Bellingham, WA – After a four-game skid, the Bellingham Blazers (23-8-1-0, 47 points) were able to bounce back last weekend against the Seattle Ravens. The Blazers swept the Ravens in a two-game, home-and-home, series. As the Blazers prepare to take on the Tri-City Outlaws (8-21-1-0, 17 points), the Outlaws will be looking for their first win against the Blazers this season.
As these teams prepare for their last regular season meeting, the Blazers will be doing so with some of the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s top players. Which includes one of the league’s hottest goalies, Christopher Alexakis.
In 15 games this season, Alexakis has made 351 saves on 369 shots faced. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Alexakis also has six shutouts on the season. Yes, you read that right, he has six shutouts in 15 games this season. Great goaltending isn’t the only strong aspect of the Blazers, but there is a plethora of players that can score at any given moment, including the league’s leading scorer, Karson DeRego.
The Blazers will be entering into this series after clinching the team’s fourth straight playoff birth. Since the Blazers’ inaugural season, which was during the 2012 – 2013 season, the franchise has yet to miss the playoffs.
As of right now, the Outlaws are currently sitting in fourth place in the NPHL, which is the final playoff spot for the postseason. With a slim three-point lead over the Seattle Ravens and West Sound Warriors, a win this weekend would help the Outlaws etch their name for the playoffs this postseason.
Geno McCue, the Outlaws’ head coach, discussed what the Outlaws need to do to come out victorious this weekend. He said, “to start, we need to stay out of the penalty box, but we also need to continue to play physical. The most important thing for us is that we need to continue to progress and build on our skills. I would also like to see some consistency. It’s crunch time for us right now with the playoffs right around the corner.”
Special teams can be a bit of a double edged sword. Heading into this weekend, the Outlaws are tied with the Eugene Generals for second place with the most power play goals, which is 26. But on the other side, the Outlaws have allowed the most goals in the league while on the penalty kill.
This series will begin on Friday, February 5th, and it will conclude on Saturday, February 6th. Both of these games will be held at the Bellingham Sportsplex in Bellingham, Washington, with a scheduled start time of 7:35 pm (PST).
Bremerton, WA – The West Sound Warriors (6-23-1-1, 14 points) will enter into this series against the Wenatchee Wolves (30-1-0-0, 60 points) only three points behind the league’s fourth place team, the Outlaws. As the playoff race heats up for the final playoff spot in the NPHL, the Wolves have already secured their playoff birth.
As the season continues to progress, the league’s reigning champions continue to keep trending upward. The Warriors have gone 4-4 since the second half of the season started, which includes a win over the third place Generals last weekend, who recently clinched their playoff birth.
Matt Ferris, the Warriors’ head coach, discussed what his team needs to do this weekend in order to be successful. Ferris said “we need to focus on our defensive game. Wenatchee is a great team, so we need to be ready to defend. We’re excited for this challenge.”
In addition to a strong defensive performance, Ferris said, “we are looking for our goalies to have a big weekend. Whether that is McCain or Sohl, we will need some big performances.”
As the Wolves enter into this series, the team is perhaps playing its best hockey as of late. With 50 goals in seven games since the conclusion of the winter break, there seems to be no stopping the Wolves’ offense.
Ryan McKelvie, the Wolves’ head coach, discussed what key aspects of the game his team will focus on to come out successful this weekend. McKelvie said, “I thought at the end of last weekend, we got a little lackadaisical defensively, so we will focus on cleaning up things in our own end. We are also aware that West Sound has been playing very good hockey as of late and we are excited to have a competitive series with them.”
McKelvie continued, “last weekend we had two players who had a breakout game. Coleton Booth, who had a five-goal game on Friday, and Richie Stickle, who had a four-goal game on Sunday. So both of those players are playing well, and I’m excited to see if they can keep their performance heading in that direction.”
Since the Wolves’ impressive start to the second half of the season, Booth has scored nearly a third of his points. He has buried 10 goals while also recording one assist; while Stickle has recorded six points in the same time frame.
This home-and-home, two-game, series will begin on Friday, February 5th, and wrap up on Sunday, February 7th. The first game in this series will be held at the Bremerton Ice Center in Bremerton, Washington. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:35 pm (PST). For Sunday’s game, this series will head to the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Washington, for a 12:00 pm(PST) start.
Eugene, OR – On Thursday, January 28th, the Eugene Generals (19-10-0-1, 39 points) had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Wolves. During the Generals’ three game weekend, the team dropped two of their three games, but they were able to end the weekend on a high note after defeating the Warriors, 7 – 1.
Despite dropping two of the team’s three games this weekend, the Generals were able to clinch a playoff birth. This playoff birth will effectively end the team’s one-year drought of not making the playoffs. Last year was the only time in franchise history that the Generals did not make the playoffs.
Justin Kern, the Generals’ head coach, discussed his expectations for the team this weekend. Kern said, “right now, we want to make sure that we get everyone healthy as they fight off the flu bug. We want to get back into our normal swing of practice and dryland, while also making sure everyone is ready to go. So basically, we are just trying to get back to the basics so we can take care of business these last couple of weeks before the playoffs.”
Kern also gave insight as to who he expects will have a good game this weekend. He said, “Isaac Vincent has been playing great lately, and the same goes for Kory Palmer. I expect them both to continue with this trend this weekend.”
The Seattle Ravens will be entering into this series with the team’s newest head coach, Adam Kurtenbach. Now, Kurtenbach may be a familiar name to some of you Vancouver Canucks fans, as he is the son of the Canucks’ former captain, Orland Kurtenbach.
Before Kurtenbach, Adam that is, made his way to the Ravens, he was coaching youth hockey in the state of Washington. While he was coaching youth hockey in Washington, he was able to lead a team to the USA Hockey Pacific District Tier I Championship. An impressive feat considering that the last time this happened in Washington was about 25 years ago.
Kurtenbach will be coming into this franchise during a pivotal moment that relates to the playoff race in the league. The Ravens are only three points behind the Outlaws, who currently hold the fourth, and final, playoff spot in the NPHL. If the Ravens can come away with a victory or two this weekend, then it may drastically effect this season’s playoff picture.
This two-game series will start on Friday, February 5th, and finish on Saturday, February 6th. Both games will be held at The Rink Exchange in Eugene, Oregon, with a start time of 7:35 pm (PST) for both nights.
Tune in to the NPHL’s website after the conclusion of the final game each night for a full recap.
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