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NPHL Weekend Preview: February 19th – 21st Junior Hockey News

Published: Wednesday, 17 Feb 2016  
By: Garrett J Fabris


Bremerton, WA – The Seattle Ravens (6-24-1-1, 14 points) will kick off their three-game weekend with a two-game series against the West Sound Warriors (6-27-1-1, 14 points) on Friday. This will be the last regular season meeting between these two teams. For this series, both franchises are preparing to make one last push to capture the final playoff spot from the Tri-City Outlaws.

Last weekend the Ravens enjoyed some time off as the team continued to make the necessary adjustments under its newest head coach, Adam Kurtenbach. For this weekend, the Ravens will need to capture at least one victory over the Warriors in hopes of staying alive in the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s playoff race.

After starting the season 3 – 0 against the Warriors, the Ravens have dropped the team’s last three games against the Warriors. One of which needed a shootout to decide the victor. With this series starting on the road for the Ravens, it will be crucial that they start on the right foot before heading back home to Kent, Washington, to conclude this series.

Kurtenbach discussed what the Ravens need to do to come out successful this weekend. He said, “I think the biggest thing is that we need to get healthy because we are pretty short benched right now. But I also think we need to become more of an offensive threat. We play pretty well in our zone, so we need to come out, put pressure on the defense, get a forecheck in, be willing to go to the net, and finish on our opportunities.”

As the Ravens head into this weekend rested, the Warriors were swept by the Outlaws last weekend. But with the bad, some good can be found. In the team’s last game against the Outlaws, the Warriors were able to score four goals in the final 20 minutes. If the team can start out this hot, then they could secure at least two points this weekend.

Matt Ferris, the Warriors’ head coach, shared what the Warriors will need to focus on to be victorious this weekend. Ferris stated, “our focus is to bring the intensity to the rink over the weekend. If we do that, then we have a chance to win and get out of the cellar for the first time all season. It’s important for our players to play hard down the stretch; these are important games for our organization.”

When it comes to statistics, both of these teams are relatively equal. Against one another, the top two scorers for both teams have recorded the same amount of points. For the Ravens it’s Jon Crosbie with seven points and Ben Lehfeldt-Ehlinger with five. Then for the Warriors it’s Alec Johnson with seven and Brett Hawkins with five.

With no clear frontrunner between these two teams, either the Ravens or Warriors could capture the series sweep. If one team were able to pull off this feat, it would most certainly put the team back into the thick of things. Especially with the final stretch of the season now underway.

This two-game, home-and-home, series will begin on Friday, February 19th, at the Bremerton Ice Center in Bremerton, Washington. For this game, the puck is scheduled to drop at 7:35 pm (PST).

These teams will then travel to Kent, Washington, for the final game in this series on Saturday, February 20th. This game will be held at the Kent Valley Ice Centre; game time is scheduled for 6:35 pm (PST).

Kennewick, WA – After slightly pulling away from the three-team race for the final playoff spot with four points last weekend, the Tri-City Outlaws (10-23-1-0, 21 points) will host the Eugene Generals (21-11-1-1, 44 points) for a two-game series.

The Generals will head into this weekend after being swept by the Bellingham Blazers in a two-game series. Since the start of the season, the Generals have owned the overall recorded against the Outlaws. In these teams’ previous six games, the Generals have beaten the Outlaws five out of six times.

In fact, the last time the Generals came off of a home-series sweep against the Blazers, the team went on to sweep the Outlaws the following weekend. For the first game of that series, back on November 20th, the Generals were able to escape with a slim 2-1 win. Then during the second game, on the following day, the Generals goalie – Zealand Walterscheid – pitched a shutout against the Outlaws.

Justin Kern, the Generals’ head coach, commented about this weekend’s matchup with the Outlaws. Kern said, “we need to focus on staying out of the box. But I would like for us to be 100 percent ready for the playoffs in terms of our mentality. So we are going to check the attitudes and make sure everyone is ready to play as a team.”

The Outlaws now lead both the Warriors and Ravens by seven points heading into the final few games of the season. A win this weekend against the Generals would make it hard for any team to snatch the last playoff spot from the Outlaws.

One key aspect that the Outlaws have struggled with since the start of the season is keeping players out of the box. But during the team’s last four games, the Outlaws have spent a game average of 11.5 minutes in the box. This is down from the team’s season average, which is currently sitting at 16 minutes per game. Plain and simple, when the Outlaws limit their time in the box, they often come away victorious.

