After a week off, the Knights are back in action. They’ll head to Fresno this weekend to face the Monsters, who sit just above the Knights in the Western Division standings. Phoenix is 2-4-0 against the Monsters this season. They were swept in their first trip to Fresno in October, before taking two of three against the Monsters at AZ Ice Gilbert in November. This is the final regular season matchup against Fresno, but the two could definitely meet again in the Thorne Cup Playoffs.
Up Next: Fresno Monsters
Fresno has played very well since coming back from the showcase. In nine games against the top three teams in the division, the Monsters have compiled a 6-2-1 record, including three straight wins coming into this weekend.
An up-and-down first half of the season has the Monsters sitting in fourth in the Western Division, eight points above the Knights. Rather than just fighting off the Knights, Fresno has also started to set their sights on moving up the standings, as they’re four points behind Valencia for the #3 seed.
Fresno has two of the best scorers in the entire WSHL with Daylon Mannon and Cody Key leading the team in points. With so much of their offense (193 points combined) coming from their top two scorers, it’s easy to understand that as they go, so do the Monsters. In Fresno’s three losses in 2018, Key has a total of two goals and Mannon has two assists. However, it’s a completely different story in Fresno’s six wins of the second half. Key has 15 goals and 9 assists to go along with Mannon’s ten goals and ten assists in those six games.
Phoenix could have some success this weekend if they can figure out a way to slow down the dynamic duo in Fresno.
Players to Watch
1. Eric Cotton (4G, 14A in 39GP) – Cotton is coming off his best offensive performance of the season in Phoenix’s last game against Ontario. Not only did he score from the neutral zone, he also was the overtime hero for the Knights. His other two goals of the season came against Fresno during the last series between these two teams at AZ Ice Gilbert.
2. Arunas Bermejo (12G, 23A in 36GP) – Bermejo is just coming off a stretch where he had 11 points (5G, 6A) over four games. His offensive production has skyrocketed since the start of the showcase. In 12 games, he has 8 goals and 12 assists. Combine that with his performance against Fresno this season (3G, 4A) and it looks like Bermejo could be poised for a big weekend for the Knights.
3. Anthony Masanotti (31G, 14A in 39GP) – Phoenix will look to their leading scorer to help keep pace with the high-powered Fresno offense. This could also be a big weekend for Masanotti himself. He sits just two goals away from tying Max Mahood (2013-14) and Dominik Synek (2015-16) for the Knights single-season record for goals. Masanotti has six goals and an assist against the Monster this season, including a hat-trick in Fresno in October. He also has scored a goal in five straight games, the longest stretch of his this season, so history could be seen this weekend.
1. Daylon Mannon (48G, 51A in 36GP) – As mentioned before, Mannon is one half of the scoring duo that Fresno leans heavily on this season. The 18-year-old has set the league on fire in his first campaign, and currently sits 2nd in the league in points, only trailing Matus Spodniak of Ogden and his 112 points. Keeping with the trend pointed out in the last section, Mannon has five goals and ten assists in Fresno’s four wins against the Knights this season. In the Monsters’ two losses against the Phoenix, he has a pair of goals.
2. Cody Key (46G, 48A in 34GP) – Key is putting in a great season in his final year of junior hockey. He’s currently fourth in the league in scoring, tied with Valencia’s Jakob Kranabetter. Key has played in three of Fresno’s four wins against Phoenix this season, and he’s had nine goals and seven assists in those contests. In the two losses, Key has just three assists. Over the past three seasons, Key has played Phoenix 15 times, and he has 12 goals and 25 assists in those games.
3. Rudolfs Builis (8G, 1A in 12GP) – The 18-year-old Latvian forward joined Fresno just before the showcase in December. He’s been hot-and-cold for the Monsters in his short tenure, but when he’s hot, he’s dangerous. His eight goals have come in four games, including a hat-trick against Tahoe at the Western States Shootout. He also has a pair of two-goal games against Valencia this season.
Thursday, February 1 at 7:45pm (8:45pm AZ time) - @ Fresno
Friday, February 2 at 5:30pm (6:30pm AZ time) - @ Fresno
Saturday, February 3 at 5:30pm (6:30pm AZ time) - @ Fresno
Friday, February 9 at 7pm – vs. Valencia
Saturday, February 10 at 7pm – vs. Valencia
Sunday, February 11 at 1pm – vs. Valencia
Friday, February 23 at 7pm – vs. San Diego
Saturday, February 24 at 7pm – vs. San Diego
Sunday, February 25 at 1pm – vs. San Diego