Weekend Preview 11.21.19

 Valencia Flyers vs. Fresno Monsters 

The Valencia Flyers will host the Fresno Monsters for two games tonight and tomorrow night at the Ice Station. The Monsters have defeated the Flyers on two occasions this season when they took 5-0 and 6-1 victories in Valencia in late October.

Valencia is coming off their best weekend of the season after winning two of their last three games at home. Valencia closes out a five game home stretch with the two games against Fresno.

The Monsters enjoyed their first two home games last weekend en route to a pair of convincing wins over the West Sound Admirals. 

Fresno has endured the most road games to start the season, of any team, with 13.  Being the well tested team on the road, Fresno will look for the same fortune in Valencia in order to keep bidding for first place.  

 San Diego Sabers vs. Fresno Monsters/Valencia Flyers/Ontario Avalanche 

 The San Diego Sabers will host three different Western Division opponents at the Escondido Iceoplex this weekend. San Diego has three wins, three losses, and one overtime setback at home.

San Diego has two wins and one loss at home when playing against the Ontario Avalanche. The Sabers have won the previous two games between the clubs. Having said that, the Avalanche owns the season series 4-3.

The Sabers will then play against the Monsters on Saturday. Fresno traveled to San Diego two weeks ago and battled to a single win in order to avoid being swept. San Diego started with Fresno and won in their second overtime game of the season, then followed with another win the following night. In total, San Diego scored 13 goals in three games.

The third opponent to visit the Sabers will be Valencia, who has the least amount of action at the Iceoplex of any team in the Western Division. The Flyers opened their season in San Diego and defeated the Sabers in overtime after a very exciting match on Oct. 6. Overall, the Sabers and Flyers have split the season series thus far, with both sides taking a win.

San Diego is one point behind third placed Ontario, and are seven points from second place Fresno.

ONTARIO AVALANCHE VS. LAS VEGAS THUNDERBIRDS 

The Las Vegas Thunderbirds will host the Ontario Avalanche for the first time this season. The two clubs played earlier in the season at Anaheim Ice, home of the Avalanche, and the Thunderbirds skated to an easy 7-0 win. The Thunderbirds were hot at the time, but as pointed out last week, have tapered down since losing against Ogden, and more recently against San Diego.

The Avalanche had their recent encounter with Ogden as the Mustangs strolled into SoCal and won three straight. Las Vegas will need to be cautious if underestimating Ontario because the Avalanche nearly beat out top seeded Ogden in a surprise effort. 

Ontario is equipped with newly touted net minder, Romi Huunonen, who back stopped the Av’s and held the Mustangs to one of their lowest scoring games. Las Vegas starting netminder, Rhett Bruckner, was out on injury but should receive the starting nod in his second game back.    

Southern Oregon Spartans vs. Utah Outliers 

After facing top seeded Ogden Mustangs last week, the Spartans will visit Northwest Division runner-up, Utah Outliers at the Accord Ice Arena. This will be the first time both clubs play against each other in 2019-2020.

The Outliers have won their last nine games heading into this meeting against Southern Oregon. They are continuing a home stand that started on Nov. 8 and will conclude with a single game against Ogden, next week.

Conversely, the Spartans have dropped their previous eight games and hit a standstill since beating the Admirals on Halloween.

Utah is the second highest scoring team in the league with 134 goals in favor compared to the Spartans who have only 32 goals. 

The Spartans are among four teams who have over a hundred goals against.   

Bellingham Blazers vs. West Sound Admirals 

The West Sound Admirals will hope for their first point of the season against Northwest Division rival Bellingham Blazers. The Admirals did not take advantage of a recent nine game home stand and are approaching a road-heavy second half of the season, after three games at Bremerton Ice Center this weekend.

Bellingham started the 2019-2020 season with two wins over West Sound at the Bremerton Ice Center, skating off with 5-2 and 10-2 wins in early October. The Admirals have rarely surpassed the two-goal threshold but usually come close to a win when they do surpass it. Their highest scoring game includes a 5-4 loss to the Spartans.

They will need to find a way to tap into the goal-scoring department to fend off a Bellingham team who seeks to avenge three straight losses. The Blazers endured two losses to the Hinton Timberwolves and one to the Edson Aeros.

