Before the season began, juniorhockey.com ranked the 23 North American Hockey League coaches. Let’s see how the top 5 are faring as teams head into the season’s home stretch.
Tim Madsen, Minnesota Wilderness, No. 5 ranking: Madsen’s team is in third place in the Central Division and is within reach of repeating last year’s second-place finish. All things considered, it looks like Madsen and his Wild boys are about where they were expected to be.
Ryan Egan, Coulee Region Chill, No. 4: Heisler likes Egan’s ability to “to cultivate raw talent into college prospects,” and while that might be happening on an individual level -- evidence: Chill forward Nick Bowman was just named Midwest Division Star of the Week -- it hasn’t at the team level. The Chill are fifth out of six teams in the Midwest Division. To be fair, though, Egan did warn that his young squad would take time to develop. Sometimes it takes a year of painful learning to produces a winning season.
Trevor Stewart, Fairbanks Ice Dogs, No. 3: An updated ranking might have Stewart no.1. The Ice Dogs have the best winning percentage in the NAHL, and the most points, have scored the most goals, and have the best goal differential. They are also on a 27-0-2-0 streak.
Moe Mantha, Brookings Blizzard, No. 2: Mantha’s story is similar to Egan’s -- a well-regarded teacher of the game whose young team (only two in the NAHL are younger) hasn’t performed up to expectations. But, oddly, maybe the Blizzard’s disappointing season is due to Mantha doing his job too well. He’s lost four players to the United States Hockey League full time, with a fifth splitting his season between the leagues. Any team losing four of its top players can be expected to struggle.
Joe Dibble, Janesville Jets, No. 1: Dibble resigned on Aug. 1 after five seasons with the Jets to move to the Twin Cities area to be closer to his family. Dibble is now a partner with the Minnesota Moose, a team in the Premier Midwest West Division of the United States Hockey League.
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