WSHL WEEKLY NOTES 01.01.19 – WESTERN DIVISION
WSHL standings are expressed W-L-OTW-OTL (“W” and “L” represent regulation wins and losses; shootouts are included in overtime results). Three points are awarded for a regulation win, two for an overtime win and one for an overtime loss.
FRESNO MONSTERS (18-10-1-0, 56 pts)
The Fresno Monsters lost two of their three games at the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas prior to the holiday break, but four wins in five games prior to that keeps them within five points of the first-place Long Beach Bombers.
Fresno’s showcase opened with a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Mountain Division leaders, the Ogden Mustangs, but the Monsters bounced back with a 4-0 win over the Seattle Totems the next day. Max Karlenzig posted his first shutout of the season against the Totems, 30-save effort, and Cole Beckman chipped in a pair of goals in the win.
Fresno had stopped off in Southern California on their way to Vegas, picking up wins over Ontario and Valencia, so they were playing their fourth game in five days when they closed the showcase with a 10-2 loss to the Oklahoma City Blazers.
Heading into the second half, Petr Phillippov and Dustin Truex are tied for the team lead with 17 goals apiece, and the acquisition of Jeremy Velazquez from Cheyenne has added a dimension to the Fresno attack. Five of his nine points since joining the team have come on the power play.
Karlenzig (3.03/.914) has played very well, but Fresno could use more from NAHL veteran Tyler Mathews who has allowed five goals in three of his last five appearances and carries a .871 save percentage. Take out a 30-save shutout of the Southern Oregon Spartans on December 9 and his season save percentage drops to .853.
LONG BEACH BOMBERS (18-4-3-1, 61 pts)
You could not ask for better results at the league showcase. The Long Beach Bombers swept their three games, posting one-goal wins over Edson (4-3) and Oklahoma City (2-1) and, in between, knocking off the Northern Colorado Eagles, 6-3.
The Bombers dropped a 2-1 decision, in a shootout, to fourth-place Ontario in their final game before the showcase. Maybe that got their attention heading into the event but, as a division leader, they were handed a very challenging schedule and met the challenge with flying colors.
Not only did Long Beach knock off some top competition, they did in in low-scoring playoff-style games, showing they are primed for the stretch run as they look to hold off Fresno.
In addition to their five-point lead on the second-place Monsters, the Bombers hold three games (and a possible nine points) in hand as they chase their third straight Western Division crown.
It would appear to be down to a two-team race for the top spot. With three points awarded in every game the San Diego Sabers are not out of it but, at 18 points back, they would have to go on one heck of a tear to get back into the mix for first place.
The next month will go a long way towards finalizing the divisional standings and then the Bombers will have a great test against the WSHL’s top team – the Ogden Mustangs.
Long Beach returns to action January 10-12 against Valencia and San Diego (2x). Over the next four weeks, the Bombers will play division opponents Valencia (5x), San Diego (3x), Ontario (2x) and Fresno before going to Ogden for three games.
That series against the Mustangs February 15-17 will serve as an excellent pre-playoff test against what has been the top team in the league through the first half.
ONTARIO AVALANCHE (8-16-1-2, 28 pts)
Including the showcase, the Ontario Avalanche played six games in eight days to close out their first-half schedule. They picked up nine points in Las Vegas with wins over Meadow Lake (12-0), West Sound (4-1) and CPJHL Black (5-2).
The points they earned allowed them to open up a seven-point lead on the fifth-place Valencia Flyers. That gives Ontario the inside track on the fourth playoff spot and what would be home ice for a first-round Western Division play-in.
Ontario entertained three different opponents in three days before heading to Sin City. They posted a big shootout win, 2-1, over the Long Beach Bombers on Friday, December 14. The defending Thorne Cup champions and Mid-Western Division leading El Paso Rhinos stopped by that Saturday and won, 7-2, and Fresno knocked off the Avalanche, 5-3, before everybody headed for Nevada.
Jeremy Van Dyke and Connor Duffy were the first-half MVPs for Ontario. Van Dyke scored 23 goals in 27 games. The second-leading goal-scorer for the Avs was Nicholas Abernathy with nine.
Although Ontario has had a tough time finding the net, 18-year-old Duffy has given them a chance to win most nights. His .917 save percentage ranked sixth in the league among goalies with 600 or more minutes played and he has made 40+ saves on eight different occasions.
SAN DIEGO SABERS (12-12-3-1, 43 pts)
San Diego brought more than just nine points home with them from the Western States Shootout. Wins over the Utah Outliers (4-2) and Hinton Wildcats (4-1) were statement games for the Sabers. Utah has arguably played the toughest schedule in the league, and is a legit contender out of the Mountain Division, while Hinton is the second-place team in the WSHL’s new Provincial Division.
San Diego also picked up a win over the CPJHL Black team, 5-1, which counts in the league standings.
20-year-old defenseman Karel Kankovsky is the anchor what has the makings of the Sabers best season in six years, but a pair of 18-year-old forwards – Jakub Vesely and Ashton Jones – give the team reason for optimism past this season.
Vesely (19-20-39) and Jones (13-23-36) are the top-scoring forwards on the team and also have two years of junior eligibility remaining.
Lower Burrell, PA native Marshall McKallip, 17, has emerged as a legit #1 WSHL goaltender. After playing sparingly early in the season, McKallip has won five straight games, stopping 174 of 185 shots in that span (.941 SV%). He was between the pipes for the big win over Utah, stopping 30 of 32 shots in that game.
VALENCIA FLYERS (6-15-0-3, 21 pts)
Valencia salvaged their showcase with a 4-2 win over the Southern Oregon Spartans in their final game. That allowed the Flyers to earn four of a possible nine points at the event. They picked up a single point in a 5-4 shootout loss to the CPJHL Black team, and also played the Dallas Snipers, falling 4-1.
The Flyers return to action after the holidays seven points behind fourth-place Ontario but, with four opportunities to go up against the Avalanche head-to-head in the second half, so they still have the ability to move up in the standings and improve their playoff positioning.
The Flyers go to Long Beach for a single game against the division-leading Bombers on January 10 before returning to action in earnest with a three-in-three weekend January 17-19, playing San Diego at home and Fresno twice on the road.
Danylo Moroz and Tristan Warr are the only two Flyers to hit double-digits in goals this season – each has scored 21. That means the pair has accounted for over half of Valencia’s goals for the season (42 of 81).
Mack Willy appeared in all three showcase games, making 24 saves in the 5-4 shootout loss and playing one half in each of the other two games. He stopped 68 of 75 shots in Vegas and also played in both games against the visiting El Paso Rhinos prior to the showcase, making 48 saves December 13 and stopping 27 of 28 in a relief appearance the following day.
--- Compiled by Scott Harrington for Harrington Sports Media