The View from the Rooster Jacket is a blog written by Ogden Mustangs Director of Broadcasting and Social Media, Jon McBride, where he shares some of the more detailed, behind-the-scenes and statistical analysis from within the Mustang organization. Catch Jon live during the game, calling all the action (usually in that yellow rooster jacket) on wshl.FASTHockey.com.
Here we go. The 2nd season is about to begin. While the players and coaches will be following the clichéd mantra of taking things “one game at a time”, as a broadcaster, I’m always looking at various scenarios that could happen down the line. Thought they might be of interest to you as well.
(If you need a refresher on how the playoffs actually work, the format, etc., you can see all of that on our WSHL Playoff Format page.)
So here’s what we know for sure. The 2 first round series going on in the Mountain Division of the Western States Hockey League this weekend:
No. 3 Colorado Eagles vs. No. 6 Cheyenne Stampede
Game 1 – 8:40 p.m. at NoCo Ice Center
Game 2 – 8 p.m. at NoCo Ice Center
Game 3 – 10:30 a.m. at NoCo Ice Center (if necessary)
No. 4 Colorado RoughRiders vs. No. 5 Salt Lake City Moose
Game 1 – 7 p.m. at Boulder Valley Ice
Game 2 – 7 p.m. at Boulder Valley Ice
Game 3 – 2 p.m. at Boulder Valley Ice (if necessary)
Some insight into the Eagles-Stampede series: Despite Cheyenne’s spurts of inspired play at different points this season, it’s hard to see them move on behind this series. The Eagles have played a pretty impressive 2nd half of the season, going 14-6. They ended the season on a 4-game winning streak which includes handily sweeping a home-and-home with Cheyenne 2 weeks ago. The Eagles play a very fast, aggressive brand of hockey. They’re led by Levi Weber who finished the season with 63 points and is one of the top offensive weapons in the division. They also have Quinn Wold in goal, one of the top netminders in the division. One last note is that these 2 teams met in the first round of the playoffs last season as well, but the roles were reversed. It was the Eagles coming into Cheyenne as the lower seed and winning the series 2-1 in an upset, behind some phenomenal goaltending by Wold.
Prediction: Eagles take the series 2-0.
Some insight into the RoughRiders-Moose series: This looks to be possibly a very evenly-matched, tight series. Both teams finished the regular season with 54 points and due to some confusion with the wording of tiebreaking procedures, it took the league more than 24 hours to actually figure out who would officially take that No. 4 seed and host the series. Eventually, the RoughRiders were awarded the spot. The teams were 3-3 against each other in the regular season. Those games included a little bit of everything, ranging from overtime thrillers to blowouts on both sides. Most recently, the Moose beat the RoughRiders 5-0 in Boulder, just two weeks ago. All that being said … these teams do appear to be headed in different directions to close the season. For the RoughRiders, they finished the season with 2 throwaway games against the Evolution, so ignore those. In the previous weekend, they fell 5-0 to SLC and 8-5 to the Mustangs. Allowing 13 goals in 2 games was very out of character for the RoughRiders who started the season on fire and extremely hard to score on. The Moose on the other hand bring all sorts of momentum into the series after defeating the division-leading Casper Coyotes 4-1 and 5-4 in double overtime at home last weekend.
Prediction: Moose take the series 2-1.
In the 2nd round, the Mustangs will face the highest remaining seed and the Coyotes will face the lowest remaining seed. Here are some possible scenarios for those:
The safe bets: If the higher seeds win both matchups, then the Mustangs would face the Eagles and the Coyotes would face the RoughRiders.
My prediction: The Mustangs will face the Eagles, but the Coyotes will face the Moose.
If super crazy stuff happens: If the Eagles somehow lose their first round series, the Mustangs would then automatically face the winner of the RoughRider-Moose series, since the Stampede would automatically be the lowest remaining seed.
Trying to predict who advances from the second round gets trickier, with a lot of variables to consider.
The safe bets: If the Coyotes and Mustangs win their 2nd round series, then the Mustangs will travel to Casper for the division finals.
My (not so crazy) prediction: If the Moose really do beat the RoughRiders on the road in the first round and end up traveling to Casper for the 2nd round, they’ve got a legitimate shot at winning the series. The Coyotes lost 3 straight last weekend, twice agains the Moose. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 to the Moose overall. The other loss coming in Casper a few weeks ago. So … if the Moose come out of that series in Casper victorious, AND the Mustangs take care of business at home against the Eagles, THEN we could have an Ogden-Salt Lake division finals at The Ice Sheet. (Note that the Coyotes must lose their series in order for the Mustangs to host the division finals.)
After the division champion is crowned, they move on to the league semifinals. The winner of the Mountain Division will automatically face the winner of the Midwest Division. The safe bet out of the Midwest would be the defending champion El Paso Rhinos. The Rhinos have, however, not looked infallible this season. The Oklahoma City Blazers are No. 2 and played the Rhinos very tough last weekend. But if the Mustangs make it to the semis, they would need both the Rhinos and Blazers to get eliminated by lower-seeded teams in the division in order for the Mustangs to host the semifinals in Ogden. Both El Paso and Oklahoma City finished with more points than the Mustangs. The Springfield Express are the No. 3 team in the Midwest.
After the semifinals are the finals, obviously. The WSHL’s ultimate prize is the Thorne Cup, named after Don Thorne, who founded the WSHL in 1993. If the Mustangs make it all the way to the finals, the safe bets to meet them there include the Idaho Jr. Steelheads (how intense would a Mustangs-Steelheads league finals be?), Fresno Monsters, Missoula Maulers, Valencia Flyers or Southern Oregon Spartans.
So there you go … a look at what could lie ahead in the WSHL playoffs. I could be right in my predictions, or I could be totally wrong. The one awesome thing about playoff hockey, at almost any level, is the unpredictability. The team that has the most points at the end of the regular season is rarely the team that hoists the trophy at the end of the playoffs. It’s all about coming together and clicking at the right time as a team. Getting hot at the right time. Stellar goaltending, exceptional special teams play and couple bounces going your way also help. Buckle up, for what’s always a fun time of year and for what should be some incredible hockey.
My (final) predication: You WON’T regret being at The Ice Sheet March 13-15 for Ogden Mustangs playoff hockey.