In beating the Provo Predators in back-to-back nights and then knocking off the Ogden Mustangs, the Idaho Falls Spud Kings have made some enemies — and they face both of those enemies this week.

The Spud Kings are in the midst of a six-game winning streak, tentatively earning a playoff spot along the way. They now have their sights set on the Predators, who sit seven points ahead of them for third place in the NCDC Mountain Division standings.

What to expect from the Predators

After losing 2-1 and 7-6 to the Spud Kings two weeks ago, the Predators are sure to be extra motivated. They played three games last week, losing twice to the Utah Outliers and winning once against the Rock Springs Grizzlies.

The Idaho Falls Spud Kings and Provo Predators get set for a rematch this weekend.

The Idaho Falls Spud Kings and Provo Predators get set for a rematch this weekend. Photo credit: Will Vasseur

Predators forward Einar Naslund found his scoring touch against the Spud Kings in their last meeting, scoring three points — two goals and an assist — in the first period. He has just one assist in three games since then, so he hopes to find himself again this weekend.

In a trade earlier this month, the Spud Kings sent Timothy Kim to the Predators for Cannon Lentz, Kasey Russell and a second-round pick in the 2024 NCDC Draft. Kim had eight points in eight games for the Predators but has now moved on to the Anchorage Wolverines of the NAHL.

This game marks the return of Lentz and Russell to Peaks Ice Arena — although Russell played just four games in a Predators uniform.

What to expect from the Mustangs

The Mustangs aren’t used to losing. In fact, the Spud Kings handed them their eighth regulation loss of the season on Saturday. While they may have underestimated the Spuds last weekend, they won’t make the same mistake this weekend.

William Cherniak was the Mustangs’ lone goal scorer on Saturday, potting a short-handed goal in the third period. The previous night, however, the Mustangs put up seven goals in a 7-2 win over the Pueblo Bulls. If the Mustangs are to have success against the Spud Kings this weekend, the score sheet will have to more closely resemble the one against the Bulls.

What to expect from the Spud Kings

The Spud Kings are living on Cloud Nine. They have found ways to win, and more importantly, they have shown that they can win in any situation. They are content to play a 2-1 type of game, but if the goal is to run up the score, they’ll win 7-6.

The key to victory for the Spud Kings is simple: Play smart, disciplined hockey. When they were at their worst this year, they were constantly neutralizing their powerplays by retaliating violently. Since the takeover of new head coach John Becanic, they have put an end to the majority of their post-whistle extra-curricular activities, which has served them well.

The Spuds are also playing smarter in the defensive zone, which has been invaluable to them. Rather than trying to make perfect plays in their own zone, they’re clearing the puck and asking questions later. It’s led to fewer turnovers and, more importantly, fewer goals against.

After Friday’s win, Becanic talked about blocking shots as a key to victory.

“We just want to get in the way,” Becanic said. “If you’ve got five bodies getting in the way with five sticks, it’s harder to play (against).”

Becanic mentioned that they had spent three consecutive practices practicing blocking shots, and he was happy with how his team applied that to the game.

Forward Owen Pitters is on a three-game goal streak, while defenseman DJ MacLeish has eight points in the six games since the arrival of the new coach. Goaltender Tucker Inabinet has allowed just three goals against in his last four games, posting a shutout against the Outliers on Friday. If all the big guns can continue firing, the Spud Kings have a decent shot at winning both games this weekend.

Spud Kings coach John Becanic congratulates goaltender Tucker Inabinet after shutting out the Utah Outliers.

Spud Kings coach John Becanic congratulates goaltender Tucker Inabinet after shutting out the Utah Outliers. Photo credit: Will Vasseur

Where to watch

The Spud Kings take on the Predators Thursday night in Provo, starting at 7:30 p.m. The Mustangs come to Idaho Falls on Friday, with the puck dropping at 7:05 p.m.

Both games will be streamed on FloHockey.TV, available with a subscription. Tickets to Friday’s game are available on the Spud Kings’ website and at the Mountain America Center box office.