by Harrington Sports Media

All six division quarterfinal series in the Western States Hockey League were completed in two games, but there were some very competitive series around the league – especially in Valencia where the Phoenix Knights became the only lower-seeded team to advance to the next round.

This week’s winners will move on to play top-two finishers in the Western, Northwest and Mountain division, which earned bye weeks.  The Mid-Western Division also begins their playoffs next week with the division semifinal round.


#6 San Diego Sabers (5-42-4) at 

#3 Fresno Monsters (33-17-1)

GAME 1Friday, March 16Fresno 11, San Diego 1

GAME 2Saturday, March 17Fresno 5, San Diego 1

Fresno wins series, 2 games to 0; advances to play Ontario

The Fresno Monsters looked like a team that won 28 more games than their division quarterfinal opponents, out-scoring the San Diego Sabers, 16-2, over their two-game sweep.

Fresno went out to a 4-0 lead in the first period of Game One, doubled their lead in the second period, and cruised to an 11-1 win.

WSHL scoring champ Daylon Mannon was held to just two assists, but Daniel Goodwin struck for a hat trick and Nakita Anistratenko (2-2-4) and Zackory Turpin (2-1-3) each scored a pair of goals for the Monsters.

Zach Hale was under siege in the San Diego net all night, making 56 saves, while Kyle Franceschini drew the starting assignment for the Monsters and stopped 25 of 26 shots.

Cody Key scored all five Fresno goals in Saturday’s series clincher, a 5-1 Monsters win.

Key gave Fresno a 1-0 lead 7:12 into the game with a great individual effort, making a great toe-drag move and going through four San Diego defenders before finishing up under the bar.

Five minutes later, San Diego’s Matt Soldano out-raced two Fresno players to a loose puck in the neutral zone, moved in on Monsters goalie Max Karlenzig and beat him with a wrist shot low to the glove side.

Fresno regained the lead just 40 seconds into the second period.  Key took a feed from Mannon from behind the net, and tried to make a goal-mouth pass, but the puck hit the skate of a Sabers defender and ended up in the net to make it 2-1.  That ended up being the game-winner.  The same scoring line – Key from Mannon and Deivids Tempelmanis was repeated at 13:32, giving Key a hat trick.  He added two more goals in the third.

Karlenzig allowed just Soldano’s goal on 24 shots.

18-year-old Jeremiah Levitt stood tall in the San Diego crease in his WSHL playoff debut, making 49 of his 65 saves through the final two frames.


#5 Phoenix Knights (23-26-2) at 

#4 Valencia Flyers (25-22-4)

GAME 1Thursday, March 15Phoenix 5, Valencia 4 (OT)

GAME 2Friday, March 25Phoenix 4, Valencia 3

Phoenix wins series, 2 games to 0; advances to play Long Beach

The Phoenix Knights may have registered a two-game sweep of the Valencia Flyers, making them the only lower seed to advance to the next round, but there was some great playoff hockey in the series as both games were decided by one goal – Game One in overtime.

The Flyers had leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3, in Thursday’s series opener, but were unable to close the game out on their home ice.  Knights sniper Anthony Masanotti tied the game up with 4:25 left in regulation, then won it 2:50 into sudden-death.  

With the Knights down a goal with under five minutes left in regulation time, Valencia cleared the zone to center ice where Zachary Kowalchuk picked it up along the right-wing boards, backpedaled to his own blue line, then fired a pass diagonally across the neutral zone to Masanotti at the far blue line on the left wing.  Masanotti skated in and blasted a slap shot over Everett’s glove to tie the game.

Playing five-on-five in overtime for the payoffs, Phoenix forward Michael Caravella corralled a loose puck behind the Valencia net and fed it out to Joseph Platt who immediately sent it over to Masanotti to the left of Flyers goalie Zachary Everett (29 saves).  The Knight’s 40-goal scorer wasted no time whipping the puck into the net before Everett could get across the crease, giving the Knights a big road win just under three minutes into OT in their playoff opener.

Valencia’s Nicholas Hames scored three times in the game – each time giving the Flyers a one-goal lead.  Hames only scored one goal in 15 regular season games for Valencia after coming over from El Paso at the beginning of February.

Owen Petten made 30 saves for Phoenix.

It was Masanotti providing the winning goal again on Friday, breaking a 3-3 tie with 7:13 left in regulation.  With the Flyers looking for the go-ahead goal on the power play, Phoenix penalty killer Andruis Bermejo dug the puck out of a scrum on the left wing boards and poked it out of the Knights 

zone.  Masanotti took off on a breakaway, gave a shoulder fake, then made a nice move to his forehand to tuck the puck past the right pad of Valencia goaltender Mack Willy for the shorthanded game-winner.

