The Ogden Mustangs have clinched first place in the Western States Hockey League Mountain Division, but their work is far from over, working to play their best hockey heading into the playoffs in six games. They’ll have their work cut out for them this weekend with the rival Casper Coyotes in town. These two teams have seen a lot of each other in the past two seasons, including intense playoff matchups. The Coyotes are playing for a lot this weekend, trying to hold on to third place in the division, with the Utah Outliers on their heels.

Game Notes are compiled by Ogden Mustangs Director of Broadcasting and Social Media, Jon McBride. Catch Jon live during the game, calling all the action on WSHL TV, brought to you via Black Dog Enterprises.

Mustangs this Season

  • The Mustangs enter the game with a record of 38-5-3. They sit in first place in the WSHL Division and third place overall in the WSHL. This has been the most successful regular season in Mustangs’ team history. They didn’t have a single loss through their first 18 games of the season. Their next win will break their single-season win record, currently tied at 38 with last year’s team. The Mustangs are coming off of two straight dominant home sweeps in the past two weekends. Ogden outscored the Superior RoughRiders 20-3 two weeks ago, then last weekend outscored the Cheyenne Stampede 26-1. The Mustangs are 3-3-3 when scoring two or fewer goals in a game this season. They are 35-1 when scoring three or more goals in a game this season.

Mustangs Historically

  • This is the sixth season of Mustangs hockey. Head coach Jake Laime is in his fifth season. The Mustangs won division championships in 2014 and 2015. Total points earned and team winning percentage increased each of the first five seasons. For the past four seasons, the Mustangs have been considered in the top tier of teams in the WSHL, with deep runs in the postseason, but are still looking for their first league title.

Coyotes this Season

  • The Coyotes enter this weekend with a record of 29-14-6. They sit in third place in the Mountain Division, just three points ahead of the Outliers. The Coyotes started off the season a little rough, losing five of their first seven games. After that point they went on to win 11 of their next 14 to get back on track. The Coyotes have marquee wins over the Idaho Jr. Steelheads, Colorado Jr. Eagles and El Paso Rhinos this season. Last weekend they went 1-1-1 in Salt Lake City against the Outliers. Utah won a wild first game 11-2, but Casper came back to win the second 5-3. The third game went to overtime, after the Coyotes tied the game with just more than a minute remaining. Then the Ouliers scored in the second OT, three on three.

Coyotes Historically

  • This is just the third season in the WSHL for the Coyotes. That’s hard to believe considering the incredible amount of success they saw since day one. They finished the regular season first in the division in their first season. The Mustangs went to Casper in the battle for the division championship in the playoffs, and it was the Mustangs who came out on top, in a hard-fought, three-game series. Last year the Coyotes finished the regular season third, just one point behind the Mustangs. Their season ended once again against the Mustangs, this time in a second-round playoff matchup in Ogden. Overall, the Coyotes currently have an all-time record of 103-40-12.

All-time Series

  • Friday will be the 25th all-time meeting between the Mustangs and Coyotes. That is a lot of games against the same opponent in just three seasons. The all-time series sits at 13-8-2 in favor of the Mustangs. The Mustangs have won five in a row dating back to last season’s playoff series. In the three matchups between these teams in September, the Mustangs won 3-2 in OT, 8-2 and then 4-3 in OT.

