FRESNO MONSTERS (5-4-0, 15 pts)
The Fresno Monsters have opened their season with a trio of three-game series and none of them have been a sweep. The Monsters have taken two of three from Ontario and San Diego. Those series are sandwiched around a home series against Long Beach that saw the Bombers come into Selland Arena and take two of three.
So the Monsters have not been dominant, nor have they been dominated.
“There is a lot of parity in our division,” said Fresno head coach Kevin Kaminski after his team’s trip to San Diego to play the Sabers. “Chris Slater has done a great job recruiting in San Diego. You have to be consistent and on your ‘A’ game every night to get the win in this division.”
Fresno plays a single game this week, visiting the Flyers in Valencia on Friday evening for the first meeting of the year between the two clubs. That could give Max Karlenzig an opportunity to get some rest over the weekend. The Chicago native has been a workhorse between the pipes for the Monsters, appearing in all nine games and playing 511 minutes – second in the entire WSHL.
Backup Gabriel Cognac, 17, has only played 23 minutes this season, but it sounds as if more goaltending help is on the way.
“We have a guy who’s coming in from the NAHL,” Kaminski said. “So I’m not sure who will start on Friday. As for Gabe, he is young and has made huge strides. He needs to stay focused and keep working on his game and be ready for his opportunity.”
Kaminski says he plans on carrying three goaltenders this season.
VALENCIA FLYERS (2-2-1, 7 pts)
The Valencia Flyers make a whirlwind tour of the Western Division this weekend, playing three different teams in three nights, in two cities.
Ontario and Fresno will visit Ice Station Valencia on Thursday and Friday, then the Flyers will head to Escondido to play the San Diego Sabers on Saturday.
A fantastic start for the Valencia penalty kill, currently operating at 92%, has offset the struggles of the Valencia power play, which is converting on just 12.5% of their opportunities.
The PK rate places the Flyers second in the entire 23-team WSHL behind only Oklahoma City (93.9%). The power play, meanwhile, is fourth from the bottom of the pack.
Nikita Pintusov, who scored 32 goals in 32 games for the Flyers last season before being traded to El Paso and helping the Rhinos win the Thorne Cup, scored two goals in his first collegiate game.
Pintusov, who scored 98 goals in 106 career WSHL games (including playoffs), joined the NCAA Division III program at New England College this fall.