#USPHLPlayoffs Series Preview: Fresno Monsters vs. San Diego Sabers

By Grace Mello / USPHL.com

Pacific Division

Fresno Monsters (1) vs. San Diego Sabers (4)

All games at Fresno

Thursday, March 2, 7:45 p.m. PST

Friday, March 3, 6:00 p.m. PST

Saturday, March 4, 5:00 p.m. PST (if necessary)

The first-seeded Fresno Monsters (38-7-1) will host the fourth-seeded San Diego Sabers
(33-11-2) at Gateway Ice Center in the best of three division quarterfinal. This season, Fresno is
4-2 against San Diego. The Sabers earned a weekend series win (3-2, 4-3, 2-6) over the Monsters in
early October 2022, but Fresno came back in November 2022 to sweep the series (5-4, 7-0, 3-2)
on home ice.

This begs the question, is home ice a major advantage for Fresno as we approach Round 1 of the division playoffs? In Round 1 of the 2020-2021 Pacific Division playoffs, Fresno knocked San Diego out with a 6-2 victory.

Monsters head coach Daylon Mannon acknowledges that this matchup is going to be a difficult

“Obviously, San Diego is a very good team but if we just stick to our systems and play Monster hockey and play like we have been all year I think we should be fine,” he said.

Coach Mannon tells us that leadership has been a key factor in Fresno’s success this season.

“I think everybody has stepped up this year but I think Jacob Gagnon as our captain and leader
has stepped up in a big way by basically leading the path for all the boys to follow. With good
leadership comes a good team.”

This will be the Monsters’ third playoff appearance in three years as they look to head to
Nationals for the third year in a row.

“I’ve been telling the boys we need a playoff mentality for the past couple weeks now,” Mannon added.

Fresno has gone 9-1 in their last 10 games and hope to continue the streak.

“That is why we finished first in the division and nothing should change heading into playoffs.
We just need to play the same way we have been because that is what got us to where we are

Last Season, San Diego fell just short of reaching playoffs as they finished fifth in the division. This year they have had some big victories that have helped them finish fourth in the division and reach the playoffs.

Sabers General Manager and Coach Domenick DiCicco gives us some insight into their season.

“We began the season with one of the toughest schedules, playing Las Vegas and Fresno back-to back, which was a wonderful test for our team to see how they would handle such diversity. We ended up winning both series, which launched a terrific season with high expectations.”

The Sabers faced adversity throughout the season, causing them to lose some of their momentum. However, they were able to push through to go on to defeat their division rivals, the Ontario Jr. Reign in a 5-4 victory on February 24, as well as finishing the regular season strong with a decisive win over the Long Beach Shredders.

DiCicco tells us how Head Coach Tyler Casillo built this team from the net out.

“The first key piece in the construction was our goaltending and as a seasoned player in the league, Blackburn has been carrying the strain,” added DiCicco. “Ethan is a strong competitor in the goal and contributes good character to the team both on and off the ice.”

As they travel to Fresno for Round 1, Coach DiCicco, tells us about the last time they played there.

“When we were in Fresno during November, we deviated from our typical style of play and, as luck would have it, found ourselves in difficult situations. This proved an essential step in the team’s development, and we’ve learned from our mistakes,” DiCicco added. “We anticipate a tough matchup with Fresno throughout this first round but as stated previously, we’re a team with more experience and we understand how vital it is that we play Sabers hockey