It’s playoff time! And there is a lot on the line this weekend between the Ogden Mustangs and Colorado Eagles in this best-of-three series. For one team, a series victory is a ticket to the division finals and nearly a guarantee to El Paso for the Thorne Cup Finals. For the other, their season will be over. Just like that. Both teams, no doubt, will be laying everything on the line in this one. It should be entertaining hockey, as it has been in each of the past three seasons when these teams have met in the playoffs.
Game Notes are compiled by Ogden Mustangs Director of Broadcasting and Social Media, Jon McBride. Catch Jon live during this weekend’s games, calling all the action on Black Dog Hockey.
Mustangs this Season
- The Mustangs finished the regular season with a record of 38-12-1 for 77 points and second place in the Western States Hockey League Mountain Division, fifth place overall in the WSHL. The Mustangs are coming off of two weeks of rest since their last series, which was against this same Eagles team, right here in Ogden. The Mustangs swept that series with 3-2, 6-1 and 3-0 victories. The Mustangs have won four straight games and nine of their last 11.
- This is the seventh season of Mustangs hockey. Head coach Jake Laime is in his sixth season. The Mustangs won division championships in 2014 and 2015. Total points earned and team winning percentage increased each of the first six seasons. For the past five 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. Last season ended in heartbreaking fashion, on home ice, one win away from the Thorne Cup Finals championship game.
Eagles this Season
- The Eagles ended the regular season with a record of 32-12-7 for 71 points, third place in the Mountain Division and seventh place overall in the WSHL. After dropping that final series of the regular season in Ogden, the Eagles missed out on a bye through the first round of the playoffs and instead hosted the Cheyenne Stampede last weekend. They dominated, as expected, against the Stampede who have struggled all season long. Game 1 was 12-1. Game 2 was 9-1.
- This is the Eagles’ fifth season in the WSHL. Head coach Steve Haddon, who played eight seasons for the Colorado Eagles CHL/ECHL team, has been with the Jr. Eagles since day one. Since their first season, the Jr. Eagles have been a contender, not just making the playoffs in their first season, but pulling off a first-round upset and advancing to the division finals. In their second season, their season fell short in a second-round series in Ogden against the Mustangs. In their third season, they managed the series victory in Ogden for the division championship and advanced all the way to the Thorne Cup Finals, falling to the Idaho Jr. Steelheads in the league championship series. Last season, once again the Eagles and Mustangs met in Ogden for the division finals. Once again the Eagles won the series, which was once again, extremely tight, requiring three games. With Ogden hosting the Thorne Cup Finals last season, both the Mustangs and Eagles advanced to the finals, with the Mustangs defeating the Eagles there.
- Friday will be the 36th all-time meeting between the Mustangs and Eagles, 10th in the playoffs. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 23-9-3. In playoff games, the Mustangs are 5-2-2. The teams met six times this season, three times in the first series of the regular season and three times in the last series of the regular season. The Mustangs won those first two opening-weekend games in Colorado 3-2 in a shootout and 8-2. The Eagles won Game 3, 7-6. With the sweep to end the season, that 7-6 wild game is the only Eagles victory over the Mustangs this season.
Players to Watch
- For the Eagles, they’ve got one of the most spread-out scoring distributions you’ll ever see on any team. Carter Dahl, Corey Richardson and David Mitchel led the team with 49 points each, through the 51-game regular season. Then you’ve got six players with between 32 and 42 points. Vincent Mastrandrea finished at 39, off his pace from last season when he led the Eagles with 77 points. Despite the lower, more spread out scoring numbers individually this season, the Eagles are actually better offensively as a whole this season than last season, with 235 total goals scored in the regular season. Last season they had a total of 213 goals. Last weekend in the Cheyenne goal-fest, Richardson led the team with four goals and five assists and Dawson Keay, who was the captain of the Valencia Flyers and a trade-deadline acquisition for the Eagles, had his best performances with his new team, racking up four goals and two assists in the series. The Eagles have had some injury troubles late in the season, especially on defense. They appear to be getting healthier now. In goal, Braden Lajoie played both games last weekend, after only playing a couple periods in Ogden in that last series here. He’s a veteran goaltender with a lot of experience, especially against the Mustangs in Ogden, having played in seven of the Eagles’ nine all-time playoff games in Ogden. He has the ability to steal a game or two.
