The Knights are heading to Southern California for a Western Division Semifinal series against the top-seeded Long Beach Bombers this weekend. Phoenix swept their quarterfinal series last weekend against Valencia, their first playoff series win since 2013-14.
This weekend’s series is a best-of-three, beginning on Thursday, March 22. All three games will be played at The Rinks – Lakewood, the home of the Bombers. Whichever team comes out on top after this series will face the winner of the Fresno vs. Ontario series for the chance to represent the Western Division at the Thorne Cup Finals in El Paso next month.
Up Next: Long Beach Bombers
The Bombers come into this division semifinal matchup well rested. Finishing first in the division at the end of the regular season, Long Beach received a bye in the first round. They’re hoping, however, that the rest doesn’t affect the momentum that they ended the season with. Long Beach finished the year on a seven-game winning streak, including a sweep of the Knights earlier this month.
In the Thorne Cup Playoffs, experience can play a big factor in a team’s success. Long Beach holds the advantage in experience in this matchup. They have 15 players who are aging out after this season, including multiple players with previous Thorne Cup Playoffs games under their belt. Other than experience, the Bombers, who over the past few seasons have been regarded as an offense-first team, have quite possibly put together the best goaltending duo in the league. Domenic Bosetti and Spencer Kozlowski have split time since Kozlowski came over from Valencia before the trade deadline.
Long Beach has gotten the better of the Knights in the season series this year. The two teams first faced off at AZ Ice Gilbert in mid-October. In each of the three games, Phoenix kept the games close up until the third period, when the Bombers pulled away. Throughout the series, Long Beach outscored Phoenix 23-3, and 13-0 in the third periods.
The two teams wrapped up their season series in Long Beach earlier this month. Phoenix ran into Kozlowski in the middle of his shutout streak, which lasted over the course of four games. The Knights weren’t able to solve him in the regular season finale in Long Beach, and the Bombers swept the three-game series.
Ice Time Hockey SW Interviews
The playoff series win in Valencia caught the eye of a local hockey website. Ice Time Hockey SW spoke with both Head Coach/GM Colten St. Clair and a few players this past week. Throughout the course of the interviews, they reflected on the regular season, as well as talking about the quarterfinal win in Valencia and the upcoming semifinal series in Long Beach.
Interview with Colten St. Clair – click here
Interview with Michael Caravella, Arunas Bermejo and Chase Gillaspie – click here
Players to Watch
1. Anthony Masanotti (3G, 2A in playoffs) – The team’s leading goal scorer came up big in the series win in Valencia. Masanotti had two game-winning goals, and a goal that tied up Game 1 late in the third period. Last time the Knights faced Long Beach, they had trouble scoring, so if Phoenix wins the series, it’ll be because Masanotti continued to find the back of the net.
2. Joe Platt (3G, 1A in playoffs) – Platt tied Masanotti for the most goals in the first-round, and his four points were the second highest on the team. Secondary scoring has been a key all season to the success of the Knights, and that continues in the Thorne Cup Playoffs.
3. Owen Petten (2-0-0, 3.41 GAA, 0.887 SV% in playoffs) – Petten got the nod as the starting goaltender in the first round against Valencia. He has a tougher task this round, facing off against a Long Beach team that averaged over five goals per game during the regular season.
1. Tomas Urbanec (42G, 49A in 51GP) – Urbanec leads the Bombers in all offensive categories, and has also put up good numbers against the Knights this season. In six games, he has three goals and seven assists against Phoenix. He also comes into the series on a nine-game point streak (8G, 13A) that featured a five-point night against Valencia in the final regular season series for Long Beach.
2. Artem Korolev (23G, 48A in 44GP) – Korolev is the youngest player regularly in the Bombers lineup this season, being just 17-years-old, but found himself as the third-best scorer on the team at the end of the year. He has five goals and four assists against the Knights this season.
3. Amir Burguev (12G, 46A in 51GP) – The Bombers captain has consistently put up points over his time in Long Beach. Now, in his final season, he’s looking to lead his team to the Thorne Cup Finals once again, but looking for a different ending this time around. Against Phoenix this season, Burguev has three goals and nine assists.
Western Division Semifinal vs. Long Beach Bombers (all games played at The Rinks – Lakewood)
Game 1: Thursday, March 22 at 7:45pm
Game 2: Friday, March 23 at 7:45pm
Game 3 (if necessary): Saturday, March 24 at 1:20pm