Although it was a "light" opening weekend to the 2014-2015 Western States Hockey League season, the six series still featured plenty of great divisional hockey and four completely new teams making their debut.
Below is a summary of each weekend series/game:
Wichita Jr. Thunder (0-3-0, T-2nd in Midwest Division) @ Springfield Express (3-0-0, 1st in Midwest Division)
Three-game series in Springfield, Missouri
With a packed crowd on-hand, the Springfield Express began its existence with a three-game sweep of a much-improved Wichita Jr. Thunder squad.
The Express jumped out to a 2-0 in Friday's opener, thanks to power play goals from Vito DeVito and Carl Eriksson but Wichita responded with goals from Ivan Brvenik, Patrik Janac and Zach Balodis to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.
Springfield came out on fire in the third and outshot the visitors 17-5, while getting goals from Tobias Sjolund, Collin Young and another from DeVito, en route to a 5-3 win.
Veteran goaltender Oliver Eklund stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced in the win, while Jake Larson allowed four goals on 42 shots in the loss for Wichita.
Gritty forward Seth Ensor notched a rare natural hat-trick in game two to pace Springfield to a 3-0 first period lead and despite being outshot on the night, the Express pulled away in a 6-1 victory.
Quade Hamlin, Damond Brookke and Vito DeVito also scored goals for the Express, while Philip Babb turned aside 40 of the 41 shots he faced in net.
Zach Balodis notched the lone Wichita goal on the night, while Matej Varchola gave up six goals on 40 shots faced.
The Express scored the first eight goals of the finale on Sunday and pulled off the sweep behind a 9-2 win.
Quade Hamlin led the way with three assists, while eight different skaters recorded multiple points. Eklund returned to the pipes and stopped 27 of 29 in the win.
Ivan Brvenik and Alex Smith notched the two Wichita goals, while Larson was busy in net, allowing nine goals on 54 shots in the loss.
The Express look like another blue-collar, hardworking, Jeremy Law hockey club but with a bit more talent sprinkled in.
The results may not have been there for Wichita but Rob Weingartner's club is much improved and if they can continue to help their goaltenders out, they'll be able to compete on a nightly basis.
Colorado RoughRiders (2-1-0, 1st in Mountain Division) @ Casper Coyotes (1-2-0, T-2nd in Mountain Division)
Three-game series in Casper, Wyoming
The Casper Coyotes began their WSHL tenure with a home set against the Colorado RoughRiders, a team that may look new but is really nothing but, as the team formerly known as the Boulder Bison took two of the three contests.
Colorado needed a comeback to win game one, as Casper took a 2-0 lead on goals from a pair of Finns, in Toni Hakarainen and Eetu Tikkanen.
Veteran forward Hunter Behrens notched two power play goals just 3:19 apart late in the second period and Gian Cervo scored the game-winner in the third to lift the RoughRiders to a 3-2 win.
Kirill Pustovalov stopped 22 of 24 to get the win in the Colorado crease, while Christoph Mutschin did well to stop 42 of 45 shots for Casper but was still hit with the loss.
The Coyotes again took a 2-0 lead the next night but were able to hold on for the first win in club history, edging Colorado 3-2.
Igor Stibysh notched a goal and an assist and Rikard Landfeldt stopped 39 of 41 in net to lead the Coyotes to victory.
Aidan Doughty and Gian Cervo scored for Colorado, while Pustovalov stopped 32 of 35 in net.
The RoughRiders took a 2-0 lead in game three on goals from Gian Cervo and the newly acquired Thayne Trumbull but the Coyotes clawed their way back in, knotting things up on goals from Igor Stibysh and Viktor Thim.
Trumbull notched his second of the game at 16:01, a goal that would hold up as the eventual game-winner, before Sage Dugas added an empty netter in a 4-2 Colorado win.
Sean Cuscaden stopped 20 of 22 to pick up the win in net, while Christoph Mutschin allowed three goals on 33 shots in the loss.
The RoughRiders did a good job to fight their way back into a couple of games and seem to have a nice mix of skill and speed once again.
Casper competed well in front of the home crowd and with a great crop of imports, should be right in the middle of the playoff race in year one.
