Western Division Finals Preview: Bombers vs Monsters
W2. FRESNO MONSTERS (.667) @ W1. LONG BEACH BOMBERS (.804)
Best-of-three series; all games at The Rinks – Lakewood (Long Beach)
GAME 1 - Thursday March 28 - 7:45 p.m. Thursday
GAME 2 - Friday, March 29 - 7:45 p.m. Friday
GAME 3 - Saturday, March 30 - 6:30 p.m. Saturday (if necessary)
This will be the sixth straight year that either the Long Beach Bombers or the Fresno Monsters will win the Western Division playoff championship. Should the Bombers prevail it will be their fourth in a row.
Both teams swept their semifinal series, with Long Beach ousting Ontario (6-1, 4-0) and Fresno beating San Diego (5-2, 6-1).
The Bombers and Monsters met in a pair of three-game series early in the regular season with Long Beach winning two of three games both times.
“It gives us confidence with winning three against them,” said Fresno head coach Kevin Kaminski. “We know we need to play a solid road game and keep things tight and capitalize on our chances.”
The rivals also met in a seventh game in mid-January, with Fresno winning in a shootout, but that is the last time they have seen each other in person. The Monsters have not changed their roster drastically since then, so Long Beach general manager and head coach Chris White feels the Bombers have a pretty good handle on what the Monsters will throw at them.
“Their personnel and makeup are very similar to when we last played them,” said White. “But, of course, we have been keeping an eye on their games with anticipation of this match-up.”
Tomas Urbanec led the Bombers with 41 goals during the season and has lit the lamp in the last six games, scoring 10 goals in that span. That includes shorthanded goals in each of the two games against Ontario in the division semis.
It won’t matter how many chances Fresno can generate if Domenic Bosetti plays the way he did in the Long Beach crease last week. Bosetti stopped 67 of 68 shots (.985 SV%) in the semifinal sweep of the Avalanche.
“It’s no secret we need traffic all night,” said Kaminski. “We need to make it miserable on Bosetti and get pucks to the net and compete for second chances with our second effort.”
Tyler Mathews emerged as Fresno’s #1 goalie in the second half and solidified that with a solid showing in both games against San Diego in the last round, stopping 48 of 51 shots (.941). You can expect to see him between the pipes for Game One Thursday night.
Three different Bombers produced more points than Fresno’s leading scorer Petr Philippov (33-42-75), but 10 Monsters hit double-digits in goals, so they have a balanced, deep attack.
“Philippov has had a very strong season, and he can make you pay if you get caught puck-watching,” said White. “Velazquez is an offensive threat, as well as Danaev. Beyond that, they have a solid, hard-working group that thrives on energy and momentum. When they get rolling, you never know who is going to step up.”
That can actually be a harder dynamic to defend against than a team that has one stacked top line.
“We have a pretty good idea of what our approach will be,” White said. “But we are going to need to match their intensity, and execute our game plan if we want to win the division.”
- SCOTT HARRINGTON