With rumors swirling about a sale and relocation of the team to Anchorage, the Kenai River Brown Bears are stomping out those little fires with big win after big win. A crowd of nearly 1,900 crammed into the arena Saturday night to watch the hometown Brownies win their tenth straight game while competing the weekend sweep of in-state rival Fairbanks. Yes, all Peninsula fans needed was a little hope; and the boys on the ice delivered.
NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE
The Central Division leading Bismarck Bobcats (15-2-0-2) learned a little lesson about the realities of life in the league’s most competitive division Saturday; getting beat by the last place St. Cloud Blizzard 2-1. The hard-charging Aberdeen Wings (12-4-4-1) is just three-points behind the top spot with victories in seven of their last ten games. Minot (12-4-1-2) has the second-best record in the division and will play three-games this week after getting a little break. Austin (11-7-2-2) and the Wilderness (12-9-1-0) are just steps behind the Minotauros. Can St. Cloud (5-12-3-1) fight their way back into contention? With Moe Mantha behind the bench, that’s certainly a realistic possibility.
With five more games played, it looks like the Johnstown Tomahawks (15-7-2-2) are inching their way closer to East Division frontrunner New Jersey (18-2-0-1). Yes, the Tomahawks have wins in seven of the last ten games, but the Titans’ thirteen wins in fourteen games has only widened the gap. The Tomahawks do have an eleven-point hold on second place with a log jam of teams duking it out for third and fourth. Only four points separate the currently third place Knights (11-10-2-1) from sixth place Maine (10-12-1-0). Maryland (9-10-4-0) and the Generals (10-12-1-0) and tied for fourth for the moment. We can’t overlook Joe Coombs and the Rebels (8-15-0-2), winners of five of the last ten games.
While the Midwest Division leading Brown Bears (17-5-1-2) are stealing the show, Fairbanks (14-8-0-2) faithful are wondering if they are in the twilight zone. Maybe it’s old age but I can’t even remember the last time the Brownies managed to sweep a three-game series with the Ice Dogs. Janesville (11-11-1-0) keeps sneaking up the table with wins in six of their last ten games. They did drop a stinker in Saturday night’s 6-1 loss at Springfield that included a pair of empty netters. Chippewa (11-9-0-0) continues to struggle with losses in three straight games. Look for the Blues (8-13-2-1) to make a bit of a mid-third run and overtake the Wisconsin based Steel. The Magicians (4-12-4-2) need a shot in the arm to break that nine-game winless streak.
Things are getting silly in the South Division again. Lone Star (19-5-0-1) continues to assert themselves with eight wins in the last ten games. Second place Amarillo (15-4-2-1) has their own eye on the prize with victories in seven of the last nine games. Shreveport (15-7-0-0) remains hot after the weekend road sweep at Corpus. Topeka (13-9-1-1) has dropped five-straight and will try to come back from their little break with a successful road-trip to Odessa. The IceRays (11-11-2-3) are back to par and have wins in only two of their last ten games. New Mexico (4-19-0-1) is dealing with the realities of playing in the South; there’s no such thing as easy weekends.
Cheers and Jeers
Cheers to the hockey fans of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. It’s fair to say that they have NEVER had a hockey team like this season’s Brown Bears. I’ve been saying this for the last twenty years; if this program could produce a consistently competitive team, the fans and support will be overwhelming. This area IS hockey country with a ton of very knowledgeable fans. The problems have been obvious, and some linger (hello Nate), but I can’t help but believe that there is a group of folks around town that can wrangle control of the non-profit organization and kick the garbage to the curb. The boys on the ice are providing all the motivation needed to get that job done. Finally.
Jeers to the coaches that continue to try and re-live their glory years by deciding to publicly berate players. Here’s the deal tough guy; with 20+ other guys in the room listening, there’s a really good chance that none of them is going to recommend that a player go to your team in the future. The idea is to mold boys into men, not try and mentally break a young man down because YOU failed to get the job done. So, you want to make an example of him to motivate the rest of the team into submission? I predict and very difficult remainder of the year.