The scary week is past us as we build up the reserves for Thanksgiving. Christmas is a pretty big deal around our house, and this is the week the decorated trees and lights start making their way from the garage. It’s a very festive time of the year for our family.
Speaking of being festive, did you notice that there is really only one team from the North American Hockey League that appears to already be “out” of the playoff picture. Yea, we know the word parity is a favorite of almost any league’s leadership office, but this season has the makings of being something special.
NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE
One would expect that the Central Division leading Bismarck Bobcats (11-1-0-2) would have a bit more breathing room with a 10-0-0-1 streak of good luck. The Wilderness (11-6-1-0) are just a point behind. With four more games played than the Bobcats, Minotaruos, and Wings, the boys from Cloquet have the fourth best record in the division. Minot (8-3-1-2) has just five wins in the last ten games, that’s a result that falls far below the high expectations of bench boss Marty Murray. Aberdeen (7-2-4-1) is another team that can’t be content with winning just half the games on the schedule this season. Austin (8-6-1-2) is in that same boat. I know Moe Mantha well enough that the St. Cloud Blizzard (4-8-2-1) has an adequate amount of time to get his team back into the log jam that is this division’s playoff picture.
Simply stated, the East Division leading New Jersey Titans (15-2-0-0) are making things look easy. Winner in ten straight games (and 15 of 17), it looks like Craig Doremus has taken a page out of the Aston-Philidelphia-Jamestown playbook so far this season. Johnstown (10-6-2-1) is trying to keep pace with six wins in the last ten games. The Knights (9-9-1-1) and Nordiques (8-8-1-0) remain at par. The Generals (7-10-1-1) and Black Bears (7-8-1-0) are hanging in there and even the Jamestown Rebels (5-11-0-2) are looking better after getting a pair of wins this past weekend.
Roses are red, violets are blue and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (11-4-0-1) are atop the Midwest Division again. No, I’m not a poet, but I do love being able to say, “I told ya so”. I am excited to see the Brown Bears (9-5-1-2) continue to look good. Let’s face it, the result is critical to the future of the game on the Kenai Peninsula. The house of cards, otherwise known as the Chippewa Steel (10-4-0-0), were dismantled by Aberdeen over the weekend (combined two-day score was 12-2). Hey, how long did you really expect Bryant Black to be able to continue the charade? Six Steel players did pick up Stars of the Game recognition for their amazing play. Keep it classy Chippewa! Springfield (6-7-2-1) sits in fourth-place a few points in front of the Magicians (4-7-3-2) and Jets (6-10-1-0).
The South Division leading Topeka Pilots (13-5-1-1) split the weekend home set with Lone Star (13-4-0-1) to remain a point in front of their metro-plex based rivals. Shreveport (12-6-0-0) has a two-point advantage over both Amarillo (10-4-1-1) and Corpus Christi (9-7-2-2). Those three teams are already in a dogfight for the third and fourth playoff spots. The Bulls are playing better hockey with seven wins in the past ten games. Meanwhile the IceRays are hoping to get things back on track when the Bulls visit American Bank Center this weekend. Odessa (6-9-1-1) is far from “out of it” but will have to do much better than winning just three of the last ten games. That leaves us with the only team in the league already looking at next season. New Mexico (1-15-0-1) gave Fairbanks fits in Friday night’s 2-1 loss before getting hammered 8-3 Saturday.
CHEERS AND JEERS
Cheers to New Mexico twineminder Josh Graziano (2000) for stopping 48 of 50 shots in Friday’s loss to Fairbanks. The Buffalo NY native has respectable numbers this season (1-10-0-0 3.88GAA .900 SV%) despite his team’s difficulties.
Jeers to the United States Premier Hockey League Premier Division’s Hudson Havoc as allegations (from player and parent) of a hazing incident (that could be considered a sexual assault of a minor) from last season has come to light. It’s our recommendation that the parents report the incident to local police and let the authorities investigate and prosecute all those that were involved and overlooked the situation. Make not mistake, adults that witness or hear about any form of sexual abuse are required by law to report the incident to law enforcement. Failure to do so in itself is a crime.
Jeers to the USPHL Premier Division’s Buffalo Thunder for not refunding $2,000 to a player that the family says never signed a contract for this season (disputed by team). The player decided to play for a different team after the coach that recruited him was dismissed before the season started. If there is a contract, it’s forgery from the previous season according to the parent. The same parent is telling us that the team was booted from Hyde Park for non-payment. The team was previously known as the Lockport Express and has similar arena issues before moving to Hyde Park to become the Niagara Falls PowerHawks. No longer a part of the NA3HL, the ownership is focusing on their USPHL efforts. Like the situation in Hudson, it’s our recommendation that the family seek a legal resolution.