosts an outdoor game against Ogden,
then finishes up their season at Idaho