Three weeks of the regular season are in the books and we're getting to the point where teams can no longer rely on the old "early in the season" adage; except the Cheyenne Stampede and New Mexico Renegades of course, who have each yet to play a game. This weekend the Renegades are in action however, as they play three games over a weekend featuring 21 total contests.
Below is a preview of each weekend series/game:
Texas Brahmas (2-4-1, 3rd in Midwest Division) @ Tulsa Jr. Oilers (0-3-0, 5th in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Texas Brahmas have not started the season the way head coach Jeremy Law would have hoped, as they've struggled against teams they probably feel they should beat.
After losing 8-2 last Friday to the Dallas Snipers and suffering their second loss of the season to the nearby rival, the Brahmas will look to get fat this weekend with a trip to Tulsa, to take on the first-year Jr. Oilers.
The Jr. Oilers had a full week off to try and find some bright spots in an opening weekend beating at the hands of the Dallas Ice Jets and head coach Zac Desjardins will look to have his boys ready for a big weekend against the Brahmas.
Texas will need more offensive output from a couple of big guns that have gone cold, in Cole Rose and Landyn Howze. The two forwards combined for six goals in the Brahmas' opening game of the season but have found twine just once over their last six games since. If they can get going and Law can find a hot-hand in net, look for Texas to ascend the standings quickly.
Tulsa will need a more complete effort to keep up with the Brahmas but should be able to match their physical play and keep the games close all weekend.
Southern Oregon Spartans 3-1-0, T-1st in Northwest Division) @ Ogden Mustangs (2-2-2, T-1st in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Ogden, Utah
One of the biggest matchups of the weekend pits the top two teams in the new Northwest Division against one another, as the Ogden Mustangs host the Southern Oregon Spartans.
In their first season of WSHL play, the Spartans look as advertised, winning three of their four games so far, all of which coming over the Seattle Totems.
They seem to have the depth, size and speed to compete with any team in the league and their goaltending has also been fantastic early on.
This weekend they'll get their first-look at the Ogden Mustangs, who struggled through their first season in the league but look much-improved under first-year head coach Jake Laime.
After getting swept by the Valencia Flyers in their opening weekend, in which they lost a lead in all three games, the Mustangs bounced back by winning two of three against the physical Bay Area Seals last weekend on the road.
They still have some kinks to work out but the talent is definitely there and playing in front of a home crowd should help their confidence, in what could be considered their biggest home series in team history.
El Paso Rhinos (3-0-0, 1st in Mountain Division) @ Boulder Bison (2-1-0, 3rd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Superior, Colorado
The long waited return of one of the best rivalries in WSHL history takes place this weekend in Colorado, as the Boulder Bison host the El Paso Rhinos.
The two notoriously hard-hitting and speedy teams did not play each other last season, after spending two rough seasons in the Midwest Division together; this weekend, they'll be sure to make up for lost time.
El Paso is off to a hot-start after sweeping the Arizona Redhawks in their opening weekend and it's already looking like another Thorne Cup or bust season for Cory Herman and his boys.
Paul DePuydt has some work to do with the Bison in his first season behind the bench, as many players have moved on but he has a solid core to rely on, including sniper Ryan Gauthier.
If you're going to watch one series this weekend, this should be the one.
Idaho Jr. Steelheads (2-0-0, 3rd in Northwest Division) @ Salt Lake City Moose (0-2-0, 5th in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Salt Lake City, Utah
The only reason the Idaho Jr. Steelheads aren't in first place in the Northwest Division, is because they've only played two games so far this season.
Those two games, which were both against the Salt Lake City Moose, were both Idaho wins and they looked like their usual selves in doing so.
This weekend, they'll travel south to Salt Lake City to meet the Moose again, this time for three games on the road.
The Moose may be 0-2-0 so far but have already looked exponentially better in their second season of play. After getting shutout in the opening game of the season in Idaho, they responded with a great effort the following night and lost by just two goals, a solid feat for any team playing in McCall.
