Wenatchee, WA – The #1 Wenatchee Wolves (0-0-0, zero points) are set to host the #4 Tri-City Outlaws (0-0-0, zero points) for the first round of the NPHL’s playoffs. During this season, the Wolves were able to beat the Outlaws eight out of eight times. But it has been over a month since both of these teams squared off against one another.
The Outlaws have a lot to look forward to heading into this series. This playoff birth marks the end of a one-year drought in which the Outlaws did not make the playoffs. In addition to ending this drought, the Outlaws are being led into battle with the franchise’s first year head coach, Geno McCue.
Since the Wolves and the Outlaws last met, back on January 31st, the Outlaws were able to go on the team’s longest winning streak of the season, which was six games. During this six-game streak, the Outlaws were able to beat the Seattle Ravens, West Sound Warriors, and the only team that has beaten the Wolves this season, the Eugene Generals.
Between these six wins, the Outlaws were playing consistent hockey, while staying out of the box. For most of the season, the Outlaws’ biggest opponent has been the penalty box. While on the penalty kill, the Outlaws have allowed a league high 51 goals against. This makes up about 22 percent of the Outlaws’ total goals allowed during the regular season.
There are some key players on the Outlaws who have found success against the Wolves this season. Payton Okon leads the team with six points against the Wolves, but he is closely trailed by the Questad brothers in Aaron and Travis. Both of which have recorded five points against the Wolves. These three players combine for nearly half of the Outlaws’ total points while facing the Wolves.
Geno McCue, the Outlaws’ head coach, discussed what his team needs to do to come away successful this weekend. McCue said, “we will focus on limiting Wenatchee’s shots, staying out of the penalty box, while capitalizing on as many opportunities as possible. When we get a good look, we have to put it in the back of the net.”
As for the Wolves, the program has now gone two-for-two when it comes to post season births. Last season, the team was able to slip into the league’s playoffs as the fourth seed. During the 2015 playoffs, the Wolves took the Blazers to a full five-game series.
After beating the Outlaws back in January, the Wolves were able to extend their winning streak all the way to 20 games during the regular season. This streak is one of the longest regular season winning streaks in the nation. From this streak, the Wolves went on to capture the NPHL’s best regular season win percentage record at .975 percent.
While playing against the Outlaws, the Wolves’ goalies – Max Flynn and Bronson Moore – along with the two of the team’s forwards – Hayden Givens and Tom Ignatovich – have played huge roles in deciding the outcome of all eight games.
For Flynn and Moore, each goalie has played a total of 240 minutes in the crease while protecting the net against the Outlaws. Even though each goalie has spent equal time in the net while playing the Outlaws, Flynn has recorded two shutouts and he has a team low in goals allowed.
As for Givens and Ignatovich, these young men are tied for a team high 14 points against the Outlaws this season. But the way each player has gone about recording their points is different. Of Givens’ 14 total points against the Outlaws, 10 of them are from goals while the remaining four come from assists. Then for Ignatovich, he has recorded only three goals while the other 11 points come from assists.
Ryan McKelvie, the Wolves’ head coach, commented on what his team needs to do to be successful this weekend. McKelvie said, “we need to clean things up defensively. We are giving up way too many high-quality scoring chances while relying too much on our goaltenders. So we will focus on that this weekend. Two of our strongest points this year have been good team depth and good team goaltending. Those two factors have combined for us to have a lot of success this season. Hopefully we can continue this during the post-season.”
This best of three series will begin on Saturday, March 12th, at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Washington. Then this series will travel to the Toyota Arena on Sunday, March 13th. The puck will drop at 7:35 pm (PST) and 2:35 pm (PST) respectively.
Tune in to the NPHL’s website following the conclusion of the final game for a full recap!
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