With the Fresno Monsters and Long Beach Bombers both posting three regulation wins last week, the Monsters remain two points back in the race for the Western Division title.
Tyler Matthews snapped a personal three-game losing streak by starting and winning two of the games as Fresno swept the Ontario Avalanche at Selland Arena, stopping 65 of 70 shots over the two games.
Unfortunately for Fresno, Long Beach holds six games in hand, and Thursday’s tilt between the two teams at Selland is their final head-to-head meeting this season. That will make it very tough for the Monsters to catch up, provided there is not a major stumble by the Bombers (don’t hold your breath). The game will be the seventh of a nine-game homestand for the Monsters.
Still, if they end up as the #2 seed for the divisional playoffs, the Monsters will get to host at least one playoff series. They have defeated Long Beach twice in six games this season and another win on Thursday would go a long way to giving them the confidence they will need to upend the two-time defending division champs in a playoff series should that come to pass.
The Bombers knocked the Monsters out of last year’s playoffs with a two-game sweep in the Western Division Final (4-0 and 8-2). It was the first time in three seasons that Fresno had advanced to the final round of the divisional playoffs.
Also, if Fresno can finish in the top two in the division, it will mark the first time in four years that they have finished that high after a stretch of four straight regular season division titles ended in 2015.
LONG BEACH BOMBERS (21-4-3-1, 70 pts)
A win over Valencia Thursday, followed by a pair of victories over the San Diego Sabers Friday and Saturday, kept the Long Beach Bombers atop the Western Division standings.
It also extended the Long Beach streak to 10 games without a regulation loss (9-0-1-0). That includes three impressive wins at the Western States Shootout against elite competition.