The Official Stats Website Of The Western States Hockey League
WSHL WRAP-UP; January 10 – January 14, 2018

BELLINGHAM BLAZERS @ SEATTLE TOTEMS
Blazers open gap on Totems with win in Seattle

01.10.18 – Bellingham 3, Seattle 1

The Bellingham Blazers went into Seattle and defeated the team directly behind them in the Northwest Division standings, defeating the Totems 3-1.

Braden Sanchez gave Seattle the lead late in the first period, but that was the only offense Seattle could generate against Bellingham's Avery Heath (20 saves) who picked up his first WSHL win.

Tyrae Foutain evened it up for Bellingham with a second period goal and Gustaf Kumpula, Jr. and Jamahl Eakett scored 45 seconds apart in the third to provide the winning margin.

Wyatt Monear recorded 30 saves for Seattle.

PHOENIX KNIGHTS @ VALENCIA FLYERS
Knights continue strong play, win one of three in Valencia

01.11.18 – Valencia 5, Phoenix 0
01.12.18 – Valencia 9, Phoenix 5
01.13.18 – Phoenix 5, Valencia 3

The Phoenix Knights have been picking up wins more frequently lately over the past month or so – mostly against teams in the lower half of the standings – but played well and picked up a win against Western Division contender Valencia.  The Knights are one point behind fourth-place Fresno in the division standings.

The Knights continued their strong play in Thursday's series opener, generating 33 shots on goal, but Valencia's Spencer Kozlowski stopped every one of them in a 5-0 Flyers win.  It was the first shutout of the season for Kozlowski.

Jakob Kranabetter recorded points on four of the five Valencia goals (2-2-4).  Jason Hickman, Dawson Keay and Tristian Warr scored the other goals for the Flyers against Phoenix netminder Owen Petten, who made 42 saves.

Phoenix took the lead into the third period on Friday, but Valencia came back with a flurry of goals for a 9-5 win.

The Knights took leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 in the first period, then out-shot the Flyers 10-8 through a scoreless second period, but Valencia came alive in the third period and scored seven goals – six of them in a span of 10:42.

Kranabetter (2-2-4), who matched his four-point output from the night before, was the only Flyer to put the puck in the net more than once for Valencia.  His two assists tied him with Tomas Nemeth for the all-time WSHL lead with 210 career assists.

Andrius Bermejo scored twice in the third period Phoenix to give himself a hat trick.

Kozlowski made 32 saves and got the win for Valencia.

Phoenix finally broke through with the win on Sunday.  The Knights took a 3-2 lead into the third period, but Valencia's Jacob Ulestig tied it up just 2:01 in.

Bermejo, who figured in four of the five Pheonix goals, scored the game-winner with 10:54 left in regulation.  The Flyers were not able to get the tying goal past Petten (31 saves) and Kohl Hedquist sealed the win with a goal in the final minute for a 5-3 Knights win.

Valencia's goaltender, 16-year-old Walter Marshisius, made 26 of his 33 saves over the final two periods.

EL PASO RHINOS @ OKLAHOMA CITY BLAZERS
El Paso wins series, but OKC shows they can compete with WSHL's top team

01.12.18 – Oklahoma City 5, El Paso 4 (OT)
01.13.18 – El Paso 2, Oklahoma City 1 (OT)
01.14.18 – El Paso 3, Oklahoma City 1

The battle for Mid-Western Division supremacy may be a little tighter than we originally thought.  The El Paso Rhinos have the best record in the league, and have still only been beaten once in regulation all season, but the Oklahoma City Blazers – the team directly behind them in the Mid-Western Division race – beat them Friday night and took three points in the series.  If nothing else, OKC showed they could play with the WSHL's top team.

In Friday's series opener, The Oklahoma City Blazers tagged the El Paso Rhinos with just their second loss of the season.

With the game tied, 4-4 in sudden death overtime, Griffin Wieneck carried the puck down the right wing and effectively used his linemate as a decoy, closing in on the El Paso net and wristing the puck past El Paso's ace goaltender Filip Krasanovsky to give the Blazers a memorable win in front of their fans.

