For the last leg of our four-part journey, we now turn our
attention to the newly named Pacific Division of the Western States Hockey
League and the only division made up of teams from a single state.
Formerly the Western Division, the Pacific remains a six-team
division, after losing two teams to the Mountain Division and gaining two
brand-new franchises. Balancing out the fact that two teams out of the division
will miss the playoffs, is the light and leisurely travel schedule, which is by
far the best in the league.
The four holdover teams all know one another well, having competed
against each other in the Western Division for the past three seasons, with
some rivalries dating back much longer.
Despite having two completely new squads in the picture, expect
the Pacific to be a tough battle all season long and even pre-season, as each
team will have to fight to recruit some of the top talent in the state.
Long Beach Bombers (Lakewood, CA)
San Diego Gulls (Escondido, CA)
Valencia Flyers (Valencia, CA)
Fresno Monsters (Fresno, CA)
Bay Area Seals (San Mateo, CA)
Ontario Avalanche (Ontario, CA)
The headliner is the Fresno Monsters, who have now played
three full seasons in the league and all three times were the Western
Divisions' Regular Season Champions. They haven't had the success of say,
Idaho, come playoff time but they continually put a top-notch team on the ice
and the 2012-2013 season should be no different.
Not far behind the Monsters are the three Southern
California teams; the San Diego Gulls, Long Beach Bombers and Valencia Flyers.
San Diego is a perennial contender who only got better once
Craig Carlyle took over the coaching duties this past season. The talent pool
in their area is as good as anywhere and they always find a way to win.
Long Beach has had a few tough seasons as of late but they
also looked much better with a first-year head coach, as Chris White got the
Bombers back on track in his first year, despite missing the playoffs.
The Valencia Flyers are a bit of a wildcard. They've been in
the league for nearly 10 seasons, yet have not made a ton of noise in the
playoffs, until last season. The Flyers, guided by first-year head coach
Jocelyn Langlois, squeaked into the playoffs after a red-hot second-half of the
season and took the second-seeded Gulls out in three games, before falling just
short of the Monsters in the Western Division Finals.
They've recruited much better with Langlois in the mix and
will look to keep the momentum going into the fall.
Absent from the division are the two Arizona teams, the
Phoenix Knights and Arizona Redhawks, who move to the Mountain Division, where
they'll see increased travel.
Replacing them are two new franchises; the Bay Area Seals
and Ontario Avalanche.
The Seals will be the first WSHL team in northern California
since the Capital Thunder moved to Bakersfield prior to the 2009-2010 season.
They will play out of San Mateo, where there is no dearth of
talent to be had.
First seasons are always tough but they won't have much
competition in the area in terms of recruiting.
Lastly, the Ontario Avalanche will embark on their inaugural
season as well.
They have already announced a partnership with the
California Stars youth program, which is one of the better tier programs in the
They will have to fight with nearby Long Beach and San Diego
for some area talent but the playing ground should be level.
In all, the overall competition in the Pacific Division will
be very similar to what we've seen the past few seasons. Rivalries may ramp-up
a bit more however, with four of the six teams packed within about 150 miles of
Gone are the seasons in which Idaho played in the Western
Division and teams from Southern California had to make the 20-hour plus bus
ride up north, all the while fighting brutal weather conditions.
With the Phoenix teams gone, the longest trip in the
division is from Escondido to San Mateo, which can run about 10 hours (without
Unlike other divisions however, weather will never be an
The Seals are the outcast in the division, as their closest
competitor is the Fresno Monsters, who play about 200 miles away, close enough
that a nice little rivalry may arise. The other four teams are all a good 8-10
hours south, however.
The four So-Cal teams are all within a couple hours drive of
each other and will more than likely will clash in one or two game sets,
instead of the often-monotonous three-game weekends against the same team.
In direct contrast, Fresno and San Mateo will play nothing
but three-game series, as they are the two outliers, if you will.
Despite some mid-length junior hockey trips, if you don't
have to travel out of your own state to play a divisional game, I'd say you
have it very good (if said state is not Texas.)
Since there are six teams in the division, each team will
play six games (three at home, three away) against each divisional rival, as
well as two out of division road series and two out of division home series, where
the travel is still unknown until the full schedule is released.
The Golden State Division, as I like to call it, will be a
wild-west shootout, with rivalries ongoing throughout the year.
Story by Brent
Maranto, Director of Communications for the Western States Hockey League