The 2017-18 regular season has come to an end, and before we shift our attention fully to the Thorne Cup Playoffs, let’s take a look at how we ended up here.
September & October
Coming into the season, there were high expectations with first-year Head Coach/GM Colten St. Clair leading the Knights. However, the first few weeks, didn’t go as planned. The team showed promise, but weren’t able to finish games strongly enough to pick up wins. In the first series of the season, the Knights hosted Valencia at AZ Ice Gilbert. The Flyers swept the series, outscoring the Knights 17-3 in the process. It was more of the same in the following three series. Phoenix traveled to face Ontario and Fresno, with a home series mixed in against Long Beach. The team’s struggles continued, and were entering the final weekend of October with a 0-12-0 record.
The final weekend of October was a road series against the Superior RoughRiders. Looking back, this weekend series could be seen as a turning point for the Knights. In the series opener, Phoenix trailed 3-0 after the first and 5-2 after the second. They battled back in the third, but fell 5-4 to Superior to move their record to 0-13-0. The next two nights, however, ended a little better for Phoenix. They were able to force both the second and third games of the series into overtime, picking up their first two points of the season despite being swept by Superior.
September & October: 0-13-2
Season Record: 0-13-2
November & December
After playing well and picking up a pair of points in Superior, the Knights had some confidence. They returned home for a series against the San Diego Sabers, and the fun was about to begin. Phoenix swept the Sabers at home, went on to sweep to the Sabers on the road, and came back home for a series against Fresno, riding a six-game winning streak.
The last time Fresno and Phoenix met, the Monsters put the exclamation point on a series sweep with an 11-0 victory in Fresno. To open up this series, the Monsters proved to be too much for Phoenix, taking the 6-3 win and snapping the Knights’ winning streak. Phoenix flipped the script in the next two games, winning 7-5 and 4-3 to prove that their turnaround was real.
The calendar turned to December, and the Knights kicked off the holiday season with a visit from the league’s best team, the El Paso Rhinos. As expected, El Paso dominated the first two games, winning 10-0 and 7-0. Sunday’s game, however, made teams around the league take notice of the Knights. Phoenix hung with the Rhinos for most of the game, as El Paso led 5-4 late in the third. The Rhinos would add two goals in the final four minutes to take the game 7-4, but it was one of the closest games El Paso had played up to that point.
After a few weeks off, the Knights traveled to Las Vegas for the Western States Shootout. The showcase hasn’t always been friendly to the Knights, but it was a different story this time around. Phoenix swept their three games at the event, defeating Dallas, Seattle and Bellingham to close out the first half of the regular season. Needless to say, the Knights were back on track after the rough start to their season.
November & December: 11-4-0
Season Record: 11-17-2
January, February & March
The second half of the season started well for Phoenix, as they traveled to San Diego to sweep the Sabers. After that series, the Knights stumbled a bit. A road trip to Valencia ended with the Knights taking just one of three games, which would become a trend over the next few weekends. They avoided a sweep at the hands of the Ontario Avalanche at home the following week with a double-overtime win in the series finale. Then, Phoenix traveled to Fresno, where they dominated in the first game before dropping the next two.
Phoenix returned home for a six-game homestand against Valencia and San Diego, their final home games of the regular season. With a likely playoff matchup against the Flyers just a month away, the Knights swept Valencia out of AZ Ice Gilbert, outscoring the Flyers 15-9 over the three games. A couple of weekends later, the Knights took on the San Diego Sabers in the final home series of the season. The series started with “Graduation Knight,” our celebration of the six Knights who are aging out after this season. The night only got better when Phoenix picked up the 3-0 win and moved their record to 10-0-0 against the Sabers this season. The Knights won the next two as well, and swept the 12-game season series against the Sabers.
Riding a six-game winning streak, the Knights went to Long Beach for a three-game series to close out the regular season. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well for Phoenix, who ran into a hot goaltender and were shutout in all three games. It was the first time in three months that the Knights were on the wrong side of a sweep.
January, February & March: 12-9-0
Season Record: 23-26-2
The Knights finished fifth in the Western Division this season, and are preparing for a first-round playoff matchup against the four-seed Valencia Flyers. The series will take place in Valencia, so the Knights are trying to help raise money to cover some of the costs that come along with traveling in the playoffs. To donate to the GoFundMe, click here.