We may only be two weeks into the 2012-2013 WSHL season but we've already seen a ton of great hockey; with everything from tight-checking divisional games, early upsets and great individual performances. A few teams have still yet to make their season debut, including the El Paso Rhinos, who open up this weekend in Arizona.
Below is a preview of each weekend series/game:
Ogden Mustangs (0-2-1, 4th in Northwest Division) @ Bay Area Seals (2-3-0, T-3rd in Pacific Division)
Three-game series in Daly City, California
After beginning their inaugural year by winning two of three in Ontario against the Avalanche, the Bay Area Seals fell back to earth last weekend, as they were exposed over three games at home by a very skilled Fresno Monsters team.
The talent seems to be in place and the Seals have proven they can play as physical as anyone in the league but head coach Zach Lytle will have to make some adjustments, especially against more skilled and structured teams.
This weekend, they'll welcome in the Ogden Mustangs, who despite being swept by Valencia in their opening weekend, seem to be much improved in their second year in the league.
Playing at home two weekends ago, the Mustangs held a lead going into every third period against the Flyers but each time, allowed the visitors to mount a comeback and skate away with a victory. Over the three tight games, the Mustangs were only able to pick up one out of a possible six points, which came in a shootout loss on Friday.
One of the main differences the Mustangs showed in their first weekend under head coach Jake Laime, is a good amount of depth, as 13 different skaters recorded at least one point in the Valencia series.
The biggest bright thus far has nothing to do with offensive or defensive depth but instead, is the play of goaltender Daniel Selby.
The 18-year old from Godfrey, Illinois isn't very big but stood tall in net, playing well and keeping his team in each game of the series.
They'll make the trip down to Daly City this weekend, as they clash with the Seals in the Cow Palace, in what is sure to be an interesting series to watch.
El Paso Rhinos (No record, Mountain Division) @ Arizona Redhawks (1-1-1, 3rd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Peoria, Arizona
The El Paso Rhinos are back in action this weekend, as they begin their seventh season of play and first in the new Mountain Division.
They'll open the season on the road, as they travel to take on their new division doe, the upstart Arizona Redhawks.
Coming off of the best season in franchise history, the Redhawks began the 2012-2013 season with a solid effort against the Bison, in Boulder.
Arizona was able to come back from down 2-0 to force overtime in the opening game of the series, before losing in the extra period.
Despite being outshot 48-34 in game two, Nathan Lee notched three points and goaltender Fredrik Johansson stood on his head, as the Redhawks picked up their first win of the season.
Arizona got on the board first in the finale but were outshot heavily once again and wound up losing 2-1 after a late goal sealed the Boulder win.
Despite a few mistakes and some kinks head coach Rob Powell will have to iron out, finishing the weekend with three points against a divisional opponent isn't a terrible way to begin the season.
El Paso and head coach Cory Herman are chomping at the bit to get going, as they're looking to put together yet another banner year, after winning the Midwest Division title last season.
Last season ended on bad note however, as the Rhinos struggled in front of the home crowd at the Thorne Cup Tournament and finished third out of four teams.
On paper, the Rhinos are once again the favorites to win their division, as they are expected to continue their combination of physical, yet skilled hockey. Local boy Michael Rivera returns to the Rhinos for one more season, after leading the team in scoring last year. Joining the captain is a trio of gritty power forwards in Tyler Basham, John Morales and David Nelson. The four are expected to provide both offense and leadership to a relatively young El Paso squad.
Both teams will certainly be ready to go, in what is sure to be a fun Mountain Division series.
Fresno Monsters (3-0-0, T-2nd in Pacific Division) @ San Diego Gulls (0-2-0, 6th in Pacific Division)
Three-game series in Escondido, California
The first weekend of the season was a coming out party for the Fresno Monsters, which seems odd, seeing as they've been considered one of the league's elite, since beginning play in 2009.
Coming into the 2012-2013 season, they haven't been given as much respect around the league, as they've had to rebuild most of their roster.
After three blowout victories over the Bay Area Seals in week one, rebuild or not, Bryce Dale has his squad looking like their typical dominant selves.
The recent return of last season's leading scorer Nick McKee and top defenseman Gunnar Dircks has given the team a huge boost, as a significantly younger Monsters team could use the veteran leadership.
Goaltending was the only question heading into opening weekend, as both Justin Hubert and Brenden Manquen are unproven at this level but each looked fine in the sweep, while facing little action.
This weekend they'll head south for three with the Gulls, another team that is going through a bit of a rebuild.
In their second year under head coach Craig Carlyle, San Diego began play last weekend with losses to the Long Beach Bombers and Ontario Avalanche, in two very close games.
