FRESNO MONSTERS (16-8-0-0, 48 pts)
A whirlwind stretch of five games – against five different teams – in six days will close out the first half of the regular season schedule for the Fresno Monsters.
The frantic stretch begins with a pair of games in California at Valencia and Ontario Saturday and Sunday. Monday is a travel day as the team heads to Las Vegas for the Western States Shootout. There, the Monsters face a challenging three-in-three slate that will see them take on two of the top three teams in the overall WSHL standings – the Ogden Mustangs and Oklahoma City Blazers – in addition to the Seattle Totems, who are second in the Northwest Division and have only lost one of their last eight games in regulation.
Fresno beefed up their lineup recently, acquiring junior hockey veteran Jeremy Velazquez from the Cheyenne Stampede. Velazquez, who played Junior A in Saskatchewan the last two seasons, was the leading scorer for the Stampede at the time of his departure.
Fresno head coach Kevin Kaminski says Velazquez gives the team a “legit” seasoned player to the top line.
“He does it all,” Kaminski said. “He is a great skater with grit, and has great vision to find the open player, but also can finish his chances.”
“He gives us great depth and leadership to our line up.”
Velazquez arrived as part of a three-way trade with Cheyenne and the El Paso Rhinos that saw 17-year-old forward Nikita Garin and 18-year-old defenseman Ar