Missoula Maulers (1-2-0, T-4th in Northwest Division) @ Southern Oregon Spartans (2-0-1, T-2nd in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Medford, Oregon
Last season, the Missoula Maulers and Southern Oregon Spartans battled for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Northwest Division until the very end. They didn't have to wait long to go at it this time around, as the Maulers took to the road for three games in the Medford Madhouse this weekend.
The David Cole era began with a bang on Friday night, as the Spartans blanked the Maulers by a score of 4-0.
Four different Spartans scored goals in the win and Tymen Edelkoort III stopped all 30 shots he faced in net. Noah Parker allowed four goals on 38 shots in the Missoula crease.
Things were a lot tighter the next night, as the Maulers fought back from a 3-1 deficit to eventually force overtime, before veteran forward Corey Schafer won it in the second overtime period.
Schafer and Austin Azzinnarro each notched two points to lead the Maulers, while Jonathon Lovelace and Doug Gutierrez did the same for the Spartans.
Aron Holmgren stopped 38 of the 41 shots he faced in the Missoula crease and Edelkoort III took the overtime loss, despite playing well and turning aside 33 of 37 for Southern Oregon.
The Maulers took a 1-0 lead in the finale, thanks to a Damon Hanson goal but the Spartans got goals from Zach Lovelace and Mackenzie Wood in the second period, before locking it down in the third and holding on for a 2-1 win.
Edelkoort III was in the cage once again for the Spartans and did not disappoint, stopping 27 of 28 in the win, while Holmgren stopped 33 of 35 in the loss for Missoula.
It was a battle of two evenly matched teams, both of which should be right in the thick of things all season long.
Butte Cobras (1-2-0, T-4th in Northwest Division) @ Seattle Totems (2-0-1, T-2nd in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Mountlake Terrace, Washington
In another great Northwest Division clash, the Butte Cobras were welcomed into the WSHL by the Seattle Totems, who showed no mercy for the first-year club and picked up five out of a possible six points on the weekend.
The Totems looked much stronger with a larger roster than they've had in years past and took game one by a score of 5-3, with veteran forward Erik Danna notching four assists, Axel Martensson adding three and both Marek Nemec and August Cnattingius picking up a pair or goals.
Danny Armstrong scored the first goal in Cobras history, with Kevin Philbin and Brock Solomon adding the other two in the loss.
Alec Lazarski stopped 41 of 44 in the win for Seattle and Justin Keener allowed five goals on 49 shots in the loss for Butte.
The Cobras led 3-0 and 4-2 the next night but allowed the Totems to climb back into the game and eventually force overtime on an Adam Alfody power play goal.
3:25 into the first overtime period however, Zach Steuck notched a power play marker of his own to give Butte its first-ever win.
Steuck, Anton Zimmer and Josh Smith each picked up three points on the night for Butte, while Tor Tornqvist stopped 42 of 46 in net.
Alfody had two goals to lead the Totems offensive efforts, while Anton Vigre allowed five goals on 42 shots faced.
Seattle took a lead three separate times over the first two periods of game three but Butte responded each time to tie it up.
With the game knotted at three late in the third however, Braden Stratton and Erik Danna scored goals just 28 seconds apart to give Seattle the 5-3 win.
Danna had two goals and an assist to lead the Totems, while Anton Zimmer did the same for the Cobras.
Alec Lazarski got his second win of the weekend for Seattle, stopping 39 of the 42 shots he faced on the day, while Tor Tornqvist took the loss for Butte, allowing five goals on 44 shots.
Butte played well with a pretty short bench, something Seattle knows all too well. They have plenty of talent and if they can add a couple more pieces, it will make things that much easier.
Seattle is looking to shake off a couple of tough seasons in the WSHL and so far, so good, for Mike Murphy and Co.
Idaho Jr. Steelheads (3-0-0, 1st in Northwest Division) @ Whitefish Wolverines (0-3-0, T-6th in Northwest Division)
Three-game series in Whitefish, Montana
The Whitefish Wolverines familiarized themselves with the WSHL thanks to a series against the three-time Thorne Cup Champion Idaho Jr. Steelheads and put forth a solid effort, despite being swept by one of the league's elite on home ice.
Game one was a blowout, as the Wolverines came out a little tense and found themselves chasing a lot, as Idaho took advantage of every mistake and won by a score of 14-0.
Swedish forward Elliot Lorraine led the way with four goals and three assists, while eight other Steelies recorded at least two points.
