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Daily Dish: NAHL Rankings January 21st - Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 21 Jan 2013
By: Stephen Heisler  |  Web site: JuniorHockey.com

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Not so fast for teams in the North American Hockey League. Aside from Odessa, Aberdeen and Coulee Region, everybody is gearing up for the play-off run.

#1 Amarillo Bulls (28-4-6 Last Week #1) - After two consecutive home series splits, the Bulls have now lost four of their last six games. While still entrenched at the top of this writer's rankings, the separation between the Bulls and Tony Curtale is shrinking. Amarillo goes back to Topeka this weekend. I'm sure that the welcome will be warm and embracing.

#2 Texas Tornado (30-10-1 Last Week #3) - The Tornado are now 13-1 since November 30th after getting another dominating performance at home against Odessa.  Curtale and the crew are at suddenly serious Wichita Falls this weekend.

#3 Wenatchee Wild (26-6-4 Last Week #2) - The Wild have won just two of their last seven home games after being swept by Fresno, something Bliss Littler has serious concerns about. Kenai River is back in Wenatchee this weekend and something tells me the Wild are going to be on top of their game.

#4 Austin Bruins (28-6-5 Last Week #4) - The Bruins got one heck of a reality check on Friday night when Coulee Region opened them up early and often in a 7-1 rout of the division leaders. Austin hosts the Chill again on Wednesday night before travelling to Minot this weekend.

#5 Jamestown Ironmen (26-10-3 Last Week #6) - The Ironmen split at Kalamazoo and travel to a focused Springfield Blues team that is coming off a strong showing in Alaska. Newcomer Ryan Doucet (2g, 4a for Ironmen) has been productive in his first five games for Jamestown.

#6 Soo Eagles (26-10-3 Last Week #7) - The Eagles enjoyed the sunny Sault Ste. Marie weather during the off week and look forward to this weekend's festivities with the Tomahawks in for two. Hellertown, PA. native Pat Thompson has 6-points (3g, 3a) for the Eagles since coming over from Odessa.

#7 Topeka RoadRunners (24-10-5 Last Week #8) - The RoadRunners got their first sweep since October with their strong performance against Wichita Falls. Topeka would like to duplicate that result with division leading Amarillo back in town this weekend. Sources are reporting that Topeka has secured a second host property especially for the Bulls this weekend.

#8 Fairbanks Ice Dogs (26-11-1 Last Week #5) - The Big Dipper Arena in Fairbanks is generally not a fun place to visit for opposing teams, especially early in a new year. The Ice Dogs allowed Springfield to escape Alaska with seven of a possible eight points. Fairbanks is back in California this weekend to face a Monsters team that just swept division leading Wenatchee on the road. The Ice Dogs' Garret Clemment (16g, 17a) lit the lamp twice against the Blues after scoring just a single goal in the previous nine games.  

#9 Kalamazoo K-Wings (24-13-3 Last Week #9) - The K-Wings got three of four possible points at home against a Jamestown team that is sharing the division lead with the Soo Eagles. Kalamazoo sits just 3-points back with a chance to close that gap to one if they can find success Wednesday night at Port Huron. The K-Wings travel to Janesville to battle with the Jets on Friday and Saturday. Kalamazoo points leader Robbie Payne (20g, 22a) has not been able to find the back of the net in his last five games since getting the hattie at the Soo on January 5th.

#10 Bismarck Bobcats (22-13-3 Last Week #10) - Bismarck is now 7-1-1 in their last nine games after getting three of four points at home against Brookings. The Bobcats visit Brookings on Wednesday before hoping over to Aberdeen for Friday and Saturday. Adam Knochenmus (17g, 21a) and Patrick Moore (13g, 24a) are the Bobcats' point-a-game men and are both expected to have big games again this week.

#11 Johnstown Tomahawks (19-13-9 Last Week #12) - The Tomahawks have won just two of their last nine (2-4-3) after splitting at home with Michigan. If Johnstown can get a big weekend out of goalie Chris Truehl (2.39 GAA .924 SV%) they can have a degree of success at Sault Ste. Marie. Mitch Kontny (16g, 9a) is the leading lamplighter for the Tomahawks despite having a plus/minus rating of -13.

