The Ogden Mustangs and Utah Outliers wrapped up their nine-game regular season series last weekend. The Outliers took Saturday’s game 3-1 in West Valley City. The Mustangs battled back for a 3-2 double overtime victory in Sunday’s game at The Ice Sheet.

Picking up two points on the weekend, the Mustangs now move to 29-9-1 on the season. With the Outliers picking up three points, they’re now 29-6-1, putting the two teams tied for the top spot in the Western States Hockey League Mountain Division with 59 points each. Neither can afford to rest on their laurels as the Colorado Jr. Eagles are just a single point behind them in third.

Of the Mustangs’ nine regulation losses this season, five have come against the Outliers. With these two teams perhaps destined to meet again in the divisional playoffs soon to come, getting the victory on Sunday was a huge momentum lift.

“We made better decisions and had a commitment to playing a more physical brand of hockey,” said Mustangs head coach Jake Laime about Sunday’s effort. “Those things helped change the momentum, and I believe we were rewarded for it at the end.”

The Mustangs trailed the Outliers 2-0 early in Sunday’s game. Goals from Rhett Rampinelli in the final minute of the first period and Ian Currie midway through the second tied the game up. Recently-acquired Mustangs goaltender Tymen Edelkoort III kept his team in the game with some huge saves, and the game went to overtime. In the second overtime frame, with the teams skating three-on-three, Matus Spodniak fed Jacob Laurin for the sudden-death winner, sending the crowd at The Ice Sheet into a frenzy.

Sunday’s effort was a big shift from the Mustangs’ effort the night before on the road.

“I preach to players about the definition of insanity — repeating the same actions and expecting different results,” Laime said about Saturday’s effort. “We were continually making poor decisions and expected to be rewarded. I put a lot of emphasis on winning the dirty areas and having a net presence, and we weren’t doing those things. Instant gratification is unrealistic. We need to do a series of good things over the course of a sustained period of time.”

It was an extremely physical series with a lot of intensity throughout both games with 47 total penalties being called in total.

The Mustangs will look to build on Sunday’s effort as they head back on the road to Casper this weekend to face the Coyotes. The Mustangs are 6-0 in the two teams’ previous meetings this season. They’ve been blowouts, with the Mustangs outscoring the Coyotes by a ridiculous margin of 64-7. But the Mustangs will need to be careful to not overlook the Coyotes. In a shocker, they beat the Eagles 6-4 in their most recent game last Sunday. They’ll be riding high coming off of that.

Following this weekend, the Mustangs will be back on home ice the following weekend for three games against the Superior RoughRiders. The weekend after that, they head to Idaho for a monumentally-important series against the Idaho IceCats. The Mustangs then have a weekend off before finishing the regular season at home for what should be another huge series against the Colorado Jr. Eagles, who they have not faced since the first weekend of the season.

It should be a race right down to the finish to determine that top spot in the division. With the Mustangs, Outliers and Eagles all so evenly-matched, every advantage is crucial going into the playoffs. The biggest advantage of finishing the regular season first in the division? Guaranteed home-ice advantage through the entire divisional playoffs.

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