By Dave Leaderhouse
Now that the hugely successful inaugural SJHL/MJHL Showcase is in the books it is time to return our focus to the stretch run of the 2017-18 regular season and in particular how the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League stacks up against the rest of the Junior “A” teams in Canada.
The Nipawin Hawks, who are arguably the hottest team in the country having registered at least one point in their last 21 games dating back to Dec. 2, moved up one spot in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings this week to sit No. 6 overall.
The Hawks, despite losing in a shootout to the Battlefords North Stars a week ago, have the SJHL’s best record at 30-5-2-3 for a six-point advantage over the Melfort Mustangs in the Sherwood Division standings and also in the race for first place overall.
The North Stars, who are another point back of the Mustangs in the overall point’s race, but hold a 10-point cushion on the Notre Dame Hounds for first place in the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division, slipped seven spots in the weekly rankings when their 10-game point streak was snapped by the Flin Flon Bombers on the final night before the Showdown break.
The Battlefords, who are now No.12 overall in the weekly rankings, still hold a handful of games in hand on both the Hawks and Mustangs, but that loss pushed them behind Nipawin in overall winning percentage.
Melfort, meanwhile, has quietly put together seven straight wins and as a result they too are now on the CJHL’s top 20 rankings moving into 16th place overall after several weeks of receiving an honourable mention.
Nipawin returns to action on Friday when they will host the Notre Dame Hounds while the North Stars and Melfort both take to the road for stops in Yorkton and Melville, respectively. Both of those games will also be played on Friday.
CJHL 2017-18 TOP 20 (As of Jan. 15/18)
RANK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST RANKING)
1. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (2)
2. Thief River Falls Norskies (SIJHL) (1)
3. Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) (3)
4. Ottawa Jr. ‘A’ Senators (CCHL) (6)
5. Powassan VooDoos (NOJHL) (8)
6. Nipawin Hawks (SJHL) (7)
7. Toronto Patriots (OJHL) (11)
8. Les Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJQ) (4)
9. Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL) (12)
10. College Francais de Longueuil (LHJQ) (10)
11. Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL) (9)
12. Battlefords North Stars (SJHL) (5)
13. Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) (13)
14. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) (19)
15. Wellington Dukes (OJHL) (HM)
16. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (HM)
17. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (16)
18. Vernon Vipers (BCHL) (14)
19. Edmundston Blizzard (MHL) (18)
20. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (HM)
Honourable Mention: Penticton Vees (BCHL); Portage Terriers (MJHL); North York Rangers (OJHL); Aurora Tigers (OJHL); Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL)