NAHL Weekend Preview
January 23, 2015
This weekend in the NAHL features three series in the North Division, South Division and also three Out-of-Division match-ups. With only a little more than two weeks remaining until the official USA Hockey trade deadline, teams are going to have to make some hard decisions soon to whether or not they will be loading up for the Robertson Cup Playoffs or building for next season.
No one has yet to clinch a playoff spot, but a couple of teams in the Midwest Division are getting close. Meanwhile in the North Division, the real battle is between the 2nd and 6th place teams who are separated by just seven points.
Austin @ Brookings (Fri) – The Blizzard faced the Bruins two days ago in Austin and although they lost 1-0 in a shootout, they earned a point and are now just three points out of a playoff spot. That is also thanks to their sweep last weekend of Bismarck and the play of young goalie Ryan Kubic, who has been very good. This will be the fourth time this month that the Bruins have tangled with the Blizzard and the Bruins hold a 2-1 edge to date with the three games being decided by just four goals.
Brookings @ Bismarck (Sat) – The Bobcats will be looking for some revenge after the Blizzard picked up a weekend home-and-home sweep of Bismarck last weekend. The Bobcats hold a slim 6-4 edge in the 10 games played to date against the Blizzard. Bobcats forward Jared Spooner has eight points in his last five games to lead the Bobcats, who are 5-2 in their last seven games. Brookings forward Nate Colwell has five points in his last five games.
Coulee Region @ Kenai River – The Chill are in Alaska to face the Brown Bears for three games, including the lone NAHL game on Sunday. The Chill were red-hot in December and heading into January, but have dropped their last five games. Meanwhile, the Brown Bears are just searching for a win, having lost their last 14 straight games, which dates back to late November. Back in early December, the Brown Bears were swept by the Chill in a three-game set in Coulee Region.
Soo @ Michigan (Fri) – Soo will travel South to Flint for a single game with the Warriors on Friday. Michigan is in last place in the North, but sit just seven points back of the Eagles, who are in a tie for 2nd place. The Eagles have dropped four of their last six games, which have all come on the road. The last four games between the two clubs have been decided in either an overtime or a shootout and the Eagles hold a 6-1 advantage in the series so far this season.
Springfield @ Keystone – The Ice Miners enter their weekend home games with the Jr. Blues as one of the hottest teams in the league, having won seven of their last eight games. The two clubs have played six times this season with Keystone coming away with four wins thus far. The Jr. Blues have won three of their last four and goalie Dryden McKay picked up the win in all three of those games, posting a 95.3% save percentage in the process. Springfield and Keystone are separated by just five points in the standings.
Johnstown @ Janesville – The Jets, who have the league’s best record at 30-9-1, are threatening to win the North Division sooner rather than later as their 20-point lead in the division is the largest in the NAHL. The Jets have won 14 of their last 15 games as the Tomahawks come to town on a five-game losing streak. This is just the second series of the season between the two teams, as they split a series in Johnstown back on November 28-29. Janesville forwards Evan Feno and Zach Lavalle both have 10 points in their last five games.
Amarillo @ Odessa – Time is running out on the Jackalopes, who have lost six in a row and are 12 points out of a playoff spot. However, ground can be made up this weekend against the 6th place Bulls as Odessa plays their first home game since December 27th. The Bulls have won three of their last four games and own a perfect 6-0 record so far this season against the Jackalopes. That includes a pair of home wins last weekend against the Jacks by scores of 4-1 and 5-3. Anton Martinsson has started the last four games for the Bulls, giving up just 8 goals in that stretch.
Rio Grande Valley @ Topeka – The Killer Bees are in a dogfight with Amarillo for the 6th and final playoff spot in the South, while the RoadRunners are running out of breathing room at the top of the division with Lone Star just four points behind with two games in hand. The RoadRunners are just 3-3 in their last six games, while the Killer Bees are 4-2 in that same stretch. Rio Grande will have to find a way to generate some more offense, particularly against a traditionally stingy RoadRunners defense as Rio Grande has scored just two goals in their last three games. Topeka swept the Killer Bees in the Rio Grande Valley back in October.
Corpus Christi @ Wichita Falls (Fri) – The IceRays and Wildcats conclude their series on Friday night after the Wildcats came away with a 5-4 win on Thursday night. The Wildcats have three games in hand on 1st place Topeka and sit just five points back of the top spot. Wildcats defenseman Matt Koch has six points in his last five games. The IceRays have just one win in five tries against Wichita Falls this season. IceRays forward Tanner Lomsnes has eight points in his last five games.
Out of Division
Aberdeen @ MN Wilderness – The Wilderness are closing in on a playoff berth thanks to a six-game winning streak. Until last Saturday’s 5-2 win against the Magicians, goalie Ryan Anderson had started the last 17 straight games. Wilderness forward Aaron Miller has 10 points in his last five games. This is the second series of the year between the two clubs, who split a series back in Aberdeen on November 7-8. The Wings have lost four of their last six games, but still sit in the 4th and final playoff spot in the Central Division, three points ahead of Brookings.
MN Magicians @ Minot – The Minotauros have won five of their last six and have lost just once in regulation since December 6th. The Magicians are going the other way, having lost 9 of their last 10 games, but still hold on to the 4th and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. The Minotauros swept the Magicians in their only other series to date, which came back on November 7-8. Magicians goalie Vaughan Ahrens made his return to the line-up last weekend, while Minotauros goalie Atte Tolvanen leads the NAHL with 20 wins.
Wenatchee @ Fairbanks – An old rivalry is renewed this weekend as Fairbanks hosts Wenatchee. After a small slide in December, the Ice Dogs are right back on track with five straight wins scoring 24 goals in the process. However, the series with Wenatchee this year has been neck-and-neck with each team winning four times to date in the eight games. The Wild have won just three of their last 12 games, but sit in 5th place in the South. Zach Quinn has a 2-0-1 record in his last three games and allowed just six goals in that time span.