Happy New Year! With the 2018-19 NA3HL showcase in our rear view and 2019 in front of us. We are unofficially officially headed into perhaps the best portion of the season – playoffs! I believe this is the time where teams begin their playoff runs. Jockeying for key positions within their respective divisions for playoff seeding or in some cases, as simple as making the playoffs. We will focus solely on the West Division within the NA3HL. This is my 3rd article this season taking an in-depth look of the West. In my opinion it is the ultimate Tier Three hockey division in all the land. You can read the previous two articles by clicking the link’s below:
Currently in the 2018-19 season the NA3HL is nearly 75% complete. With most teams at the 30 games played mark. Playoff contentions are beginning to take shape across the league. With 3 of the 6 divisions already having teams clinch playoff spots. If you have read my previous articles. You can probably guess that the West division is on the half that has not had any teams within in it claim a right of passage into this season’s playoffs.
Previously, I, mentioned that the West division would be a “high concentration of talent and competition” I also said something along the lines of “And, for the most part I believe that still to be true.” Well, here we are with roughly 15 games left of the season and I am confidently going on the record saying, “The West Division in the NA3HL is by far and large the most competitive Tier 3 division not only in the NA3HL but the entire country.” BOOM, I said it. Here’s why. Simply said, there is no other division with a tighter parody from top to bottom. Currently (shown below) the top three teams are separated by 1 point respectively. There is currently a tie for the fourth position in the division and technically speaking are within striking distance of taking on one of the top three spots. The bottom two teams are separated by 1 point as well! Meaning, every game matters for the rest of the season. Especially, when being eliminated from the playoffs is separated by 1 point.
Let’s take a look at the current (at the time of writing) standings in the most competitive tier three junior hockey division in all the land, the West Division:
North Iowa Bulls | (23-7-0-0-0) | 46 points
Granite City Lumberjacks | (22-5-1-0-1) | 45 points
Rochester Grizzlies | (22-8-0-0-2) | 44 points
New Ulm Steel | (16-13-0-1-1) | 33 points
Alexandria Blizzard | (16-14-0-1-0) | 33 points
Breezy Point North Stars | (8-21-2-1-2) | 19 points
Willmar Warhawks (8-22-2-0-2) | 18 points
Who doesn’t love seeing standings look like this? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the competitiveness within this particular division is high. What’s notable this time around is every single team changed positions since my previous article in the end of October. Except for Breezy Point and Willmar. However, being that they are only separated by 1 point. Wait a second. Every team in this division is only separated by only 1 point. That’s insane! There is only a 1 point differential between every single place within the division. As they say, “Anyone in the division can take it.”
I’ve said it before I will say it again. I cannot wait to see how things play out here in the closing weeks of the regular season. More importantly, I, can’t wait to see where each team ends up for playoff seeding. If the playoffs were to happen right now the first round match-ups would look like this:
North Iowa vs. Breezy Point
Granite City vs. Alexandria
Rochester vs. New Ulm
That could be an interesting playoff for the West. I think just to make this a little more fun. I will give my prediction for how the 2018-19 playoff seeding will look OR how the West division will look at the end of the regular season.
My prediction for the West Division at the end of the 2018-19 regular season:
Which would mean the following 1st round playoff matchups:
Granite City vs. Breezy Point
Rochester vs. Alexandria
North Iowa vs. New Ulm
This could also be a neat little battle with literally anyone’s guess on who would move on. I do know one thing. Whichever club wins the West Division. Will be the NA3HL Fraser Cup League Champion! In my opinion of course. Each team in the West has roughly 16-18 games remaining. I suspect things will get even tighter. Especially, with every game meaning the difference of advancing one spot or falling behind one spot.
As stated previously it will be interesting to continue to watch how the West continues to play out and see where teams are in the next 8 weeks. It is worth stating it will be even more interesting to see where players from the West end up going in terms of advancement and college commitments. To the 7 teams in the West Division – Best of luck as you begin your playoff run!
Be sure to listen to the Junior Hockey Podcast for great interviews and discussions about everything Junior Hockey! I'm sure Gresko and I will talk about this article in depth in our next episode. If you have questions or comments about this article feel free to reach me on twitter @hofnasty.