Monday, March 31, 2003
It's true, Fred L'Ecuyer's CHL season is over, but don't expect me to believe it had anything to do with Game 1 of the Austin-New Mexico series. I'd say Don's post is on the money about the process, and the answer to his wondering is, there was no change in thinking at all.
For one thing, I have heard repeatedly that the video review of Game 1 did not reflect badly on L'Ecuyer. Granted, if he graded out as the best ref in the league he'd still be working, but I'm sure the main reason is they don't need more than two refs in each conference at this point, and there was nothing punitive about it.
After all, if it were up to the Scorps fans, Dwyer and Boyd would never work again, and they'd have as valid a point about the so-called phantom slashing and Game 4's "third-period penalty as the Bats fans do about L'Ecuyer, i.e., not much of one.
Meaning, it's every fan's prerogative to gripe, but if the league sat down a ref based on one controversial game or overriding fan perception, there would be no refs.
An exception was last year in the WCHL, when a ref waved off a good goal in the playoffs and was publicly reprimanded and suspended. But even there, his grasp of procedure and his on-ice positioning was as important as the actual error. We can safely presume that's what most officiating reviews are primarily concerned with, not whether one team had 10 penalties and the other had four, or holding officials accountable based on slow-motion video when they only get to make split-second decisions.
Also, be careful what you wish for 'cause it's just a matter of time before the Bats get a bad break on a tough call next round and everyone will be on here going "that f***ing (insert ref's name here) is worse than L'Ecuyer!"
Oh, and while I wouldn't expect him to admit otherwise, since I began writing this I heard back from CHL VP of Operations Duane Lewis, who says "[L'Ecuyer] is a first year official, who unfortunately had to beat out several other veteran officials who have been working very well. It is like the young kid getting less ice in the playoffs."
Sunday, March 30, 2003
Quotes from Laredo-Odessa (game story at In the Crease).
How many games in how many nights are you gonna end up playing?
I guess tonight is two-in-two, tomorrow will be three in three, then Tuesday in Odessa, Wednesday in Houston and three next weekend. I'm a busy hockey player right now, but I wouldn't want it any other way and I'm excited to get the win tonight.
Any indication from Florida that they might send guys to San Antonio that would put you back with Laredo permanently?
Well yeah, obviously I'm not on the playoff roster there, I'm an emergency call-up, so for sure next Sunday I'll be back until the season's over.
When you come down from the AHL does it feel easier, after playing with the big boys, or is it hard to get into rhythm?.
The pace is a little bit different. It takes a little bit to adjust but I adjusted a whole lot better tonight then I did last weekend. I'll be ready to go Tuesday in Odessa.
What was the mood on the bench when Odessa came back to tie it up?
You know what, I think we were still pretty confident that we were gonna win. We were at home in our own building, and like they say, the fans are the seventh player out there. That was definitely the case tonight. It was just great to see, when Andy scored the goal the bench erupted. We need more of that going down the stretch.
on Schneider and Periard
They're very good players, to say that we didn't miss them, that'd be lying. When you have Schneid on the ice and see how hard he works and how many chances he gets, it puts a spark in everyone.
on the winner
Finally, I got one on Gorman in the playoffs, I've had a few chances. I just hammered...I hit that one as hard as I could. I found a seam, I got in behind a guy and it was just so fortunate the [rebound] went on my stick.
on Game 5
It's back down to one game, and if we put our hearts into it like we did tonight I think we can win it.
on the game in general
...back against the wall, last breath of air that we had, no tomorrow, all the cliches you could put together, this was it. We came out and we played a pretty strong game. I thought we moved the puck as well as we've moved it in the series, and that's what we have to do, we have to control the play, get the puck, make the passes that we want to make, not when they force us into making passes... sometimes I think we overmove it instead of shooting and going for the rebound like the first goal, we try to make that perfect pass. It's playoff time, perfect pases and perfect plays come once in a while. You've got to go down and get those goals any way you can, and you've got to shoot the puck on net.
on Mike Gorman
He's one heck of a good goalie. He's actually brilliant. The shots, the quality of plays that we had -- he just comes up with saves. I don't know how he does it but he does.
on the importance of a full roster
It was a must. Even though Eric didn't score tonight his presence was kind of a relief, everybody else kind of said ok, now I can kind of relax, they could just go out there and play the game they play and let the chances come. Just his presence and his whereabouts, Schneider and Grenville and Morten Ask, that line can do a lot of damage. They pay special attention to him, and that gives the other two lines opportunities to create some offense.