Former Dallas Ice Jet Tyler Hough stopped all 12 shots he faced in net for Idaho, while Brendan Duff was a little busier for Whitefish, allowing six goals on 40 shots before being pulled just over halfway through.
Whitefish seemed to figure things out the next night and made a game of it, despite being outshot heavily in what was eventually a 3-1 loss.
Another former Ice Jet, Alex Criswell, scored two goals for the Jr. Steelheads, while Macky Power got the other. The first goal in Wolverines history was notched by Aleksei Garin and came while short handed.
Austin Althaus stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced for Idaho, while Joakim Hidestrand took the loss for Whitefish, despite stopping 40 of 43.
Idaho jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the finale and was able to cruise to a 7-1 win to complete the sweep.
Power led the offensive charge with three assists, while five Idaho other skaters recorded a pair of points. Bailey Ketola, Idaho's third goalie of the weekend, picked up the win in net while stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced.
Garin scored the lone Whitefish goal once again and Hidestrand played two periods and allowed six goals on 40 shots, before being pulled.
Idaho looks nearly unstoppable with John Olver at the helm and they really gave the first-year Wolverines a tough time.
They are as skilled as ever and were made even better when they picked up a handful of former Ice Jet players.
Whitefish competed hard but didn't have enough to keep up with Idaho, a problem many others have had.
It's only one week however, so they have nowhere to go but up.
Salt Lake City Moose (1-1-0, T-2nd in Mountain Division) vs. Ogden Mustangs (1-1-0, T-2nd in Mountain Division)
Home-and-home series played Friday in Ogden and Saturday in West Valley City, Utah
The two Utah teams kicked off their seasons with a home-and-home clash and didn't disappoint, as one of the best rivalries in the league only got better.
Opening things up Friday in Ogden, the Mustangs showed off their depth with goals from five different players in a 5-2 victory.
David Clements and Corey Iapalucci led the way with three points each, while Jon Mencer had two. Andreas Pettersson was tasked with filling the skates of Tyler Fallica and looked strong, allowing two goals on 23 shots.
Veterans Cole Corson and Brett Meyer notched the two Salt Lake goals, while Brad Robertson allowed five goals on 32 shots in net.
Saturday night's contest was a bit chippier, as each squad had 10 power play chances but Salt Lake City converted on 50% of theirs and pulled away for a 9-2 win.
Devan Beck and Ross Gann each had four points to lead the Moose's offensive efforts and Robertson stopped all but two of the 32 shots he faced in net.
Alex Forbes and Charlie Reed scored for Ogden, while former Lake Tahoe Blue standout Troy Turpin took the loss in net, stopping 19 of 25 before being pulled over halfway through the contest.
These two teams should be neck and neck all season, as they both hope to contend for a Mountain Division title.
Hockey Wolf Three Stars of the Week
1. Seth Ensor (Forward, Springfield Express)- A player more known for his grit, than scoring ability, Seth Ensor did a little bit of everything to get the home crowd fired up this weekend in Springfield. The veteran forward notched four goals and four assists, including a natural hat-trick on Sunday, to help lead the Express to a sweep of the Wichita Jr. Thunder, while also picking up a couple of fighting majors.
2. Elliot Lorraine (Forward, Idaho Jr. Steelheads)- John Olver sang the praises of Swedish import Elliot Lorraine prior to the season and if week one is any indication, he's another in a long line of stud forwards in Idaho. The 5'9" 165-pounder led the Jr. Steelheads with five goals and four assists and helped them to a sweep of the first-year Whitefish Wolverines.
3. Erik Danna (Forward, Seattle Totems)- The Seattle Totems looked much stronger with a fuller bench and began their season by picking up five out of a possible six points against the Butte Cobras. Veteran forward Erik Danna was right there leading the offensive charge, notching two goals and six assists on the weekend.
Honorable Mentions: Quade Hamlin (Springfield Express), David Higgs (Springfield Express), Thayne Trumbull (Colorado RoughRiders), Tymen Edelkoort III (Southern Oregon Spartans), August Cnattingius (Seattle Totems), Macky Power (Idaho Jr. Steelheads), David Clements (Ogden Mustangs), Brett Myer (Salt Lake City Moose)
Brent Maranto is the WSHL DIrector of Communications
Photo courtesy of the Southern Oregon Spartans