Oklahoma City took a 2-0 lead in a wild first period on a pair of Ivan Bondarenko goals, but the Rhinos scored three times in the final 1:24 of the period to take a 3-2 lead.  The Blazers could have been rattled by the end of the period, but regrouped in the room between periods and came back out ready to play in the second.

Shots on goal were even in the middle frame, 8-8, with OKC's Vitalii Mikhailov scoring the only goal to send the game into the third tied, 3-3.

Each team scored once in the final period.  Joshua Chamberlain, who also had three assists in the game, gave the Blazers the lead again at 9:27, but Chaseton Sare notched his second of the game for El Paso to tie things back up with 6:52 left in regulation, setting up overtime.

Oklahoma City's Bobby Cloutier made 37 saves and was the winning goaltender over Krasanovsky, who finished with 23 saves.

The Blazers showed Friday's game was not a fluke as Saturday night's game went to overtime as well – this time tied, 1-1, as Cloutier (34 saves) and Krasanovsky (30 saves) engaged in a goaltending duel.

2:06 into sudden death, El Paso's Adam Stalzer chipped the puck past two defenders to Maguire Blair who skated into the pass as he crossed the blue line at the left wing, drove deep around the left circle, then back to the front of the net to stuff it past Cloutier.

Stalzer also scored the Rhinos goal in regulation.  Patrick Tondl scored for Oklahoma City.

El Paso's Sare and OKC's Bondarenko traded first-period goal in Sunday's series finale.

The Rhinos took the lead when Sare scored again – the only goal of the second period – at 12:11.

El Paso did a good job playing with the lead in the third period, holding the Blazers to just six shots on goal.  Nicholas Hames gave the Rhinos some breathing room 1:09 into the period and Krasanovsky (17 saves) kept Oklahoma City off the board the rest of the way for a 3-1 win.

OKC's Emmanuel Hertel-Bauman made 26 of his 33 saves over the first two periods, keeping the Blazers in the game until the end.

DALLAS SNIPERS @ SPRINGFIELD EXPRESS
Springfield puts Dallas in rear-view mirror with home sweep

01.12.18 – Springfield 9, Dallas 5
01.13.18 – Springfield 8, Dallas 1
01.14.18 – Springfield 9, Dallas 2

The Springfield Express are the third-place team in the Mid-Western Division and it doesn't look like anyone will catch them anytime soon.  Springfield swept fourth-place Dallas, opening up a 26-point lead on the Snipers.

On Friday, Springfield emerged from a wild first period up 5-4, and widened that lead with three unanswered goals in the second.

Both teams replaced their goaltenders after the first period.  Connor Green allowed just one goal on 18 shots over the final 40 minutes for the Express while Brady Weiss made 28 saves over two periods for Dallas.

Vegard Faret had a four-point game for the Express (2-2-4) and Oscar Anderson dished out three helpers.

Danil Trenikhin scored twice for the Snipers.

Springfield built a 4-0 lead in the first period of Saturday's game and skated to an 8-1 win.  Kyle Cagnoni (2-3-5) and Gustav Ekstrand (2-1-3) each scored twice for the Express while Andersson and Faret each had a goal and three assists.

Chad Purdy was actually fairly busy in the Springfield net, making 26 saves on 27 shots.  He lost his shutout bid 5:19 into the third period on a goal by Jaroslav Vasicek.

Springfield led, 2-0, after the first period on Sunday but the Snipers kept themselves in the game. 

Michael Pistek's goal at 8:11 of the second period got Dallas within a goal, but the Express scored the next four goals – three of them in a span of four minutes – to take control of the game.  They cruised to a 9-2 win.

Filimon Ledenkov scored a hat trick for Springfield while Arkhip Ledenkov and Nikita Sokolov each had a goal and three assists.

Springfield netminder Connor Green stopped 19 of 21 shots.

WEST SOUND WARRIORS @ IDAHO ICECATS
Idaho moves closer to eighth straight division title with sweep of Warriors

01.12.18 – Idaho 9, West Sound 4
01.13.18 – Idaho 4, West Sound 0
01.14.18 – Idaho 7, West Sound 0

The Northwest Division-leading Idaho IceCats took a big step towards wrapping up their eighth straight division title by sweeping second-place West Sound.  The IceCats now have a 14-point lead over the Warriors with six games in hand.