#12 Brookings Blizzard (20-15-2 Last Week #11) - The Blizzard got the split at Bismarck and get another shot at the Bobcats on Wednesday night. The Blizzard travel to suddenly relevant Coulee Region for Friday and Saturday. Thomas Williams (21g, 17a) and Justin Moody (12g, 21a) lead the Blizzard in scoring through the first 37 games of the season.

#13 Minot Minotauros (21-16-3 Last Week #13) - The Minotauros sweep of Aberdeen is just another sign that the boys from Minot are taking things more seriously. Division leading Austin is in Minot this weekend and provides an excellent opportunity to show the league that the team's success is no Cinderella story. Tyler Parks (2.62 GAA, .922 SV%) continues to be the big story for Minot in goal but '94 birth-year Ryan Ruck (2.70 GAA, .904 SV%) of Coto de Caza, Ca. has produced four straight wins in his last four starts.

#14 Springfield Blues (18-21-3 Last Week #17) - The Blues may go ahead and book an annual mid-winter trip to Alaska if it means getting another shot at getting seven of eight points in those four games. The Blues burned Fairbanks on Friday before going down in a shootout on Saturday. Springfield has a huge opportunity to make a statement with Jamestown in town this weekend. The Blues will need to get a lot more production out of forward Mike Fazio (11g, 15a) who has earned points in only one of his last ten games.

#15 Corpus Christi IceRays (16-18-6 Last Week #15) - The IceRays dumped their fifth straight game Friday night at Amarillo before rebounding for a huge 4-3 shootout win over the Bulls on Saturday. Corpus Christi has an excellent chance of turning that win into a three game streak while visiting Odessa this weekend. Goalie Ben Myers (7-6-0, 3.06 GAA, .912 SV%) has stopped 91 of the last 95 shots he has faced in two games.

#16 Port Huron Fighting Falcons (18-20-3 Last Week #14) - The Fighting Falcons were seen at head coach Mike Gershon's barber on Saturday getting shined up for Wednesday night's dance with Robbie Payne and the Kalamazoo K-Wings. Port Huron is at Michigan Friday. Ian Miller (11g, 14a) and Rick DeRosa (5g, 19a) lead the team in scoring but DeRosa has been the bigger asset with a plus/minus rating of +7. Miller sits at the other end of that spectrum at -8.  Defensemen Mick Bruce (2g,5a,+8) comes to Port Huron from Topeka and is expected to make an immediate positive impact on the blueline crew.

#17 Janesville Jets (16-18-7 Last Week #16) - Janesville pulled three of four points out of Kenai River to somewhat salvage their Alaska trip. The Jets host Kalamazoo this weekend. Hometown hero Conor Lemirande (6g, 8a, 95 PIMs) is an imposing presence at 6-5 225 lbs, but the big 19 year-old is averaging just over two minutes a game in penalties over the course of his 93 game NAHL career (176 PIM). If head coach Joe Dibble could get a more physical game out of his forward, I feel the Lemirande could have a much greater impact for the Jets down the stretch.

#18 Kenai River Brown Bears (15-19-4 Last Week #18) - The only thing consistent about the Kenai River Brown Bears is that coach Oliver David is unable to get any kind of consistency from his teams. The Brown Bears are loaded with talent on the ice; it's that California fruitcake on the bench that keeps letting down the team. Kenai River has won just two of their last nine games before heading down to face division leading Wenatchee this weekend. If that trend continues and the Brownies are unable to get any points out of the Wild, or Monsters the following week, I'd say it will be high-time for the team depart California without him.

#19 Michigan Warriors (14-21-5 Last Week #19) - The Warriors got a huge 47-save performance (48 shots) from goalie shot Trevor Gorsuch (2.67 GAA, .920 SV%) to beat Johnstown for the fourth straight time on Friday night. The Tomahawks got the best of Gorsuch on Saturday, 3-2. The Warriors host Port Huron on Friday.

