Weekend Preview 01.23.20

Las Vegas Thunderbirds vs. Fresno Monsters

Las Vegas will be eager to get themselves out of the five-game slump they are currently in. But they will need to get by the Fresno Monsters, at Gateway Ice Center, who have only lost two games at home.

Adding fuel to the fire, the Thunderbirds have been shutout in their previous two games. Having said that, Fresno is also looking to bounce back from two losses. Las Vegas is already fresh off a trip from Fresno when they played there two weeks ago.

In those games, Fresno successfully defended home ice with a pair of wins essentially starting the five-game slump for the T-Birds. They were able to put up six goals against the Monsters despite losing their top four scorers in a recent trade.  

It will be a different feeling as this time the game won’t be at the flashy Selland Arena.

Las Vegas Thunderbirds vs. Valencia Flyers 

Valencia hasn’t seen a victory since their 5-0 win over the Barrhead Bombers at Showcase. Currently in a six-game winless streak, the Flyers will host a less potent Las Vegas side that is struggling to stay afloat in the Western Division.

The Flyers are the only Western Division team that Las Vegas hasn’t lost to having won all four of their previous meetings. Valencia hasn’t been able to count on one of their top players in Tristan Warr, since the month of November when he went down due to injury.

Evgenii Semeniuk and Nikita Garin stepped up for the Flyers and expect them to have big impacts this weekend as the club searches for its first win against Las Vegas.

Fresno Monsters vs. San Diego Sabers 

(Photo by Aaron Provencio, Monsters)

The hottest team in the Western Division right now will make its first appearance at Selland Arena this season. San Diego and Fresno have equally split their season series with two wins each, but the Monsters claimed victory the last two times.

The Sabers are enjoying an eight game win streak. A mark they have been working on since the Showcase and their 8-0 victory over Southern Oregon. The SoCal side has managed 43 goals in the span of their win streak including four shutouts.

Fresno has been first in the division since mid November, but San Diego has crept up as of late and is now only six points from No. 1.  

Sabers will only play two games this weekend.

Dallas Snipers vs. Pueblo Bulls 

(Photo by Michelle Holcomb, Snipers)

Pueblo Bulls and the Dallas Snipers will play in their final weekend series of the season as the Texas side makes its first appearance at Pueblo Ice Arena. All six meetings leading up to this series have been played at the StarCenter in Plano.

It will be a very good series to keep an eye on as five of six games between them have required overtime or shootout. Of note, both teams lead the league in overtime/shootout appearances. Pueblo has seen extra minutes nine times while Dallas has gone the distance 11 times.

The Snipers managed the only one-sided decision in the series with a 4-1 victory in early Nov. Only 11 points from third place, Dallas can still ascend in the standings with a huge road effort in Colorado this weekend.

The Bulls are also looking at possible ascension being one point from second place.

Seattle Totems vs. Utah Outliers 

It will be another Northwest Division first as the Totems travel to West Valley City to face off against the Utah Outliers at the Accord Ice Center for three games. Seattle shocked the league when they defeated Ogden, will they be able to do it versus the other former Mountain Division team?

The Totems are 15 points behind Utah and will be competing for 18 points against them, as the two sides will play six times through the remainder of the season. The Outliers are well rested coming off a bye week.

Utah did face Seattle at the 2018 Showcase, last season, in which the West Valley Side delivered a 9-3 blow.

Oklahoma City Blazers vs. El Paso Rhinos 

(Photo by Candace Kutheis Riley, Blazers)

Oklahoma City will not likely catch up to the Rhinos in the standings but they can sure use some separation from the gaining Bulls. The Blazers face a difficult challenge if they want to remain in second place after this weekend, but of course, this is pending results from the Bulls/Snipers series.

The Blazers were the first team to defeat the Rhinos snapping a 12 game win streak back in Nov. The Rhinos ousted them in the following game before rallying back in the third game to take two of three.

Oklahoma City hasn’t the most pristine record at the County Events Center in El Paso. They dropped four of five at the end of 2018-2019—but stole a 2-1-overtime decision. The Rhinos continue to extend their league leading 13 game win streak and have only lost once at home this season.

Northern Colorado Eagles vs. Wichita Jr. Thunder

Although Wichita has lost their six prior games, they put up a very strong effort against the Pueblo Bulls last weekend. Meanwhile, the Northern Colorado Eagles are trying to get back on the win column with a four game skid of their own.

After winning two straight at the Showcase, the Eagles have been held to just a goal per game going into this matchup, and suffered a sweep to Ogden last week. 

Well, both clubs will have plenty of time against each other as they are looking at six straight games in the next two weekends.

Ogden Mustangs vs. Bellingham Blazers 

Another first time battle in the Northwest Division, the Bellingham Blazers will host Ogden Mustangs as both teams play each other for the first time in league history.  

The Blazers will be searching to gain a win at home after losing three straight to the Outliers last weekend.

Another reason why the Blazers will be skating to steal some points and a win is because of their poor home record. The Bellingham Sportsplex faithful has only seen one regulation win all year but was able to see nine road victories through Black Dog.

The Blazers are slowly falling out of reach for a potential third place finish since the Totems are peeling away with an 18 point advantage. 

Hinton Timberwolves vs. Meadow Lake Mustangs 

A rare Provincial Division three game series is in order between the Timberwolves and Mustangs, with the T-Wolves making the trek to Saskatchewan. It has been a very one-sided season series since Hinton only allowed two goals in three games, while at the same time scoring 24 in that amount of time.

Two of the three games prior to this weekend were at the District Rec. Center in Meadow Lake. The Mustangs are floating in between third and fifth having relinquished the three-spot to Cold Lake and Hinton is hoping to regain the No. 1 spot.

The Timberwolves boast a successful road mark going 11-3-1 so far while Meadow Lake’s home record sits just under .500.

Ontario Avalanche vs. Southern Oregon Spartans 

Ontario is entering its final cross-division matchup of the season in going to Medford to settle things with the Southern Oregon Spartans. The Avalanche took four of five games from the Spartans in 2018-2019.

The Spartans will see one more Western Division foe in the Monsters as the season progresses.  

Southern Oregon was able to force a 4-1 win last March though they are without Axel Low and Hayden Moistner who led in production that series. 

They are still searching to break five wins in the season while Ontario is working diligently to move up into third place in the west.

Barrhead Bombers vs. Edson Aeros 

The two provincial division sides will play in a home-and-home, three-game series, with the Aeros opening and closing at Repsol Place. Edson remains the only undefeated team at home with a 12-0-0 record.

Barrhead has dropped to the bottom of the Provincial Division standings after losing two of three last weekend, though they managed the 5-3 win over Cold Lake.

Edson has yet to lose a game to the Bombers, or the rest of the division not including Hinton. In four games, the Aeros put 36 goals past the Bombers and conceded 13.

Edson has a five point advantage for first place in the division and the Bombers will need serious goaltending to fend off the third highest scoring team in the league.