NAHL Weekend Preview
March 11, 2016
Just one month remains in the 2015-16 NAHL regular season and the playoff races are at their peak entering the weekend.
Whether it be the race for the division titles or the race for the 4th and final playoff spot, each division has its own drama and intrigue.
This weekend offers another full slate of games on Friday and Saturday and features nothing but divisional rivalries.
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Bismarck @ Austin – With 12 games to go, the Bobcats will have a busy last month of the season, but are set up well for the stretch run with several players back from injury and in a tie for 1st place. After going 3-8-3 in their last 14 games, the Bruins are looking for consistency now that home-ice advantage in the playoffs is probably gone. The Bruins do have a five-point lead on 4th place Aberdeen and is good position to make the playoffs. The Bobcats enter the series winning four of the six games played to date.
Aberdeen @ MN Magicians – The time for the Magicians to win has to be now after getting swept last weekend in Aberdeen and falling three points out of the 4th and final playoff spot in the Central. The Magicians have won just two of their last eight games. Meanwhile, the Wings have caught fire at the right time, winning six of their last nine games to take a three-point lead for the 4th and final playoff spot in the division. The Wings hold a 4-2 edge in the season series.
Brookings @ Minot – It is crunch time for the Blizzard, who are in a fight for their playoff lives. With 10 games to go, the Blizzard are three points out of the final playoff spot in the Central Division. While Minot is on the cusp of clinching a playoff spot, they are in a race with Bismarck for the division title. Brookings has one win in their last seven games, while Minot has won five of their last six outings. The Minotauros have won five of the eight games played to date between the two teams.
New Jersey vs. Aston (home and home) – This weekend could be the one that ultimately determines the East Division Champion as 1st place New Jersey and 2nd place Aston battle. A sweep by either team would make things very interesting as New Jersey, who has a four-point lead entering the weekend, would put themselves in a driver’s seat with two wins, while two wins by the Rebels would bring the teams back to even with six games to go. New Jersey has won 10 of their last 12 games, but the Rebels hold a 7-5 edge in the season series.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton @ Johnstown – The Tomahawks are five points back of 2nd place and home ice advantage in the playoffs, so winning now is important. They have controlled the season series to date against the Knights, with eight wins in 12 games, including a 6-3 win last weekend in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. However, the Tomahawks haven’t won more than two games in a town in mid-January. The Knights have won just three of their last 13 games and appear to be locked into the 4th playoff spot in the East.
Fairbanks @ Coulee Region – Thanks to the Chill’s win over Janesville on Thursday night, the Ice Dogs have locked up the Midwest Division title and are on track to try and lock up the NAHL’s #1 seed soon. The Ice Dogs are the league’s hottest team, winners of nine in a row and 12 of their last 13 games. The Chill are also playing very well, having won six straight and nine if their last 11 games. The is the first time the two teams have met since late November when they split a season series in Fairbanks, with each game being decided by a goal.
MN Wilderness @ Janesville – The Wilderness lead for 2nd place has shrunk to just six points over 3rd place Janesville and the Jets have three games in hand, which is why this weekend’s series between the two teams is so important. The Wilderness have just one win in their last five games, while the Jets are 3-1-1 in their last five. Their regulation loss last night to Coulee Region was their first since February 19th. The Jets hold a 6-4 edge in the season series to date between the two teams.
Kenai River @ Springfield – The Jr. Blues are now feeling the heat of the Coulee Region Chill, who find themselves just two points back of the Jr. Blues for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Midwest, with Coulee Region having two games in hand. The Jr. Blues have lost their last four games and six of their last eight (all to Fairbanks). These are must-win games for the Jr. Blues against Kenai River. With 45 regulation losses and nine games to go, the Brown Bears are trying to avoid the all time mark for regulation losses in a season, which was 51 set by Odessa in 2012-13. The Jr. Blues have won five of the six games in the season series.
Topeka @ Amarillo – The RoadRunners look to close in on a playoff spot as they travel to Amarillo to take on the Bulls. Topeka has lost four in a row and hasn’t played a game since February 27th. The Bulls are mathematically on the verge of being out of the playoff race and are playing the spoiler role for the remainder of the season. It has been all RoadRunners in the season series to date, as Topeka has won all four games, including a sweep of the Bulls in Amarillo back on February 5-6.
Wichita Falls @ Corpus Christi – The Wildcats have a seven-point lead in the division and are just a few wins away from capturing the title. They have won five games in a row heading into the series in Corpus Christi. The IceRays are in a battle for their playoff lives as they are handing onto the 4th and final playoff spot in the South by two points over Odessa, who has two games in hand on Corpus Christi. The Wildcats have a perfect 6-0 record against the IceRays this season.
Odessa @ Lone Star – This series is important for both clubs, as the Jackalopes want to move back into the 4th and final playoff spot, while the Brahmas still have a shot to win the division. Odessa was on a roll until they were swept last weekend at home by the IceRays, but they have still won eight of their last 12 games. The Brahmas have won five of their last six and seven of their last nine and own a 5-3 edge in the season series with the Jacks to date.