OM 041119 Ogden Mustangs El Paso Rhinos 01

Players for the Ogden Mustangs and El Paso Rhinos scramble for the puck during a Western States Hockey League Thorne Cup preliminary-round game Thursday, April 11, 2019, at the Ice Sheet in Ogden.

OGDEN — The Ogden Mustangs are two wins away from their first Western States Hockey League championship in franchise history.

The Mustangs advanced through pool play of the six-team Thorne Cup Finals at The Ice Sheet in Ogden after wins over the Oklahoma City Blazers and the Edson Aeros.

Ogden fell to the El Paso Rhinos 3-2 in overtime late Thursday to finish pool play while electing to rest top goaltender Artur Ogandzhanyan, top scorer Rhett Rampinelli and top defenseman Ryan Mascali.

“We did what we needed to do through our first three games,” Mustangs head coach Jake Laime said. “Now it comes down to executing for a full 60 minutes for two more games. If we play how we’re capable of playing, and stick to our game and dictate play, we’ve got a great shot to lift that Thorne Cup trophy on our home ice.”

In Tuesday’s Game 1 against Oklahoma City, the Mustangs grinded out a 4-2 victory on goals from Kerry Kruzel, Ian Currie and two from Bryson Bartell.

The Mustangs won 4-1 in Wednesday’s Game 2 against Edson. Bartell and Currie scored again. The team’s leading scorer in the regular season, Rampinelli, got his first goal of the finals on a give-and-go with Currie in the third period for an insurance score.

Ogandzhanyan, the Mustangs’ star Ukrainian goaltender who led the WSHL in save percentage this season, stopped 58 of the 61 shots he faced through the first two games.

In Thursday’s Game 3 against El Paso, it was a 0-0 game for almost the entirety of the first two periods before Ammon Anderson fed a perfect pass on a two-on-one to a streaking Ethan McKinley, who scored his first goal of the playoffs to open the scoring. The Rhinos scored two goals early in the third period, and then Lukas Vacin scored late to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The four teams advancing through to the semifinals are Ogden, El Paso, Edson and Oklahoma City. Teams from Long Beach and Bellingham both went 0-3 in pool play and were eliminated. Semifinal matchups are at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at The Ice Sheet, with Ogden playing Edson at 7:30 p.m.

Semifinal winners will face each other in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available at tickets.ogdenmustangs.com.

Jon McBride is a broadcasting and media specialist for the Ogden Mustangs. He can be reached at jonathanmcbride@gmail.com.

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