Friday, March 9, 2012
1.) Trio Battle for Two Spots- With Evansville and Fort Wayne comfortable in the first two spots in the Turner Conference, the next three teams look to have quite a battle on their hands for the remaining two spots. The Missouri Mavericks (32-19-5), Rapid City Rush (31-19-6) and Quad City Mallards (32-24-2) all sit within three points of each other for the third and fourth seed in the conference. The Mavs, currently third, are just one point ahead of the Rush and three points ahead of the Mallards. Missouri has 10 games remaining (four at home, six on the road) with half of those against Tulsa. Rapid City has 10 games remaining (six at home, four on the road) with three games versus Wichita, two versus Evansville and one versus Allen included. For the Mallards, they are coming off a split in a two-game set in Allen this week and have eight games remaining (four at home, four on the road) against seven different opponents. On Friday night, Missouri is at Texas, Rapid City hosts Wichita and Quad City is at Tulsa.
2.) Thunder in Driver’s Seat- The Wichita Thunder (39-15-2) finish their five-game road trip this weekend with a pair of games in Rapid City against the Rush. Wichita is the only CHL team to have clinched a playoff berth so far and are in the driver’s seat for the CHL regular season championship (Governors’ Cup). The Thunder have a four point lead over both Evansville and Fort Wayne who appear to be the only two teams with a logical chance of catching them. Wichita is 3-0 on their current road trip and are 14-3-0 in their last 17 games. The Thunder is 10-18-1 all-time against the Rush and 3-2-0 this season with Rapid City winning each of the last two games. After this weekend’s games, five of the remaining eight games for the Thunder will be at home as the work towards the #1 overall seed in the CHL playoffs.
3.) Who’s the MVP- The candidates for the CHL Most Valuable Player award were announced this week with Allen’s Bruce Graham, Rapid City’s Shawn Limpright, Quad City’s Brandon Marino, Wichita’s Matt Robinson and Evansville’s Todd Robinson all vying for the honor. Voting will be done by balloting amongst CHL Head Coaches, CHL Communication’s Staffs and select media members from around the CHL. The MVP will be announced on Monday, March 26. Also announced this week were the five finalists for the Most Outstanding Goaltender award, Most Outstanding Defenseman award and the Rookie of the Year. The complete list of candidates can be seen at www.centralhockeyleague.com.
Inside the Numbers
14 – The number of goals the Tulsa Oilers have scored over their last nine games (1.56 per game) going 2-6-1 over that stretch. The Oilers currently find themselves in the fifth spot in the Berry Conference, three points behind the fourth place Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (Tulsa does have three games in hand on the Bees) and the final playoff slot. Over the last nine games, Tulsa has scored two goals five times and one goal four times. Tulsa scored 13 goals in the two previous games before their nine-game cold spell. On the season, the Oilers are eighth in the league averaging 3.05 goals per game. This weekend, the Oilers host Quad City on Friday and then play at Quad City on Saturday and at Missouri on Sunday.
On the Fly
-Allen entered play on Thursday night with a 1-4-1 mark over their previous six games but the defending Governors’ Cup champs responded witih a 3-2 win over the visiting Quad City Mallards. Jeff Martens scored for the first time since Feb. 4 and newcomer Jake Newton (assigned from the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL) scored in his first game with the Americans.
-Maybe no team in the CHL is hotter right now than the Dayton Gems who have points in five straight games, seven of eight and nine of 12. The Gems are 3-0-2 in their last five games with a pair of wins over Arizona and a win over Fort Wayne to their credit. Dan Dunn has been outstanding in goal since joining the Gems going 4-0-1 with a 2.12 GAA and a .944 save percentage. The Gems host Bloomington in a pair of games this weekend (Friday and Saturday). The Gems have been involved in a league-high 16 extra time games this season going 0-6 in overtime games and 4-6 in shootouts.
-Quad City forward Brandon Marino has been on fire recently with 13 points (7-6=13) in his last seven games. The All-Star Game MVP is second in the league in scoring with 80 points (36-44=80), three less than the league leader Todd Robinson (83 points).
-As the post-season approaches, teams can expect to play many tightly-contested close games and no team in the CHL has more practice in the close ones than the Texas Brahmas. On the season, the Brahmas have played in 35 one-goal games going 15-12-8 in those contests (no other team has played more than 28 one-goal games). Texas is three points behind Allen for second place in the Berry Conference which would come with home-ice advantage in at least one series.
-The Evansville IceMen have been outscored 25-12 over their current five-game losing streak. The IceMen are still tied for first place in the Turner Conference thanks in large part to their league-best 10-game win streak the directly proceeded their current slide. The IceMen have a huge two-game showdown this weekend in Fort Wayne against the Komets (Friday and Saturday). Both teams have an identical 36-18-4 with 76 points.
-Missouri has won three straight games and head into tonight’s game at Texas with several players on highs. Leading the way are forwards Sebastien Thinel who has four goals with four assists and Andrew Courtney who has four goals with three assists during their last three games.
-The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees have gained a little distance in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Berry Conference thanks to four wins in their last five games. The Bees have a three point lead and this weekend host the bottom team in the conference, Arizona. The Bees are 7-1-1 this season head-to-head against the Sundogs.
-Getting through two periods with a lead is always important for a hockey team but maybe more to the Fort Wayne Komets than any other team. The Komets are 30-0-1 when leading after two frames including a perfect 14-0 on home ice. When trailing after 40 minutes, Fort Wayne is 2-15-2.