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Las Vegas lays claim to ‘Hockeytown, USA’ title

Las Vegas received an NHL expansion team June 22, 2016.

Less than five years later, the city is at the center of the professional hockey universe, with two thriving teams tearing apart their older competition.

The Golden Knights (16-4-1) rank first in the NHL in points percentage after winning their sixth straight game Saturday, a 4-0 victory at the San Jose Sharks. The Silver Knights are first in the American Hockey League after also winning their sixth straight Saturday. Their 10-1 start is the best in AHL history for a first-year team.

Henderson coach Manny Viveiros said it’s not a coincidence the siblings are flourishing.

“A winning culture is so important,” he said Friday.

The Golden Knights’ success is less of a surprise. They were expected to be one of the top teams in the West Division and a Stanley Cup contender.

Nothing that has happened would change anybody’s mind. If anything, the Knights have been better than expected. Despite facing numerous obstacles, including being forced to change hotels in San Jose, the team has avoided a slump.

The Knights, who play a two-game series at Minnesota beginning Monday, have lost two in a row once but have a three-game, four-game and six-game winning streak. They have a two-point lead atop the division despite playing fewer games than anyone else, including four fewer than second-place St. Louis.

“At the beginning of the season, we got away with a couple wins there,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “But our game is pretty strong right now. … We should all be pretty confident.”

The Silver Knights’ play is more unexpected and creates easy parallels to the Golden Knights’ inaugural season.

The organization made winning in the AHL a priority by surrounding its prospects with veterans. Defenseman Ryan Murphy, 27, and forward Danny O’Regan, 27, lead the Silver Knights in points with 11 and 10, respectively. Forward Dylan Sikura, 25, is tied for the lead in goals with six.

Having those guys around helps the Silver Knights compete daily. It also forces some younger players — such as Jack Dugan, Pavel Dorofeyev, Lucas Elvenes and Kaedan Korczak — to get experience in critical late-game situations.

“They know how to handle what it takes to be a good, winning hockey club,” Viveiros said. “For me, that’s so important here.”

The organization’s hope is that winning at one level continues to lead to winning in the other. The early success shows that the Golden Knights have hit on a winning formula.

The next step is translating that success into hardware. Las Vegas is “Hockeytown USA” right now, but the Knights want that to be true in July, too.

“We have the talent and the ability to potentially go on a deep run here,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “That story’s yet to be written. I like the path we’re on. I like the improvements we’re making day to day and week to week. But we’ve got a lot of work left to do.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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