By Dave Leaderhouse
Losses in three of their last four games have plunged the Battlefords North Stars down to the No. 13 position in the weekly Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings.
The North Stars, who split their games last week but locked up the Global Ag Risks Solutions Division banner for a third straight year, fell four spots from the previous week and are now just one place ahead of the surging Melfort Mustangs.
Melfort, with wins in five of their last six games including victories over both teams (Nipawin Hawks and Battlefords) that are ahead of them in the standings, climbed three places to No. 14 in the rankings with a 2-1 record in the last seven days.
The Mustangs appear to be destined for the No. 4 seed when the post-season begins as one more Nipawin win or Melfort loss locks up the Sherwood Division pennant for the Hawks. Melfort, who could still finish with more points than the Battlefords, and will definitely be far ahead of the Viterra Division winner, would then only go as high as fourth overall as the three division champs get the top three seeds.
Nipawin rebounded nicely last week from its brief two-game losing streak to post a pair of victories over the Flin Flon Bombers. Those two wins not only brought them that much closer to a divisional title, but it kept them in the No. 4 spot nationally for the fourth straight week. The Hawks’ return to the win column, combined with the Battlefords slight tailspin, leaves Nipawin just two wins – or North Stars losses – away from the regular-season crown as well.
Nipawin can clinch the Sherwood Division title as early as tonight when they host the Kindersley Klippers. Melfort returns to action on Wednesday when they will welcome Kindersley to the Northern Lights Palace and the Battlefords next see action this weekend when they have a tough home-and-home series with the Humboldt Broncos.
CJHL 2017-18 TOP 20 (As of Feb. 26/18)
RANK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST RANKING)
1. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (1)
2. Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) (2)
3. Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) (3)
4. Nipawin Hawks (SJHL) (4)
5. Ottawa Jr. ‘A’ Senators (CCHL) (6)
6. Toronto Patriots (OJHL) (8)
7. Powassan Voodoos (NOJHL) (10)
8. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) (5)
9. Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL) (15)
10. Les Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ) (11)
11. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (12)
12. Penticton Vees (BCHL) (16)
13. Battlefords North Stars (SJHL) (9)
14. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (17)
15. College Français de Longueuil (LHJAAAQ) (14)
16. Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL) (13)
17. Thief River Falls Norskies (SIJHL) (7)
18. North York Rangers (OJHL) (20)
19. Edmundston Blizzard (MHL) (19)
20. Oakville Blades (OJHL) (NR)
HONOURABLE MENTION: Vernon Vipers (BCHL); Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL); Aurora Tigers (OJHL); Georgetown Raiders (OJHL); Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL)