Did the North American Hockey League weekend feature a number of sweeps to make the playoff implications a little clearer…or did it?
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 (43-6-3-3, .836) – If this was any other team I’d comment that these guys are running red-hot with eight wins in the last ten games. But’s it’s Fairbanks and for this crew, it’s just business as usual. The last five games are all against #23 Kenai River.
#2 Shreveport Mudbugs (40-9-3-2, .787) – The Bugs are 7-3 in the last ten games after back-to-back home sweeps of Topeka and Odessa. Can we expect more of the same when Corpus Christi visits? I’m thinking that Shreveport knows better than that. Nothing is a gimmee when the IceRays are involved.
#3 Janesville Jets (34-11-6-2, .717) –Gary Shuchuk’s Jets took the high-flying Ice Dogs to overtime both Friday and Saturday to escape Alaska with a solid 2-1-2 record. A highly charged Chill team visits Janesville Ice Arena this week.
#4 Philadelphia Rebels (37-14-3-0, .713) – Joe Coombs’ Rebels not only dropped two of three games last week; they also dropped down a grade and slot in the process. The good news? The boys get next week off and return March 29-31 when the Generals visit for three in the last games of March.
#5 Lone Star Brahmas (32-12-5-4, .689) – Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas have wins in eight straight games after the weekend’s three-game home sweep of Topeka. After all that sugar I hope Lone Star is in the mood for steak. Amarillo visits this weekend.
#6 Aberdeen Wings (35-15-3-1, .685) – Wings Head Coach Scott Langer picked up his 500th NAHL win on Friday, that’s a milestone that deserves a ton of respect. Langer will need all that experience while trying to impersonate a matador this weekend when Minot visits.
#7 Austin Bruins (28-17-4-4, .604) – Head Coach Steve Howard’s Bruins will have to try and put that one-point weekend at Minot behind them this week in practice. Teams have a tendency to take their foot off the gas a bit this time of the season once the playoff participation is secured. This weekend’s opponent, the Minnesota Magicians, are trying to avoid a run-in with a freight train in the first round and will be motivated. Austin better be ready.
#8 New Jersey Titans (26-18-6-2, .577) – The Titans have points in seven of their last ten games. Folks, that’s what should be seen from any team serious about doing well in the playoffs. I just wish that more than 109 people thought more of this NAHL team. The Tomahawks visit for three games this weekend.
#9 Odessa Jackalopes (28-20-3-2, .575) – Odessa is not the first team to feel a bit deflated after a weekend in Shreveport. The Mudbugs (and casino boats) have been known to have that effect on most visitors for years. The playoff bound Jackalopes will have an opportunity to flex their muscles for the faithful this weekend with Topeka in for three games.
#10 Minnesota Wilderness (28-21-2-3, .565) – Tim Madsen’s Wilderness bounced back from a disappointing showing in Minot with a rare road sweep of Bismarck. Can they pull that same trick this weekend at Brookings? It’s a real possibility.
#11 Springfield Blues (28-21-5-1, .564) – The Blues have won three straight and have picked up points in eight of the last ten games. It’s going to take more than a road sweep at Kenai River to fight off the Magicians to avoid a return trip to Fairbanks for the playoffs. The Blues get to watch this weekend’s games before returning to action on the 28th when they visit Janesville. The Magicians visit March 30-31.
#12 Minnesota Magicians (26-20-5-2, .557) – The Magicians got their playoff passes punched with back-to-back wins over Coulee Region. The next trick is to do whatever it takes to not have to face Fairbanks in the first round of the playoffs. Just three points behind Springfield, with two less games played, the Magicians are in command of their own destiny. Two of the last seven games are also in Springfield to make matters that much more interesting. Let’s not get ahead of the first job at hand and that’s this weekend’s home-and-home set with the Central Division’s Austin Bruins.
#13 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (26-21-5-1, .547) – The Knights have recovered from the funk and have decided to go ahead and get ready for the playoffs this past weekend. A pair of wins over the Rebs and Titans should propel them into a nice three-game weekend in Boston.
#14 Minot Minotauros (26-22-4-2, .537) – I tried to tell you folks that the Minotauros were raging last week. Winners of five straight, look for a world class fight this weekend when Minot visits Aberdeen. Four of the last six games are all against the Wings.
#15 Corpus Christi IceRays (24-22-3-5, .519) – Head Coach Brad Flynn had to watch his IceRays’ split the weekend home series with the hated Bulls from the luxury box. His punishment for excellent aim while tossing a water bottle across the penalty and the scoreboard boxes in Amarillo. Hey, it was a good view from up there on Saturday with his boys taking a nice 4-1 bite out of Amarillo’s… backside. Flynn should be back on the bench for this weekend’s last roadie of the regular season at Shreveport.
#16 Northeast Generals (25-23-3-1, .519) – The Gens dropped two of three in Johnstown; continuing questions in regards to the teams’ ability to finish above .500 for the season. There are six three against the Knights this weekend at the New England Sports Village.
#17 Bismarck Bobcats (24-26-4-2, .482) – Head Coach Layne Sedevie’s Bobcats are in a nosedive with losses in five straight games. Winners in just three of the last ten games, the Bobcats could find themselves in a world of hurt with the last four games against Aberdeen and Austin. The Wings visit this weekend.
#18 Amarillo Bulls (19-25-6-3, .444) –As far as the Bulls are concerned, the weekend in Corpus was interesting enough. Look for Amarillo to go into Lone Star this weekend a little lighter as a result.
#19 Brookings Blizzard (20-27-2-5, .435) – Moe Mantha’s Blizzard remain in the cellar of the division as a result of taking only three wins in the last ten games. Four of the last six games are against the Wilderness starting this weekend at Larson Ice Center. It’s going to be a disappointing closing to a season that started out with so much promise.
#20 Johnstown Tomahawks (21-30-2-2, .418) – Coach Mike Letizia’s Tomahawks picked up W’s in two of the three games against the Generals at home this weekend. That one loss all but guarantees that Johnstown season will end without a bang.
#21 Coulee Region Chill (17-28-4-5, .398) –Ryan Egan’s Chill are finally finished messing around with the Minnesota Magicians. The only thing harder than playing the same team five consecutive times (going 2-2-1 is not bad) during to season is having the opponent be one of the two biggest rivals. Speaking of bitter rivalries, this week’s trip to Janesville should be exciting.
#22 Topeka RoadRunners (16-32-2-2, .346) – Losers of five straight, with players already streaming out one after another (and for one reason or another), Topeka will have a difficult time being more than a speed bump this weekend at Odessa.
#23 Kenai River Brown Bears (15-37-1-2, .300) – At first glance, it may appear that Head Coach Josh Petrich’s Brown Bears are in a sink hole. A 1-9-1 record in the last ten games does not tell the real story. Kenai River have been “in it” in in many of the games. The losing streak is now at nine games with the last five games of the season all against top-ranked Fairbanks. The other big question; did the Brown Bears improve enough for Petrich to keep his job? A lot of answers could be riding on these last five games.
SCALE: A 725+, B 600-724, C 475-599, D 350-474, F 0-349