Idaho's Lance Herning notched a hat trick and Jacob Hedencrona (2-2-4) and Kevin Fellows (2-1-3) each scored twice in a 9-4 IceCats win on Friday.

Herning scored his first two goals as the IceCats scored four times in the first period to take control of the game early.

Jacob Hough stopped all 25 Warrior shots in a 4-0 Idaho win on Saturday – 19 of them over the final two periods.

Roman Tintera scored the winning goal for the IceCats midway through the first period, but it was still a one goal game until well into the third period when Mason Vaughan gave Idaho some insurance.  Felix Carlsson and Quinn Martin added late tallies for the 4-0 final.

Brian Eisele kept West Sound in the game until late, making 28 saves.

Hough (11 saves) and Shaun Brown (5) shared a shutout on Sunday.  Matthew Kindred (2-1-3) and Blake Nelson (2-2-4) each scored twice in a 7-0 IceCats win.

West Sound netminder Robbie Brennan kept things close by stopping 11 of 12 shots in the first period, but Idaho broke out for five goals in the second period to squash any hopes the Warriors had of taking any points home with them.

SEATTLE TOTEMS @ BELLINGHAM BLAZERS
Seattle sticking around in race for home ice, splits with Bellingham

01.12.18 – Bellingham 12, Seattle 2
01.13.18 – Seattle 7, Bellingham 5

The Bellingham Blazers hold an eight-point edge on the Seattle Totems in the race for the fourth and final home ice slot in the Northwest Division.  The Totems prevented the Blazers from pulling away by winning Sunday to preserve a split in their two-game series played in Bellingham.

Bellingham won 12-2 on Friday, leading 4-0 after the opening period, then adding five more goals in the second frame to pull away.

Four different players scored twice for Bellingham:  Ruslan Novruzov (2-3-5), Spencer Vockel (2-1-3), Andrew Gammel (2-1-3) and Robbie Eichelberger.

It's not that Seattle did not generate scoring chances.  They fired 29 shots on the Blazers goal, but Edward Coffey turned aside 27.

Braden Sanchez scored both Seattle goals.

Recently-acquired Bogdan Klochkov scored four times to spark the Totems to a 7-5 win on Saturday.

Klochkov scored the first three Seattle goals, breaking a 2-2 tie 9:21 into the second period to complete the hat trick.  The Totems also scored the next two goals to take a three-goal lead and still led, 5-3, going into the third period.

Bellingham's Novruzov (2-2-4) and Eichelberger scored 54 seconds apart to tie the game, but Tom Ignatovich restored the Seattle lead shortly after and Klochkov sealed it with his fourth goal of the night into an empty net with 20 seconds remaining.

Wyatt Monear made 26 saves, coming up with some big ones when they were needed late in the game, to pick up a big win for Seattle.

CASPER COYOTES @ OGDEN MUSTANGS
Ogden pads Mountain Division lead with sweep of Casper

01.12.18 – Ogden 6, Casper 1
01.13.18 – Ogden 15, Casper 1
01.14.18 – Ogden 10, Casper 0

The Ogden Mustangs opened up a seven-point lead on second-place Utah in the Mountain Division following a three-game sweep of the visiting Casper Coyotes.  The Mustangs needed to bank as many points as possible as the Outliers hold six games in hand.

Ogden won Friday's series opener, 6-1, with Jacob Laurin scoring twice and Matus Spodniak (1-2-3) collecting three points.

Andrew Williamson scored 6:53 into the second period to get the Coyotes within a goal at 2-1, but the Mustangs scored three unanswered goals before the end of the period to build a four-goal lead, then out-shot Casper 17-6 in the final period.

Wesley Ellingson went the distance in the Casper net, making 59 saves – 25 of those in the first period alone.

It was all Ogden on Saturday.  The Mustangs scored six goals in the first period and added six more on their way to a 15-1 win.

