Twenty-five games are
on the North American Hockey League docket for this weekend, including last
night's divisional battle in Wenatchee as the Wild got passed the Kenai River
Brown Bears 4-3 in OT.
Now let's run through the match-ups.
#16 Port Huron Fighting
Falcons at #19 Michigan Warriors (Fri) - Port
Huron leads the season-series 4-3 with five games to go. The Warriors are 7-2-1
in their last ten games while Port Huron has gone 2-8-1 in their last eleven.
The Fighting Falcons lean heavily on goalkeeper Max Milosek (13-14-2, 2.81 GAA,
.913 SV%) despite the fact that the younger Alex Blankenburg (5-7-2, 2.51 GAA,
.921 SV%) has better numbers. This game features two teams going into different
directions... Warriors even up the season series
with the win.
#15 Corpus Christi IceRays at #24 Odessa Jackalopes (Fri-Sat) - Corpus Chrsti has an excellent opportunity to get back to .500
this weekend at Odessa. The Jackalopes are punch-drunk and have been mailing it
in as of late. Machesney Park, IL. native Lawrence Cornellier, a hold-over from
the Owatonna days, is the lone bright spot on an otherwise horrible situation.
Averaging more than a point-a-game (21g, 19a, 38 games) Cornellier is giving
Odessa fans something to cheer about. Make that 1-31-1 in the last 33 games
after the IceRays sweep.
#10 Bismarck Bobcats at #23 Aberdeen Wings (Fri-Sat) - Can Wings goalie Chad Catt (2.90 GAA, .897
SV%) ice Bismarck this weekend and end the sixteen game slide? I'm thinking so.
Every team that has dropped to the #23 spot this year has been able to turn it
#12 Brookings Blizzard at #22 Coulee Region Chill (Fri-Sat) - Chill boss A.J. Degenhardt and his group
raised a lot of eye-brows Friday in Austin with the huge road win. I have to
believe Coulee Region is playing for next-year and has nothing to lose. That is
going to be dangerous for Brookings. Split.
#8 Fairbanks Ice Dogs at #20 Fresno Monsters (Fri-Sat-Sun) - The last time Fairbanks visited Fresno, the Ice Dogs lost two of
three. The Monsters have been a different team since former assistant Andy
Maher left for the NA3HL going 6-3-1 in their last ten games. Fresno is another former #23 that is rocketing off the bottom
of the rankings. Canadian Matt Salituro (7g, 27a) has been a valuable addition
for the Monsters since coming over from Janesville with 15-points (5g, 10a) in
ten games. Fresno wins the series 2-1.
#9 Kalamazoo K-Wings at #17 Janesville Jets (Fri-Sat) - The
Jets are 1-4-1 in their last six and are starting to show signs of wear. K-Zoo
is 5-0-1 in their last six and appears to be flying. K-Wings point leader
Robbie Payne (20g, 22a) could have a really big weekend in Wisconsin with the Kalamazoo sweep.
#2 Texas Tornado at #21 Wichita Falls Wildcats (Fri-Sat) - Every team has a rival that gets under their
skin, for the #2 Texas Tornado, that is coach Paul Baxter's Wildcats. The fact
that Wichita Falls has won the last two games of this season series, by a
combined score of 9-3, just tells us that Tony Curtale is going to be pulling
all the stops this weekend. The Tornado have a lot of weapons with four 40+
pointers in the line-up. Brandon Hawkins (30g, 15a), Scott Conway (13g, 32a),
Justin Greenberg (19g, 22a), and Jackson Leef (8g, 33a) are all capable of
blowing a game wide open in a hurry. Sorry Wildcats fans, this is going to be
ugly. Texas sweeps.
#18 Kenai River Brown Bears at #3 Wenatchee
Wild (Thr-Fri-Sat) - Wenatchee
got Thursday night's opener 4-3 in OT. Jacob Barber (11g, 20a) stole the show
with a goal and pair of assists. The Wild got a hard dose of reality last
weekend when the Monsters stunned the division leaders in Wenatchee. Bliss
Littler's team needs to earn maximum points this weekend, not only to stay atop
the division, but to also help re-establish the confidence that the team was
playing with earlier in the season. The Brown Bears put up the good fight last
night and earned a point for their efforts, but that is about all they will get
this weekend as the Wild sweep.
#5 Jamestown Ironmen at #14 Springfield Blues (Fri-Sat) - The Blues are coming off a fantastic trip to Alaska and are
absolutely pumped for this weekend's series with division leader Jamestown. The
Ironmen have to be impressed with the play of Tim Shaughnessy (9-5-3, 2.22 GAA,
.921 SV%) between the pipes. The Blues counter with the hot-play of Terry Leabo
(3g, 13a) who has a point in each of the last five games. Springfield will have the Ironmen singing the Blues with the series
#4 Austin Bruins at #13 Minot Minotauros (Fri-Sat) - The Minotauros'
Tyler Parks (16-10-4, 2.62 GAA, .922 SV%) may be in a great mood this weekend
as we have learned he will be going to St. Lawrence University next season to
battle for their #1 slot between the pipes. Will that mood swing result in yet another
big on-ice performance? I think so. Split.
#11 Johnstown Tomahawks at #6 Soo Eagles (Fri-Sat) - Standings, statistics, and everything else but sportsmanship
gets tossed out the window when these two teams have to play. The Eagles hold a
slim 3-2 season series lead with the final game (of the regular season anyway)
set for February 2nd in Johnstown. Tomahawks netminder Chris Truehl
(10-6-4, 2.39 GAA, .924 SV%) is expected to be ridden hard by Johnstown while
the Eagles' tandem of Eric Rivard (19g, 27a) and Jared VanWormer (13g, 32a)
will have the Air Force prospect in their crosshairs. This is going to be a
great series... and another split.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
#1 Amarillo Bulls at #7 Topeka RoadRunners (Fri-Sat) - The Oakland
Raiders of the NAHL, everybody loves to hate the top ranked Amarillo Bulls.
Even I had to chime in in regards to the first class accommodations the
Amarillo staff stuffs the visiting team into. A revengeful owner would return
the favor with a roach hotel of their own, but not Topeka boss Don Stone, he
would rather show the Amarillo staff and players how a hockey organization is
supposed to be operated. We've been told that the Bulls' behavior at the
Tornado's host hotel in Frisco last year, after being eliminated from the Robertson
Cup, was so bad that the Amarillo team is no longer welcome at any Holiday Inn
nationwide. Keep it classy Amarillo. Back to the hockey... The Bulls hold a 5-3 advantage so far in this
season series with another pair of games remaining in Amarillo after this
weekend. Bulls' newcomer Blake Roubos (12g, 18a) has a goal and a pair of
assists in four games since coming over from Wenatchee. The RoadRunners'
Spencer Viele (16-5-3, 2.15 GAA, .925 SV%) is 5-4-1 since 11/23 after going 11-1-1
to start the season. Unlike the Bulls, Topeka has gotten limited production
from their newcomers. Brandon Brossoit (10g, 11a) has 5-points in his first
eight RoadRunners' games. Ross Luedtke (4g, 3a, 28 games) has four-points in
16-games, and Cody Hansen (4g, 3a, 21 games) has been little more than a
punching bag registering just three-points in eight games to go with his 85
penalty minutes. This series will be rough as these two teams hate each other
from the owners' box down to the equipment managers. Look for a penalty-filled
ruckus and also look for the split.
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Stephen Heisler resides in Puerto Penasco, Mexico with
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