By Alex Kyrias, NAHL
Exhibition season in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) isn’t just for training or selecting a roster, but it is also for seeing how your team stacks up against others. Although many NAHL teams stay within the league for pre-season games, there are those teams that stepped outside the league to play teams from other junior leagues during exhibition season. Doing this not only diversifies the schedule, but also shows where you match-up against the out-of-league competition.
If there was any question of which league may be one the top junior leagues in North America, NAHL teams quickly answered that against the competition this exhibition season, again solidifying the fact that the NAHL remains one of the best developmental junior leagues in the world and truly rises above their competition.
In all NAHL teams went 12-2-2 this exhibition season against junior teams from other leagues that are viewed to share a similar competition level as the NAHL.
The past two weeks, attention was focused to the Northwest, specifically British Columbia where two NAHL teams, the Wenatchee Wild and the Dawson Creek Rage, would take on their counterparts from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). The Wild would go 4-0-2 in their six exhibition games against the Canadian counterparts, which included wins over BCHL teams like the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters, while the Rage went 3-2, with wins against the Grand Prairie Storm and the Prince George Spruce Kings.
In Michigan, the expansion Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings played a pair of games against the USA National Development 17-Team, who compete in the United States Hockey League (USHL). The Jr. K-Wings were comprised of many players who had never played in a junior hockey game before and who were playing together for the first time, managed to defeat the USA Team in back-to-back games this past weekend. “It was a great team effort,” said Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler. “The boys responded to the support of a strong crowd in Kalamazoo and found a way to win both games. It certainly validated our preparation.”
The NAHL’s Traverse City North Stars ventured North to play in an exhibition tournament against the Soo Eagles and Blind River Beavers from the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) and the Wellington Dukes from the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). The North Stars would stomp the NOJHL competition by a combined score of 20-4, but the real test was against Wellington who was the reigning Hewitt Cup title holder as Ontario’s junior A champions. The North Stars again showed why the NAHL is considered one of the best junior leagues in the world by beating the Dukes by a score of 3-1 to post a perfect 3-0 record against three teams from some of Canada’s best junior leagues.
All NAHL teams converge this week on Blaine, Minnesota for the Combat Hockey/NAHL Showcase Tournament, which begins Wednesday, September 14th and features all 28 NAHL teams playing in four regular season games throughout the week. For more details on the NAHL Showcase Tournament, including ticket, hotel, rental car, broadcast, scouting and schedule information, visit NAHLShowcase.com.