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VALENCIA FLYERS HOCKEY NOTEBOOK: FLYERS FLYING HIGH INTO LEAGUE PLAYOFFS VALENCIA HOME TONIGHT FOR FIRST ROUND.

Byline: Gideon Rubin Staff Writer

VALENCIA - The Valencia Flyers appear to be peaking at the right time.

They ended the regular season with five consecutive victories to move into a tie for third place with the Bay City Bombers, earning home ice for the first round of the Western States Hockey League playoffs.

The Flyers will play host to the Salt Lake Maple Leafs tonight at 9 in Game 1 of the best-of-three series. Game 2 will be played at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and Game 3 would be played at 9 Saturday night, if necessary.

Entering the postseason on the heels of their longest winning streak of the season has given the team reason to feel good about its chances.

``The team's been playing really well the last couple of weeks,'' team captain Greg Cosman said. ``We have a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.''

Valencia (17-20) defeated Salt Lake in five of six regular-season meetings.

If the Flyers advance to the next round, they most likely will play second-place Utah Valley on the road in the WSHL semifinals. Valencia would play Phoenix if Utah Valley is upset by Nevada this weekend.

--Turnaround: The strong finish is remarkable considering the Flyers stumbled much of the early part of the season.

Crucial to Valencia's run was the addition of several key players, including Saugus High graduate Joey Howard, who scored 18 goals and had nine assists in 13 games, and Rene Huegli, who had 14 goals and 17 assists in 15 games.

It took time to get the new additions to blend in, but if the team's recent performance is any indication, the Flyers seem to have found their groove.

``Once we added some new players we had to go through some growing pains,'' Valencia coach Ryan Rockabrand said. ``I think we've just matured from that, and we're at a level where the chemistry is there and people are starting to jell, and the new lines are starting to play well together.''

--New position: Cosman has played defense nearly his entire career. However, he recently was moved up to center, and he's loving the move.

``It's a little unusual this late in the season, and this late in my career, but I really enjoy it,'' said Cosman, 21. ``I think I was made to play center.''

--Injury update: Center Jake Krumm suffered a concussion during practice Tuesday night and will not play this weekend. He is questionable for the semifinals next weekend should the Flyers advance. ... Right wing Warren Rubinoff suffered a knee injury last weekend but is probable for this weekend's series.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 8, 2002
Words:435
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