The Phoenix Knights return to the ice this weekend after enjoying a short break over the Thanksgiving holiday. That break comes to an abrupt end this weekend as they welcome the undefeated El Paso Rhinos to AZ Ice Gilbert this weekend for a three-game series.
Phoenix comes into this weekend having won 8 of their last 9 games, and 8-1-2 record since dropping their first 13 games this season.
Up Next: El Paso Rhinos
El Paso is one of three remaining undefeated teams, with Idaho and Oklahoma City being the other two. The Rhinos, however, are 21-0-0, compared to Idaho’s 15-0-0 and OKC’s 18-0-0. After getting off to a strong start against Dallas, Ontario, San Diego and Superior, the Rhinos’ undefeated record saw its first true test with nine straight games against Springfield and Colorado beginning in mid-November. El Paso didn’t only sweep through those opponents, they did so while outscoring the Express and Jr. Eagles by a combined score of 50-16.
El Paso will be tasked with not overlooking the much-improved Knights this weekend. The Rhinos have a big matchup next weekend against Oklahoma City, and the 2017 Western States Shootout is just around the corner.
Showcase Schedule Announced
Earlier this week, the Western States Hockey League announced the schedule for the 2017 Western States Shootout. Phoenix will face Dallas, Seattle and Bellingham over the three-day showcase in Las Vegas later this month. For more information on the Western States Shootout and the Knights schedule, click here.
Players to Watch
1. Ozzy Mason (1G, 1A in 22GP) – Mason is showing more confidence on the ice, embracing the role of being a physical presence on the high-energy fourth-line for the Knights. This series is sure to be physical, and if he played like he showed in spurts against Fresno, Mason could be in the middle of a lot of the action.
2. Arunas Bermejo (4G, 10A in 21GP) – Bermejo had a slow start to the season, but much like the Knights as a team, he picked up his production once November hit. In eight games in November, Bermejo had 4 goals and 7 assists.
3. Eric Cotton (2G, 4A) – Ever since being moved to the blue-line earlier this season, Cotton has had a bigger impact throughout each game. Phoenix will need his ability to move the puck out of their own zone this weekend, and if he can chip in offensively like he did against Fresno two weeks ago (2G, 1A), it’d be an added bonus.
1. Chaseton Sare (20G, 28A in 20GP) – Coming off a 120-point (51G, 69A) season last year, Sare is El Paso leading scorer so far this season. He’s been held off the scoresheet just once this season, in El Paso’s 1-0 win over Springfield on November 11. In two games against Phoenix last season, the 19-year-old Canadian forward had four goals and three assists.
2. Justin-Cole Dubecky (7G, 25A in 21GP) – After Sare’s 48 points, Dubecky leads the rest of the incredibly balanced attack for the Rhinos. He’s tied with Carlo Witter and Austin Simpson with his 32 points, and is one of five Rhinos players with 20 or more points this season. This is the second season in El Paso for the 19-year-old Canadian defenseman. He had seven goals and 17 assists in 46 games last year.
3. Filip Krasanovsky (17-0-0, 1.41 GAA, 0.934 SV%) – The Rhinos dominance isn’t only in the offensive zone. The 19-year-old from Plzen, Czech Republic is enjoying the system in front of him this season, limiting the number of shots he’s seen in his 17 wins, and stopping the ones he does see.
Friday, December 1 at 7pm – vs. El Paso
Saturday, December 2 at 7pm – vs. El Paso
Sunday, December 3 at 1pm – vs. El Paso
Tuesday, December 19 at 7:30am (8:30am AZ time) at City National Arena (A) – vs. Dallas (Western States Shootout)
Wednesday, December 20 at 10:15am (11:15am AZ time) at SOBE Ice Arena - @ Seattle (Western States Shootout)
Thursday, December 21 at 5:45pm (6:45pm AZ time) at City National Arena (A) – vs. Bellingham (Western States Shootout)
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