United States Hockey League
Green Bay continues to have its strangle hold on the East Division with a 13 point gap over 2nd place Cedar Rapids as the Gamblers are putting themselves in a positition to be the favorites to win the East Division and get to the Clark Cup Championship in May. Elsewhere in the East is the Cedar Rapids Roughriders who's looking to separate themselves from a pack that includes the Indiana Ice, Chicago Steel who have recovered from a bad to start to the season to get into 4th place in the East.
This week will be crictal for both the Ice and the Steel as a weekend series will take place in Indiana following this weeks All Star Game on Tuesday night. Outside the playoff picture we have the Waterloo Blackhawks who have won 6 of their last 7 to get one game below .500 and just 1 point back of the Steel for the final playoff spot. Youngstown have been struggling lately have lost 7 of their last 8 to fall to 6th place and are starting to lose track of the playoff picture.
Omaha and Fargo out west for the top spot as the Lancers still lead by 5 points over the Force with Fargo winning their last head to head matchup against each other back on 1/2 in a 6-5 win to keep the Force within striking distance. Sioux Falls looks to keep it's grip on the 3rd spot despite getting crushed back on 1/22 with a 10-1 loss to Cedar Rapids, however the game before, they put an 8-2 beating on the USNTDP the game before.
After finishing last season with the worst record in the league last year, the Tri-City Storm have stormed back and currently have the 4th and final playoff spot with a 5 and 7 point gap over the Sioux City Musketeers and Des Moines Buccaneers. After the All Star Break, the Storm have a chance to prove that they are real with a 1/29 tilt with the Fargo Force, then a 2 game set on the road on 2/3 and 2/5 against the East Division Leading Green Bay Gamblers, paired with a home game against the Sioux City Musketeers to get some breathing room against a team trying to chase them down to better the Storm's playoff hopes this season.
After the All Star Game, the Musketeers will continue a 6 game road trip where they are 0-2 so far with one goal losses against Chicago and Green Bay. Next up for them is games against Des Moines on 1/29 and 2/5 then a trip to Nebraska to play the Tri-City Storm and Omaha Lancers on 1/30 and 2/2 in between.
North American Hockey League
The Central Division in the NAHL looks to be pretty set in stone right now with no real playoff races going on with the Bismarck Bobcats having a 9 point lead for the Central Lead by winning 10 of their last 12 including all sorts of ways to win which included an 8-2 blowout of Albert Lea to kick off the streak back in Mid December and a pair of OT Wins Owatonna and North Iowa who could be the 1st round playoff matchup in the Central.
Owatonna is trailing Bismarck by 9 points, but has a 12 point lead over Alexnadria, And assuming that they stay in the 2nd spot, expect the Express to start finding out what lines will work best for a possible playoff run as they not expected to contend for the Central Division Top spot or be able to fall to 3rd or 4th in the Central.
North Iowa has been falling hard which has them in 4th place in the Central Division, since the Outlaws have just 3 points in the way of OT Losses in the last month and a half, the Outlaws should be looking at 4th place or possibly 3rd if they can get back up on their feet to at least challenge Alexandria so they wouldn't have to play the Bismarck Bobcats in the 1st round. They last win came back on December 6 with a 7-4 win over the Owatonna Express. Since then, the Outlaws have lost 11 in a row.
At least the Albert Lea Thunder probably won't challenge for the playoffs because of the restrictions have in place because of the league in control of them for the actions of former owner Barry Sorskin who earlier this season was found guilty of of a pay to play scandal which have been going on since the team 1st entered the league last season.
Since a great start to the season that at 1 point, had them just 2 points back of the Division Leading Traverse City, the Jets have fallen out of contention for the Division and have drifted to 3rd and nearing 4th place with the Motor City Metal Jackets just 3 points back of 3rd and with them winning 5 of their last 6 to get withing striking distance of the Jets and possibly the Marquette Rangers who have taken advantage with a heavy dose of last place Alpena and some problems against teams like the North Stars and the Jets who they have struggled with recently.
