By Dave Leaderhouse
Unless some of the top-ranked teams in the Canadian Junior Hockey League stumble considerably it appears that the higher-end Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League entries will have little opportunity to make a significant jump in the weekly Top 20 rankings.
Take the Melfort Mustangs for example. They stretched their current winning streak to nine with a pair of convincing victories this past week yet they only moved up two spots to sit in the No. 17 position.
Conversely, the Humboldt Broncos, who lead not only the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division by six points, but are also first overall, fell right off the list following a regulation loss and shootout setback in their last two outings. For their efforts, the Broncos received an honourable mention and that was it for the SJHL this time around.
Where the top-ranked Brooks Bandits are running away with their divisional race, Melfort and Humboldt are both embroiled in tough battles and they are among a group of nine teams that have a realistic chance of finishing first overall as the regular season moves into the second half of the schedule.
Melfort gets the edge over Humboldt in the national rankings based on winning percentage as the Mustangs are just two points back of the Broncos while holding three games in hand. Closing in on both of those clubs are the defending Canalta Cup champion Nipawin Hawks as they have reeled off three straight wins of their own to sit just two points back of Melfort in the highly-contested Sherwood Division.
The Battlefords North Stars have Humboldt looking over their shoulders a bit in the Global Ag Risk Solution race as they now have points in their last three games to close the gap to six points. The North Stars, too, have a game in hand on the Broncos so that could tighten up even more.
The third-place teams in both the Sherwood and Global Ag Risk Solution divisions, the Flin Flon Bombers and Kindersley Klippers, each have significant games in hand on everyone so they too could jump right back into the conversation for first overall.
Anyone can beat any team on any given night and that is what makes the SJHL stand out in the CJHL. While national attention would be great it is the competition within that is making this season intriguing from start to finish.
The CJHL Top 20 Rankings
(As of Nov. 26)
RK TEAM (LEAGUE) (LAST WEEK)
1. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (1)
2. Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (3)
3. Oakville Blades (OJHL) (2)
4. Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ) (4)
5. Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL) (8)
6. Brockville Braves (CCHL) (6)
7. Summerside Western Capitals (MHL) (7)
8. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (12)
9. Swan Valley Stampeders (MJHL) (11)
10. Portage Terriers (MJHL) (10)
11. Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL) (17)
12. North York Rangers (OJHL) (9)
13. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (13)
14. Titan de Princeville (LHJAAAQ) (14)
15. Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) (20)
16. Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) (15)
17. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (19)
18. Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) (5)
19. Amherst Ramblers (MHL) (HM)
20. Red Lake Miners (SIJHL) (HM)
HONOURABLE MENTION: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL); Humboldt Broncos (SJHL); Whitby Fury (OJHL), Hawkesbury Hawks (CCHL); Inouk de Granby (LHJAAAQ)