It’s not often that events from the North American Hockey League surprise me but that’s exactly what happened this past week. The Chippewa Steel’s big win over Janesville on Saturday was an eye opener and simply reminds us all that in the NAHL, every game is in question until the final buzzer.
Now for the disclosure… the following is my opinion and not written under the influence of anything or anybody.
#1 Aberdeen Wings (11-2-1-1) – Scott Langer’s Wings jump over Austin after taking both sides of the home-and-home set from Brookings. Rival Bismarck comes to the Odde this weekend in a series that’s always going to get the blood boiling for both markets.
#2 Austin Bruins (11-2-0-3) – Head Coach Steve Howard’s Bruins split the weekend series at Minot and fall from the top spot as punishment. The next five games are all at Riverside Arena starting this weekend when the Minotauros visit for a pair.
#3 Johnstown Tomahawks (14-4-0-0) – Johnstown’s hot-streak as now at seven games after the Tomahawks chomped the Knights at the WB. Johnstown is at Jamestown tonight before Maryland visits this weekend.
#4 Amarillo Bulls (1-3-1-1) – Amarillo returns to the Top 5 after picking up a huge home sweep of the defending Robertson Cup champions from Shreveport. The Bulls will send the weekend at the beach while getting in a trio of games at Corpus Christi.
#5 Minnesota Magicians (13-5-0-0) – AJ Bucchino’s Magicians picked up the split at Fairbanks and will try to do a little better with this weekend’s trek to Kenai River.
#6 Minot Minotauros (11-5-0-0) – Marty Murray’s Tauros came up big in Friday’s 4-3 win over then top-ranked Austin. That success might have taken some of the sting out of getting shutout 4-0 by the Bruins on Saturday. The series was so much fun that the two teams will dance again this week in Austin. Hey, it’s like playoff hockey before Thanksgiving.
#7 New Jersey Titans (12-6-0-0) – Craig Doremus and the Titans have wins in four-straight after back-to-back sweeps of the Black Bears and Generals. Will the streak stretch to six after this week’s home-and-home with the Knights? It’s a good possibility.
#8 Bismarck Bobcats (8-5-1-0) – Head Coach Layne Sedevie’s Bobcats were a bit two-faced over the weekend; looking good while beating the Wilderness 4-3 on Friday before turning in a stinker in Saturday’s 4-2 loss. I’m thinking there’s going to be a hard does of reality this weekend in Aberdeen.
#9 Topeka Pilots (10-7-0-0) – Fans of Simon Watson’s Pilots have seen this before; a Topeka team with a series case of the splits. In true Topeka hockey fashion, the Pilots have splits in their last four series after continuing the tradition this past weekend against Lone Star. Here’s the good news, the next THREE games are all at Odessa this week.
#10 Janesville Jets (10-7-1-0) – I tried to warn Gary Shuchuk’s Jets about going into Chippewa overconfident. There will be no excuses if it happens again this weekend when the Steel visit Janesville.
#11 Jamestown Rebels (8-6-1-1) –Joe Coombs’ Rebels picked up three points in their split at Maryland. The next three games are all at Northwest Arena starting tonight when the red-hot Tomahawks make their first visit of the season. The Generals are in town this weekend.
#12 Fairbanks Ice Dogs (9-7-1-1) –Trevor Stewart’s Ice Dogs dismantled the Magicians Saturday night at the Big Dipper after losing Friday game. Springfield visits this weekend and the ‘Dogs are hungry for max points.
#13 Shreveport Mudbugs (8-7-0-1) – There’s only one word to describe Jason Campbell’s Mudbugs’ performance at Amarillo. Disappointing. The boys played well enough to win on both nights, the issue is the final execution. Shreveport is at Lone Star this weekend.
#14 Kenai River Brown Bears (9-8-0-1) – Head Coach Josh Petrich’s Bears have a tradition of delivering a stinker when a win is needed the most. Kenai River got the win over Springfield Friday night before packing the house for Saturday. The Blues scored three times in the first period and cruised to an easy 6-1 smacking of the Bears. Things better get fixed before the Magicians come to town this weekend or we could see the Brownies back under .500 by Monday.
#15 Lone Star Brahmas (7-7-1-1) – Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas climb two notches and find themselves back at square one (.500) after the three-point split at Topeka. The Mudbugs visit this weekend so look for Wildfong to have something special setup for his old friends.
#16 Minnesota Wilderness (7-8-1-0) – The Wilderness gutted out a big win at Bismarck Saturday night to earn the weekend split. Brookings visits this weekend in what should be an easy set of games for this crew.
#17 Corpus Christi IceRays (6-7-1-0) – Ryan Cruthers’ IceRays enjoyed the weekend off and should be more than ready for the three-gamer with the Bulls this weekend at American Bank Center.
#18 Maryland Black Bears (6-8-3-1) – Clint Mylymok’ Black Bears played well in Saturday’s overtime home win against Jamestown. Getting the split in that series helps Maryland level of confidence. Let’s see if the boys are ready for zoo that is Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
#19 Springfield Blues (6-8-2-1) – Tyler Rennette’s Blues were taken down Friday night at Kenai River before erupting with a 6-1 win to pick up the road split. Now the Blues mush north to Fairbanks to face the Ice Dogs this weekend.
#20 Northeast Generals (5-8-1-1) – Joe Lovell’s Generals are now winless in four games after getting swept at home by Jersey. This weekend’s roadie out to far western New York has to produce a positive result.
#21 Odessa Jackalopes (4-8-0-1) – Greg Gatto’s Jackalopes should be more than ready for the Pilots’ three-game visit this weekend.
#22 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (5-11-1-0) – Head Coach Tom Kowal’s Knights have now lost seven straight and are just 2-8 in their last ten games after getting swept at home by Johnstown. The home-and-home date with the Titans could be painful.
#23 Chippewa Steel (4-13-1-1) – Al Rooney’s Steel embarrassed the Jets on Saturday night, something that may come back to haunt Chippewa when they visit Janesville this weekend.
#24 Brookings Blizzard (2-11-1-1) – Moe Mantha’s Blizzard are 1-9 in their last ten games and may not have seen the bottom yet. I did not see a lot to like in the weekend series with Aberdeen. This week’s roadie to Cloquet could provide the Blizzard with their best chance to kick themselves back into the game.
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.