They have returned the services of players like Zen Hamil, Justin Lazalde and Tyler Giovannetti but the rest of the roster is very young and will have to learn on the fly.
The good news for Carlyle is that he doesn't have any questions in net, as Brian Walters and Reed Kinsey have both returned and are considered by some to be the best tandem in the league.
They'll try to get things going in front of what is sure to be a packed crowed in Escondido, as the Gulls look to prove their worth against the Monsters.
Seattle Totems (1-1-0, T-2nd in Northwest Division) @ Southern Oregon Spartans (1-1-0, T-2nd Northwest Division)
Two-game series played in Medford, Oregon
The two former NORPAC rivals began their WSHL tenure with a two-game series against one another in Seattle, just two weeks ago.
This weekend, they'll do it again but this time, it will be the Southern Oregon Spartans playing at home in Medford, which is renown for its rowdy fans.
Southern Oregon carried play for most of each game this season but Seattle goaltender Bryce Fink was solid in net, as the Totems won game one, despite being outshot heavily.
The next night, the two did it again and with a similar shot discrepancy, the Spartans took the 4-2 win behind a goal and an assist from Anthony Golio.
These rivals took it relatively easy on one another in the first weekend but with the season picking up and systems now fully in place, you can bet this one will be a little more heated.
Dallas Snipers (3-2-0, T-1st in Midwest Division) @ Texas Brahmas (2-2-1, 3rd in Midwest Division)
Game played Friday in North Richland Hills, Texas
The Dallas Snipers and first-year head coach Travis Clayton have been the surprise of the year so far, as the team that won only five games all of last season, has already won three of five in year two.
They began the season with a home-and-home series with the same Brahmas they'll meet on Friday night in North Richland Hills.
Game one of the previous series was all Brahmas, as the home team took it to the Snipers and won by a score of 6-0, thanks to four goals by Cole Rose and two from Landyn Howze.
Dallas rebounded nicely however and came from behind in a shootout victory the next evening.
Last weekend, the Snipers took two of three games from the first-year Wichita Jr. Thunder and showed a good amount of depth in doing so, including seven points from top returner Shane Bonds.
The Brahmas are a team that many thought would compete with the Dallas Ice Jets for the Midwest Division title but so far, they are a team still looking for an identity.
After the split with the Snipers two weeks ago, the Brahmas played host to the Phoenix Knights last weekend and were only able to win one of the three contests.
They haven't been able to get in a rhythm yet and if they don't hurry, they could be left in the Ice Jet's dust.
A divisional win against a nearby rival could help right the ship this Friday.
Long Beach Bombers (2-0-0, T-3rd in Pacific Division) @ Valencia Flyers (3-1-1, 1st in Pacific Division)
Game played Friday in Valencia, California
The Long Beach Bombers are another big surprise so far this season, as they began the year with a huge 10-4 win over Valencia and turned around the next night and took down the San Diego Gulls.
A big reason for the early success has been the play of three import players, led by Czech-born Jakub Sramek, who's nine points in two games leads the team and Russian forward Nikita Kototkov, who isn't far behind with seven.
Another Czech, goaltender Jiri Sykora, won both games in net last weekend and looked rather comfortable in doing so.
The Valencia Flyers are 3-1-1 after their first five games of the season but struggled last weekend and will need a win on Friday to get back on track.
After losing big in Long Beach, Valencia got their first-look at the Ontario Avalanche the next night and came out strong, jumping out to a 3-0 first period lead.
They allowed the Avs to climb back in and eventually take the lead over the final two periods, before the Flyers forced overtime on a Preston Nowak goal, scored with just nine seconds left in regulation.
In the shootout, it was Taylor Emerick's goal in the eighth round that sealed the deal and the 6-5 Ontario victory.
Friday, they'll open at home against the Bombers and they'll certainly be looking to exact revenge on their long time rival.
Ontario Avalanche (3-2-0, 2nd in Pacific Division) @ Long Beach Bombers
Game Played Saturday in Lakewood, California
The Bombers return home the next night for their first-look at the nearby Ontario Avalanche.
The Avalanche started their first year in the league by losing two of three to Bay Area but rebounded nicely with wins over Valencia and San Diego last weekend.
Goaltender Jesse Gordichuk has been their best player early, as Chris Shaw's team has proven they can compete with anyone.
Ontario will be nice and rested and the Bombers may be a little beat-up from the game the night before, so it will be something to watch for.
As always, all games can be seen live through www.fasthockey.com, so get your hockey fix on and check-out some WSHL action this weekend!
Brent Maranto is the Director of Communications for the Western States Hockey League