The North American Hockey League season is in the finals weeks with a ton of bitterness to toss into the playoff positioning shuffle.
Now for the disclosure… the following is my opinion and not written under the influence of anything or anybody. The actual grade scale is based on winning percentage and nothing else. That scale has been established for four seasons.
#1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs (40-6-3-3, .827) – During the Ice Dogs’ insane win streak, I never imagined that there would be a serious possibility of Fairbanks getting knocked off the top of this list. Janesville is in town for three this week with very bad intentions.
#2 Shreveport Mudbugs (38-9-3-2, .779) – The Bugs have somehow been able to keep pace with the streakin’ Ice Dogs and could be in position to be knocking on the door of that #1 spot after this weekend. I think it’s going to fair to say that everybody in the Ark-La-Tex will be Janesville fans this weekend. Overlooking Odessa could be a huge mistake.
#3 Janesville Jets (34-10-4-2, .740) –Gary Shuchuk’s Jets took care of business at Kenai River to set up this weekend’s heavyweight battle at Fairbanks. Things are about to get crazy at the Big Dipper.
#4 Philadelphia Rebels (36-12-3-0, .735) – Joe Coombs’ Rebels picked up back-to-back home shutouts over the Knights and have to face that angry bunch at the WB this weekend. Things could get nasty.
#5 Aberdeen Wings (33-15-3-1, .673) – Scott Langer’s Wings have wins in five straight and are 7-3 in the last ten games. This week’s home and home set with Brookings looks like the perfect opportunity to continue momentum.
#6 Lone Star Brahmas (29-12-5-4, .670) – Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas are now one of two hottest team in the NAHL after picking up their fourth and fifth straight win at Odessa. That number could move to eight with Topeka in town for three this week without the services of one of their top goalies.
#7 Austin Bruins (28-16-3-4, .618) – Head Coach Steve Howard’s Bruins might find themselves second guessing that Saturday night overtime loss at home to Brookings. This is not the time of year where you want to let points slip out the back door of the arena. As good as this team is; there is not going to be much room for error down the back stretch of the season. This week’s roadie to Minot is about as important of a weekend as it gets.
#8 Odessa Jackalopes (27-18-3-2, .590) – Odessa bounced back from back-to-back home losses to the purple cows with a solid 4-3 overtime win on Sunday. The Jacks will have to pack a bag of tricks for this week’s trip to Shreveport.
#9 New Jersey Titans (25-17-6-2, .580) – The Titans reported a crowd of 25 for yesterday’s overtime home loss to the Tomahawks. Yea, that’s going to leave a mark. There were that many people on the bus crossing the bridge to the city on Sunday. Looks like New Jersey should be forgetting the Titans. The Titans did pick up four points in the three-game home series with Johnstown.
#10 Minnesota Wilderness (26-21-2-3, .548) – Tim Madsen’s Wilderness were swept out of Minot and will try to stop a three-game slide at Bizzie this weekend.
#11 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (24-20-5-1, .540) – I think it’s fair to say that Head Coach Tom Kowal’s Knights are not looking forward to the Rebels visit this weekend. The WB was shutout twice at Philadelphia last week
#12 Minnesota Magicians (24-20-5-2, .539) – The Magicians are in the middle of a five-game run with the team right below them in the standings. The problem is losing two of three while giving that team hope of knocking the Magicians out of the playoffs. The home-and-home with Coulee this weekend should have playoff intensity written all over it.
#13 Springfield Blues (25-21-5-1, .538) – The Blues slayed the dragon at Fairbanks over the weekend, stopping the Ice Dogs’ ridicules streak. As great at that win was on Friday, the 6-1 beat down of the Blues on Saturday could very well carry over to this weekend’s three game visit to Kenai River. The Blues are just that kind of team.
#14 Northeast Generals (24-22-2-1, .520) – The Gens spent the free weekend getting ready for this weekend’s trip to suddenly serious Johnstown. These three-gamer weekends can have a way of dramatically changing momentum and the Generals have the opportunity to all but put the Tomahawks out of their misery.
#15 Minot Minotauros (24-22-4-2, .519) – Don’t look now but the Minotauros are indeed making a bold move. Winners of three straight (and four of five), Marty Murray’s boys are climbing the Central Division table at the perfect time of the season. Austin comes to town this weekend to gauge Minot’s seriousness.
#16 Corpus Christi IceRays (23-21-3-5, .519) – Losing to Amarillo at home has to top the list of Brad Flynn’s IceRays least favorite things to do on a Friday night. Luckily there was a big time performance on Saturday night to take that nasty taste out of the Rays’ mouth. Do you know what would be really cool? A road sweep at Amarillo this weekend.
#17 Bismarck Bobcats (24-24-4-2, .500) – Head Coach Layne Sedevie’s Bobcats have losses in three straight games by the exact same 4-1 score. The Wilderness visit Bizzie this weekend.
#18 Brookings Blizzard (20-26-2-4, .442) – Moe Mantha’s Blizzard picked up just their third win in the last six games on Saturday at Austin. That result just proves what the salty old coach has been saying all year; this group CAN play with any team on the schedule. The question remains; why can’t do that on a consistent basis? This weekend’s home-and-home with Aberdeen is going to be a challenge.
#19 Amarillo Bulls (18-24-6-3, .441) – Head Coach Rocky Russo’s Bulls have wins in just three of the last ten games. The boys are off to the beach this week when they visit Corpus Christi. I’m sure all those bikini-clad spring breakers won’t be much of a distraction.
#20 Coulee Region Chill (17-26-4-5, .413) –Ryan Egan’s Chill and the Magicians are three games into a five-game string against each other. As fun as that sounds, the Chill are thrilled with the results so far; two wins and an overtime loss is always going to be a nice result when the team is scratching for a playoff spot. The lovefest continues this weekend when the pair splits home nights Friday and Saturday.
#21 Johnstown Tomahawks (19-29-2-2, .404) – Coach Mike Letizia’s Tomahawks took two of three from New Jersey last week (both wins in OT). With just eight games remaining, Johnstown can’t claw back to .500; but they could certainly overtake the Generals and sneak into the playoffs.
#22 Topeka RoadRunners (16-29-2-2, .367) – Justin DeMartino’s RoadRunners were simply outgunned while getting swept out of Shreveport. The eleven-game road swing continues this week with three more games at Lone Star.
#23 Kenai River Brown Bears (15-34-1-2, .317) – Head Coach Josh Petrich’s Bears have dropped six straight after getting swept at home by Janesville. That number could easily extend to nine of Petrich does not get this thing turned around before the Blues visit this weekend.
SCALE: A 725+, B 600-724, C 475-599, D 350-474, F 0-349