The Blazers will have two games against the Totems—starting next week in Seattle—before they start on a 10-game home stretch.

Hinton Timberwolves vs. Cold Lake Hornets 

 It’s very difficult to assert if the Hornets have turned their season around, but they are certainly coming off their best weekend. The Hornets won the last two-of-three games against the Meadow Lake Mustangs, in the club’s first three game set.

Cold Lake has moved to fourth place in the Provincial Division with recent wins, however, they have yet to face their upcoming opponent, Hinton Timberwolves. In fact, the Timberwolves are undefeated against the rest of the division except for the Edson Aeros.

The Timberwolves are returning from three games in Washington State as they took on the Northwest Division’s, Seattle Totems and Bellingham Blazers. Hinton swept their competition and continue to keep their first place locked-in.

Dallas Snipers vs. Oklahoma City Blazers 

The Dallas Snipers and Oklahoma City Blazers will have a longer look at each other this time around with both teams splitting two games earlier in the month.

The Blazers defeated the Snipers 3-1 at the StarCenter in Plano, and then dropped the second game of the series, 5-2, at the Allen Event Center.

Of note, Karsten Portell scored two goals in one game, and Bradley Richardson had a goal in both games.

The Snipers have lost two of the last three going into this series but came out with a win against the El Paso Rhinos last week. Shifting to the Arctic Edge Ice Arena, Dallas is facing a long trip and a high scoring Blazers side.

The Blazers are still cooling down from their 36-goal weekend. Oklahoma City is the highest scoring team in the Midwest-Mountain Division with 102 goals compared to the Sniper’s that have 48.

Wichita Jr. Thunder vs. Steamboat Wranglers 

 The Steamboat Wranglers are hosting the Wichita Jr. Thunder for three games at the Howelsen Ice Complex. Both clubs have been struggling this season in the stacked Midwest Mountain Division.

The Wranglers are one of two teams in the league without any points while the Jr. Thunder have two points to show for an overtime effort against the Eagles.

Although the Wranglers haven’t had fortune on their side, they have shown glimpses of puck moving brilliance in the goals they score toward the first half of games. Steamboat has undergone a rather home-heavy schedule to begin the first half of the season, and concludes with the three games against Wichita.

Wichita is scarce with points but are also in a three-way tie for fewest games played (12). As previously mentioned, their only win came on the front-end of a three-game set versus Northern Colorado, but then lost the next five and haven’t played in roughly a month.

The Wranglers won’t play at home again until Feb. 21, and will face Wichita. 

Barrhead Bombers vs. Edson Aeros 

The Barrhead Bombers have the difficult task of battle against the Edson Aeros at Repsol Place. The Aeros are perfect at home with an undefeated record of six wins.

The Bombers haven’t much momentum to carry into the task with six straight losses going in. The Bombers are currently experiencing the worst start to the season in recent team memory. They put forth strong efforts being the third highest scoring team in the division, but have failed to close out many games.

The Edson Aeros and Barrhead Bombers have only played once this season and the Aeros earned the 6-4 win at the Barrhead Agrena.

Edson is gaining in on first place, and hope to return to the provincial summit, eventually, as they are three regulation wins away from first placed Hinton.Barrhead has dropped to last place in the division after not seeing action last week. 

El Paso Rhinos vs. Northern Colorado Eagles 

The top two teams in the Midwest-Mountain will meet for the first time this season. The Rhinos will be the start of an Eagle’s seven game home stand.

The Rhinos won eight of nine games against the Eagles in 2018-2019. Northern Colorado won the first game of the season series, 6-3 at home, but then dropped the next eight against El Paso.

The Eagles are in the midst of a five game win-streak and look to keep the streak alive after resting for a weekend. El Paso is at two consecutive wins since losing to the Snipers last weekend.

Northern Colorado is another strong home team with six wins and two losses, although, that may not phase the Rhinos whose 15-2-1-0 record includes 10 road wins. The series will be a battle of the goalies, more than likely, as Sawyer Schmidt (9-0-0) of the Rhinos, and Marshall Murphy (9-2-1) of the Eagles, are two goalies with the best league-wide records.