FRESNO MONSTERS (7-6-0-0, 21 pts) @WSHLMonsters
An eight-point lead might feel pretty safe, but the Fresno Monsters need to be on their toes when the Valencia Flyers come to Selland Arena for three games starting Thursday.
Not only does the WSHL’s new three-point system mean the gap could disappear more quickly (the Flyers could pass the Monsters with three regulation wins), Valencia also holds four games –
and a possible 12 points – in hand on Fresno.
That should make for a pretty spirited series between the second-place Monsters and the Flyers, who started their schedule later that the rest of the division, and seem to be still trying to find their footing.
Some might assume that a goalie brought in from the NAHL would take over as the #1 on a WSHL roster, but Max Karlenzig, who has been playing well all season, earned a second start in the series against Long Beach last weekend by backstopping the Monsters to a 4-2 win over the first-place Bombers with a 34-save performance on Friday.
Newcomer Tyler Mathews played the first game of the series, making 34 saves in a 5-2 loss on Thursday.
The Monsters continue their six-game home stand November 23-25 against the upstart San Diego Sabers.
VALENCIA FLYERS (4-4-0-1, 13 pts) @valenciaflyers
The Valencia Flyers started their season later than every other team and the division and are still trying to make up ground. No team in the league has played fewer games than the Flyers (9), who sit fourth in the Western Division standings despite having a better points percentage and goal differential than third-place San Diego.
Valencia goes on the road this weekend for three games against Fresno at Selland Arena beginning Thursday night. If they are going to start moving up the standings, the Flyers need to be able to come out of hostile territory like Selland with some points. They will stay on the road next week with a pair of games at Ontario.
Valencia has played five one-goal games already. They lost their first two, but have won two of their last three.
Longtime Flyer Dawson Keay has begun his NCAA Division III career at Finlandia University. Keay played parts of five seasons with the Flyers before being dealt to the Colorado Jr. Eagles at the trading deadline last season. He contributed to Colorado’s payoff run with six goals and 10 points in five post-season games.
Keay played in 184 regular season games for Valencia – three short of the franchise all-time record – producing 182 points (second all-time) on 81 goals (third) and 101 assists (second).
Keay skated in his first NCAA game November 2 at Milwaukee School of Engineering. He is one of eight (!) WSHL products on the Finlandia roster – all from the Jr. Eagles.