Players to Watch

  • For the Coyotes, they’ve added a few top guns since they last faced the Mustangs. One of them, the Mustangs are familiar with, former Salt Lake City Moose leading-scorer Dmitry Kuznetsov. He was picked up after the Western States Shootout, and joined the team in the new year. He has 33 points in 21 games since joining the team. More recently, the Coyotes picked up another top scorer from a WSHL team in Nikita Nikitin at the trade deadline. Nikitin started the season on fire in Long Beach, piling up 48 points in 24 games. He’s yet to see that sort of production in Casper. He has five points in 8 games. Lukas Lojka and Sven Zinsli have carried the load offensively for most of the season, with 76 and 63 points respectively. The Coyotes are very deep up front, but on defense could be a different story. Their top-scoring defensemen right now are Lucas Malm and Josef Soderling, who have 11 points each. The Coyotes are without the services of both Brock Weitl and Austin Parrish, who entered the season as the team’s top two defensemen, both in their third seasons with the team. They both, however, suffered season-ending injuries, leaving some big holes to fill. In goal, the Coyotes have a powerful one-two punch in Daniel Kornakker and Adam Andersson. The duo has shared time this season. Kornakker has the better numbers with 16 wins, a 2.58 goals against average and .935 save percentage.
  • For the Mustangs, Matus Spodniak just keeps piling up points. He leads the team with 78 after catching fire in the second half of the season. He has 43 points in 18 games since Jan. 1. Last week he had 10 points in three games. Austin Shea has points in seven straight games. He scored one of the prettiest goals of the season last Saturday. Montell Greene led the Mustangs’ offense for the first half of the season, cooled down a bit in the second half, but seems to have regained the scoring touch again. He also has points in seven straight games, registering multiple points in each game last weekend. On defense, Austin Dittenhafer has been solid since being acquired from the Stampede at the trade deadline. Thomas Hargrave has racked up and incredible 11 assists in his last four games. Nick Frankich has missed time in both of the last two weekends, but could be back in this series. In goal, Vladimir Cibulka leads the charge. His 1.82 goals against average is second best in the WSHL. He should be well rested coming into this weekend, getting the last five of six games off.

Other Player Notes

  • Matus Spodniak, Austin Shea and Alex Forbes each recently entered the Mustangs’ top 10 all-time leading scorers.
  • Corety Iapalucci is second overall in team scoring with 160 career points, Matus Spodniak is third with 134, Montell Greene is third with 121. (Schuyler Seyfert remains first overall with 210 points.)
  • Corey Iapalucci passed Schuyler Seyfert last weekend for the most assists all-time in Mustangs history.
  • Brad Jenion will not dress this weekend, recovering from a broken jaw. Chandler Watson is making progress with a lower-body injury, but is not expected to play this weekend either. Nick Frankich could be available this weekend. Ryan Mascali and Brandon Barillaro both missed portions of the last series, but are expected to play this weekend.

Special Teams

  • Mustangs:
    Powerplay – 24% (8th)
    Penalty kill – 88% (4th)
  • Coyotes:
    Powerplay – 19% (14th)
    Penalty kill – 83% (14th)

WSHL Mountain Division Info

  • Standings
    Ogden Mustangs – 79 points
    Colorado Jr. Eagles – 73 points
    Casper Coyotes – 64 points
    Utah Outliers – 61 points
    Cheyenne Stampede – 34 points
    Superior RoughRiders – 32 points
  • This weekend’s matchups
  • Friday
    Coyotes at Mustangs
    RoughRiders at Stampede
    Ontario Avalanche at Outliers
  • Saturday
    Coyotes at Mustangs
    Eagles at Stampede
    Ontario Avalanche at Outliers
  • Sunday
    Coyotes at Mustangs
    Ontario Avalanche at Outliers

What Jon’s Watching For

  1. Position Match Ups – It’ll be very interesting to see how these two teams match up against each other. Both teams have very solid goaltending. But how the offenses match up with the defenses could be intriguing. The Coyotes have some very high-powered offensive weapons, but may be lacking depth on defense. The Mustangs defense has been solid all season long, but the offense has struggled at time against top-tier opponents. If the Mustangs can get to that magic three-goal mark, historically they’ve been good.
  2. Close Games – Granted these are two very different teams than what we saw in their matchup in September, but if that series was any indication, going to overtime twice, we could be in for some close games this weekend. The Mustangs started the season 5-0 in overtime games, then lost three in extra time at the showcase for a 5-3 overall record. The Coyotes are 4-6 overall in overtime this season.
  3. Urgency – Only six games remain on the Mustangs’ regular season schedule. These are the final three for the Coyotes. Can’t afford to take any nights off at this stage. Everyone wants to go into the playoffs on the right foot. Expect the intensity and pace of play ramp up a bit this weekend, especially between two teams with the history that these have.
Thomas Hargrave Celebration vs. Casper Coyotes

Thomas Hargrave celebrates a goal against the Casper Coyotes last season in the second round of the playoffs.