Geno McCue, the Outlaws’ head coach, discussed what his team will need to do in order to be successful this weekend. McCue said, “going into this weekend against Eugene, I am looking for the boys to continue to build on what we accomplished last weekend; good puck movement and support. Communication between one another and the ability to read and react to Eugene's speed will be crucial for us as well.”

This two-game series will begin on Saturday, February 20th, and conclude on Sunday, February 21st. Both games will take place at the Toyota Arena in Kennewick, Washington. The first game is scheduled to start at 7:05 pm (PST), while the second game will start at 5:05 pm (PST).

Bellingham, WA –  The league’s heaviest hitters, the Bellingham Blazers (27-8-1-0, 55 points) and Wenatchee Wolves (32-1-0-0, 64 points), will conclude regular season play against one another this weekend.

Last weekend, the Blazers were able to sweep the Generals in a two-game series. During this series, the team saw an excellent goaltending performance by Christopher Alexakis. The Blazers’ goalie allowed only one goal on 28 shots faced; but Alexakis has been putting up these impressive numbers all season. With 14 wins, six shutouts, and only 21 goals allowed in 17 appearances, there is no doubt that Alexakis can compete with the best of goalies.

Phil Carron, the Blazers’ assistant coach, discussed what the Blazers will need to do this weekend to come away with a victory. Carron said, “we will need a really up tempo week of practice and make sure we prepare properly. There’s no doubt that Wenatchee is the best team in the league, and I believe we can take them. We will need to have good goaltending and good defense for this game. After all, that’s what wins games and championships.”

The Blazers and Wolves’ previous matchups have been more competitive as of late, especially with the last three games being decided by one or two goals. The Wolves will be well rested for this series after enjoying a week off from NPHL play. The league’s top team is seemingly firing on all cylinders as they have lost only one game this season.

During the Wolves’ last series, they were able to beat – and sweep – the West Sound Warriors in a two-game series. It was during this series that the Wolves were able to clinch the regular season title for the first time in franchise history.

There is no doubt that goaltending will play a crucial role in deciding the victor for this series. The Blazers do have a great goaltender in Alexakis, who is currently the second best statistical goalie in the league. But Alexakis is second best to Bronson Moore, the league’s only unbeaten goalie, who also happens to be on the Wolves. Since the start of the season, Moore has recorded 16 victories while allowing an average of only one goal per game.

Ryan McKelvie, the Wolves’ head coach, also discussed what his team needs to do to come away successful this weekend. McKelvie stated, “we had a very competitive and high-tempo week of practice. After being off for a three-day weekend, we expect our guys to come back with high energy, while also being focused on executing our game plan, and playing our best hockey of the season heading into the final stretch.”

This one-game series will be on Saturday, February 20th, at the Bellingham Sportsplex in Bellingham, Washington. The start time for this game is scheduled for 7:35 pm (PST).

Wenatchee, WA – After the Wolves take on the Blazers in a one-game series, the team will host the Ravens for another one-game series. So far this season, the Wolves have only lost to one team in the league. This means that the other four teams in the NPHL are still looking to beat the Wolves this season, including the Ravens.

Fatigue will play a huge factor for this one-game series, especially for the Ravens. As previously stated, after taking on the Warriors in a home-and-home series, the Ravens will hit the road once again to take on the Wolves for a third game in just as many days.

With this being the Ravens’ first series against the Wolves with the franchise’s newest head coach at the helm, things might be different this time around. Kurtenbach does have a championship pedigree after taking a team from Washington to the USA Hockey Pacific District Tier I Championship. The previous time this was accomplished in Washington, it was over 25 years ago.

As the Ravens search for the team’s first victory over the Wolves this season, the Wolves will be looking to continue their winning ways. The last time these teams played, back on January 23rd and 24th, the Wolves were able to beat the Ravens by a combined score of 21 – 1.

Since the Wolves did not have any NPHL games last weekend, it has given the team two weeks to prepare for not only the Blazers, but the Ravens too. When the Wolves come off of a large break like this, the team has lost its only game. This game was against the Generals after coming off of a similar two-week break.

This one-game series will be held on Sunday, February 21st, at the Town Toyota Arena in Wenatchee, Washington. This game is scheduled to start at 4:35 pm (PST).

After the final game each night, tune in to the NPHL’s website for a nightly recap.



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