Matus Spodniak (4-3-7) became the first WSHL player to hit the 50-goal and 100-point marks this season and Jacob Laurin added six points (2-4-6).

Brody Surette made sure the Coyotes were not shut out, scoring midway through the second period.

Nolan Kare (26 saves) and Dylan Ossachuk (34) split the crease duties for Casper.

Casper registered 32 shots on goal in Sunday's series finale, but Jonathan Chin stopped them all in a 10-0 Mustangs win.  Spodniak added five more points (3-2-5) and Laurin and Bartlett scored two goals apeice.  Rhett Rampinelli picked up four assists.

UTAH OUTLIERS @ CHEYENNE STAMPEDE
Outliers pick up six points in Cheyenne, stay on Ogden's heels in Mountain Division race

01.12.18 – Utah 14, Cheyenne 0
01.13.18 – Utah 11, Cheyenne 1
01.14.18 – Utah 7, Cheyenne 1

The Utah Outliers continue to position themselves for a run at the Mountain Division title, sweeping the Cheyenne Stampede to stay within seven points of division leader Ogden with six games in hand on the Mustangs. 

With Sunday's win, the Outliers moved into second place in what is shaping up to be in intense three-way race for the Mountain Division title between the Outliers, Mustangs and Colorado Jr. Eagles, who are only two points behind Utah.

The Outliers scored five times in each of the first two periods and coasted to a 14-0 win on Friday.

10 different Outliers found the net, including Oskars Ancitis (3-2-5).  Zach Dornseifer and Locke Wischman each scored twice.

Brandon Krumpschmid had a goal and four assists and Viktor Burman collected three helpers.

Otto Saxin made 11 saves to record his third shutout of the season.

Daniel Yockey continued to be a workhorse for the Stampede, making 48 saves before being lifted in the second period.

Robbie Hufnagel turned in a spectacular performance in the first period of Saturday's game, stopping 30 of 31 shots to keep the Stampede in the game early.

The game was tied, 1-1, after 20 minutes thanks to Hufnagel's goaltending and a goal by Cheyenne's George Leech, but the dam broke in the second period and Utah scored six times to take control of a game they eventually won, 11-1.

Brandon Krumpschmid (2-2-4) and Benji Mickel (2-1-3) each scored twice for the Outliers and Dawson Rodin stopped 21 of 22 shots.

Hufnagel went the distance for the Stampede and finished with 59 saves.

Yockey made 49 saves in Sunday's game, keeping the game relatively close, but the Stampede were not able to score any goals of their own until the final minute of the game in a 7-1 Utah win.

Jacob Wanstrom scored two goals, collected an assist, and Trenton Wendt stopped 19 of 20 shots for the Outliers.

Tristian Hughes scored the Cheyenne goal.

ONTARIO AVALANCHE @ SAN DIEGO SABERS
Sabers play well, but Avalanche solidify second place with sweep

01.12.18 – Ontario 5, San Diego 2
01.13.18 – Ontario 4, San Diego 3 (OT)
01.14.18 – Ontario 4, San Diego 2

The San Diego Sabers continue to play better hockey than their record indicates, staying in all three games with the second-place Ontario Avalanche in a series that showcased the depth in the Western Division.  With three narrow victories – one of them coming in overtime - the Avalanche now have a three-point edge on third-place Valencia in the race for a top-two spot in the division and the first-round bye that comes with it.

San Diego took a 2-1 lead into the third period on Friday thanks to first-period goals by Matt Soldano and David Grindstaff, but the Sabers were assessed a five-minute major penalty for high-sticking.  It took the Avalanche almost three minutes on the power play to score, but they did, to tie the game with 9:14 left in the third period.

Less than a two minutes later, Levi Hulston gave the Avalanche their first lead of the game.  A shot from the point hit a leg and ricocheted to the front of the net where Hulston converted the rebound on his backhand to give Ontario a 3-2 lead with 7:31 left.

Ontario had the momentum now.  Less than a minute later there was a scrum on the left wing wall.  The puck popped out to Charles Riordin who fired a 40-foot shot past San Diego netminder Zach Hale (31 saves) for an insurance goal.  The Avs added another one late for a 5-2 final.

Saturday's game was another tight one, with San Diego taking a 3-1 lead into the third period, but the Avalanche tied it up and won in overtime.

San Diego scored the lone goal of the first period, then Ontario got the sole tally in the second.  Karel Kankovsky and Ondrej Imrich scored early in the third to give the Sabers a two-goal lead, but the Sabers were not able to withstand a late push by the Avalanche.

Ontario out-shot San Diego, 17-8, in the final frame with William Ma and Justin Davis scoring to even things up, 3-3 with 9:10 left in regulation.

San Diego's Matt Soldano (43 saves) and Ontario's Connor Duffy (33) prevented either team from winning it in regulation and the game went to overtime where Alex Bouchard won it for the Avs 1:17 into the second (three-on-three) overtime.

Soldano made a sprawling save but Ma was able to recover the puck and make a cross-ice pass to Bouchard to put the puck past a lunging Soldano to win the game.

Reid Bosse scored three goals – one in each period – as the Avalanche won, 4-2, on Sunday.

Ontario's Filip Subrt kicked out 20 of 22 shots.

The Avalanche led, 1-0, after one period but San Diego scored twice in the second period to take the lead.  Brett Lisoway tied things up 2:03 into the period and Reese Fegen gave the Sabers the lead at 11:39.

Bosse and the Avalanche wore them down to pick up the regulation win, however.  William Ma had a goal and two assists for Ontario.

FRESNO MONSTERS @ LONG BEACH BOMBERS
Monsters pick up three points from first-place Bombers in Long Beach

01.12.18 – Long Beach 3, Fresno Monsters 2 (SO)
01.13.18 – Long Beach 5, Fresno 3
01.14.18 – Fresno 7, Long Beach 3

The Long Beach Bombers are still leading the pack in the Western Division but, in another series that showcased the parity in the division, the Fresno Monsters managed to pick up three points, with a win and an OT loss, in a three-game series at Long Beach.

Fresno had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on Friday, but the Bombers came back with the equalizer both times.

Parker Moskal's tally 2:33 into the third period tied the game, 2-2, and the two division rivals battled for the final 17:27 of regulation, plus a pair of five-minute overtime periods (four-on-four, then three-on-three) without any additional scoring.

Long Beach netminder Domenic Bosetti (38 saves) and his Fresno counterpart Kyle Franceschini (33 saves) were both on top of their games.

Late in the second overtime, Fresno took a penalty and Long Beach went on the power play with 26 seconds left.  The Bombers were unable to convert on the brief four-on-three opportunity and the shootout ensued.

Erik Liundgren and Miroslav Rohlik scored in the shootout for Long Beach while Bosetti turned aside both Fresno shooters he faced and the Bombers picked up the win and additional point in the standings.

Cody Key scored 1:20 into the second period to give the Monsters a 2-0 lead on Saturday, but the Bombers scored the next five and won, 5-3.

Rohlik scored two goals 2:35 apart to get things started for Long Beach and completed a hat trick with an insurance goal with 3:27 remaining.

Fresno's Adam Barvik stopped all 16 Long Beach shots in the first period and finished the game with 45 saves.

Bosetti made 30 saves for the Bombers and Parker Moskal collected three assists.

Fresno's Barvik made 45 saves.

Fresno finally put together a 60-minute effort and picked up a 7-3 win in Sunday's game.

Cody Key led the way with three goals and an assist for the Monsters.

Franceschini made 37 saves, stopping all 21 shots he faced through the first 40 minutes before allowed three goals in the third period.

COLORADO JR. EAGLES @ SUPERIOR ROUGHRIDERS
Jr. Eagles, RoughRiders split in Superior

01.12.18 – Superior 2, Colorado 1 (SO)
01.13.18 – Colorado 3, Superior 1

The Superior RoughRiders showed that their game is starting to come together, splitting a pair of games against the Colorado Jr. Eagles, who are in contention for the Mountain Division title.

Friday's game was a goaltending duel between Superior's Marshall Murphy, who made 44 saves in the game and stopped all three skaters in the shootout, and Braden Lajoie of Colorado (19 saves).

The game went to overtime tied, 1-1.  The 'Riders took a penalty about halfway through the first overtime, but managed to kill Colorado's ensuing 4-on-3 power play and get the game to the second (three-on-three) overtime period.  Neither team was able to convert in the second sudden-death frame.

In the shootout, Thore Weyrauch converted the first shot fur Superior.

After Murphy's first save, Nikita Sheberov's shot high glove on Lajoie hit the post.

Another Murphy save gave Austin Tautfest a chance to win it, but Lajoie denied him.

Murphy stopped Colorado's Vincent Mastrandrea to seal the shootout win and secure an additional point for Superior.  Mastrandrea came in from a severe angle through the circle to the right of Murphy and tried to beat him with a wrist shot to the stick side, but Murphy came up with the save.

Superior's Tautfest broke the ice in the final minute of the first period on Saturday, but that would be the only goal that the RoughRiders would score on Lajoie (15 saves).

The Jr. Eagles scored three times in the second period to take a 3-1 lead and the two teams battled through a scoreless third period.

Cory Richardson, Zachary Lish and Carter Dahl scored the Colorado goals.

Murphy made 30 saves for Superior.

--- compiled by Scott Harrington/Harrington Sports Media

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WSHL WEEKLY NOTES 1.12.18 – WESTERN DIVISION

FRESNO MONSTERS (15-13-0, 30 pts)
@WSHLMonsters
www.FresnoMonsters.com

The Fresno Monsters posted one of their best wins of the season last week in an 11-4 blowout of Ontario that pushed the Monsters to within four points of third-place Valencia.

Forward Cody Key (33-42-75) and Daylon Mannon (41-43-84) registered seven points apiece in the victory. Mannon is now just 10 points behind WSHL leading scorer Matus Spodniak of Ogden.

The next two weeks will be challenge, but they could determine whether Fresno can be considered a true contender in the Western Division.

This weekend, the Monsters will travel to Long Beach for a three-game set against the Bombers, which will be followed by three games against Valencia next weekend.

Fresno has lost four of five games to Long Beach, but three of the losses were decided by one goal. The season series between the Monsters and the Valencia is tied at two, and most of the games have been one-sided.

If Fresno can get through those two series while remaining above .500, it will be in great shape. The Monsters will begin a season-high 11-game homestand the week after the Valencia series.

LONG BEACH BOMBERS (20-5-3, 43 pts)
@LBBombersHockey
www.JrBombers.org

The Long Beach Bombers are probably thankful for their quick start to the season. The Bombers have lost six of their last nine games, including all three of their games at the Western States Shootout.

At the Showcase, Long Beach lost to Colorado, Utah, and El Paso. Bombers Head Coach Chris White spoke about the loss and his team's recent woes.

"It was a humbling experience that will hopefully push us to compete at the level necessary to be an elite team," said White.

"The game against El Paso was typical of our play over the past six weeks. We were in position to win and did not give 100 percent in our own zone.

"It has been a frustrating stretch of .500 hockey. We have the potential to beat anyone, but we are not playing anywhere near our best. It was another disappointing loss."

Luckily, the Bombers have an entire second half to figure things out. With 22 games left on their schedule, White's squad will have plenty of time to right the ship.

Long Beach hosts Fresno this weekend at The Rinks in Lakewood, California, in a three-game set that marks the Bombers' opening series of the second half.

ONTARIO AVALANCHE (17-10-1, 35 pts)
@TmOntAvs
www.OntarioAvalanche.com

The Ontario Avalanche have played one game in 2018, and it didn't go well. The Avs lost by seven goals to a Fresno team that has plenty of talent but has been hovering around the .500 mark for most of the season.

Nevertheless, the loss doesn't take away from what Ontario did at the WSHL Showcase. The Avalanche won all three of their games in Vegas, logging victories over Springfield, Superior, and the CPJHL Red Team.

"We were not at our best, we had a lot of guys sick and quite a few injuries," said Avs Head Coach Rob O'Rourke. "I was just happy that we simply found ways to win."

As the Avs head into the second half, O'Rourke knows there's plenty of room to grow. His club has had a good season, but he believes his players are capable of even more.

"In order for this team to win moving forward, we have to improve our work ethic in both games and practice. We need to focus on playing from the defensive side of the puck.

"I know there is enough talent on this team to be very successful. We just need to tighten things up."

Ontario will look to rebound on the road this weekend against San Diego. The Sabers are coming off a successful Showcase of their own, so the Avs will need to come ready to play.

PHOENIX KNIGHTS (14-17-2, 30 pts)
@PhoenixKnightsJrA
www.PhoenixKnightsHockey.com

It has been quite the up-and-down season for the Phoenix Knights, who returned from their holiday break last weekend to sweep San Diego in three games.

The Knights lost their first 15 games, but are 14-4-0 since then. The turnaround has brought the franchise back to relevancy after it lost 42 of 49 games last season.

Phoenix has now won six of its last seven, including a three-game sweep at the Western States Shootout. Incredibly, the Knights are just five points out of the second seed, meaning a first-round bye in the postseason is a very real possibility.

This weekend's series against Valencia began on Thursday night with a 5-0 Phoenix loss. In the grand scheme of things it's a minor setback, but a win over the Flyers on Friday would give the Knights a huge confidence boost.

Phoenix has begun a stretch of 12 games against Valencia, Ontario, and Fresno. The next month or so will likely shake things up in the middle of the division as Western Division clubs play multiple series against one another.

Like his team, Knights forward Nolan Twerdoclib has heated up after a slow start. The 18-year-old Canadian just concluded a seven-game point streak and has at least one point in nine of his last 11 games.

Twerdoclib (8-13-21) is now fourth on the club in points, but that could soon change. He seems to have figured things out, and his offensive ability could eventually allow him to challenge Anthony Massanoti (26-11-37) for the team lead in scoring.

SAN DIEGO SABERS (3-25-2, 8 pts)
@sdsabershockey
www.SanDiegoSabersHockey.com

The San Diego Sabers opened their homestand last weekend with three consecutive losses to Phoenix.

The Sabers managed to keep the series close for the most part, but could not overcome a Knights team that has turned things around and gotten back into the division race.

At this point, San Diego's best hope for better playoff seeding is a Knights-like turnaround. With just eight points on the campaign, the Sabers have the third-worst record in the league and have dug themselves a 22-point hole at the bottom of the division.

Because of teams folding or going dormant, every team will qualify for the postseason. Assuming they remain in sixth place, the Sabers will be tasked with the third seed in the division, which at this point could be any of the five other Western Division clubs.

San Diego's tough homestand continues this weekend as it welcomes Ontario to Iceoplex for a three-game weekend series.

After Ontario, the Sabers will play three games against Long Beach, followed by a single-game matchup against Valencia to close out the homestand.

VALENCIA FLYERS (17-9-0, 34 pts)
@valenciaflyers
www.ValenciaFlyers.com

The Valencia Flyers are back from their holiday break to take on the Phoenix Knights this weekend at home.

The Flyers began the series on Thursday night with a 5-0 shutout win. Jacob Kranabetter netted a pair of goals while dishing out two assists, and Spencer Kozlowksi made 33 saves in his first shutout of the season.

Kranabetter needs just two more assists to tie the all-time WSHL mark set by Tomas Nemeth. He will likely do so against the Knights this weekend, making the series a must-watch for WSHL fans.

Having a playmaker like Kranabetter is similar to having an elite quarterback in NFL; he makes everyone around him better.

Forwards Nikita Pintusov (25-15-40) and Dawson Keay (20-24-44) are two of the main beneficiaries of Kranabetter's passing. The duo leads the Flyers in goals, and both players are on pace for career years in goals, assists, and points.

The series-opening win against the Knights was needed. Valencia had lost five of its last six games heading into the matchup, including two of three at the Western States Shootout.

For the first time in a while, the Flyers have fallen out of second place in the division. Valencia is one point behind second-place Ontario and seven points back of division-leading Long Beach.

--- Jared Tennant for Harrington Sports Media

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Written By: Jon McBride and Posted on: The Ogden Mustangs News

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