Bremerton, WA – Heading into this series, the Tri-City Outlaws (8-23-1-0, 17 points) are in sole possession of the final playoff spot in the Northern Pacific Hockey League; while the West Sound Warriors (6-25-1-1, 14 points) trail the Outlaws by only three points.
In these teams’ previous six matchups this season, the Outlaws have captured five out of the six possible wins against the Warriors. The Warriors’ single win against the Outlaws this season was only a few weeks ago, when the team beat the Outlaws in overtime.
When the Warriors were able to capture this victory, back on January 22nd, the team was able to come out and score four goals in the first period. If the Warriors can put the Outlaws in a deficit, then the team has proven that they can be successful.
Matt Ferris, the Warriors’ head coach, discussed what key aspects his team will need to focus on to come out successful this weekend. Ferris said, “we need to take care of the defensive zone. The last time we played Tri Cities, we gave up way too many chances and they capitalized. We'll need to cut down on those chances. We need to play as a unit and not as individuals. If we do that, we have a chance to be successful.”
When asked about the playoff race, Ferris said, “a win or two this weekend would be huge. Our goal since the winter break has been to be in the playoff hunt by the end of the season. We're still on the outside looking in, but we've given ourselves a chance. We'll see how our young team reacts to the pressure of the playoff race down the stretch, starting with this weekend.”
As the Warriors look to cut into the Outlaws’ lead this weekend, the Outlaws will try to hold the final playoff spot in the league. Despite being swept by the Blazers last weekend, there were some positive takeaways for the team.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges the Outlaws have faced throughout this season is time spent in the penalty box. Well, between both games against the Blazers last weekend, the Outlaws spent a total of 16 minutes in the box, or an average of eight minutes per game. This is down from the team’s average per game, which currently sits at 16 minutes.
During these games, the Outlaws allowed more goals than a coach may have liked. Although both goalies – Jimmy Grosklaus and Taylor Merkley – saw 70 plus shots during last weekend.
Geno McCue, the Outlaws’ head coach, discussed what his team will need to do this weekend to maintain the NPHL’s final playoff spot. McCue said, “we had a tough weekend last weekend, but there were some positives. We need to continue to stay out of the box and put more pucks in the net. For us to come out and get a win or two this weekend over West Sound would be huge. We’re only three points ahead, so every point is crucial. This weekend will be a battle and it will be fun.”
This home-and-home, two-game, series will begin on Friday, February 12th, and conclude Saturday, February 13th. The first game will be held at the Bremerton Ice Center in Bremerton, Washington. This game has a start time of 7:05 pm (PST). Then the second game will be held at the Toyota Arena in Kennewick, Washington, with a start time of 7:35 pm (PST).
Eugene, OR – Two of the league’s three teams that already clinched a playoff spot will be duking it out this weekend. The Bellingham Blazers (25-8-1-0, 51 points) will travel south to Eugene, Oregon, to take on the Eugene Generals (21-10-0-1, 43 points). Both teams are entering into this weekend on a bit of a hot streak as the Blazers have won their last four games, while the Generals have won their last three games.
Heading into this series, the Blazers do own the overall record against the Generals this season, which currently sits at 4-2. Two of the Blazers’ wins over the Generals this season includes a road series sweep in Eugene. But that was before the winter break.
Since the winter break concluded, the Generals have beaten the Blazers twice. These two wins over the Blazers gave the Generals’ head coach, Justin Kern, his first win over the team since being on the Generals’ coaching staff.
Kern discussed what his team will need to do to be victorious this weekend. Kern said, “we would like to continue with the trend that we had last time we played against Bellingham. We want to eliminate as many of their shots as possible and clean the trash out in front of our net. Then we want to make sure we get a good zone entry against them, and make the most out of every possession. You can’t lose games if you have the puck the whole time.”
As the Blazers enter into this series, and baring any major setbacks from both teams, these franchises will meet again for postseason play. With the Blazers currently eight points up on the Generals in the NPHL’s standings, these teams will be playing for home ice advantage this weekend.
Two key Blazers’ players to watch in this series are Karson DeRego, who is the league’s leading scorer, and Kevin Duncan. Both of these players are coming off of a phenomenal weekend in which they both recorded nine points between two games. DeRego was able to net two goals, while assisting on seven others. Then Duncan recorded a single goal after assisting on eight others, not too shabby for a defenseman.
Phil Carron, the Blazers’ assistant coach, discussed what the Blazers will be focusing on this series. Carron said, “I think that our effort level needs to be extremely high all week and weekend. I also think we need to execute our game plan properly to be successful.”
As previously mentioned, the playoffs are looming over both of these teams, and they will likely meet in the first round of the playoffs. Home ice could be a huge determining factor in this potential series. Carron addressed this and said, “home ice is huge come playoff time. I believe that it does help fuel the boys for this weekend.”
This two-game series will take place at The Rink Exchange in Eugene, Oregon, starting on Friday, February 12th, and ending on Saturday, February 13th. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:35 pm (PST) both nights.
Tune in to the NPHL’s website following the conclusion of the final game each night for a full recap.
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