By Dave Leaderhouse
The Melfort Mustangs picked up five of a possible six points last week to leapfrog the Nipawin Hawks for the highest Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League ranking on the final weekly Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 list prior to the Christmas break.
Melfort, which moved from 18th to 16th place, gained one point on the league-leading Nipawin Hawks, but they also got another game in hand and as a result have the league’s best winning percentage at .727. The Mustangs, who have points in 14 of their last 16 games, are two points back of the Hawks for first place in the Sherwood Division standings in addition to the race for first place overall.
Nipawin, meanwhile, lost its first game of the week 2-0 to the Battlefords North Stars before collecting wins over the Kindersley Klippers and La Ronge Ice Wolves. The Hawks, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped in that setback to the North Stars, ended the week with another loss to the Battlefords, this time 2-1 in overtime.
The busy week saw the Hawks drop one spot in the weekly rankings from No. 16 to No. 17. Nipawin and Melfort will complete the pre-Christmas portion of the regular schedule this weekend when they are the lone teams in action. They will meet in Melfort on Friday before completing the home-and-home on Saturday in Nipawin.
Kindersley ran its consecutive-point streak to nine games with a pair of wins over the Flin Flon Bombers in addition to the shootout loss to Nipawin earlier in the week. Those results propelled the Klippers to the top of the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division and leaves them two points back of the Hawks for first place overall. Kindersley, which also has a game in hand on Nipawin in addition to the two others they will gain this weekend, received just an honourable mention on the CJHL list for the second straight week.
Kindersley will return to action right after Christmas as they will face the North Stars in a doubleheader on Dec 28-29 to kick off the second half of the regular schedule.
The CJHL Top 20 Rankings
(As of Dec. 17)
RK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST WEEK)
1. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (1)
2. Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (2)
3. Oakville Blades (OJHL) (3)
4. Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ) (7)
5. Summerside Western Capitals (MHL) (5)
6. Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL) (4)
7. Portage Terriers (MJHL) (6)
8. Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) (10)
9. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (8)
10. North York Rangers (OJHL) (13)
11. Titan de Princeville (LHJAAAQ) (15)
12. Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL) (9)
13. Cobourg Cougars (OJHL) (NR)
14. Swan Valley Stampeders (MJHL) (14)
15. Red Lake Miners (SIJHL) (19)
16. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (18)
17. Nipawin Hawks (SJHL) (16)
18. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (12)
19. Rockland Nationals (CCHL) (HM)
20. Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) (17)
HONOURABLE MENTION: Kindersley Klippers (SJHL); Brockville Braves (CCHL); Hawkesbury Hawks (CCHL); Inouk de Granby (LHJAAAQ); Amherst Ramblers (MHL)