OGDEN -- It wasn't hard to understand why the Idaho Junior Steelheads are the best team in the Western States Hockey League as they came to Ogden and swept the Mustangs over a two-game set on Friday and Saturday night.
While Friday's 14-3 blowout was tough for the home fans to watch, the Mustangs rallied on Saturday and proved they could hang with even the strongest team in the league taking the Steelheads to a shootout until Idaho narrowly escaped the Weber County Ice Sheet with a 4-3 win after scoring the lone shootout goal.
"[Friday] we came out and those first few goals took the wind out of our sails and deflated us," Ogden head coach Jake Laime said. "For us it's all mental right now. We need to strengthen our thought process because if we can be strong upstairs, we'll be strong on the ice."
Boasting the number one and two scorers in the league, the WSHL's best goalie (statistically speaking) and the league's best penalty kill, Friday night belonged to the Steelheads who racked up a four goal lead midway through the first period.
League scoring leader Stefan Brocato put the Steelheads on the board three minutes in with the first of 10 power-play goals on the night, facilitated by an undisciplined 87 minutes on 26 infractions from the Mustangs.
From there an avalanche of Idaho goals buried the Mustangs led by an unbelievable five-goal performance from Dominik Gabaj who also grabbed an assist to round out his six-point night.
"We're really focused right now in practice and that's carrying over into games," Brucato said of his team's goal of winning a third consecutive championship. "Practice is really where you get better and I think we just need to stick to that and not lose focus."
Ogden's David Clements, Dusty Watt and Eryn Siracusa scored goals in the losing effort as Siracusa added an assist to lead the team with a pair of points on the night.
Blake Mendenhall was in-goal for the Steelheads and picked up his 22nd win while Mustang goalie Tyler Fallica faced 60 shots in the loss.
On Saturday it was hard to find a trace of the Ogden team that played Friday night as the Mustangs held leads twice throughout the night and looked completely different from the previous night's disheveled squad.
Idaho started the game just as they had the night before on a first-period power-play goal from Brucato before Watt and Shuyler Seyfert scored back-to-back power-play goals in the second period putting the Mustangs on top 2-1.
Idaho equalized five minutes later on a goal from Dak Dice and were poised to blow the game open eight minutes into the third as Ogden had two on the bench giving the Steelheads a 5-on-3 advantage.
Ogden's Olle Vennstrom had other plans though as he corralled a puck in the neutral zone and one-timed it past Idaho's Daniel Selby giving the Mustangs a 3-2 lead.
"All the guys skated hard and battled for everything and we really played good as a team today," Swedish-born Vennstrom, said of his squad's performance on Saturday night. "We had a winning mentality today and even though we didn't win everybody came up big against a good team."
The team's battled through a scoreless overtime in which Ogden goalie Tyler Fallica logged a brilliant performance turning away countless Idaho shots. Fallica shined during the shootout as well but Selby proved slightly better turning away all five Mustang attempts as Gabaj landed the lone shootout goal on Fallica to keep the Steelhead's undefeated 19-0 road streak intact.
Despite the losses, Ogden is clinging to the coveted second place spot in the Northwest Conference ahead of another big home stand against Cheyenne starting February 15 at 7:30 p.m. Capturing the second-place spot is important because that team hosts the first round playoff series against the 3rd place team, something Laime says would give his squad a much-needed edge.
"Every point right now is crucial," he said. "The playoffs start now because it's such a tight race and we want that home ice advantage."