The top of the South may be the best race in the NAHL in the last 2 months of the season. For the Bandits, the 3 time Robertson Cup Champions are in a dead heat with the Roadrunners who have hit the wall since players like Erik Higby who since having a 5 point night in a blowout win against Wichita Falls back on 1/2, have scored just 5 points since including being held pointless in the last 4 games. This given players like Bryce Johnson become a more dangerous weapon with at least 1 point in 8 of the last 10 games.
Texas and Springfield are currently tied for 3rd, but with 4 games in hand over the Jr. Blues, the Tornado are expected to at least pull away with the Jr. Blues to hold on to the 3rd spot. However, with a very tough schedule coming up with division leading Topeka next weekend, 5 straight games against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (2 @ home, 3 on the road) and 2 games on the road against lead leading Wenatchee, the Tornado will get a chance to prove that they can become a factor in the South Division for the last 2 months of the regular season.
For Wichita Falls, the big question will be is how new head coach Rick Davoult will change the Wildcats after the team made the move on Thursday, getting rid of long time head coach John Bowkus. After a 3 goal rally in the 3rd period to win 4-2 against the Tornado last night, the Wildcats are down 8 points still have a tough road to get into the playoffs, and if they get in, it will most likely by the Bandits or the Roadrunners as they have to play lights out just to have a shot for the rest of the season.
You can pretty much put in Wenatchee set in stone for the top spot in the West with a 19 point lead over the Icedogs and will be easily the 1st team to clinch the top Spot for the playoffs and with them hosting the Robertson Cup. Expect the Wild to be a big contender for the NAHL Robertson Cup Championship.
Fairbanks is looking like it will successfully fend off the Alaska Avalanche for 2nd, but it will probably be a 1st round matchup between the Alaska Rivals. The big thing that will hurt the Avalanche is the lack of scoring threats on the team.
United States Hockey League
1. Green Bay 36 GP 27-6-3 57 PTS 124-76
2. Cedar Rapids 38 GP 21-15-2 44 PTS 132-110
3. Indiana 35 GP 19-14-2 40 PTS 107-102
4. Chicago 36 GP 15-16-2 35 PTS 117-134
5. Waterloo 35 GP 16-17-2 34 PTS 128-136
6. Youngstown 35 GP 14-19-2 30 PTS 114-138
7. USNTDP 34 GP 10-20-4 24 PTS 101-138
1. Omaha 37 GP 27-8-2 56 PTS 153-91
2. Fargo 36 GP 24-9-3 51 PTS 139-121
3. Sioux Falls 35 GP 19-8-8 46 PTS 132-110
4. Tri-City 38 GP 17-15-6 40 PTS 110-124
5. Sioux City 34 GP 16-15-3 35 PTS 90-102
6. Des Moines 37 GP 15-19-3 33 PTS 134-154
7. Lincoln 36 GP 11-21-4 26 PTS 85-130
North American Hockey League
1. Traverse City 39 GP 24-12-3 51 PTS 146-118
2. Marquette 37 GP 23-14-0 46 PTS 121-98
3. Janesville 36 GP 19-14-3 41 PTS 117-110
4. Motor City 36 GP 16-14-6 38 PTS 103-112
5. Alpena 38 GP 11-26-1 23 PTS 97-135
1. Bismarck 41 GP 25-9-7 57 PTS 129-101
2. Owatonna 39 GP 22-13-4 48 PTS 123-125
3. Alexandria 36 GP 16-16-4 36 PTS 96-103
4. North Iowa 38 GP 13-20-5 31 PTS 110-154
5. Albert Lea 37 GP 9-23-5 23 PTS 88-149
1. Topeka 40 GP 29-7-4 62 PTS 168-94
2. St. Louis 36 GP 30-5-1 61 PTS 130-71
3. Texas 35 GP 16-16-3 35 PTS 101-115
4. Springfield 39 GP 15-19-5 35 PTS 114-125
5. Wichita Falls 39 GP 11-23-5 27 PTS 116-171
1. Wenatchee 43 GP 33-7-3 69 PTS 146-91
2. Fairbanks 42 GP 24-16-2 50 PTS 158-132
3. Alaska 37 GP 19-12-6 44 PTS 124-110
4. Kenai River 40 GP 10-28-2 22 PTS 92-157
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