Have you learned different ways to win without them?
We have, but not on a regular basis. There's times we did win without them, but there's times we could have done better with them. We have to have those guys in the line-up, it's a must. When that line's not doing it (other teams) focus on the Gilmore line and nullify our scoring altogether. And Periard, he runs the power play. He's good with the puck, he's good dishing when he has the puck, he finds the openings. Those two guys are pretty important.
Who's in net Tuesday?
I don't know. I really don't know. I thought the kid [Marc-Andre LeClerc] played very well today. You know what, I'm just gonna take tonight and go home and relax, go to church tomorrow and thank the good Lord for blessing us today, take one day at a time and God willing, we'll leave here Monday morning and be ready to play.
Did you feel like the game was gonna go your way at 2-2?
We tied it up, the pressure was on them, I thought maybe they'd be a little tighter, but I got to give them credit. They've got a great hockey team and they came back and got the go-ahead goal.
Have you guys grown accustomed to being outshot two-to-one but still being in the game?
Absolutely. I've never seen a better goalie at this level than Gormie. He comes to play every night, he's a big reason for keeping us in games night in and night out. We have a defensive style, but these guys shoot from everywhere, that's their strategy. They know how good he is so they're just trying to get pucks on him, get traffic.
What's the difference with Periard and Schneider in the line-up?
They add so much more depth, and their power play is significantly more dangerous. We've got to be aware of them at all times. Periard controls the power play, and Schneider's got so much speed, so we really have to close the gap on him. I thought we did a fairly good job shutting him down, but they've got so many weapons.
Are the Bucks underrated defensively?
Top to bottom they've got a great line-up. They skate well, they move the puck extremely well, they're not really deficient in any one area. They have the second best overall point total in the league and best home record in the league for a reason. We're back at home Tuesday, so we can't ask for more than that, we just gotta come out and get a victory.
Saturday, March 29, 2003
Damn, I was really pulling for the turtles. Maryland I mean. Had them beating Texas Sunday.
But who cares? It's March Madness in the CHL as well. How great is it to have a series of Burton vs. Parsons, Shedden vs. Sauter? How pumped were they in Amarillo for the first playoff game in franchise history? How huge was Mike Gorman, turning away 39 rounds of buckshot while his boys came up with two unassisted goals?
And how often do you see not one, but two playoff games decided by an OT power-play? (Austin's game-winner came ten seconds after Ambroziak left the box, but wouldn't have happened without the extra-man momentum).
Of course, that wasn't the real story in Albuquerque tonight, though I'm sure the Scorps fans had a few choice words for Boyd. It sounded to me like New Mexico got the better of things for the first 50 minutes, though Matt Barnes stopped a Tyler Baines penalty shot (which, according to trusted New Mexico fan Mi3ke, never should have happened) and was both good and lucky otherwise.
Unfortunately for the Scorpions, Caravaggio's performance stopped at "good": he fell victim to a freakish goal a la Salo, Hextall and Cloutier. Mike Rees' bouncing, should-have-been harmless dump-in was the margin for error in a game that didn't have one. It erased a 1-0 New Mexico lead, and judging from the SOGs, the Scorps did not recover from the shock.
Which doesn't mean they won't tonight. But Austin was six minutes away from ceding control of this series, and now they're at least guaranteed a chance to win at home.
Brent Scott has indeed bowed out gracefully (next step: grace under pressure). I wonder if the team is going to talk to any candidates who weren't former coaches. Personally, I'd go with Clouston, he and Smith are both good coaches, but a little nostalgic PR value couldn't hurt.
Assault by mutual scuffle? Is that a minor or a double-minor? (There's a little shoutout for two Mudbugs in that piece as well.)
I'm sure everybody knows this by now, but Billy D's ouster is official. He didn't even show up for the hearing, which was apparently the thing to do that day.
To trap, or not to trap? That is the question in Wichita.
