Bombers Set To Host Western Division Semi-Finals
The #1-seed Long Beach Bombers will host the #5-seed Phoenix Knights, in one of the WSHL's Western Division Semi-Final matchups. The Knights defeated the #4-seed Valencia Flyers (recap below), on the road, last weekend. The Bombers, along with the #2-seed Ontario Avalanche, earned a Round 1 bye. It is the second-straight season that the Bombers won the Western Division's regular season title; and they are seeking their third-straight Western Division Championship. The four Division Champions, the host El Paso Rhinos, and a Wild Card (Division Runner-Up with the most regular season points) will all go to El Paso, Texas, on April 11-15, for the Thorne Cup Finals.
The Bombers will need to keep an eye on Phoenix's top scorer, #88 Anthony Masonotti. In Valencia, the sniper finished with 3G-2A; having a hand in more than half of the Knights' goals. Both evenings, Masonotti scored the Game-Winning Goal, including an overtime tally in Game 1. For the home side, keep an eye on #24 Tomas Urbanec, who finished the regular season as the team's leading goal scorer (42), and point-getter (91). He comes into the Thorne Cup Playoffs, red-hot, riding a 9-game point streak (8G-13A). The Czech sniper has been racking-up records, as he surpassed Johnny Linehan for the most career goals in franchise history, and then became just the third player to eclipse the 200-point mark, for his career (Linehan & Tomas Nemeth). On the back-end, the Bombers will lean on The Captain, #97 Amir Burguev. The four-year veteran is on a 6-game point streak (3G-8A), and will be playing in his 17th Thorne Cup Playoffs game, on Thursday. He is just one assist away from tying the franchise career record (Linehan - 154), and 4 points away from becoming the first defenseman to record 200 points. In the crease, the Bombers feature a two-headed monster, in the form of newly-acquired #30 Spencer Kozlowski, and Long Beach mainstay, #37 Domenic Bosetti.
A $15 LONG BEACH BOMBERS PLAYOFF T-SHIRT WILL GET YOU FREE ENTRY FOR ALL THORNE CUP PLAYOFF GAMES, IN LAKEWOOD! SHIRTS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE TICKET COUNTER.
WESTERN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL RECAP
#5 Phoenix Knights (23-26-2) at
#4 Valencia Flyers (25-22-4)
GAME 1 Thursday, March 15 Phoenix 5, Valencia 4 (OT)
GAME 2 Friday, March 25 Phoenix 4, Valencia 3
Phoenix wins series, 2 games to 0; advances to play Long Beach
The Phoenix Knights may have registered a two-game sweep of the Valencia Flyers, making them the only lower seed to advance to the next round, but there was some great playoff hockey in the series as both games were decided by one goal – Game One in overtime.
The Flyers had leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3, in Thursday's series opener, but were unable to close the game out on their home ice. Knights sniper Anthony Masanotti tied the game up with 4:25 left in regulation, then won it 2:50 into sudden-death.
With the Knights down a goal with under five minutes left in regulation time, Valencia cleared the zone to center ice where Zachary Kowalchuk picked it up along the right-wing boards, backpedaled to his own blue line, then fired a pass diagonally across the neutral zone to Masanotti at the far blue line on the left wing. Masanotti skated in and blasted a slap shot over Everett's glove to tie the game.
Playing five-on-five in overtime for the payoffs, Phoenix forward Michael Caravella corralled a loose puck behind the Valencia net and fed it out to Joseph Platt who immediately sent it over to Masanotti to the left of Flyers goalie Zachary Everett (29 saves). The Knight's 40-goal scorer wasted no time whipping the puck into the net before Everett could get across the crease, giving the Knights a big road win just under three minutes into OT in their playoff opener.
Valencia's Nicholas Hames scored three times in the game – each time giving the Flyers a one-goal lead. Hames only scored one goal in 15 regular season games for Valencia after coming over from El Paso at the beginning of February.
Owen Petten made 30 saves for Phoenix.
It was Masanotti providing the winning goal again on Friday, breaking a 3-3 tie with 7:13 left in regulation. With the Flyers looking for the go-ahead goal on the power play, Phoenix penalty killer Andruis Bermejo dug the puck out of a scrum on the left wing boards and poked it out of the Knights zone. Masanotti took off on a breakaway, gave a shoulder fake, then made a nice move to his forehand to tuck the puck past the right pad of Valencia goaltender Mack Willy for the shorthanded game-winner.
Petten (25 saves) held the fort the rest of the way and the Knights became the first team in the league to wrap up their quarterfinal series.
The Flyers took a 3-2 lead into the third period, but Joseph Platt scored his second goal of the game at the 1:55 mark to tie things up and set the stage for Masanotti's heroics.
Willy made 30 saves for Valencia.