After 10 straight games away from home, the Ogden Mustangs are back on home ice this weekend to face the Southern Oregon Spartans. The Mustangs remain undefeated and in the No. 1 spot in the Western States Hockey League. The Spartans are looking for a signature victory to get them going. They've already kept one game close, when the Mustangs were in Medford three weeks ago. Can they stay close this weekend on the road and pick up their biggest win of the season?
Game Notes are compiled by Ogden Mustangs broadcasting and media specialist, Jon McBride. Catch Jon live during the games, calling the action via Black Dog Hockey.
Mustangs this Season
The Mustangs come into the weekend with a perfect record of 17-0-0. They're coming off of a sweep on the road last weekend over the Ontario Avalanche. The Mustangs dominated all three games in shots, puck possession and offensive zone time. However, the scores were closer than the Mustangs would've liked, winning 4-3 after a late-game comeback on Friday, 4-1 on Saturday and 2-1 on Sunday. A win Friday will match the best start in Mustangs franchise history and also the longest overall winning streak in franchise history. The Mustangs have gone 18-0 twice: at the start of last season as well as at the start of the 2016 season.
This is the ninth season of Mustangs hockey. Head coach Jake Laime is in his eighth season. The Mustangs won division championships in 2014, 2015, 2018 and last season in 2019. Total points earned and team winning percentage increased each of the first six seasons. For the past seven seasons, the Mustangs have been considered in the top tier of teams in the WSHL, with deep runs in the playoffs each season, but are still looking for their first league title. The Mustangs have established themselves as the top producer of NCAA commitments in the WSHL. They had nine players commit from last season’s roster and have had 40+ overall, including Matus Spodniak’s NCAA DI commitment to American International College.
Spartans this Season
The Spartans come into the weekend with a record of 3-8-0. Their only wins this season have come against the 0-13 West Sound Warriors. They've lost five games in a row. Last weekend they were swept at home by the Bellingham Blazers. They kept the final game tight, falling 4-3. Looking back at the offseason, it's been a remarkable story for the Spartans to even have a team on the ice this season. Past ownership put the team up for sale after last season, and it wasn't until midway through the summer that new owners purchased the team and were remarkably able to get everything in place before the beginning of the season. It's a new era for the Spartans.
This is the 10th anniversary season of Southern Oregon Spartans hockey in Medford, Oregon. The team competed its first two seasons in the Northern Pacific Hockey League, winning the league title in 2011-12. The Spartans joined the WSHL the following season. In the Spartans' first season in the league, they went a respectable 26-19 and ended up making it to the Thorne Cup Finals as the wildcard team. They've had 33+ wins three times in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but never made it past the division semifinals and back to the Thorne Cup in those seasons. The past two seasons saw the Spartans go 12-38 and 18-29 respectively. New team owner, and head coach, Dylan Martin is looking to right the ship and instill a new culture into this program.
Friday will be the 23rd all-time meeting between the Mustangs and the Spartans and the first meeting in Ogden between these teams since Oct. 13, 2013 when Jimmy Peplinski scored a goal and David Clements had three assists in a Mustang 8-4 victory. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 15-6-1. The two teams met three weeks ago in Medford when the Mustangs won a tight first game 2-1 and then opened the flood gates over the next two nights winning 16-1 and 11-1. The series was penalty-filled.
Players to Watch
For the Spartans, they’re led in scoring by speedy Russian forward Pavel Bykov and U18 Israeli team captain, and Spartan team captain, Yuval Halpert. The two of them are the only players on the team to be averaging a point per game, both with four goals and five assists. Andrew Rothmeier leads the team in goals with six. The entire Southern Oregon team has combined to score 31 goals this season, the fourth fewest in the WSHL. On defense, the Spartans are led by experienced Saskatchewanian rearguard Mitchell Rutledge. Since their last meeting with the Mustangs, the Spartans have also added former Fresno Monster 6-foot-3-inch defender Emmet Rupert. In goal, it was Chris O'Shaughnessy who put up the remarkable numbers in that 2-1 loss to the Mustangs in Medford, credited with 61 saves in the game. Josh Breznik could also see time between the pipes this weekend. Ethan Shute has only appeared in four games, but has the best numbers of any Spartan goaltender with a 2.50 goals against average and .921 save percentage.
For the Mustangs, they'll look to get back to their usual net-filling ways this weekend after registering a below-average 10 goals in three games last weekend. Zach Pires has been the hottest Mustang as of late. He had two goals and two assists to lead the team last weekend. He has 16 goals in 17 games this season. The only Mustang player with more goals this season is speedy Ukranian forward Gleb Krivoshapkin, who has 17 goals. Shane Gilbert continues to lead the Mustangs in overall points with 36 (12 goals and 24 assists). He's third in WSHL scoring. On defense, offensive production has come in spurts from a few different sources. Oliver Wieringa, Johan Zöllner and Ramil Talipov have all played big minutes and are all averaging a point per game or more. In goal, the Mustangs added a newcomer who made his debut in Anaheim last weekend and looked solid. Travis Allen made 44 stops on 46 shots, allowing just one goal in each of his two starts. Expect to see him again this weekend, making his home ice debut, as he continues to integrate into his new team.
Team Stats/Statistics/Other Player Notes
Mustangs special teams statistics: Powerplay – 21/82 – 26% (4th) Penalty kill – 25/27 – 90% (4th) The Mustangs are No. 1 in the WSHL with 12 shorthanded goals this season
Spartans special teams statistics: Powerplay – 5/40 – 12% (17th) Penalty kill – 39/45 – 87% (9th)
Northwest Division Standings Ogden Mustangs – 51 points Utah Outliers – 30 points Seattle Totems – 23 points Bellingham Blazers – 16 points Southern Oregon Spartans – 9 points West Sound Admirals – 0 points
Overall WSHL Standings Ogden Mustangs – 51 points El Paso Rhinos – 41 points Northern Colorado Eagles – 40 points Hinton Timberwolves – 39 points
Edson Aeros - 40 points
Utah Outliers - 30 points Pueblo Bulls – 26 points Oklahoma City Blazers – 24 points Las Vegas Thunderbirds – 24 points Seattle Totems - 23 points
This weekend’s Northwest Division matchups Spartans at Mustangs Edson Aeros/Hinton Timberwolves at Totems Hinton Timberwolves/Edson Aeros at Blazers Admirals at Valencia Flyers/Fresno Monsters
What Jon’s Watching For
Quick Starts – Both in their first games of the series in Medford and in Anaheim, slow starts nearly doomed the Mustangs. Now back on home ice, can they get going quicker and provide themselves with some separation on the scoreboard early?
Offensive Firepower – Scoring just 10 goals in three games last weekend was an anomaly. Who's going to step up and have a big weekend for the Stangs here?
The Return of Harry – After suffering an upper body injury in practice just before the start of the season, fourth-year Mustang Harry Gulliver is ready to make his 2019-20 debut. Expect to see Gulliver spotted into the lineup here and there but probably not taking a regular shift for a little while still.