An incredible statistic: Lubbock was the only CHL team this year that didn't trade, waive or release a player. Kind of depressing in a way, to not make the playoffs with that kind of stability and health. New Mexico and Corpus had neither of those things. However, there was coaching instability, and two injuries -- Savary, who never played, and Gauthier -- while they added players in Volk, then Binns, then Reigstad.
All right, I'm off to Laredo with a trunk full of Zamboni Rodeo (one box, actually). I'm coming from San Antonio and heading right back to see the hoops on Sunday, so Eric, feel free to catch a ride.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Today should be the end of the road for Billy D. The hearing is at 1:30 pm. Also, check out the motion that was filed right around the missing skates incident (it was denied).
More things to take note of since reading the latest edition of The Farm Report: Tracey Egeland's news finally broke in the Avalanche-Journal, and via a Cotton Kings press release.
And talk about a change in tone! March 18th: "This series is going no more than four games if Amarillo returns home with a victory. Then, the Gorillas can set their sights on either Oklahoma City or Memphis." March 25th: "Maybe fans should bring white flags...Amarillo will give the home fans a gratuitous victory Friday night, but the Gorillas will be clean-shaven and on the golf course by Monday."
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
The Brent Scott era is over in San Angelo.
Let's send him out with contrasting quotes from two former players:
There's probably not one guy in San Angelo that [played] up to their potential, and if that's the players fault, so be it, but usually when a team's not playing up to their potential someone's not doing their job. It's unfortunate, because that team, on paper, they were unbelievable.
I've never played for a coach that cares more about his players on and off the ice than Brent Scott...for better or worse.
Former coach Barry Smith is said to be back in. Apparently, he's been working with the team since the last few games of the season -- an ironic echo of the night Dick Moore banished Eddie Johnstone to the stands, leaving then-assistant Scott to take over the job.
In other news... taking a cue from John Buccigross (good to have him back), here's a photo caption of my own: Hey Fred, want to get together for a latte after the game?.
And would you believe the Ice Bats have signed Brent Hughes? No fooling. He's on the playoff roster as one of the amateur players, but is still busy with his current team (I neglected to find out exactly where he plays now, but not Brampton).
Sunday, March 23, 2003
As one New Mexico Scorpion said to me at the end of the evening, "See you Monday" -- just minutes after one of Austin's people acknowledged, "this could go five."
No comments from me for now, just the participants.
Quotes from Bill McDonald
We came to compete. We want to finish the body, I think we did. We're not going to go away. We've come a long way and we just want to keep it going. The team went through so much adversity, to deal with me (coming in) and Dunner going down to Corpus Christi, Ambroziak and Brearley's injuries, three guys out for the year. It takes time to get back into the groove. I'm not saying we're the greatest hockey team, but we're playing pretty good right now. I really like the way they competed the last month. Heartbreaker here tonight, but we're playing a darn good hockey team, let's be honest.
on Adam Robbins, who has also played for him in Fort Worth and Lubbock
He's a gritty little booger. We were so banged up, we played some games with six seven forwards, so we picked up "Addy" and "Chico" Rech (Neal). And Jasmin Roy, who only got four shifts a game in Oke City. Everybody's got their role.
Quotes from Brent Hughes
I thought we played great tonight. Their goalie played outstanding. I would like to see us score some goals, gain confidence. But we've probably won the most one-goal hockey games in the whole league, so we know what to expect.
We made some adjustments. Smarty was checking Ambroziak [but tonight] I decided to go head to head with Pricer's line, offense against offense, and I think that worked well. Tyler Baines has been one of their hotter players, he had the game winner last night, so we had them checking that line, and that worked a lot better too. I thought Olynyk and Sharuga played outstanding.
On the 'invisible' Ryan Rivard
It's not his fault. He's an aggressive player, he's a fighter for us. Olynyk, Sharuga and Greenlaw have been doing good. But he'll see his ice.
On Brett Seguin, who's been noticeably committed to being "third man high" and covering Mike Gaffney's pinches
He's been cautious defensively. I've tried to build that into him. I know he's not a lover of that part of the game but I think he's realized that's what it takes to win. I think he learned a little bit from Parsons last year, in the playoffs, how well he played in his own end. We need that out of him or we're not going to win hockey games, and he showed that tonight.