Petten (25 saves) held the fort the rest of the way and the Knights became the first team in the league to wrap up their quarterfinal series.

The Flyers took a 3-2 lead into the third period, but Joseph Platt scored his second goal of the game at the 1:55 mark to tie things up and set the stage for Masanotti’s heroics.

Willy made 30 saves for Valencia.


#6 Southern Oregon Spartans (12-38-1) at 

#3 Bellingham Blazers (28-20-3)

GAME 1Friday, March 16Bellingham 8, Southern Oregon 2

GAME 2Saturday, March 17Bellingham 4, Southern Oregon 3

Bellingham wins series, 2 games to 0; advances to play Tahoe

The Bellingham Blazers tied the Tahoe Icemen for second place in the Northwest Division standings on the final day of the regular season, but lost out on a first-round bye on a tie-breaker.  They will now have the opportunity to go head-to-head with Tahoe on the ice, as they advanced to play the Icemen in next week’s division semifinal after a two-game series win over the Southern Oregon Spartans.

Bellingham had a four-goal lead by the time Miroslav Smid put the Spartans on the board early in the second period of Game One.  The Blazers added three more goals before the end of the period for a 7-1 lead and went on to win by a final score of 8-2.

Ilya Abubakirov (2-3-5) and Ruslav Novruzov (2-1-3) each scored twice for Bellingham, Timothy Prexler dished out three assists, and Kolter Pawlick made 29 saves.

Joel Holmberg scored the other goal for Southern Oregon.

The Spartans got off to a better start in Saturday’s Game Two, and it looked like they might be on their way to forcing a third game, but the Blazers rallied from 1-0 and 3-1 deficits to tie the game going into the third period.  

Bellingham’s Connar Peers scored the only goal of the final frame to give the Blazers a 4-3 win that wrapped up the series.

With the Blazers on the power play six minutes into the third period, Robbie Eichelberger handled the puck at the point, moved it sharply down to Thomas Steven at the side of the net to the left of Spartans netminder Krystof Holub.  Steven, in turn, slid a pass across to Peers at the edge of the crease for the tap-in.

Avery Heath (18 saves) and the Blazers kept the Spartans at bay for the final 13:25 of regulation as Southern Oregon managed just three shots on goal in the third period.

Holub stopped 17 of 18 shots in the third period – allowing just Peer’s game-winner – and finished the game with 44 saves.

Eichelberger scored twice for Bellingham with each goal tying the game.


#5 Seattle Totems (13-32-6) at

#4 West Sound Warriors (21-29-1)

GAME 1Thursday, March 15West Sound 6, Seattle 4

GAME 2Saturday, March 17West Sound 7, Seattle 3

West Sound wins series, 2 games to 0; advances to play Idaho

The Seattle Totems put up a fight in Bremerton, but the West Sound Warriors won their Northwest Division Quarterfinal series in two games.  The Warriors will go on the road next to face the division’s regular season champion, the Idaho IceCats, in the next round.

West Sound had leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in Game One on Thursday, but the Totems came back to tie both times.  Dmitri Munirov’s second goal of the game, however, with 4:08 left in regulation, proved to be the winner.  Connor Wherrett sealed the deal by hitting the empty net from inside his own blue line with :08 left to make it a 6-4 final in favor of the Warriors.

The Warriors jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first 4:04 of the game.  The Totems had a prime opportunity to get back in it when a five-minute major and a minor gave them a five-minute power play – the first two minutes of it a two-man advantage.  Despite controlling the puck in the West Sound end for almost two minutes straight, Seattle could not convert – and was not able to score in the remaining three minutes of five-on-four either – but Bogden Klochkov got them on the board with 4:48 left in the period, taking a feed from a cycling Michael Shippee in the right circle and beating Brennan low to the stick side.

Brennan had a busy first period, facing 19 shots and stopping 18 of them.  He made 33 of his 40 saves in the first two periods.

The Seattle power play went to work again early in the second period and Michael Shippee cashed in on a rebound to tie the game, 2-2, at the 4:01 mark.  Shippee took the puck to the slot where the play was broken up, but the West Sound clearing attempt ended up on the stick of Klochkov who fired a low shot on net.  Brennan made the initial save, but Shippee banged it home.

With the score tied, 4-4, late in the third period, Seattle took a boarding penalty and West Sound went on a power play.  On the ensuing faceoff, Wherrett drew the puck back to Munirov and he walked the blue line for a few strides, then fired a slap shot that made its way through a maze of sticks and legs and into the net for the deciding goal.

Wyatt Monear made 24 saves for the Totems.

The Warriors closed out the series with a 7-3 win on Saturday night.