After an impressive showing against the Northern Colorado Eagles, the Mustangs were looking to extend their winning streak as they faced the Bellingham Blazers for the first time this season.
Following an early goal for Bellingham in the Friday night contest, Zach Pires announced his return to the lineup as he got the game-tying goal just nineteen seconds later on a 2-on-1 with Bryson Bartell.
Zach, you've been out for a little while. In your return: first shift, first shot, first goal. Describe that feeling to us.
"Being out six games and watching from the stands is not the way I wanted things to go, but it's the nature of being an athlete. Going into the game, I was definitely nervous. I wanted to get the first shift out of the way and it could not have been better. I had a feeling that something might happen that shift, but I didn't know what. They just scored a goal, then coming back the very next shift and getting a good pass from Bartell, I didn't want to hesitate and just took the shot. Seeing the puck go in was a huge sigh of relief for me and really settled me back into how I felt before I was out."
Thirty-one seconds after the Pires goal, Hayden Masterson scored the eventual game-winner after the initial Bartell shot bounced off the goaltender and onto the stick of the waiting Masterson. The Mustangs never looked back as they ended the period with a 4-1 lead and eventually cruising to a 10-1 victory in the opener of the 3-game slate against the Blazers.
This group is not just winning games, but completely dominating in all areas of the ice.
What changed to make this (dominating style) happen?
"Paying attention to detail has really helped us thrive in all areas of the ice. I think we are all buying into the system and everyone is doing their job to help the team be as successful as possible."
Things began to get more chippy during game 2 of this series between Northwest Division foes. The Mustangs quickly had a 5-on-3 powerplay for an entire two minutes and they did not wait to capitalize on their opportunity. Caleb Dolman kicked off the scoring and then followed by Christoffer Juvas with just four seconds remaining on the 2-man advantage.
In the second period, the Mustangs would score goals in quick succession with Dolman finding himself in the right place again on the powerplay and then Shane Gilbert getting his first of the game just 42 seconds later. Emil Svartbro collected four assists on the night to match Bryson Bartell from the Friday game. The Blazers would trim the lead to one before Pires got just enough on a turning shot to beat the glove of the netminder and give the Mustangs a 5-3 lead with 25 seconds left in the period.
Ogden would come back in the 3rd period to score four goals in the span of 5:47 to put this game away completely. Two of those goals were scored on the power play again with Pires and David Sudbrink continuing their torrid stretch of games. The Mustangs would end the game with a signature moment as Bartell would intercept a pass and swiftly skate out to a breakaway. With a beautiful deke, he left the goalie completely fooled and scoring his sixth shorthanded goal of the year and tying Mustangs alumni Matus Spodniak for 2nd All-Time (Regular Season & Playoffs) in career shorthanded goals in Mustangs history. The Mustangs won the contest 11-3.
Sunday was much of the same for these two teams as Ogden jumped out in front and never let up before winning 8-3 and notching their 108th point in the standings.
Svartbro would score the opening two goals in the first period before Harry Gulliver collected his 15th goal of the season on the delayed penalty. Gleb Krivoshapkin now had three assists on all three goals scored by the Mustangs. Sudbrink opened the final period of the weekend with a goal just ten seconds into play. The January Player of the Month nominee now has nine goals and seven assists during his ten-game scoring streak that began on January 7th vs. the Outliers.
Plenty of players to highlight over the weekend:
Bryson Bartell | one goal, eight assists, nine points
Shane Gilbert | two goals, five assists, seven points
Caleb Dolman | four goals, three assists, seven points
Harry Gulliver | three goals, four assists, seven points
Emil Svartbro | two goals, five assists, seven points
David Sudbrink | four goals, two assists, six points
Zach Pires | five goals, one assist, six points
Gleb Krivoshapkin | two goals, three assists, five points
Christoffer Juvas | two goals, three assists, five points
Johan Zöllner | one goal, three assists, four points
Lukas Vacin | two goals, two assists, four points
Travis Allen | eight saves, Win
Titan Anderson | 28 saves, Win
Matthew Genter | 29 saves, Win
Gilbert nows leads the WSHL in assists (51) and 2nd in overall points (78). Bartell is 4th in both assists (43) and overall points (68) while also coming in at 2nd in shorthanded goals (6) and points (8).
The Mustangs special teams was on full display as they converted seven powerplay opportunities and while also adding one goal while shorthanded. Ogden is currently tied with El Paso for the second-best powerplay (24.9%), best penalty kill (91%), and most shorthanded goals for (20).
With time winding down on the season and the playoffs just around the corner, we asked Pires what this experience has been like for him in Ogden.
"This experience has been insane for me. I didn't know what to expect coming into the season or how I'd even do. It has exceeded all expectations and I wish I knew the Mustangs organization way earlier. The fans are amazing, the staff are amazing, the boys are amazing, the coaches are amazing. I don't have anything but great things to say about this organization and the opportunity they have given me. The life lessons I've learned on and off the ice will always be something I look back on".
The Mustangs (35-3-1-1) return home to the Ice Sheet next week to host the Bellingham Blazers (10-20-0-1) after a bye-week.
Feb. 7th-9th | Vs. Bellingham Blazers
The Ice Sheet | Ogden, UT
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