Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
The North American Hockey League’s entire North Division flocked to the Ice Zone in Boardman, Ohio, last weekend for the chance to not only help their team kick start the playoff race, but also gain valuable exposure to NCAA and NHL scouts at the Phantoms Hockey Showcase.
“Our division did great for itself in the way all of the teams competed and performed,” said Phantoms coach-GM Bob Mainhardt on the overall success of the showcase.
“It was just an outstanding opportunity for the scouts to get out here and see these guys,” Mainhardt continued. “I talked to a number of scouts about players off of each of the teams we played, and it’s definitely going to open some doors for some young men on all of our teams.”
The challenge of four games in four days with eight points up for grabs gave each team a chance to make a move in the standings or suffer a setback as the second half of the season hits full swing.
“It was a first-class event,” said Bandits coach-GM Jon Cooper. “At this time of year, when the playoff race is so tight, the competition is extremely high.
“Anytime you can get that many top-quality teams in one arena, it benefits the players involved and scouts in the stands.”
After the dust settled, the host Phantoms were the only team able to sweep the weekend, winning two games each against the Marquette Rangers and the Traverse City North Stars to move into sole possession of second place in the division.
“We obviously want to make the Ice Zone one of the toughest places to play in the league; we have to take pride in that,” Mainhardt said about the importance of sweeping the weekend. “I thought the guys came out and had a commitment to the game plan. I thought we were very good defensively this weekend, and that was the difference in all four games.”
One of the hottest teams in the league, the Alpena IceDiggers, came into the tournament with five consecutive wins. Although they moved that streak to seven with after a surprising 6-2 dismantling of the first-place St. Louis Bandits on Saturday, the Ice Diggers then went 0-1-1 in their last two, falling to third place in the standings.
Only an opening-day, 6-5 loss to the Ice Diggers stood between the U.S. National Team and a perfect weekend, as it won three of four to move right back into the playoff race.
As expected, St. Louis continued its winning ways. Although they took a shootout to overcome the IceDiggers on Monday morning, the Bandits were also able to win three of four games, keeping a stranglehold on first place in the North.
“It was a great test for our team because we haven’t played within our division in a month,” said Cooper. “I learned, however, that any of the six teams has a shot at the North title and, if you don't bring your A-game, your chances of surviving aren’t very good.”
Suffering through a tough Showcase weekend was Traverse City and Marquette. Each team went 0-4 on the weekend.
In the Midget Major AAA portion of the Showcase, again it was the host team that came out on top. The Phantom Fireworks Midget Major AAA team went a perfect 5-0-0, including a 1-0 win over the Keystone Generals in the championship game en route to the third tournament title of their season.
AROUND THE NAHL
TOP PROSPECTS ROSTERS ANNOUNCED: The rosters for the NAHL’s first annual Top Prospects Tournament, which will be held February 17-19 at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich., have been announced. View the complete rosters at nahltopprospects.com.
MIDGET SHOWCASE FIELD, SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED: The NAHL has announced the field and schedule for the third and final tournament of this season's NAHL Midget Showcase Series, which will be held February 15-18 at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich. View the complete field and schedule at nahlmidgetshowcase.com.
AVALANCHE, OUTLAWS STRIKE DEAL: North Iowa has traded forwards Brooks DeZellar, 20, and Kyle Politz, 18, to Alaska for forward Larry Kincaid, 20, and defenseman Kevin Anger, 19.
BOBCATS RAISE MONEY FOR ACS: Bismarck’s “Tough Enough to Play in Pink” game held on January 5 raised $1,700 for the American Cancer Society Bismarck/Mandan Relay For Life.
MILESTONE FOR BISHOP: University of Maine junior goaltender Ben Bishop (Texas, 2004-05) was named the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week after winning his 50th career game with the Black Bears on Saturday - a 41-save shutout of Providence (4-0).
CENTURY CLUB: Army senior forward Luke Flicek (Texas, 2003-04) recorded his 100th career collegiate point with a game-winning goal in the Black Knights’ 2-1 victory over Canisius on Saturday night.
STARS IN STRIPES: Six former NAHL officials were selected to work minor-pro all-star games, including Brian Pochmara, who will referee the American Hockey League’s contest on January 28 game in Binghamton, N.Y.