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NAHL Weekend Preview

January 30, 2015
Sunday may be reserved for the NFL and their Super Bowl, but on Friday and Saturday, the NAHL takes to the ice as the season is now two-thirds of the way over and only two months remain in the jockeying for playoff positioning.
No team has clinched a playoff spot to date and conversely, no team has been eliminated, which is a display of the great amount of parity this year in the league.
The USA Hockey trade deadline and protected  list freeze are less than two weeks away so teams have this weekend to finalize their plans for the rest of the season.
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Central Division
Aberdeen @ Bismarck – The Wings, who are coming off a 5-1 home loss on Thursday to Brookings, are feeling the heat in the 4th and final playoff spot. The Wings remain just two points ahead of the Blizzard for the final spot in the division. Meanwhile the Bobcats are firmly entrenched in 3rd place, 10 points back of 2nd place Austin, but seven points ahead of 4th place Aberdeen. Bismarck has won six of their last eight games and have a 5-0-1 record in their six games played against the Wings this season.
Minot @ Brookings – The Blizzard hope to continue the momentum from their 5-1 win in Aberdeen on Thursday as the host the Minotauros for a pair this weekend. The Blizzard are just two points back of the final playoff spot and have lost only once in regulation in their last six games. Newcomer Nate Colwell has eight points in his last five games. The Minotauros have played well against the Blizzard this season, posting a 5-1 record in the six games to date. Minot’s lead in the division stands at three points.
Midwest Division
Coulee Region @ Fairbanks – The Ice Dogs come from behind to defeat the Chill 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night. The Chill have got to find a way to try and stop Fairbanks forward Jesper Ohrvall, who is the hottest player in the league currently. Ohrvall has eight goals in his last three games, including two on Thursday night and the shootout winner. Fairbanks is a perfect 4-0 against the Chill so far this season and sit three points behind the division-leading Minnesota Wilderness.

North Division
Keystone @ Michigan – Thanks to a 8-1-1 run in their last 10 games, the Ice Miners have been able to hold onto 2nd place in the North Division and separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the North. They remain 21 points behind division-leading Janesville. Meanwhile, the Warriors have lost ground in the division and sit four points out of the final playoff spot in the North. However, Michigan has the edge in the season series with Keystone to date by a 3-2 margin.
Janesville @ Soo – The Jets have the league’s best record at 32-9-1 and have won 16 of their last 17 games, including their last six straight. The Jets have also been dominant against the Eagles so far this season, winning seven of the eight games played to date. That included a series home sweep of the Eagles two weeks ago in Janesville. The Eagles sit comfortably in 3rd place, just a point back of 2nd place Keystone. Soo forward Trevor Cope has nine points in his last five games.
Johnstown @ Springfield – The battle for the 4th and final playoff spot in the North Division could not be any tighter as Johnstown and Springfield lock horns in a three game set this weekend. Thanks to a 3-2 shootout win on Thursday night, the Tomhawks are just a point behind the Jr. Blues for the 4th and final playoff spot. The win on Thursday for Johnstown snapped a seven-game losing streak. Jacob Gwillim made a career-high 53 saves in the win for the Tomahawks.
South Division
Wichita Falls @ Lone Star – With division-leading Topeka idle this weekend, all eyes turn to North Richland Hills, Texas where the 2nd place Brahmas will host the 3rd place Wildcats. Lone Star sits just one point ahead of Wichita Falls in the standings. Lone Star is the NAHL’s best team at home, posting a 20-1-1 record to date. Although they are separated by just a few hours drive, the teams have only played one another twice to date with the two teams splitting a weekend series all the way back in early October.
Rio Grande Valley @ Amarillo – The 6th and final playoff spot may boil down to who is able to have success this weekend in Amarillo as the Bulls host the Killer Bees. The Bulls sit one point ahead of the Killer Bees for the final spot in the South. The Killer Bees have lost three straight and four of their last five. The faced the Bulls three weeks ago in Rio Grande Valley and came away with the split and overall the Killer Bees hold a 3-1 edge this season against Amarillo. The Bulls have won four of their last six games.
Corpus Christi @ Odessa – The IceRays have won three of their last four games, which included a 3-2 win in overtime on Thursday night in Odessa. Nathan Bryer had the game-winner and Andrew Lindgren made 30 saves in the win. The IceRays have been dominant against the Jacks so far this season, winning all seven games played. With just 18 games remaining in the regular season, Odessa is 11 points out of the 6th and final playoff spot in the South Division. Jackalopes forward Razmuz Waxin-Engback has four goals in his last five games.
Out of Division
MN Magicians vs. Austin (home and home) – The Magicians are in a dogfight with Kenai River for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. Minnesota sits just two points up with 19 games to play. The Bruins have dominated the season series to date with the Magicians, winning all four games and outscoring Minnesota 19-6 in the series.  Austin is 5-1-3 in the month of January and are just three points behind division-leading Minot. The Bruins have an NAHL-leading 11 losses in overtime or a shootout so far this season.
Wenatchee @ Kenai River – The Wild, who are firmly in 5th place in the South Division, shutout the Brown Bears 6-0 on Thursday night in the first of a three game set. Newly acquired forward Kyle Stephan had a hat-trick and Zach Quinn posted the shutout, making 16 saves.  The Wild have a 5-1-2 record against the Brown Bears so far this season. The Brown Bears have lost 16 of their last 18 games, but sit only two points out of the 4th and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. 
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