#20 Fresno Monsters (12-19-5 Last Week #21) - Monsters' boss Eric Ballard has been telling us all year that he wanted to peak towards the end of the season and was not too concerned with his team's slow start. After an unsuspected road sweep at division leader Wenatchee, Ballard now has everyone's attention. Winners of six of their last ten games, Ballard has the team heading in the right direction. Fairbanks comes to California this weekend in what promises to be an epic battle with the Monsters.

#21 Wichita Falls Wildcats (15-21-2 Last Week #20) - Paul Baxter's Wildcats were riding a five-game win streak into Topeka Friday after sweeping Corpus Christi Tuesday and Wednesday night in Wichita Falls. All that changed when the weary Wildcats ran into a trap set by Scott Langer's RoadRunners. The Wildcats held Topeka to just 48 shots in two games despite being swept by the RoadRunners.

#22 Coulee Region Chill (11-22-5 Last Week #22) - The Chill got a huge boost on Friday night when they throttled the division leader Bruins 7-1 in Austin. Things did not go as well on Saturday as Austin rebounded to salvage a split. The Chill return to Austin on Wednesday before hosting Brookings on Friday and Saturday. New boss AJ Degenhardt has his team believing in themselves and the play of goaltender Blake Cates (3.14 GAA, .918 SV%)  has been impressive going 3-2 in his last five games.

#23 Aberdeen Wings (8-25-5 Last Week #23) - Losing for the sixteenth time in a row in a lost weekend at Minot, the Wings new bench boss, Travis Winter, is grasping at straws to find a positive sign of any sorts. Earning the single point in Saturday night's shoot-out loss is a start. Watching young Chad Catt (2.90 GAA, .897 SV%) force Minot into a eleven-round shootout is another. Now that Winter has found a reason to drop a few goalies from the roster, look for the new coach to be shopping for a few new youngsters to use the rest of the season as a preparation for 2013-2014.

#24 Odessa Jackalopes (5-31-2 Last Week #24) - Paul Gillis is now 1-29-1 since October 6th after getting roasted by the Tornado in Frisco. Odessa has given up 30 goals in the last four games and has been outshot 184-74 in that same span of games. The positives? Odessa has re-committed to the league for 2013-2014 and has to replace just six players (and a coach?) for next season. For the record, the Ice Rays are in Odessa this weekend, good seats are still available. For Jackalopes players, the best seat in town is on the Greyhound to whatever new team will take them.

JuniorHockey.com is the premier website dedicated to delivering the latest news and developing stories from junior hockey across North America, as well as providing online tools for junior hockey players and prospects. With over 225,000 views each month Juniorhockey.com is the internet's leading source of junior hockey news and information. 

Stephen Heisler resides in Puerto Penasco, Mexico with his wife, Maria, and their two children, Sonia and Tomas. Tune in to his Mexico based Classic Rock Station, GoPenasco Radio.


posted Jan. 21st, 2013 - 10:54am
Christian Poulsen says:
Well, the North...we got the TomaHeislers, Randy has made his early picks up there, lots of fan posts from Jamestown and Michigan teams...Me thinks all the above are going to feel like Bronco and Patriot fans do...My longshot: Springfield comes out of the North...

posted Jan. 21st, 2013 - 11:42am
Randy Russon says:

Springfield comes out of the North? You mean out of the North to the Robertson Cup? If that is what you are saying, man, you might want to start drinking O'Doull's instead of Coors.

posted Jan. 21st, 2013 - 12:24pm
Christian Poulsen says:
LOL!...your probably right!...but yup, that's what I'm saying...of course if they do it I can say I was right, if they don't I can say I jinxed them for that "game o' suspensions" weeks ago...

posted Jan. 21st, 2013 - 12:29pm
Randy Russon says:
Ok, Christian, I've got a 12-pak of O'Doull's ordered for you, man. lol.

posted Jan. 21st, 2013 - 1:33pm
Jenni OConnor says:
Port Huron - It's Mick Bruce not Brouse

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