Things are tight in league’s North Division
There is little room for error in the North Division of the NAHL. With eight weekends to play in the 2013-2014 regular season (as of Feb. 7), there is a frantic race for the four playoff positions in the six-team North Division.
Simply put, two pretty-good teams are going to be on the outside looking in once the playoffs begin in the NAHL North during the first week of April.
Let's take a quick, top to bottom glance at the NAHL North. Team records are indicated in brackets.
1. PT HURON FIGHTING FALCONS (24-11-7, 55 pts)
In his fourth season of Junior with his fifth NAHL team, forward Zach Badalamenti leads the Fighting Falcons in scoring with 10 goals, 22 assists, 32 points. High on the Port Huron scoring chart are a pair of defensemen, Jon Kopacka and Alex Archibald. Kopacka has 10 goals, 17 assists, 27 points and Archibald has four goals, 19 assists, 23 points. In Max Milosek and Alex Blankenburg, the Fighting Falcons boast the division's top 1-2 goaltending tandem.
2. MICHIGAN WARRIORS (21-12-8, 50 pts)
A troika of 1993 birth-year skaters lead the Warriors in scoring. Zack Szajner has 10 goals, 19 assists, 29 points followed by Colin Larkin at 16-12-28 and Jake Hopfner at 14-12-16. Also putting up the points since being acquired by the Warriors from the Topeka RoadRunners is Tyler Groat, who has 10 goals, four assists, 14 points in 16 games in a Michigan uniform.
3. JOHNSTOWN TOMAHAWKS (23-19-3, 49 pts)
Forwards Shane Bednard and Brandon Reinholz with 16 apiece and Matt Meier with 15 have combined for 47 goals to lead the Johnstown production parade. Defenseman Mitch Hall is up there in scoring with five goals, 28 assists, 33 points and goalie Alex Okicki gives the Tomahawks a good chance to win most nights.
4. SOO EAGLES (20-17-7, 47 pts)
Mike Sabatini, a 1995 birth-year forward, leads the Eagles in scoring with 14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points. Three forwards acquired from other NAHL teams since the start of the season have given the Eagles a big boost. Since joining the Soo lineup, Scott Cuthrell has eight goals, nine assists, 17 points in 16 games, Nick Belger is 9-5-14 in 18 games and Sandis Zolmanis is 7-13-20 in 26 games.
5. SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES (20-18-5, 45 pts)
This is one of the NAHL's youngest teams and three 1996 birth-year players are among the best of the Jr. Blues. They are top scorers Max Kalter with 12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points, Trevor Stone with 7-15-22 totals and workhorse goalie Stefanos Lekkas, who has a 16-13-4 record, 2.30 goals-against-average and .927 save percentage.
6. JANESVILLE JETS (18-21-2, 38 pts)
Two players are having impact seasons for the Jets. Forward Michael Louria has 19 goals, 21 assists, 40 points and 1996 birth-year goalie Logan Halladay has a 12-7-1 record, 2.54 goals-against-average and .927 save percentage.
The Flint Jr. Generals and the Waterford-based Metro Jets are only 30 miles apart on Interstate 75, but 38 points separate the two teams in the East Division standings of the North American 3 Hockey League.
With a record of 36-3-2 and 74 points as of Feb. 7, the Jr. Generals have already clinched a playoff spot.
The Jets, meanwhile, are in fifth place with 36 points from a record of 17-21-2 and in a desperate chase for the fourth-and-final playoff spot in the NA3HL East.
With eight games to play in the regular season, Metro trails the fourth-place Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks by five points and the third-place Toledo Cherokee by six. But Cleveland has two games in hand and Toledo has played three fewer than Metro.
Of Metro's eight remaining games, six are on the road.
The Jets have four games left with Toledo and two each with Cleveland and the Pittsburgh Vengeance.
Back to Flint, the Jr. Generals now have one 20-goal scorer and four others closing in on that number.
Mark McGee has passed the 20-goal mark with 21 while Nick Gnagni, Conor Durgan and Brett Leppek have 19 apiece and Zach Koonce has potted 18.
The Jr. Generals have seven games to play in the regular season and could well have five 20-goal scorers by that time.
Meanwhile, the sixth-place Michigan Mountain Cats have already been eliminated from the playoffs but 1995 birth-year forward Kade Morrison is having a good season.
Morrison, who is in his third season with the Mountain Cats, leads the team in scoring with 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points in 37 games.
For his NA3HL career, Morrison has played 130 games in a Mountain Cats uniform and has 35 goals, 31 assists, 66 points.