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NAHL Weekend Preview

January 9, 2015
The North American Hockey League enters another key weekend as teams not only jockey for position in the standings, but try and earn as many points as they can before the cut off for the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament breakdown, which is following the games played next weekend through January 18th.
Three of the four division leaders are still hanging on to division leads that remain very close. Only Janesville has a division lead of more than seven points. In three of the four divisions, this weekend also provides fans with a 1 vs. 2 match-up, which should add to the drama, intensity and competitiveness that is NAHL Hockey!
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Central Division
Minot @ Austin – The marquee match-up this weekend in the Central is #1 Minot going on the road to take on #2 Austin. The Minotauros are red-hot and have a four point lead over Austin for 1st place in the Central Division thanks to just one regulation loss in their last 13 games. The Minotauros have also won both games over the Bruins to date, a 4-0 win in Minot back on September 26th and a 3-2 shootout win in Minot back on October 18th. Austin has lost two of their last three games, but are 8-2-1 in their last 11.
Bismarck vs. Brookings – Bismarck and Brookings face one another in a home-and-home series this weekend as both teams search for valuable points. Bismarck is three points ahead of 4th place Aberdeen, while the Blizzard are six points back of Aberdeen and in last place. Bismarck is coming off a big weekend road sweep of the Minnesota Wilderness and own wins in four of the six games played against the Blizzard so far this season. That includes a 3-2 shootout win during the last time the two teams played back on November 26th.
Midwest Division
Kenai River @ Fairbanks – The Ice Dogs return home after a long road swing to face their in-state rivals. The Ice Dogs find themselves in unfamiliar territory, which is out of 1st place and in a tie for 2nd place with Coulee Region. Despite have lost their last 10 games in a row, the Brown Bears still sit just two points back of the 4th and final playoff spot in the division. Fairbanks owns a 3-1 record against Kenai River this season and has scored 23 goals in the four games.
Minnesota Wilderness @ Coulee Region – Another big match-up in the NAHL is the 1st place Wilderness going on the road to face the Chill, who sit in a tie for 2nd place with Fairbanks. On Thursday night, the Wilderness beat the Chill 6-4 in Minnesota thanks to two goals from Niklas Lehtimaki. The six goals given up for the Chill tied a season-high. Chill forward Eddie Matsushima had two goals in the losing effort for the Chill, who suffered their first regulation loss since November 22nd.
North Division
Keystone @ Johnstown (Fri) – Friday is the lone game of the weekend for the Ice Miners, who sit in 3rd place in the North, one point ahead of the 4th place Tomahawks. Keystone has won three of the five games played between the two teams this season and four of the five games have been decided by a goal. The Tomahawks are 4-1-1 in their last six and have won three in a row. Forward Casey Linkenheld has six goals in his last five games. The Ice Miners are 4-1 in their last five games played.
Springfield @ Johnstown (Sat/Sun) – Johnstown will stay at home for a pair of games on Saturday and Sunday as they host the Jr. Blues.  The Jr. Blues have lost their last four outings and five of their last six, which includes being swept at home last weekend by Soo. The two teams played one another three times back on December 12-14, with Springfield winning two of the three match-ups. The Jr. Blues sit in last place in the North, one point behind 5th place Michigan and four points out of the final playoff spot held by Johnstown.
Janesville @ Michigan – The Michigan Warriors have yet to play a game in 2015, but they are hoping it brings better fortune than the end of 2014, as they enter the weekend on a seven-game losing streak. Their last four losses were to the Jets in Janesville back on December 19-20 and December 30-31. The Warriors managed just three goals in those four losses. The Jets, who have the largest division lead of any NAHL team, saw their 10-game winning streak snapped last weekend in a road loss to Coulee Region. Goalie Blake Weyrick has started the last three games for the Jets
South Division
Topeka @ Wichita Falls – Another 1 vs. 2 matchup presents itself in the South Division as the RoadRunners travel to Wichita Falls. The Wildcats sit in a tie for 2nd place in the South, seven points back of the RoadRunners. Topeka (.764) and Wichita Falls (.750) also have the top two winning percentages in the NAHL.  The teams faced one another two weeks ago in Topeka with the RoadRunners coming away with a sweep thanks to wins of 3-2 and 7-2. The Wildcats swept the RoadRunners in late September in Wichita Falls by scores of 3-1 and 5-1, so something has to give.
Amarillo @ Rio Grande Valley – The race for the 6th and final playoff spot in the South Division is alive and well this weekend as the Bulls travel on the road to face the Killer Bees. Rio Grande sits just two points ahead of the Bulls for the final playoff spot. The Bulls have lost their last three games, giving up 20 goals in that span. The Killer Bees are 2-1-1 in their last four games, which includes a sweep of Corpus Christi last weekend.  The Killer Bees and Bulls have only faced one another twice this season, with that matchup coming all the way back on September 26-27, when Rio Grande Valley swept the Bulls in Amarillo.
Odessa @ Corpus Christi – The IceRays are holding steady at the 4th spot in the South, while the Jackalopes are in last place and in need of valuable points. The IceRays offense has cooled off as of late with only eight goals in the last four games. Three of the IceRays last four games have also been decided either in overtime or a shootout. Odessa was swept last weekend in Lone Star, but are 2-3 in their last five games played. The IceRays are a perfect 4-0 this season against the Jackalopes, which includes a home sweep back on November 21-22 during the last time the two clubs played one another.
Wenatchee @ Lone Star – The Brahmas sit in a tie for 2nd place in the South with Wichita Falls and will be looking to add to their three-game winning streak. Goalie TJ Black has started the last three games and given up just two goals. The Wild are holding steady in 5th place in the South, but have lost seven of their last eight games. This is the first match-up of the year between the two clubs, who will face one another again on March 20-21 in Wenatchee.
Out of Division
Minnesota Magicians @ Aberdeen – In the only out of division match-up this weekend, the Magicians look to snap their losing skid with a series against the Wings. Minnesota has lost six in a row and 16 of their last 18 games, but still are holding onto the 4th and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division.  The Wings, who are also in the 4th and final playoff spot in their division, have won two of their last three games. The Magicians won their only two match-ups to date between the two teams, which came back on October 24-25 in Minnesota.
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