By Dave Leaderhouse
There was just one change at the top of the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s weekly rankings and it involved the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s top team.
The Nipawin Hawks, who had their 30-game streak with at least one point come to an end on Saturday, swapped spots with the Steinbach Pistons to now sit in the No. 4 position. Everyone else in the other top nine spots remained where they were including the Battlefords North Stars who retain the ninth overall position.
Nipawin had gone 99 days between regulation-time losses and it was the Melfort Mustangs who handed them a setback each time. The Mustangs, who won both of their games last week (they did lose on Family Day Monday in Humboldt to start this week) got back on the Top 20 list when they reclaimed the No. 17 spot, a position they held for two weeks before landing just an honourable mention last time around.
Melfort has owned the Hawks this year picking up 13 of a possible 16 points and with two more head-to-head meetings left on the schedule they could still catch Nipawin for first place in the Sherwood Division standings. The Mustangs are just seven points back, but the Hawks do hold a game in hand.
Nipawin, who lost their second straight when they fell to Flin Flon on Monday, has to get back on track quickly as their lead for top spot overall is now down to just two points over the North Stars.
Nipawin has two more games against Flin Flon this weekend while the Battlefords and Melfort square off in a game with huge playoff implications as the winner of that match will remain in the hunt to catch Nipawin while the loser will take a step backwards.
With just two weeks left on the regular schedule every game is of utmost importance now as there is still a lot of work to be done to finalize the playoff landscape.
CJHL 2017-18 TOP 20 (As of Feb. 19/18)
RANK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST RANKING)
1. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (1)
2. Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) (2)
3. Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) (4)
4. Nipawin Hawks (SJHL) (3)
5. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) (5)
6. Ottawa Jr. ‘A’ Senators (CCHL) (6)
7. Thief River Falls Norskies (SIJHL) (7)
8. Toronto Patriots (OJHL) (8)
9. Battlefords North Stars (SJHL) (9)
10. Powassan Voodoos (NOJHL) (11)
11. Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ) (10)
12. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (13)
13. Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL) (12)
14. College Français de Longueuil (LHJAAAQ) (15)
15. Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL) (16)
16. Penticton Vees (BCHL) (14)
17. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (HM)
18. Georgetown Raiders (OJHL) (HM)
19. Edmundston Blizzard (MHL) (19)
20. North York Rangers (OJHL) (18)
HONOURABLE MENTION: Wenatchee Wild (BCHL), Virden Oil Capitals (MJHL), Rayside-Balfour Canadians (NOJHL), Aurora Tigers (OJHL), Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL)