Bay Area Seals (3-12-0, 6th in Pacific Division) @ Fresno Monsters (9-0-0, 1st in Pacific Division)
Three-game series in Fresno, California
Just over a month ago, these two teams met in Daly City for three games and combined for 307 penalty minutes in a series that saw a number of suspensions handed down. After the dust had settled, the Monsters had already left town with three lopsided victories and were off to a fast start, as usual.
The Monsters have proven there will be no rebuild in Fresno this season, as they’ve gone on to win their last six games since their series with the Seasl and currently sit atop the division, with a perfect record through nine games.
They’ve been led offensively by veteran forwards Nick McKee and Justin Plate and with the return ofGunnar Dircks to their blueline, it leaves goaltending as the only real question.
So far, Brenden Manquen and Justin Hubert have hushed the doubters there as well, as both have been solid between the pipes, albeit having few challenges early in the season.
The Seals have continued to falter after a hot start to their first season in the league and after beating Ontario two of three times to begin the season, have now lost 11 of their last 12 and eight straight.
A lot of that has to do with the rash of both injuries and suspensions the team has incurred, as they’ve skated with far less than the maximum the last few weeks.
They recently got goaltender Ethan Loo back from a suspension he earned in the Fresno series and if he can keep his head, much like the rest of the team, they will be able to put forth a far better effort.
I got a chance to see them play in Valencia last weekend and they weren’t a “dirty” team, as their league-leading 614 penalty minutes might indicate. They did take far too many untimely penalties however and many resulted in power play goals for Valencia, who swept them with relative ease.
Bad penalties or not, the Seals are on pace for nearly 1,900 penalty minutes this season. To put it in perspective, the Texas Jr. Brahmas led the league with 1,287 penalty minutes in 46 games last season.
As is the case with many teams struggling, they’ll need to help leading scorer Josh Mikes carry the load and will need guys like Wes Starr, who had a solid weekend in Valencia, to continue to chip in offensively.
These teams don’t like each other one bit, so put on your seat belts and sit back for what should be an intense weekend of hockey.