By Dave Leaderhouse
The Nipawin Hawks played just one game last week, but a 2-1 decision over the Yorkton Terriers extended their season-high winning streak to seven games and in the process moved them up four spots in the weekly Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings.
The Hawks, who were also supposed to play the Flin Flon Bombers last week but had that game cancelled when their visitors encountered bus problems enroute to the game, are now No. 16 in the Top 20 list of Junior “A” teams across the country.
The seven-game winning streak has propelled the defending Canalta Cup champions into top spot in the Sherwood Division race and also has given them a share of first place overall with the Humboldt Broncos. Nipawin, who has just a two-point advantage over the Melfort Mustangs in the Sherwood Division battle, has three games in hand on the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division-leading Broncos.
The Mustangs also moved back onto the list as they rebounded from a pair of home-ice defeats 10 days ago to outscore the Melville Millionaires 3-1 in their lone outing last week. The Mustangs are now No. 18 in the weekly list after getting an honourable mention last time following their setbacks at the Northern Lights Palace.
Humboldt, despite being a divisional leader and in a tie for first place overall, never made the list or even received an honourable mention. That is in part due to the number of games they have played as Nipawin, Melfort and the Kindersley Klippers all hold as many as four games in hand with just two points separating the top four teams.
Kindersley moved into that group with an impressive three-game run on the road that saw them win in La Ronge before heading to Notre Dame to beat the Hounds and winding up the gruelling stretch with a victory in Weyburn against the Red Wings.
Kindersley, who has now won six straight themselves, are just two points back of the Broncos for the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division lead and also from joining the logjam for first place overall. As a result of their strong showing last week the Klippers were given an honourable mention in the weekly poll.
The Battlefords North Stars, Flin Flon and Yorkton could all soon join that group at the top as all three are within striking distance of the frontrunners will all three holding significant games in hand on those ahead of them in the standings.
With a busy schedule set to get underway, and with the way parity that has enveloped the league like never before, these standings could be totally different by the end of the weekend.
The CJHL Top 20 Rankings
(As of Dec. 10)
RK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST WEEK)
1. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (3)
2. Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (2)
3. Oakville Blades (OJHL) (1)
4. Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL) (6)
5. Summerside Western Capitals (MHL) (8)
6. Portage Terriers (MJHL) (5)
7. Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ) (4)
8. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (7)
9. Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL) (9)
10. Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) (15)
11. Brockville Braves (CCHL) (12)
12. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (13)
13. North York Rangers (OJHL) (11)
14. Swan Valley Stampeders (MJHL) (10)
15. Titan de Princeville (LHJAAAQ) (14)
16. Nipawin Hawks (SJHL) (20)
17. Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) (16)
18. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (HM)
19. Red Lake Miners (SIJHL) (18)
20. Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) (17)
HONOURABLE MENTION: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL); Drumheller Dragons (AJHL); Kindersley Klippers (SJHL); Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOJHL); Rockland Nationals (CCHL)