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
DALLAS SNIPERS (5-6-1-0, 17 pts.)
The Dallas Snipers fell below .500 last weekend as they were swept by Northern Colorado in a three-game series at home.
Other than the first game, a 7-1 loss, the Snipers competed with the Eagles. Dallas probably deserved at least an overtime point in the second contest, a 3-2 defeat, but a Northern Colorado goal with less than a second left on the clock sent the stunned Snipers to the locker room without anything to show for their effort.
In the third and final game, Dallas allowed six unanswered goals and was unable to recover, losing by an 8-5 final.
The Snipers are now in fourth place in the Mid-Western Division, ahead of only winless Wichita. They’ve won both of their road games but own a 3-6-0-0 mark on home ice.
“I think we still have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do,” said Snipers Head Coach Aaron Davis. “Our consistency is not where it needs to be.
“I think we just need to figure out how to play a 60-minute game without having lapses in our game. If we can tighten that up, we will be in much better shape.”
While certain players tend to be the focal point on different days, Davis think that forward Danil Trenikhin (7-10-17) has separated himself from the crowd.
“Trenikhin has been a bright spot for us,” Davis said. “He was here last year, so he came in this year knowing what to expect.”
Dallas needs to put together a string of wins to get back into the Mid-Western Division race, and it will look to maintain its perfect road record this weekend in Wichita.
EL PASO RHINOS (8-2-0-2, 26 pts.)
A couple of weeks ago, the El Paso Rhinos failed to win at least one game in a series for the first time this season as they were swept by the Long Beach Bombers.
Good teams can move past losses quickly, and it appears that’s what El Paso did over the weekend as they beat a tough Utah Outliers squad in two of three games. Overall, the Rhinos claimed seven of nine possible points in the series.
Rhinos veteran forward Chaseton Sare was recently called up to the Central Illinois Flying Aces of the USHL (Tier I). Sare, 20, participated in the Flying Aces mini-camp over the summer before opening the season with the Rhinos.
The Regina, Saskatchewan product has collected 216 points (108-108-216) during his 96-game WSHL career, not including his 23-points (8-15-23) during the Rhinos’ run to the Thorne Cup championship last spring.
Sare ranks inside the top-20 in the league’s all-time scoring list and has been one of if not the best players in El Paso franchise history.
Losing Sare will hurt the Rhinos’ depth, but they still have one of the most talented squads in the WSHL. Not including Sare, seven players on El Paso’s roster have registered double-digit points, led by Donald Alchin (2-14-16) and Jonas Burman (5-11-16).
The Rhinos are set to take on Northern Colorado six times over the next two weeks. The two clubs will play a three-game series in Colorado this weekend before finishing things out at County Events Center in El Paso next week.
NORTHERN COLORADO EAGLES (7-6-0-0, 21 pts.)
The Northern Colorado Eagles leap-frogged Dallas in the Mid-Western Division standings with a three-game sweep of the Snipers last weekend.
Already with 10 goals, forward Nikita Sheberov (10-9-19) is playing like the established veteran he is. Sheberov is closely followed by Jacob Elik, a third-year player who served as captain of the Casper Coyotes last season.
Elik has 81 points (23-58-81) over 98 games in the WSHL. He should play in his 100th game in the league this weekend as the Eagles travel to El Paso for a pivotal three-game series against the Rhinos.
The next two weeks will reveal a great deal about whether or not Northern Colorado is a contender in the Mid-Western Division. With six games in a row against El Paso, the Eagles will either continue their recent hot stretch or fall back into the bottom half of the division.
Goaltending will be key against the high-powered Rhinos offense. Marshall Murphy (2.69/.900) has flashed signs of being a shutdown netminder at times.
Murphy and backup netminder Mitchell Robinson (4.30/.823) will need to bring their best against an El Paso team that is averaging over five goals per contest.
OKLAHOMA CITY BLAZERS (11-1-0-0, 33 pts.)
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll find out just how good the Oklahoma City Blazers are. After this weekend’s series at home against undefeated Ogden, OKC will take on El Paso in a three-game set for the first time this season.
This weekend’s series against Ogden should be a treat for WSHL fans and has to be considered one of the most anticipated matchups of the first half of the season.
“We believe every weekend is an important one, especially when you play in our division,” said Blazers Head Coach Gary Gill. “At this point in our season, we aren’t putting any additional pressure on our players. I learned a long time ago that championships aren’t wont in October and November.
“But [Ogden and El Paso] are great teams, and without a doubt the road to the Thorne Cup goes through both. With that being said, we want to do well and are looking forward to both series of games.”
The Mustangs are still undefeated, boasting a perfect 18-0-0-0 record on the season. They have a ridiculous plus-88 goal differential, but they have had close calls against Utah and Northern Colorado.
It seems that the Blazers have a slight advantage playing against both Ogden and El Paso at home, but Gill isn’t fully convinced.
“It’s always great playing at home and not having to travel,” he said. “As far as an advantage, maybe a little. But when you’re facing two programs like Ogden and El Paso, you better come with your boots tied and your hard hats on. It doesn’t matter where you play once the puck drops.”
WICHITA JR. THUNDER (0-8-0-1, 1 pt.)
Despite their record, the Wichita Jr. Thunder continue to battle hard under head coach Rob Weingartner.
Wichita nearly pulled off a win on October 21, but it ultimately lost 7-6 in overtime against the Steamboat Wranglers.
The following weekend, the Jr. Thunder gave El Paso all it could handle in a 3-1 loss to the Rhinos. The final score may not have been in their favor, but the game marked progress for a young team.
The Jr. Thunder’s first nine games were played on the road. They will look to continue to show improvement in the coming weeks as they play their next 12 contests at home.
Dallas, Steamboat, the Casper Bobcats, and Oklahoma City will all visit Wichita Ice Center over the next month. It’s a prime opportunity for Wichita to get into the win column for the first time this season.
---Jared Tennant for Harrington Sports Media
Written By: Jon McBride and Posted on: The Ogden Mustangs News