The North American Hockey League charges into the month of November with just about every team thinking they are still “in it.” Maybe that’s wishful thinking for a few coaches but the overall outlook for the rest remains pleasantly optimistic.
Now for the disclosure… the following is my opinion and not written under the influence of anything or anybody.
#1 Austin Bruins (10-1-0-3, .821) – Head Coach Steve Howard’s Bruins are 7-0-0-2 in the last nine games after the weekend sweep of Chippewa. Things can get serious in a hurry this weekend when Austin heads out to Minot.
#2 Aberdeen Wings (9-2-1-1, .769) – Scott Langer’s Wings were clipped in a shootout Friday night in Bismarck before bouncing back with a solid 3-1 win over the Bobcats on Saturday to pick up the three-point split. The attention this week focuses on the weekend’s home-and-home set with Brookings.
#3 Johnstown Tomahawks (12-4-0-0, .750) – Johnstown stretched their win streak to five games after the weekend sweep of the Generals. The Tomahawks return to the WB this weekend in what should prove to be an opportunity to see the streak climb to seven.
#4 Minnesota Magicians (12-4-0-0, .750) – AJ Bucchino’s Magicians went on a business trip last week with the prime directive of producing max points. Mission accomplished as the boys from the heartland of hockey scored five goals, in each of the three games, in the sweep at Springy. The next four are all up in Alaska starting with two this weekend at Fairbanks. Look for that series to be an absolute war.
#5 Minot Minotauros (10-4-0-0, .714) – Marty Murray’s ‘Tauros cruised to a relatively easy road sweep at Brookings. Top-ranked Austin visits the Maysa this week in a series with a division opponent that has developed into a nice rivalry.
#6 Amarillo Bulls (9-3-1-1, .714) – Amarillo falls another spot despite picking up a trio of points from their roadie at Lone Star. Things can get nasty again this week with the defending Robertson Cup Champions from Shreveport returning to the Bull Pen.
#7 New Jersey Titans (8-6-0-0, .625) – Craig Doremus and the Titans climb five-spots after picking up max points from the weekend home sweep of the expansion Black Bears from Maryland. The Jersey boys roll up to Boston this weekend to face the Generals.
#8 Bismarck Bobcats (7-4-1-0, .625) – Head Coach Layne Sedevie’s Bobcats split the weekend home-and-home with Aberdeen but gave up three points in the process. In this division, every point can be crucial when the season comes down to the wire. The Wilderness visit this weekend in another series that offers an opportunity for the Bobcats to gain some lost ground.
#9 Topeka Pilots (9-6-0-0, .600) – Simon Watson’s Pilots split yet another home set in their weekend series with Fairbanks. There’s no shame in that when the home team bounces back from a 5-1 loss to salvage the split in overtime the next night. Fairbanks is a traditional powerhouse and the Pilots proved to all that they can play with the best. Speaking of challenges; it would be a huge mistake to think of this weekend’s visitors as anything but a potential serious problem.
#10 Janesville Jets (9-6-1-0, .594) – Gary Shuchuk’s Jets limited the Wilderness to just 26 shots in Friday’s shut out win. So, what happened Saturday? Instead of maintaining that kind of intensity, Janesville came out flat and were limited to just 20 shots in the 3-2 loss. We know this; Chippewa is hungry to turn their fortunes around and would like nothing more than for the Jets to come to town overconfident.
#11 Shreveport Mudbugs (8-6-0-0, .571) – Jason Campbell’s Mudbugs are starting to see that defending the Robertson Cup title is going to be more difficult than imagined. There are no “easy points” to grab within the rough and tumble south division. That will be the case again this week when the bus rolls up to the Texas Panhandle for a battle at Amarillo.
#12 Fairbanks Ice Dogs (8-6-1-1, .563) –Trevor Stewart’s Ice Dogs make yet another jump after picking up three points in the weekend split at Topeka. The ‘Dogs are back in Alaska for the next ten games with Janesville visiting the Big Dipper this weekend.
#13 Jamestown Rebels (7-6-0-1, .536) –Joe Coombs’ Rebels make a big jump up the list after the home sweep of the Knights. Jamestown heads back to Maryland this weekend to face the Black Bears.
#14 Kenai River Brown Bears (8-7-0-1, .531) – Head Coach Josh Petrich’s Bears have just a single win in the last six games. There’s really no way to sugarcoat that reality. Kenai River is back in Alaska after playing the last four on the road and will have to try to hit the reset button before things get out of hand. The next seven games are all at the Soldotna Sports Complex so it’s a good time for the boys to take advantage of the opportunity. Springy starts things out this weekend.
#15 Minnesota Wilderness (6-7-1-0, .464) – Davey Boitz and the Wilderness are wildly inconsistent this season. After getting shutout on Friday, the team bounced back with a gritty 3-2 win over the Jets to earn the weekend split. This week’s run to Bismarck should prove to be interesting.
#16 Corpus Christi IceRays (6-7-1-0, .464) – Ryan Cruthers’ IceRays earned the first home sweep of the season and the timing was perfect. Corpus Christi makes their biggest jump to #16 and finds themselves just a single game under .500. The boys get this weekend off (enjoy the beach!) to prepare for the Bulls of Amarillo visit November 9-11.
#17 Lone Star Brahmas (6-7-0-1, .464) – Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas remain at #17 after the weekend home split with Amarillo. Lone Star heads up to Kansas this weekend to face the Pilots in Topeka.
#18 Maryland Black Bears (5-7-3-1, .438) – Clint Mylymok is not one to read too much into the weekend setback at Jersey. Look for the seasoned coach to reset his club and be more focused on this week’s visiting Rebels.
#19 Springfield Blues (5-7-2-1, .433) – Tyler Rennette’s Blues bounced back from back-to-back 5-1 losses to force overtime with the Magicians before falling for a third time. The coach will try and pry a few positives from that effort before moving up to Alaska for the next few weekends. All that starts this weekend at Kenai River.
#20 Northeast Generals (5-7-0-1, .423) – Joe Lovell’s Generals managed to pick up a single point from the weekend in Johnstown. The Titans visit the New England Sports Village this weekend with every intention the Generals’ frustration.
#21 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (5-9-1-0, .367) – Head Coach Tom Kowal’s Knights see their fruitless streak stretched to five games after getting swept home from Jamestown. The 3rd ranked division leading Tomahawks visit the WB this week.
#22 Odessa Jackalopes (4-8-0-1, .346) – Greg Gatto’s Jackalopes played well in the home split with Shreveport and get another week off. Look for Odessa to be more than prepared for the Pilots visit November 9-11.
#23 Chippewa Steel (3-12-1-1, .235) – Al Rooney’s Steel are winless in their last dozen games after losing both ends of the weekend home-and-home set with top ranked Austin. Friday’s 5-4 home loss was as exciting as NAHL hockey can get with Austin scoring with four minutes remaining to secure the win. That result proved that the Steel can play at this level. Janesville’s visit this weekend won’t be any easier than the Bruins and the Steel will have to dig out another big effort to keep things interesting.
#24 Brookings Blizzard (2-7-1-1, .273) – Moe Mantha’s Blizzard gave up a dozen goals to Minot while getting swept at home last week. Brookings has a home-and-home pair with Aberdeen this week once again proving that life in the NA’s Central can be challenging.
THE FINE PRINT
We have moved to a pure mathematical ranking system based entirely on the team’s winning percentage before going to goal differential in the event of ties. Yes, sometimes simple is best. In the last few years we’ve added a letter grade to NAHL rankings and created a bit of discontent for doing that. As a result, that practice has discontinued.