While the beerly-virus continues to cause chaos and over-reactions the world over, its always nice to know that we can count on the North American Hockey League to divert our attention.
We are going into mid-March wee with a ton of unanswered questions to go with the hard realities of common mathematics.
With that said, lets jump right in.
The Aberdeen Wings (34-11-4-2) is the only team in the Central Division to have their card punched for the post-season. Yes, it’s highly unlikely that the second-place Bismarck Bobcats (31-12-5-3) are going to lose all nine of their remaining games while the currently fifth-place Minnesota Wilderness (26-22-4-0) win all eight of theirs. I know, it’s still a mathematical possibility. The real fun is going to be the battle for third place between the Austin Bruins (28-16-2-5) and Minot (27-15-1-6). Teams might think twice about looking past St. Cloud (10-37-4-1) despite the Blizzard going winless in their last thirteen. Look for bench boss Moe Mantha to pull out the stops in an effort to go out with a bit of a bang.
Only three-points separate the East Division first-place New Jersey Titans (37-13-0-1) from the Johnstown Tomahawks (34-13-2-2) and there’s plenty of time for the lead to change hands before the end of the regular season. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (26-21-4-1) has a ten-point hold on third place. The real battle here is for that fourth and final playoff spot. Only five-points currently fourth-place Maryland (20-25-7-0) from last-place Maine (20-32-2-0). Jamestown (21-30-1-2) and the Northeast Generals (20-27-2-1) and sandwiched in the middle. Of those four teams, it’s only the Rebels that are playing .500 hockey over the last ten games.
The Midwest Division’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs (38-11-1-2) can sew up the regular season division title with a win in this weekend’s home rumble with Amarillo and a Chippewa (29-18-3-1) loss. Once that’s locked up, look for Fairbanks to take their foot off the gas a bit to give their little brothers down on the Peninsula a bit of an edge. The Ice Dogs’ final six games of the season are all against the Kenai River Brown Bears (27-19-3-3). If the Brown Bears were to “miraculously” get the upper hand on Fairbanks and leapfrog Chippewa into second place, both opening round matchups could be in Alaska, giving Fairbanks a road-weary opponent in the division final. Dirty pool? Would not be the first time something like has happened now is it? The Minnesota Magicians (21-23-6-3) have a one-point lead over Janesville (24-26-1-1) for fourth place. Springfield (16-34-2-2) is one of the teams still praying for a math miracle.
The top four South Division teams are still jockeying for position. Lone Star (42-9-1-1) has a three-point lead on Amarillo (39-10-2-3). The Bulls might be second-guessing themselves regarding the late-season trip to the Last Frontier. Topeka 33-14-3-2 and Shreveport (34-18-0-0) are separated by a trio of points. Corpus Christi (16-30-3-4), New Mexico (13-34-2-3) and Odessa (9-39-1-1) all have a pile of prospects fighting it out for a chance to make next season’s roster.
Cheers and Jeers
Game On! The LA Selects sweep 12-U, 14-U and 16-U Tier I titles at Pacific District Tournament. California Stars take 18-U level. The USA Hockey National Qualifiers was contested over the weekend in Tacoma (WA). Meanwhile on Sunday, the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds packed 5,255 fans into the ShoWare Center in Kent to catch the 3-2 loss to Everett.
Game Off? This from the WSHL: The Seattle Totems Hockey Club and Bellingham Blazers Hockey Club, with the mutual approval of the Western States Hockey League, have decided to effectively end all competition for the season, which included the cancellation of games this past weekend, and vacating their playoff positions. It is a decision that was made due to an abundance of concern over the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the state of Washington, to mitigate the possibility of exposure to teams, fans, staff, etc., and to comply with State Government Officials/Medical Official requests.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think this is more about avoiding the high cost of sending both teams to Utah for a likely quick exit from the playoffs. I know, it’s pay-to-play hockey in an unsanctioned league, what else should be expected. Blame it on the State of Washington. As of Sunday, the overwhelming majority of global deaths from the virus has occurred in those age 60 and older. Most of those cases involved patients with serious pre-existing conditions. There has been almost no impact on children. Domestic influenza has taken the lives of 125 children so far in this flu season alone.
Enough already. Wash your hands.