NAHL Weekend Preview: Regular Season Finale edition
March 27, 2015
The final weekend of the 2014-15 NAHL regular season is here. With 2-3 games to go for all the teams, division title are still up for grabs and will be decided this weekend in the Midwest and the South Divisions. Also, the final playoff spot that has yet to be claimed to determine itself in the North Division. Entering the weekend, the only division with its playoff match-ups already set in the Central Division. Meanwhile the Janesville Jets will make their run at NAHL history.
With all that said, here is a look at the final regular season match-ups this weekend and the playoff implications surrounding it.
Minot @ Bismarck – Although there is nothing in the standings to play for, there is plenty of intrigue surrounding the final series between Minot and Bismarck. In a week, the two clubs will face one another in the division semi-finals, so this series could go a long way in gamesmanship and momentum. However, both coaches are likely to rest players nursing injuries or key members to their line-up to make sure everyone is 100% by the playoffs.
Brookings vs. Austin – The Central Champion Bruins are likely not to play their big guns against the Blizzard, who will miss the playoffs. Coach Dan Daikawa will be assessing players to build for next season, while Austin will try and continue to gain points in the race to try and get the best record possible, remembering that last year they had to go on the road for the Robertson Cup Finals.
Coulee Region vs. MN Wilderness – The Wilderness and the Chill tangle for three games this weekend. There is not much at stake for the Chill, who are locked into the 3rd seed. However, the Wilderness have plenty to gain. If Minnesota wins all three games, they will be the division champions. If they lose just one of those games in regulation, then they have to hope for help. If the Wilderness and Fairbanks tie in points, the Ice Dogs have an edge right now with one more win.
Kenai River @ Fairbanks – The Ice Dogs have dominated against the Brown Bears this season, but wins aren’t guaranteed this weekend, as the two teams split last weekend. Fairbanks needs two wins and needs to hope that the Wilderness lose one of their last three games in regulation. Kenai River will miss the playoffs and be building for next season. The Ice Dogs are the defending Robertson Cup Champions and have won two titles in the last four years.
Johnstown vs. Keystone (home and home) – Plenty to play for in this series with the Ice Miners trying to get 2nd place and home ice in the semi-finals, which will be against the Soo. Meanwhile the Tomahawks need just one win in their final two games to clinch a playoff berth. If they don’t win, the a Michigan loss would put them in as well.
Michigan @ Soo – The Warriors have to win both games and hope for two Johnstown losses in order to make the post-season. Meanwhile, the Eagles are one point ahead of Keystone for 2nd place. Two wins would secure the #2 seed for the Eagles. The Eagles have two more wins than the Ice Miners, so that is an advantage if the two clubs tie in points.
Janesville @ Springfield – With the Jr. Blues out of the playoff picture, the big story in the series is the Jets. With 47 wins and 96 points, Janesville is two wins away from making NAHL history. Two more wins would give the Jets 49 wins and 100 points, which would set new NAHL single-season records. One win would tie the existing record of 48 wins in a season held by the 2003-04 Texas Tornado and 2005-06 Bozeman Icedogs. The Amarillo Bulls hold the point record with 99.
Amarillo @ Corpus Christi – It is pack the house weekend and the IceRays are trying to beat their attendance record from last year, which saw more than 12,000 fans in the building during the two games. The IceRays are locked into the #4 seed and know they will have home ice for one of the two play-in series. Amarillo’s playoff hopes were dashed on Tuesday in a 6-1 home loss to Wichita Falls. This will be the first season in Bulls history that they have not made the playoffs, ending a remarkable run.
Wichita Falls @ Lone Star – All eyes will be on North Richland Hills as the Wildcats visit the Brahmas, potentially with a division title on the line for both clubs. The two teams are separated by just a point and the Wildcats have one more win to boot, but trail the Brahmas by that single point. Although both teams want to win the division, neither really wants to be the #3 seed and have to play next weekend in a play-in series. The goal here is points, however they come, and a bye as one of the top two seeds.
Odessa @ Rio Grande Valley – A pair of wins by Rio Grande Valley gives them a pretty good shot at the #5 seed and a date with nearby Corpus Christi. However, stumble against Odessa at home and a couple Wenatchee points means that the Killer Bees could end up in 6th and have to travel anywhere from Wichita Falls, to Topeka, to North Richland Hills for a play-in series next weekend. Although out of the playoff picture, the Jackalopes are playing arguably their best hockey of the season right now.
Topeka @ Wenatchee – Topeka is the only team in the South that controls its own destiny. With three games in Wenatchee this weekend, we may have to wait until Sunday night to find out the final seeds in the South. If Topeka wins all three in Wenatchee, they will be the South Champions and #1 seed. Anything else, would likely drop the RoadRunners to the #2 or even #3 seed and move Wenatchee to the #5 seed. If the Wild win all three they will be the #5 seed and play Corpus Christi in the first round.
Out of Division
Aberdeen @ MN Magicians – This series is always a good one, but don’t expect either side to push it or play their big stars. Both teams are locked into the #4 seed in their respective divisions so coaches will want their players to stay away from trouble. Aberdeen is going on the road next weekend to face Austin, while the Magicians will travel to either Cloquet to face the Wilderness or take the long trip to Alaska to face the Ice Dogs next weekend.