The Moose now play their home games on an Olympic-sized ice sheet, which could pose a problem against burners like Stefan Brucato and the rest of the Idaho attack.
Either way, it will be a good measuring stick series for the Moose, as they look to climb out of the basement.
Dallas Ice Jets (4-0-0, T-1st in Midwest Division) @ Wichita Jr. Thunder (1-2-0, 4th Northwest Division)
Three-game series played in Wichita, Kansas
No team in the league has looked as dominant as the Dallas Ice Jets have so far this season.
Everyone knew they'd be solid in their second season under head coach Paul Taylor but the team he has put together has the ability to be great.
They're already off to a 4-0-0 start, including thrashings of the Tulsa Jr. Oilers and Texas Brahmas, who many believed would contend with them for the division title.
All four of their lines can score, their defense is stifling and only getting stronger as players return from the NAHL and they could have the best goaltender in the league, in Michael Baldwin.
All of this doesn't bode well for the first-year Wichita Jr. Thunder, who were competitive in their opening weekend against the upstart Dallas Snipers.
Wichita will have to find a way to slow down the Jets and make it a tight-checking affair, if they hope to pick up points on the weekend and prove they can stick with the division's best.
New Mexico Renegades (No Record, Mountain Division) @ Phoenix Knights (2-0-1, 2nd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Chandler, Arizona
After three long weeks of waiting, the New Mexico Renegades are set to make their season debut, as well as the debut of co-head coaches John McCreary and Cliff Cook.
They've recruited hard all summer, brought back some great players and have implemented their system and will surely be ready to go this weekend when they head to Phoenix to take on the Knights.
The Knights were a huge surprise in their opening weekend, as they looked fantastic in three games in Texas against the Brahmas, taking two of the three and losing in a shootout in the other.
Jarrod Levos and other top players have returned to help give first-year head coach Kurt Goar some momentum, which the Knights failed to find all of last season.
These two teams weren't considered contenders to the Mountain Division crown coming into the season but the Knights already look like they can compete and I think a lot of people will be surprised with this new-look Renegades squad.
Pacific Division One-Gamers
San Diego Gulls (0-5-0, 6th in Pacific Division) @ Ontario Avalanche (4-2-0, 2nd in Pacific Division)
Played Friday in Ontario, California
The Ontario Avalanche are the surprise of the Pacific Division thus far, as the first-year franchise has already beaten four of their five divisional opponents.
This weekend, they'll take on the San Diego Gulls at home, who they beat last weekend on the road in a close affair.
The Gulls are off to an auspiciously slow start and will need to get going soon, as their young roster doesn't have time to learn on the go.
It's not that they haven't been competitive early in the season, they just haven't had that typical Gulls grit we're used to seeing.
Don't expect it to last long however, as Craig Carlyle will have his Gulls ready for this one.
San Diego Gulls @ Valencia Flyers (3-2-1, 3rd in Pacific Division)
Played Saturday in Valencia, California
The next night, the Gulls travel north to Valencia for their first look at the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season, the Valencia Flyers.
The Flyers began the year hot but have tailed off a bit since and will need to get back on track this weekend in two divisional contests.
Head coach Jocelyn Langlois has a roster full of talent but might need to add a little grit to get his team back to the playoffs in his second season at the helm.
This game should be a good one, as the Gulls look to exact a little revenge.
Long Beach Bombers (3-1-0, 4th in Pacific Division) @ Valencia Flyers
Played Sunday in Valencia, California
The last game of the weekend is a make-up game between the Flyers and the Bombers, moved from Friday night to Sunday.
The Bombers have won both meetings between the two teams this season but the last game was much closer than the 10-4 blowout to begin the year. Jiri Sykora was huge in the 4-3 Bombers victory last Friday in Valencia and a huge reason for Long Beach's' great start.
It's great to see this rivalry competitive again and this should be another good one, as the host Flyers won't want to start the year 0-3-0 against the Bombers.
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!
Story by Brent Maranto does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Western States Hockey League