No. 6 New Mexico Ice Wolves (12-29-2-3, 29pts) vs. No. 4 Topeka Pilots (29-13-2-2, 62pts)
at Outpost Ice Arenas in Albuquerque, NM
Time: 7:30 p.m. MST (Friday) | 7:00 p.m. MST (Saturday)
What You Need to Know:
Season Series: 3-1
NMO: 29pts, Dominique (10g-19a)
TOP: 43pts, McCarthy (14g-29a)
A LOT TO PLAY FOR:
For the first time since 2015-16, Topeka has clinched a playoff spot. In two of their last three seasons, they finished last in the South Division (2016-18). The South became the first division to have all four of their playoff spots already locked up. The East and Central Divisions do not even have one team guaranteed to go to the Robertson Cup Playoffs. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are the only team from the Midwest Division to have clinched a playoff berth. While Topeka and Shreveport are tied in points, the Mudbugs have the edge. Meaning that if playoffs were to start this weekend, Topeka would be facing Amarillo in the first round. Although, the Pilots still have 14 games left before the post-season, so there is a chance that they could get a higher seed.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE:
Once again the Ice Wolves are home and looking to continue their dominance at the Outpost Ice Arenas. They have an overall home record of 7-13-1-1, but two of those games were played at the showcase in Blaine, MN. While at the Outpost, the Ice Wolves are 7-11-1-1. The last time Topeka visited Albuquerque, NM was all the way back on Nov. 8-9. The Ice Wolves went on to win both games, giving them their first sweep in franchise history. They almost were able to sweep the Pilots for a second time, when they played each other three weeks ago. New Mexico dominated the first game by wining, 6-3. The following night though was much closer, with the final scored reading, 4-3 Topeka. Since that loss, the Ice Wolves have picked up a point in their last four games. If they are able to get a point on Friday, then it will be a new franchise record point streak.
New Mexico was in seventh place in the South Division up until their weekend sweep over Kenai on Jan. 10-11. With playoffs out of reach, they do however have a shot at finishing in fifth place. They still have three games in hand on Corpus, who sits eight points above them. The Ice Wolves still have to play the IceRays four more times before the regular season concludes in April. Corpus plays Lone Star this weekend, meaning that it is the perfect weekend for the Ice Wolves to gain more ground in the standings.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ice Wolves (F: #17 – Griffen Sanom)
The native of Berkley, MI has been on a tear lately. In his last three games, the 19-year-old has recorded eight points (4g, 4a). The 5’9” 170-pound forward is currently one game away from tying a career high point streak, which he set earlier this season from 11/29-12/7 (4a). Griffen is second on the team in points with 22 (8g, 14a). His five points from this past weekend (3g, 2a) earned him an honorable mention for NAHL ‘Players of the Week’. This is Sanom’s second year in the NAHL. In 2017 he was drafted #81 by the Brookings Blizzard, he played 25 games for them and totaled three points (2g, 1a). Last season, Griffen played 48 games for the Syracuse Jr. Stars (NCDC) picking up 32 points (13g, 19a). He has three points (2g, 1a) in four games against Topeka.
Pilots (F: #9 – Quinn Green)
The 21-year-old is in his third season in the NAHL. So far in his NAHL career, Quinn has tallied 74 points (43g, 31a) in 102 games. Green recorded three points (1g, 2a) against Shreveport this past weekend, also earning him honorable mention for ‘Players of the Week’. The West Chigaco, IL native has four points (3g, 1a) in the four games against New Mexico. The 5’11” 170-pound forward is third on the team in points (35) but leads his team in goals (19). Quinn is tied with Connor Zilisch for the team lead in power-play goals with six.