WSHL WEEKLY NOTES 11.14.18 – 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 (7-6-0-0, 21 pts)
An eight-point lead might feel pretty safe, but the Fresno Monsters need to be on their toes when the Valencia Flyers come to Selland Arena for three games starting Thursday.
Not only does the WSHL’s new three-point system mean the gap could disappear more quickly (the Flyers could pass the Monsters with three regulation wins), Valencia also holds four games –
and a possible 12 points – in hand on Fresno.
That should make for a pretty spirited series between the second-place Monsters and the Flyers, who started their schedule later that the rest of the division, and seem to be still trying to find their footing.
Some might assume that a goalie brought in from the NAHL would take over as the #1 on a WSHL roster, but Max Karlenzig, who has been playing well all season, earned a second start in the series against Long Beach last weekend by backstopping the Monsters to a 4-2 win over the first-place Bombers with a 34-save performance on Friday.
Newcomer Tyler Mathews played the first game of the series, making 34 saves in a 5-2 loss on Thursday.
The Monsters continue their six-game homestand November 23-25 against the upstart San Diego Sabers.
LONG BEACH BOMBERS (10-3-1-0, 32 pts)
Their three-game sweep of the El Paso Rhinos cemented the Long Beach Bombers as a serious contender for the 2019 Thorne Cup in the event anyone still needed to be convinced. However, for the second time this season, the Bombers lost to the team directly behind them in the race for the Western Division crown.
The Fresno Monsters knocked off the Bombers, 4-2, on Friday night at The Rinks – Lakewood. They defeated the Bombers by the same score October 20 at Selland Arena. That has to have the Bombers looking over their shoulder just a little bit.
Erik Ehrmantraut, 18, was traded to the Meadow Lake Mustangs of the WSHL’s new Provincial Division. Ehrmantraut, a 6’3”, 195-pound forward, had an assist in the only game he played for the Bombers this season. He dressed for 35 WSHL games a year ago with Long Beach and Valencia.
Long Beach has a unique schedule this week. They play at San Diego on Friday and Sunday, and play a single home game next Wednesday against the Ontario Avalanche, before taking next weekend off.
The Bombers will rest Saturday while the Sabers are hosting the Avalanche, and hopefully have the advantage of fresh legs when they play the Sabers Sunday.
ONTARIO AVALANCHE (3-6-0-2, 11 pts)
The Ontario Avalanche will play their fifth straight game against the same opponent on Saturday when they visit the San Diego Sabers.
The Sabers have won three of the first four meetings between the division rivals, which have included the Sabers winning in overtime and in a shootout.
Connor Duffy, 18, has been exceptional between the pipes for the Avalanche so far this season. The 5’9”, 170-pound target has put together a .924 save percentage, to go along with a 3.12 goals-against average, in 385 minutes of work.
Ontario teams historically play with a strict defensive structure, but Duffy has already been called upon to make 40+ saves in a game four times this season.
Henrik Lohman, who played for Ontario the last two seasons, is now playing pro hockey back in his native Sweden. Lohman signed with Valbo HC in the Swedish Division 2.
SAN DIEGO SABERS (4-8-3-0, 18 pts)
Despite winning just four of their first 15 games, the San Diego Sabers are in third place this week, thanks to winning all three of their games that have progressed past regulation. The Sabers won in overtime at Valencia on October 11 and have come through in the clutch twice against Ontario; winning in overtime on November 2 and coming out on top in Friday’s shootout win over the Avalanche.
San Diego has not posted a winning record since 2012-13 when they were 24-18-4 as the San Diego Gulls. So far, the Sabers have collected 18 of a possible 45 points in the standings (.400 points percentage). Technically, “.500” over a 52-game WSHL season is 78 points in the standings using the current point system.
The Sabers lost, 6-3, in Valencia last Thursday, but proceeded to Ontario where they won twice, collecting five of a possible six points in the standings.
Samuel Kapusta scored the game-tying goal in the third period to force overtime, and also scored the deciding goal in the shootout, as the Sabers came back for a 3-2 shootout win at Ontario on Friday. Newcomer Aaron Parsons made 33 saves over 65 minutes of regulation and overtime and stopped all four shooters he faced in the shootout
The Sabers scored twice early in Saturday’s game, led 3-0 by the first intermission, and went on to a 6-3 victory. Karel Kankovsky scored two goals, assisted on two others, and Aleksei Vereshchagin stopped 28 of 31 shots.
This weekend is a chance for the Sabers to test themselves against the division leaders two more times, on Friday and Sunday, to see how far their game has come. The Bombers took both ends of a home-and-home series from the Sabers five weeks ago but, since then, the Sabers have posted wins over Ontario, Valencia and Fresno.
The Avalanche and Sabers meet for the fifth time in 16 days on Saturday.
VALENCIA FLYERS (4-4-0-1, 13 pts)
The Valencia Flyers started their season later than every other team and the division and are still trying to make up ground. No team in the league has played fewer games than the Flyers (9), who sit fourth in the Western Division standings despite having a better points percentage and goal differential than third-place San Diego.
Valencia goes on the road this weekend for three games against Fresno at Selland Arena beginning Thursday night. If they are going to start moving up the standings, the Flyers need to be able to come out of hostile territory like Selland with some points. They will stay on the road next week with a pair of games at Ontario.
Valencia has played five one-goal games already. They lost their first two, but have won two of their last three.
Longtime Flyer Dawson Keay has begun his NCAA Division III career at Finlandia University. Keay played parts of five seasons with the Flyers before being dealt to the Colorado Jr. Eagles at the trading deadline last season. He contributed to Colorado’s payoff run with six goals and 10 points in five post-season games.
Keay played in 184 regular season games for Valencia – three short of the franchise all-time record – producing 182 points (second all-time) on 81 goals (third) and 101 assists (second).
Keay skated in his first NCAA game November 2 at Milwaukee School of Engineering. He is one of eight (!) WSHL products on the Finlandia roster – all from the Jr. Eagles.
--- Compiled by Scott Harrington for Harrington Sports Media