The Fresno Monsters have come a long way since their mid-December doubleheader against Wenatchee. The Wild went into Fresno, picked up four points and outscored the home team 4-1 in the second game of the two-day series.
But thanks to some recent success, the Monsters (10-17-5 overall) promise to be a menacing foe for Wenatchee (24-5-3 overall), which leads the NAHL West.
Anchored by goalie Tomas Sholl, who carries a .912 save percentage into the weekend series, Fresno is 4-1-1 since its last series against the Wild and has scored 21 goals in that time. Two of those wins were against the Fairbanks Icedogs (23-10-1 overall), who are second in the NAHL West.
“They definitely have the ability to score, they’re opportunistic,” Wild coach Bliss Littler said of the Monsters. “Having a good goaltender helps. So we’re expecting a pretty tough series.”
Meanwhile, Wenatchee needs to continue its winning ways if it hopes to retain its division lead, which narrowed to four points after consecutive home losses — one via a shootout — during a three-game series against Fairbanks last weekend.
Littler is using the losses to his advantage, though, citing them as an opportunity to focus on better puck handling. His squad had three costly turnovers, all of which led to scores, in the first period of Sunday’s 5-2 loss.
“Sometimes when you’re winning a lot of games, some of the details get lost,” he said. “So we took it as a chance to get everybody’s attention.”
The Wild enter the weekend with some urgency, but it’s far from panic. They are 3-2-1 since their last meeting with Fresno and are 4-0 against their West division foe this year.
A productive weekend against the surging Monsters would be a big step in the right direction and a crucial component in maintaining divisional dominance.
“There’s a lot of season left, but right now we’re four points up,” Littler said. “We feel like home ice is our major goal. To do that, you need to take care of business.”