Two weeks ago, Idaho Falls Spud Kings coach John Becanic declared his intention to start winning 2-1 hockey games. Four of the six games since then have ended 2-1, but Friday was the first time it wasn’t in the Spud Kings’ favor as the Spud Kings fell to the Ogden Mustangs.

Friday was the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back stretch which involves more travel than the team is used to. They played Thursday in Provo, followed by a game Friday in Idaho Falls and they’ll play Saturday in the Salt Lake Valley.

“Those poor kids were gassed,” Becanic said after the game. “We had no legs left — and that’s OK.”

Becanic told his team before the game to expect the Mustangs’ absolute best effort, as the fourth-place Spud Kings had beaten the first-place Mustangs in Ogden the previous weekend.

“I don’t know if you can be ashamed to lose to the first-place team 2-1,” Becanic said.

The game

For the second game in a row, the Spud Kings gave up a goal less than seven minutes into the first period. William Cherniak gained the zone, delayed slightly to let Parker Osborn get behind the defensemen, and then threw a perfect cross-ice pass which Osborn backhanded over the shoulder of Tucker Inabinet.

Parker Osborn scored both of the Ogden Mustangs’ goals on Friday night against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings.

Parker Osborn scored both of the Ogden Mustangs’ goals on Friday night against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Photo credit: Will Vasseur

Fatigue impeded the Spud Kings’ ability to create much offense. As frustration grew, the number of Spud Kings penalties increased, handicapping them for eight minutes in an 18-minute span.

An excellent penalty kill kept the Spuds alive.

“The highlight for me tonight was (that) our penalty kill was really, really good,” Becanic said.

Penalty killing was a primary focus for the Spud Kings going into the game.

“We watched a lot of film on their powerplay,” said Spud Kings captain Sacha Trudel. “It’s no secret that they have the best powerplay in the league so we prepared for it and we shut it down.”

Sacha Trudel plays a big role as the captain of the Idaho Falls Spud Kings.

Sacha Trudel plays a big role as the captain of the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Photo credit: Brogan Houston

Osborn tallied his second goal of the game three minutes into the second period on a passing play which involved almost every Mustang on the ice.

The penalties evened themselves out in the latter half of the game, giving the Spud Kings ample powerplay time to get back into the game. The Mustangs’ penalty kill, however, was equally as good as that of the Spud Kings.

It wasn’t until the final minute of the game — 13.2 seconds left, to be exact — that Tiziano Pauchard sifted a wrist shot through traffic and past Nikita Volski to put the Spud Kings on the board. It was too little too late, however, as the Mustangs tied the puck up along the boards on the ensuing face-off, killing the final few seconds.

Coach’s notes

Becanic has had the Spud Kings focus on blocking shots and getting in passing lanes to prevent offense in their end. He was pleased that his team stuck to the game plan in that regard.

“Any time you see the first-place team celebrate like that for beating the fourth-place team, you must be doing something right,” Becanic said.

Despite the loss, Becanic likes the direction the team is going.

“I think we have the respect of the rest of the league right now,” he said.

What’s next?

The Spud Kings return to action Saturday night against the second-place Utah Outliers. In the two teams’ last meeting, the Spud Kings walked away with a 4-0 victory. The Outliers have played twice since then, beating the Provo Predators on both occasions.

Several fresh bodies will take the ice for the Spud Kings in their final game of the weekend. One of those bodies will be goaltender Vladimir Pechenin, who will play his first game since Jan. 13, when he relieved a struggling Inabinet in the first period. Becanic mentioned that he made the decision to start Pechenin well before this weekend, emphasizing that it has nothing to do with Inabinet’s play.

Vladimir Pechenin will start in net in Utah on Saturday night for the Idaho Falls Spud Kings.

Vladimir Pechenin will start in net in Utah on Saturday night for the Idaho Falls Spud Kings. Photo credit: Brogan Houston

“We can’t afford for Tucker to have an injury because he’s gassed from playing three straight,” Becanic said.

Owen Pitters, who sustained an injury in Thursday’s game in Provo, will be a game-time decision.

The game starts at 6:35 p.m. and will be streamed on FloHockey.TV, which is available with a subscription.