- For the Mustangs, Matus Spodniak will be back in the lineup. After a hit from behind major penalty in the opening minutes on Game 2 against the Eagles, he served a one-game suspension for Game 3 and is now ready to go. It was an anti-climactic finish to a phenomenal regular season, as Spodniak had a chance to finish first in league scoring and set a new single-season WSHL scoring record. Instead, Daylon Mannon of the Fresno Monsters had a big weekend, leapfrogging Spodniak for the scoring crown. Still, Spodniak’s 146 points in 44 games is an absolutely incredible feat which is a Mustangs franchise record, most likely not to be matched in a long, long time. He is riding an unbelievable 26-game point streak. Jacob Laurin finished at 120 points this season, sixth overall in the WSHL. He’s been right with Spodniak all season long, and can be easy to overlook sometimes, in his linemate’s shadow, but he has been absolutely incredible this season. Ross Bartlett is the third Mustang to hit the 100-point plateau this season. Finishing with 41 goals and 63 assists and is the highest-scoring second-line player in the WSHL. On defense, Austin Dittenhafer led the group with 52 points in 43 games. The 52 points put him ahead of former teammate Nick Frankich for the most single-season points by a Mustang defenseman in franchise history. In goal, the Mustangs’ second-half-of-the-season addition Tymen Edelkoort III has solidified the No. 1 spot and has put up some impressive performances, including picking up his first shutout as a Mustang in the 3-0 win over the Eagles in the regular season finale.
Powerplay – 25% (6th)
Penalty kill – 87% (4th)
Powerplay – 19% (15th)
Penalty kill – 85% (5th)
- Final WSHL Standings (Top 10)
El Paso Rhinos – 99 points
Idaho IceCats – 91 points
Oklahoma City Blazers – 86 points
Utah Outliers – 79 points
Ogden Mustangs – 77 points
Long Beach Bombers – 76 points
Colorado Eagles – 71 points
Ontario Avalanche – 69 points
Fresno Monsters – 67 points
Springfield Express – 64 points
- Final Mountain Division Standings
Utah Outliers – 79 points
Ogden Mustangs – 77 points
Colorado Eagles – 71 points
Superior RoughRiders – 51 points
Casper Coyotes – 32 points
Cheyenne Stampede – 4 points
- This weekend’s second-round WSHL playoff matchups
- Mountain Division
No. 4 RoughRiders at No. 1 Outliers
No. 3 Eagles at No. 2 Mustangs
- Midwest Division
No. 4 Snipers at No. 1 Rhinos
No. 3 Express at No. 2 Blazers
- Northwest Division
No. 4 Warriors at No. 1 Steelheads
No. 3 Blazers at No. 2 Icemen
- Western Division
No. 5 Knights at No. 1 Bombers
No. 3 Monsters at No. 2 Avalanche
What Jon’s Watching For
- Playoff Intensity – There is nothing like playoff hockey. The culmination of a grueling 51-game regular season in which you form a bond of brotherhood and compete as a family, the chance to get to play one more game, one more series, willing you forward. Everything is on the line. The intensity is palpable. It’s always fun to watch.
- Depth Contributions – A lot of times in the playoffs, it’s your depth players who step up and become difference makers. Last season for the Mustangs, it was Max Dorfman. In previous seasons you had guys like Craig Moore and Clay Cross. There’s something in the DNA of guys like these that helps them raise their game to another level in the playoffs. Who will it be this season? The third line of Matt McClelland, Kerry Kruzel and Sage Fleming seem to be prime prospects.
- Goaltending – It is remarkable how much of the game of hockey can sit upon the shoulders of a single player, but in the playoffs more than ever, when games are so tight, you’ve got to have great goaltending to succeed. Both the Mustangs and Eagles have ridden solid goaltenders to deep playoff runs over the past few seasons. We wouldn’t expect anything less than exceptional performances between the pipes this weekend between two extremely experienced, veteran goaltenders.