The holiday break is over, and the Phoenix Knights are returning to the ice this weekend for a three-game series in San Diego against the Sabers. Phoenix has won all six games against the Sabers this season, including a three-game sweep of San Diego on the road in November. In that series, the Knights had to come back from 3-1 and 4-0 deficits to pick up the wins.
Up Next: San Diego Sabers
The Sabers currently sit in last place in the Western Division, as they ended the first half of the season with a 3-22-2 record. Their week at the Western States Shootout had some mixed results, but they hope their 2-1-0 record at the showcase can help push them for a better second half of the season.
If they’re to have second half success, look for it to come from their power play. The Sabers hold the 9th best power play unit in the league, converting 21.7% of their opportunities. That’s also the third best power play in the division, only trailing Valencia and Long Beach.
First Half Recap
The first half of the season was a fascinating one for the Knights. Phoenix began the season 0-13-2, and went into November still without a victory. They were coming off a competitive weekend on the road against the Superior RoughRiders, where they dropped two games in overtime, but couldn’t find a way to come out on top.
Returning home to start a stretch of six straight against San Diego, the Knights were about to go on a run. They won all six against the Sabers, and took two of three against the visiting Fresno Monsters to finish November 8-1-0. A rough series against El Paso resulted in three defeats, but the team prepared for the showcase, where they won all three. After starting 0-13-2, the team has now gone 11-4-0, and look ready for the playoff push that’s about to begin in the Western Division.
The power play has been area the Knights have struggled with this season. After the first half of the season, Phoenix is 19th out of 23 teams with their 15% power play. However, things are looking up, as they’ve scored a power play goal in each of their last four games. Penalty killing has been a different story this year. They’re at 80.3%, which is good for 10th.
Players to Watch
1. Anthony Masanotti (24G, 8A in 30GP) – If the Knights are going to make any noise in the second half, they’ll need continued production from their leading scorer. He’s coming off a showcase with four goals and an assist to help the Knights sweep their three opponents, and has seven points in his last four games. Masanotti has also enjoyed playing the Sabers this season, scoring seven goals to go with his three assists in those six games, including an overtime winner.
2. Timothy Hefner (13G, 11A in 19GP) – Hefner came over from the El Paso Rhinos in late November and has been a constant contributor ever since. In his six games for the Knights, Hefner has three goals and three assists. He finished his week at the showcase with a pair of one goal, one assist games against Seattle and Bellingham.
3. Rhett Bruckner (10-7-2, 4.44 GAA, 0.880 SV%) – On the last episode of the Phoenix Knights Podcast, we had a hard time picking a first-half MVP. Bruckner, however, was one of the definitive candidates. Just like the production Phoenix needs from Masanotti to add their name into the playoff push, the Knights will need Bruckner to continue his level of play between the pipes.
1. Karel Kankovsky (8G, 19A in 27GP) – Kankovsky leads the Sabers in scoring from the blue line, and is coming off a huge week at the Western States Shootout. In San Diego’s three games, Kankovsky had three goals and five assists to help the Sabers go 2-1-0. Phoenix has held him to just a goal and two assists in their six meetings this season, but he’s since gone on a 10-game point streak.
2. Michal Kolarik (15G, 10A in 27GP) – Kolarik had success against the Knights earlier this season, with five goals and three assists in six games. He too had a point streak going, but was held scoreless for the first time in 13 games during the Sabers loss to Southern Oregon to end the showcase.
3. Cole Parker (4G, 7A in 25GP) – When Parker can use his speed, he becomes very difficult for the opposition to handle. The 17-year-old forward had a pair of two-point games against the Knights earlier this season, and will want to get 2018 off to a strong start this weekend.
Friday, January 5 at 7:45pm (8:45pm AZ time) - @ San Diego
Saturday, January 6 at 8:15pm (9:15pm AZ time) - @ San Diego
Sunday, January 7 at 12pm (1pm AZ time) - @ San Diego
Thursday, January 11 at 7:15pm (8:15pm AZ time) - @ Valencia
Friday, January 12 at 7:15pm (8:15pm AZ time) - @ Valencia
Saturday, January 13 at 7:15pm (8:15pm AZ time) - @ Valencia
Friday, January 19 at 7pm – vs. Ontario
Saturday, January 20 at 7pm – vs. Ontario
Sunday, January 21 at 1pm – vs. Ontario