Fresno Monsters @ San Diego Sabers
The San Diego Sabers won in front of their home fans on Friday night, but the visiting Fresno Monsters took the next to win the series.
San Diego 4, Fresno 2 - Goals from Ashton Jones and Isaiah Frankel 1:26 apart early in the third period gave the San Diego Sabers a 3-1 lead over the Fresno Monsters and they held on for a 4-2 win in Friday's series opener.
The win gave the Sabers a measure of revenge after the Monsters eliminated them from the 2018 Western Division playoffs.
After 35:40 of scoreless hockey, David Grindstaff bumped the puck up the wall and a streaking Chance McCardle skated into the pass, drove hard down the left wing, and fired a puck that trickled through Fresno goaltender Max Karlenzig to break the ice with 4:20 left in the second period.
It was the only shot out of 33 that Karlenzig faced through the first two periods to elude him. He finished the game with 44 saves.
Aleksei Vereshchagin, meanwhile, was spectacular in the San Diego net, stopping all 27 shots he saw through the first 40 minutes and making 34 saves on the night.
The Sabers gained momentum and confidence as the game wore on, out-shooting Fresno 15-9 in the third period and scoring three times.
Dustin Truex and Nikita Garin scored for the Monsters. Garin's tally made it a one-goal game with 5:20 remaining, but Fresno could not get the equalizer past Vereshchagin and Jakub Vesely sealed it with a goal in the final minute.
Fresno 7, San Diego 3 - Saturday's game was tied, 3-3, going into the third period, but the Monsters broke out with four unanswered goals for a 7-3 win. Logan Domagala scored two goals, including the game-winner, and Garin added a pair of his own.
Karel Kankovsky scored twice for San Diego. He and Vesley scored in the final 2:48 of the second period to bring the Sabers back from a 3-1 deficit and tie the game at the second intermission.
Marshall McKallip made 31 saves for the Sabers, but was bested by Karlenzig who had another big game for the Monsters, stopping all 15 shots he faced in the third period and ending the game with 36 saves.
Truex assisted on the first three Fresno goals of the third period.
Fresno 4, San Diego 1 - Domagala scored the first and last goals of the game and Karlenzig stopped 28 of 29 as the Monsters won Sunday's rubber match, 4-1.
San Diego out-shot Fresno, 10-7, in a scoreless first period. Domagala finally opened the scoring 8:05 into the second period. Cole Beckman made it 2-0 Monsters later in the period.
Vesely put San Diego on the board in the first minute of the third period, cutting the Fresno lead to a single goal, but Karlenzig's play in net prevented the Sabers from mounting any more of a comeback.
Vereshchagin played another strong game between the pipes for the Sabers, making 32 saves.