Bombers Earn Bye As The Western Division's Top Seed
The Long Beach Bombers earned their second-straight WSHL Western Division Regular Season title, finishing with a 36-11-4 record (76 points). Their home record of 22-2-2 was 4th-best in the league, and two of those losses were at the WSHL's Las Vegas Showcase. The come into the Thorne Cup's Western Division Championship with 7 consecutive wins, and maintained the division's most stout defense, with 158 Goals Allowed, while finishing 2nd in Goals For (263). Looking ahead, the WSHL's Wild Card spot may be difficult for the Bombers to obtain, as the Mountain Division has two teams (Utah & Ogden) with more regular season points. The Thorne Cup Wild Card team will be the Division Runner-Up with the most regular season points. Therefore, The Squad will be focused on taking care of business, at The RINKS - Lakewood ICE.
The regular season ended with what could have been a Round 2 preview, against the Valencia Flyers. Valencia will host the 5th seed Phoenix Knights, this coming weekend. The Flyers and Bombers have met in each of the past two Western Division Championship series, with the Bombers winning both, once on the road and once at home. The series was highlighted by former NHL icon, and Los Angeles Kings alum, Marty McSorley, dropping the ceremonial puck. Bombers captain, and veteran defenseman, Amir Burguev, celebrated his 201st career WSHL game. The four-year vet became just the 2nd Bomber, all-time, to play in over 200 WSHL games. He is closing in on the franchise record for career assists (154 - Johnny Linehan), and inching closer to becoming the 4th Long Beach player to record 200 career points (Linehan, Tomas Nemeth, & Tomas Urbanec).
Veteran Czech forward, Tomas Urbanec, has used a 9-game point streak to widen the gap as the team's leading scorer, with a stat line of 51GP-42G-49A-91Pts. He is one of just 3 players to suit up for every regular season game (Anton Ahlin & Burguev). His current hot streak included 8G-13A-21Pts in the past 9 games. In fact, he has been held off the scoresheet just twice, in the 2018 calendar year (17G-26A). Miroslav Rohlik finished 2nd in scoring, with 50GP-39G-43A-82Pts, while 17 year-old rookie, Artem Korolev, put up an eye-popping line of 47GP-23G-48A-71Pts. The defensive trio of Burguev, Ahlin, and Erik Lundgren combined for 33G-123A-156Pts, from the back-end. The late-season additions of Ryan Gil (12GP-12Pts), Melwin Thorsson (9GP-9Pts), Lukas Moravsky (10GP-8Pts), and Joel Larsson (7GP-5Pts) have all paid-off. In addition, the Bombers will welcome back veteran forward, Erik Fagerlin (28GP-30Pts), for the Thorne Cup Playoff run.
The special teams play of Morgan Soderstrom has been key for Long Beach, as has the steady defensive play of rearguards Pavel Omelka, and newly-acquired Matthew Reyes. However, it may be in the crease where the team has its best weapons. Newcomer Spencer Kozlowski has come in to give the Bombers a legitimate two-headed monster, in net, along with veteran Domenic Bosetti. The local product, Bosetti, has had a fantastic WSHL career, and been the backbone of the Long Beach defense. Now, Kozlowski has joined forces, and been the hottest goalie in the league (8--3 record, 1.50GAA, .949SV%). In his last 6 games, his stat line is even more impressive: 6-0 record, 0.53GAA, .983SV%). The tandem has combined for 44 Wins, this season.
On the horizon, could be the Western Division's most vaunted offense - the Fresno Monsters. With nearly 300 regular season goals (298), one cannot help but keep an eye on Fresno as a potential Western Division Championship contender. The duo of #62 Daylon Mannon (150 Points) and #26 Cody Key (139 Points) spearhead the WSHL's most potent line. Mannon's 75 Goals led the league by 6, while Key paced the assist-race, with 86. Another contender could be the division's only other team to earn a first round bye, the Ontario Avalanche. Ontario earned the second spot by a hair, finishing just 2 points ahead of the Monsters. Fresno will host the San Diego Sabers, in Round 1.
The Thorne Cup Playoffs will begin this Thursday, March 15. Long Beach will be watching, as they have 8 practices before their Thursday, March 22 Round 2 opener (7:45pm). Each round of the Divisional Championships is a Best-of-Three series, hosted by the higher seed. Then, the four Division Champions, the host El Paso Rhinos, and Wild Card team, will go to El Paso, Texas, for the Thorne Cup Finals. The Finals will be a round robin series of three games, followed by single-elimination Semis and League Championship Game.