Now that the 2019-20 season is well under way, it’s time to once again fire up the Monday Mash. We are always up for a little fun and adventure so let’s get the Mash party started.
NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE
I’m never going to get too excited about any one team’s fast (or slow) start to the season. Regardless, it is fun to watch the fans cranking up the championship talk so early in the season.
Minot (5-0-1-0) does not have a regulation loss through six outings this season, but veteran coach Marty Murray knows better than to show too much happiness this early in the year. Once again, the expectation is that the Central Division is going to be hyper competitive from the top to the bottom. As of today, every team is .500 or above.
Out on the Atlantic coast, the New Jersey Titans (6-2-0-0) already lead the East Division by four points. The expansion Maine Nordiques and four other teams are at .500 with only the Generals (4-5-0-0) and Jamestown (1-4-0-2) falling below that line. I was asked last week what my thoughts were regarding Joe Coombs and the Rebels. All I can say is this; 1989 was 30 years ago. It’s time to realize that these kids are great communicators and they don’t have any problems expressing their opinions. For what it’s worth, the Rebels’ slow start matches up well with several recent slow finishes.
Way too many folks on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula are besides themselves with glee regarding the Brown Bears great start to the season. Despite leading the Midwest Division, the question remains; is Nate Kiel still even remotely involved with this team? If so, the reality of the Brownies situation still exists. There’s nothing like spending months on the road (or actually billeting in Minnesota to save money) to foster a disconnection with a community and “home” arena. Janesville’s slow start (by Jets’ standards) is hard to understand. The ownership gives this staff every opportunity to be successful and the return has always been a high number of players getting to NCAA Division 1 hockey. On-ice success is a given.
Speaking of giddy fans… the South Division leading Topeka Pilots (6-2-1-0) may be more of a smoke and mirror show than anything else through the first nine games. Dan Wildfong’s unblemished Lone Star Brahmas (6-0-0-0) are just a point behind Topeka with three less games played. This is the team that’s already starting to show signs of being a championship contender. The team to watch is Odessa. The Jackalopes have the third best record in the league (3-0-1-0) after a strong showing in Blaine. Before the season started there were a lot of concerns about the New Mexico Ice Wolves. The very young group is still searching for the elusive first win and must be looking for a bit of leadership to help get the kids over the edge. Let’s hope New Mexico does not turn into the division’s punching bag.
BRITISH COLUMBIA HOCKEY LEAGUE
There are several shockingly good starts out west that are indeed worth keeping an eye on.
The Island Division leading Cowichan Valley Capitals (8-2-0-0) are looking good this season. Can they sustain that pace? Powell River (6-3-0-0) is just a few points back and Nanaimo (3-3-0-1) is still very optimistic. The early season struggles of Victoria may be just a result of not finding the groove. This is another talented group that will get it together.
Don’t look now but the Coquitlam Express (7-1-0-0) have the second-best record in the league. Chilliwack (4-4-0-0) should never be overlooked while Prince George (3-4-2-0) will find the right combination soon enough.
The Interior Division of the BCHL is arguably the most competitive in all of junior hockey. So, seeing just home dominating the Penticton Vees (8-0-0-0) look, I must wonder if they can make a record-breaking run through the season. Salmon Arm (6-1-1-0) and Wenatchee (5-1-1-1) are trying to keep pace to keep Penticton honest. Vernon (3-3-0-0) will be OK. There are concerns about the situations that Merritt (2-5-0-0) and West Kelowna (1-7-2-0) find themselves in. It’s always going to be difficult for the Centennials to get to an even platform with the Vees and stay there.
Let’s close with this gem from the east coast crew
The first year of the Mash brought an incredible amount of legal heat from that mafia-like group from New England, so you can expect that tradition to continue. Now that JuniorHockey.com is under the control of new leadership, I’ve been informed that we will be locked and loaded for Dickey G this year. Stay tuned for that party to get started soon enough.
CHEERS AND JEERS
Jeers to the coaching staff of the Gillette Wild for telling the skate sharpener to NOT take care of the visiting teams before home games. One call to the facility manager verified the issue and rectified the situation (visiting teams will not be denied again).
Cheers to Wilderness Head Coach Jon Vaillancourt for keeping the GM out of the locker room. If that trend continues, the boys from Cloquet will have a decent season.
Jeers to the unsanctioned league teams already trying to poach players from sanctioned leagues. I find it ironic that these fools continue to build themselves up as being from a “better” league yet, continue to target the NA3HL.
Cheers to all the members of the JuniorHockey.com Discussion Group on Facebook. It’s a very impressive group that continues to engage in meaningful conversations every week.
Jeers to the Canadian Junior Hockey League (representing all ten of the Junior "A" leagues across Canada) for continuing the farce known as the CJHL Weekly Top 20 Rankings. The fact is that none of the teams, outside of Alberta, would not have a snowball's chance in a pizza oven of finding success if forced to play even the worst team in the BCHL.
That was fun… and even somewhat refreshing.