by Bruce Tippets
Vernal coach Ryan Howse knows his team is right in the critical part of the hockey schedule.
The Oilers started a nine-game road trip Jan. 12, and are looking to come home with several victories.
The road trip includes games with Seattle Totems (two), Bellingham Blazers (one) and the Casper Roughnecks (six).
“Seattle is someone that we want to create a little separation within the standings going into the playoffs and trying to secure that home ice,” Howse said. “Casper is a hard working team. We have to make the most of six games with Casper in the standings.”
Vernal will return back to the Uintah County Western Park Ice Rink when they host the Bakersfield Roughnecks (Feb. 2-4).
The Oilers are fresh off a three-game series with the Rouge Valley Royals in Vernal.
“I thought for the most part we were a little rusty,” Howse said. “I think the Christmas break and not getting full team practices showed.”
The Oilers left the series with a 15-6 record.
“We have a lot of skill on the team,” said Howse. “The one biggest thing with that is we have to realize that our skill is not going to take us where we want to go. We have to earn everything. This team is more well rounded than the Oilers have had in the past. It takes everyone to win a hockey game.”
Vernal knocked off the Royals 4-3 in the opening game of the weekend.
The goals scored by the Oilers were from Nick Moore, Jonathan Jakshoj, Korven VanLeuven and Logan Powers.
Goalie Levente Hegedus made 27 saves on 30 shots.
The Royals picked up a 5-4 win in overtime in the second game of the series.
The contest was knotted at 4-4 before the visiting team collected the exciting victory.
Vernal dominated the Royals 5-1 in the final game of the series.
“I think that we built off our mistakes,” said Howse. “We didn’t have our best showing in the second game. We knew that we needed to be better and we had to earn anything. We know that nothing will be given to us. It doesn’t matter what we have done in the past. It’s all about building for the future and getting better as a team.”
Parry paced the team with a game-high two goals.
Elmar Bekir, Moore and Jakshoj had one goal apiece.
Hegedus had a 30 save performance in the net.
“Hegedus is a very good goalie in this league,” Howse said. “He is another guy with a lot of talent. He is a guy that can win a lot of games. We don’t want to rely on him. He is a guy that gives us a chance to win every night he is in the net and a guy who competes. He is well liked by his teammates. That goes a long way. He is a leader for sure and the guys look up to him.”
Howse knows the Oilers are lucky to have the fan base they have come to cheer for the team.
“The fans are probably the best in this league as far as I’m concerned,” said Howse. “It’s huge the support that we get from the community that is something we take pride in. We want to give back to the community just as much as they give back to us.”
The victory moved the Oilers into second in the United States Premier Hockey League Northwest Division.