The North American Hockey League continues to march towards the playoffs with just about every team still in position to possibly participate.
Now for the disclosure… the following is my opinion and not written under the influence of anything or anybody. The actual grade scale is based on winning percentage and nothing else. That scale has been established for four seasons.
#1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs (39-5-3-3, .840) – The Ice Dogs’ 24-game win streak was stopped in Saturday’s shoot-out loss at Shreveport. Now 30-0-2-1 in the last 33 games, Fairbanks returns to Alaska for the rest of the season. Springfield visits the Big Dipper this weekend.
#2 Shreveport Mudbugs (36-9-3-2, .770) – The Bugs were shutout for the third consecutive time at Lone Star on Sunday and have only a single win in their three-game weekend. Topeka visits this week.
#3 Janesville Jets (32-10-4-2, .729) –Gary Shuchuk’s Jets were shutout in overtime at Springy Friday (1-0) before bouncing back with a 6-3 win on Saturday to earn the road split. Earning five of a possible six points in a three-game week is never going to be too shabby. Janesville visits Kenai River this weekend.
#4 Philadelphia Rebels (34-12-3-0, .724) – Joe Coombs’ Rebels split the weekend series at New Jersey with an overtime win on Friday before getting shutout 4-0 Saturday. The WB limps into Philly this weekend.
#5 Aberdeen Wings (31-15-3-1, .660) – Scott Langer’s Wings made things look easy this weekend with a pair of identical 3-0 shutout wins over Austin. 7-3 in their last ten games, the Wings are on a mission. This weekend’s home-and-homer with Bizzie will be a barnburner.
#6 Lone Star Brahmas (27-12-5-4, .656) – Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas have back-to-back shut out wins after blanking the Mudbugs on Sunday 2-0. Lone Star has yet another showdown this weekend when they visit Odessa.
#7 Odessa Jackalopes (27-16-3-2, .615) – Odessa looked like world-beaters in Corpus Christi over the weekend, sweeping the IceRays in the process. Lone Star visits this week in what looks like the match-up of the weekend.
#8 Austin Bruins (27-16-2-4, .612) – Head Coach Steve Howard’s Bruins were zilched in back-to-back games at Aberdeen over the weekend; something Howard is going to want to address immediately. Brookings visits this week and the expectations will be elevated for Austin.
#9 New Jersey Titans (24-17-2-4, .574) – The Titans picked up three of a possible four points in their weekend home split with division leading Philadelphia. Look for the Titans to stay focused on the task of sending the Tomahawks back to Johnstown pointless this weekend.
#10 Minnesota Wilderness (26-19-2-3, .570) – Tim Madsen’s Wilderness split the weekend home series with Bismarck and now has to prepare for the run out to Minot. That should be a fun ride.
#11 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (23-18-5-1, .553) –Head Coach Tom Kowal’s Knights have wins in only two of the last ten games, giving fuel to the opinion that Kowal’s style is rubbing the players the wrong way. This is a playoff team that will face an early exit if they can’t figure it out quickly. The goings won’t get any easier with a pair at Philly this week.
#12 Minnesota Magicians (24-19-5-2, .550) – The Magicians have played in five straight overtime games, earning wins in three. The boys are in Coulee for a single game this week.
#13 Springfield Blues (24-20-5-1, .540) – The Blues looked solid in Friday’s shutout win over Janesville (in OT) but faltered in Saturday’s rematch. There will be no room for error this week when the Blues visit Fairbanks.
#14 Northeast Generals (24-21-2-1, .531) – The Gens picked up three of a possible four points in the weekend split at the WB and get a week off before going to Johnstown for three March 16-18.
#15 Bismarck Bobcats (24-21-4-2, .529) – Head Coach Layne Sedevie’s Bobcats looked REALLY good in Saturdays’ 4-1 win over the Wilderness. Can the Bobcats maintain that same effort when they face Aberdeen later this week? The mid-week visit to Minot could toss a wrench into the plan if the Bobcats are not ready.
#16 Corpus Christi IceRays (22-20-3-5, .520) – Brad Flynn’s IceRays got jumped by the Jackalopes at home; losing both to a team they seem to always have trouble with. The pressure will be on with this week’s venture out to Amarillo.
#17 Minot Minotauros (21-22-4-2, .490) – The Minotauros are supposed to be better than this. A game under .500 this late in the season is certainly going to be a disappointing fact for any Marty Murray coached team. Seven of the last eleven games are all at home. I think it’s time for the Tauros to charge. Bizzie and the Wilderness are in this weekend.
#18 Brookings Blizzard (19-25-2-4, .440) – Moe Mantha’s Blizzard picked up a big shutout win at Minot Saturday. That’s the kind of result that could get something started. It’s just too bad the next pair of games are at Austin.
#19 Amarillo Bulls (17-23-6-3, .439) – Head Coach Rocky Russo’s Bulls should have known better than to overlook Topeka. That’s a rivalry that always been hard to get a handle on. Amarillo has only a pair of wins in their last ten games with Corpus coming in this weekend.
#20 Coulee Region Chill (16-26-4-5, .402) – I’m not sure many of you have noticed but….Ryan Egan’s Chill have been playing inspirational hockey as of late. Two games (both in overtime) into a five-game string with the Magicians, Coulee Region looks like they are going to close the season with a big push. The next game is Friday in La Crosse.
#21 Johnstown Tomahawks (17-28-2-2, .388) – Coach Mike Letizia’s Tomahawks sent thousands of fans home with a smile this past weekend with a big home sweep of the Knights. Could you only imagine the excitement in Johnstown if the Tomahwaks did something similar at New Jersey this weekend? Keep dreaming.
#22 Topeka RoadRunners (16-27-2-2, .388) – Justin DeMartino’s RoadRunners did a very nice number on the Bulls at home this week, sending Rocky Russo’s group back to Amarillo without a win. The RoadRunners visit Shreveport this week.
#23 Kenai River Brown Bears (15-32-1-2, .330) – Head Coach Josh Petrich’s Bears have not won a game outside of Alaska since beating Coulee Region 4-3 in Wisconsin. back on December 9th. That’s not good considering how well they started the season with the road sweep at Springfield, the split at Minot, and that win at Coulee. I don’t think anyone expected this much fruitlessness. The next two weeks features home weekends with Janesville and Springfield (three games) before finishing the season with five straight against Fairbanks.
SCALE: A 725+, B 600-724, C 475-599, D 350-474, F 0-349
Photo Credit: Laurie Stroh @Deenboysphotos