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NAHL Weekend Preview

March 18, 2016
With just four weekends to go in the 2015-16 regular season, the push for the playoffs continues this weekend as play resumes.
 
Of the 22 teams in the NAHL, 20 remain with a shot at one of the 16 playoff spots available. Only Fairbanks have clinched their division, as the Central, East and South remain open for a regular season champion.
 
As a reminder, the top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. The 2016 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs begin April 14th with the NAHL Robertson Cup Championship taking place from May 12-15 in Edina, Minnesota.
 
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Central Division
MN Magicians @ Minot – Minot, who is tied for 1st place in the Central, are getting hot at the right time, winning 15 of their last 18 games. As important as the series is for Minot, the Magicians are in more of a desperation mode. Minnesota finds themselves four points back of the 4th and final playoff spot in the division with eight games to go and the schedule the remainder of the way is not easy. However, the Magicians have won three of the six games played to date in the season series with Minot.
 
Bismarck @ Aberdeen (Fri) – The Wings will try and avenge their 2-1 overtime loss suffered in Bismarck back on Tuesday. They did earn a point in the loss, which moved their lead to four points over the Magicians for the 4th and final playoff spot in the division. The Bobcats, who have a 7-1-2 record in their last 10 games, have been dominant this season in their series with the Wings, having won all 11 games to date.
 
Brookings @ Austin (Fri) – It is do or die time for the Blizzard, who find themselves seven points out of the 4th and playoff spot in the Central Division with just eight games to go. While it is a long shot for the Bruins to catch Minot or Bismarck, they do have to keep an eye for out for Aberdeen, who is just five points behind in the standings for 3rd place. Austin has won three in a row, while the Blizzard have lost four in a row and eight of their last nine. Austin has won six of the seven games played in the series to date.
 
Bismarck @ Brookings (Sat) – It is another must-win game for the Blizzard on Saturday as they continue their home weekend against the Bobcats. Bismarck has won seven of the nine meetings against the Blizzard this season. 
 
East Division
Aston @ Johnstown – 2nd and 3rd place in the East collide as Aston travels to Johnstown this weekend, with each team having just six games to go in the regular season. Aston has a four point lead over the Tomahawks for 2nd place and trail 1st place New Jersey (who is in Alaska) by just one point for the division lead. The Rebels have won seven of the 12 match-ups with the Tomahawks this season. Johnstown has won four of their last five games.
 
Midwest Division
Janesville vs. Coulee Region (home and home) – The battle of Wisconsin continues this weekend and the stakes are high, particularly for the Chill. With 10 games remaining on their schedule, Coulee Region enters the weekend five points out of the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. Meanwhile, the Jets, who are in 3rd place are making a push for 2nd place as they are just three points back of the Wilderness thanks to a 5-1-2 run in their last eight games. Each team has won four times in the eight games played to date in the series. 
 
Springfield @ MN Wilderness – The Wilderness have fallen on hard times, winning just one of their last seven games and have seen their lead for 2nd place in the division shrink down to just three points. The Jr. Blues got a little breathing room for the 4th and final playoff in the division thanks to their weekend sweep last weekend over Kenai River, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Even though the two teams are in the same division, they have played just one series to date, which came back on November 13-14 in Springfield, where the Jr. Blues picked up a weekend sweep of Minnesota.
 
South Division
Odessa @ Topeka – With just nine games remaining in their schedule, it is a huge weekend for the Jackalopes, who are just two points out of the 4th and final playoff spot in the South Division. Odessa got a big 4-1 win in Amarillo on Tuesday night, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Topeka, who is likely going to end up in 3rd place in the division, can creep closer to clinching a playoff spot with some wins. The RoadRunners, who have won at least 30 games in all nine seasons of their tenure of playing in Topeka, have won five of the seven match-ups against the Jacks this season.
 
Amarillo @ Wichita Falls – The Wildcats will try and close in on the South Division title with two games against the Bulls, who are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Bulls enter the weekend having lost six games in a row and eight of their last nine, while the Wildcats have won six of their last seven outings. With 38 wins and 80 points, the Wildcats are second only to Fairbanks in both categories. They are also one of two teams (Lone Star) with at least 20 wins at home this season. The Wildcats have won nine of the 10 games played against Amarillo so far this season.
 
Corpus Christi @ Lone Star – With eight games to go for both Corpus Christi and Lone Star, this weekend is an important one for both teams, particularly the IceRays. While the Brahmas are firmly in 2nd place and likely will have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, they are just five points behind 1st place Wichita Falls, so wins still matter. The IceRays hold onto the 4th and final playoff spot in the South by just two points, which makes each point important the rest of the way.  The IceRays have won three of their last four and have done it behind goalie Dryden McKay. The season series however, has been controlled by the Brahmas, as they have won seven of the 10 match-ups.
 
Out of Division
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton @ Fairbanks – It will be a tall order for the Knights as they look to pull the upset with a series in Fairbanks. The Ice Dogs have seven games to go, all of which will be at home. With 43 wins on the season, the Ice Dogs have a chance to set the all-time NAHL single season record, which is 49 set last season by the Janesville Jets. Fairbanks also wants to win to try and clinch the NAHL regular season title and #1 overall seed heading into the Robertson Cup Playoffs, where they know they will have home-ice advantage through the Divisional rounds. The Ice Dogs have won 11 games in a row, but the Knights split their only series to date with Fairbanks, which came back on December 11-12 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
 
New Jersey @ Kenai River – While the Brown Bears try and avoid making history, the Titans have an entirely different reason for wanting valuable points in Alaska. New Jersey leads the East by a single point, thanks to just a 2-2-1 record so far in March. The Brown Bears have lost 16 straight games and with seven games to go and 47 regulation losses, are trying to avoid the all-time NAHL record for regulation losses in a season, which stands at 51. New Jersey won the only match-up to date between the two teams, which came back on December 11-12 in New Jersey.
 
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