The North American Hockey League’s eight-team Midwest Division, which includes Alaska’s three teams, continues to be a delicious cluster.
Nothing better this time of season – the stretch run to the Robertson Cup playoffs – than chaos in which so many teams have so much at stake. The final six weeks of the regular season is looking increasingly like determining playoff spots could come down to the final weekend.
Basically, six teams are fighting for three playoff spots. We can already grant one the of the divisions four total playoff berths to the division-leading Wisconsin Windigo, who are riding a 9-1-0 heater, and, with 63 points, are 10 points clear of the final playoff positioning with just 12 games left. We can also ignore the basement-dwelling Springfield Jr. Blues, who are 10 points out of playoff position with 13 games left.
That leaves us with these six teams, with current standings position denoted, trying to seize one of three available playoff spots:
2) Minnesota Wilderness, 26-15-7, 59 points, 12 games remaining
3) Fairbanks Ice Dogs, 26-19-5, 57 points, 10 games remaining
4) Kenai River Brown Bears, 25-22-3, 53 points, 10 games remaining
5) Anchorage Wolverines, 23-18-7, 53 points, 12 games remaining
6) Janesville Jets, 21-20-9, 51 points, 10 games remaining
7) Chippewa Steel, 24-21-2, 50 points, 13 games remaining
(Note – League tie breakers to determine playoff spots: 1) Most wins; 2) Head-to-head results; 3) Goal differential in head-to-head results; 4) Total goal differential in regular season; 5) Dreaded coin flip.)
Minnesota strengthened its position with a weekend sweep of Kenai River – 4-1 both Friday and Saturday – in Soldotna. Zero points from two home games proved a lost weekend for the Brown Bears.
Anchorage, meanwhile, strengthened its position with a sweep of Fairbanks, winning 6-3 Friday and 5-3 Saturday to avenge a pair of losses the previous weekend in Fairbanks. One of those losses in the Golden Heart City came in overtime, so at least the Wolverines mustered one standings point.
Wolverines forward Revelin Mack of Anchorage, who entered the weekend with three goals in 20 games this season, doubled up with a three-goal weekend that also gave him five goals in the last four games, all against the Ice Dogs. UAA-bound Aiden Westin of Anchorage furnished a three-assist weekend and Cameron Morris of Anchorage enjoyed a three-point series with one goal and two helpers. (Also, here’s a Westin stat that landed – he delivered 21-30—51 totals for Anchorage last season and owns those same boxcar numbers, 21-30—51, in 45 games this season.)
Northern Michigan-bound forward Billy Renfrew of Fairbanks had an assist each night to give him a five-game streak in which he has generated one assist in each game.
On the schedule front, Kenai River’s 10 remaining regular-season games are all against Alaska rivals – six games against Fairbanks and four against Anchorage. Anchorage is done with Fairbanks for the regular season and four of its remaining 10 games are against Kenai River.
In the Club 49 Cup competition for state supremacy, Anchorage leads with 28 points and Fairbanks owns 22 points. Consider Kenai River and its 10 points out of the running. The Brown Bears would have to go 10-0-0 the rest of the way, and win at least nine times in regulation, to seize the Club 49 Cup.