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NAHL Weekend Preview

January 31, 2014
Four out of division games highlight this weekend’s NAHL schedule. This also marks the final weekend before the NAHL trade deadline, which in Thursday, February 6th. With so many teams still in playoff contention, this weekend’s set of games could have a big impact on teams and their plans for the short term and long-term future.
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Central Division
Bismarck Bobcats @ Austin Bruins - The champion of the Central Division won’t be decided this weekend in Austin, but the series between 2nd place Bismarck and 1st place Austin could go a long way in determining who will capture the regular season crown. Austin is rolling, having won their last six in a row and 10 of their last 11. Each team has won a pair of games so far this season against one another with those wins coming at home. The Bobcats enter the series five points back of the Bruins, but have won just two of their last five games
Minot Minotauros @ Brookings Blizzard – With Minot eight points ahead of Brookings for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Central Division, this weekend’s series is one that may be considered a ‘must-win’ for the Blizzard. Brookings goalie Connor Girard sparkled in a 3-0 shutout in Minot this past Tuesday in a 3-0 win. Minot swept the Blizzard during the only other series in Brookings back on November 1-2. The Blizzard have just two wins in January, but can atone with a couple of wins this weekend to put them in the playoff mix.
Midwest Division
Wenatchee Wild @ Kenai River Brown Bears – Just one series highlights the Midwest Division this weekend as Wenatchee is in Kenai River for three games. On Thursday, the Wild took game 1 of the series in dramatic fashion as they scored late in the 3rd period to tie the game and then won in a shootout. Wild goaltender Chase Perry will be the go-to guy in goal for the remainder of the season as Gustaf Johansson is out for the remainder of the year. The Brown Bears lead over the Wild for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Division is down to just a single point.
North Division
Johnstown Tomahawks @ Port Huron Fighting Falcons – The Tomahawks have lost their last three and five of their last six to fall into 4th place in the North Division and will have a tough task on their hands this weekend visiting 1st place Port Huron. The teams have played 10 times already this season, with each team winning five contests. Port Huron forward Zach Badalamenti has 10 points in those 10 games against Johnstown, while the Tomahawks have been led by defenseman Mitch Hall who has six points in 10 games against Port Huron.
Soo Eagles @ Michigan Warriors (Sat.) – In just a single game on Saturday, Soo will travel to Flint with 2nd place in the North on the line. The Eagles have won five of their last six games to move to within a point of the 2nd place Warriors. Although the two teams haven’t played one another in over a month, the Eagles have had success against the Warriors this season, posting a 4-2-1 record against them to date.
South Division
Lone Star Brahmas @ Amarillo Bulls – The Bulls appear to be headed for another South title and have won 11 of their last 12 games. The Bulls have an 11-point lead in the South Division, which is the largest lead of any of the four division leaders. With 17 games to play, the Brahmas are 16 points out of their 4th and final playoff spot in the South.  Goalie TJ Black has been sharp against the Bulls this season and the Brahmas do own two wins against Amarillo this year. The Brahmas have lost four of their last five games and will face the Bulls six times in their final 17-game stretch.
Odessa Jackalopes @ Wichita Falls Wildcats – The Jackalopes 12 wins is double what they had a season ago, but with just 19 games remaining the Jacks are 21 points out of a playoff spot. The Wildcats snapped a six-game losing streak with a 7-2 win on Wednesday against Lone Star, but have dropped back in the pack chasing Amarillo and now firmly sit in 4th place in the South. The Wildcats have a perfect 4-0 record against Odessa this season and the two teams will face one another six times over the next month.
Topeka RoadRunners @ Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees – If the playoffs started today, this series would be a first round, semi-final match-up. The RoadRunners are one of the NAHL’s hottest teams and have lost a game in regulation since December 7th. Since the start of December, Topeka is 10-1-2 and goaltender PJ Bridges has been in goal in all but one of those games. Surprisingly, the two teams have yet to play one another this season. This is the only time this season Topeka will play on the road in Rio Grande Valley with the Killer Bees making the return trip to Topeka in a month.
Out of Division
Coulee Region Chill @ Janesville Jets – Coulee Region makes the short trip South to continue the battle of Wisconsin, which this year has been controlled by the Jets, who are 6-3 in the nine games played thus far. The Jets have won their last four match-ups between the two clubs, but it is Coulee Region who comes in as the hotter team. The Chill have won seven of their last nine games, while the Jets have one win in their last nine games. 
Aberdeen Wings @ Minnesota Wilderness – The Wilderness have won four in a row and are in 2nd place in the Midwest. Goaltender Frank Oplinger started the last 11 games and filled in nicely for the injured Kasimir Kaskisuo. Meanwhile the Wings have lost four in a row and sit in 3rd place in the Central Division.  The Wilderness swept the Wings back on November 8-9 in Aberdeen. Wings forward Kyle Haak has six points in his last five games. Wilderness forward Jakob Romo has four of the last six game-winning goals for the Wilderness.
Fairbanks Ice Dogs @ Corpus Christi IceRays – The Ice Dogs come into the series in Corpus Christi on a roll as they have won four straight and eight of their last nine games. The IceRays have also played some good hockey as of late, losing just once in regulation in the last five games. Corpus Christi split a series with the Ice Dogs earlier in the year in Fairbanks back in early October. Defenseman Kyle Froese has had the hot hand as of late for the IceRays, while Fairbanks goalie Kevin Aldridge is 4-0 in the last five games. 
Minnesota Magicians @ Springfield Jr. Blues – The Magicians are in the midst of a nine-game losing streak and their playoff chances are fading quickly. The Jr. Blues however, find themselves just three points out of the 4th and final playoff spot in the North Division. This weekend is the first of a four-game set this year between the two clubs, who will also face one another next weekend in Minnesota. The Magicians have just eight goals in their last five games. Minnesota goaltender Atte Tolvaen and Springfield goaltender Stefanos Lekkas are #2 and #3 respectively in the NAHL this season in saves made.
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