On Gerald Tallaire's grit
He's really light and speedy, but he gets in the corners and mucks it out, takes some big hits. That's what I like about Tally, when we played against Central Texas Greenlaw and Legault had trouble with this guy, because he wasn't afraid to go in there with them. To win playoff games you've got to have a bunch of guys like that.
The guys come to play for him. He's a great coach, he has hard working hockey clubs. There's a reason why they made it in the playoffs, he got the players he needed together for the last 10-15 games, and they work hard. If we don't match their work ethic we're gonna be in trouble.
And in conclusion…
Tonight we showed we're here for real. I thought we took it to them in every aspect of the game even though they still worked hard and came to play. I'd like to put this game in a bottle, take it [to Albuquerque] with us and come the same way. We've got to start scoring a few goals off posts or rebounds, it's just a matter of time before pucks start going in the net.
Quotes from Tab Lardner
On his goal in the third period – credited to Shawn Legault – seconds after taking a high stick
It's good to get a whack like that, it wakes you up, gets you going a little bit more. The puck went in the corner there, I don't know who brought it out, I think Legs, Smarty took the shot, it was going a little wide, I just poked it back against the grain, got a piece of it I think short-side.
Friday vs. Saturday on the penalty kill
We didn't have too much poise on the PK last night, we were running around a lot, a little too intense I think, just jumping everywhere, wanting to get too much done. Today, we were a a little more poised and got the job done.
On opening night jitters after going so long without a meaningful contest
Oh yeah, everybody was nervous. I was shaking before the game. It was a lot of fun though. We played hard but came up short. They're a hard working team, they're gritty, they deserve to be in the playoffs ahead of Corpus and Lubbock. They'll be tough on the road so we've got to come ready. I like the position we're in now, go down there, win one or two and go from there.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
Friday, March 21, 2003
I almost forgot the contest (Chris, am I allowed to win?). My CHL predictions are below. Final Four, I'll stick with the bracket that's already killing me (thanks for nothing, UW-Milwaukee, Creighton and NC State). Thus: Kentucky, Arizona, Maryland, Mississippi State. Tiebreaker? That's way too much work, I'll take my chances that if anybody else out there likes the Bulldogs, they also picked the Scorps or something.
Give it up for your goals-against-average league leader, Jeff Scharf (you'll notice he was deleted from the goalie stats, not unreasonably).
So where were we? Oh yeah, the merits of Lubbock vs. Corpus as the Bats' first-round opponent. In my defense, I noted the Scorps were playing the best hockey several times over the last few weeks. That particular entry just happened to be in response to specific posts by Rayz and C-Kings fans.
Or as I said on December 14: "what if McDonald puts New Mexico in the playoffs at Lubbock's expense?"
Anyway, without further ado...
Memphis in five over Oklahoma City
Strength against strength. Blazers are hungrier, and possibly don't get enough credit, but I have a hunch the defending champs will flip the switch now that they've gotten to the good part. Both teams are dangerous, both teams can be scored on. Could Mark Richards be the difference? (And how would the Maple Leafs feel about that?)
A series this close is bound to come down to those venerable playoff bugaboos, special teams and lucky bounces.
Laredo in four over Odessa
'Cause if it goes to five, Jacks win. Hard to pick against sentimental favorite Don McKee, the playoff experience of Greg Gatto and Scott Green and the Jacks' hunger to erase last season's upset. But if Laredo has its full line-up they're the better team, and much more than a defense-challenged flash-in-the-pan a la Tupelo or Abilene (to name two WPHL examples). Question: when the Jacks decided they would add more offensive flair to their good old trapping style, was having just three plus players part of the plan?
On the other hand, the Bucks are invincible at home, and anything but on the road. Two games in Odessa without Michel Periard (or Schneider for that matter) could kill them.
Austin in four over New Mexico
If last year's El Paso series didn't teach Brent Hughes' club not to cruise against a playoff underdog, they don't deserve to win. But I believe they learned their lesson, and will prepare for this one as seriously as they did against the Iguanas last year, with much the same result. New Mexico's coach has an embarassment of postseason experience, but its players don't -- at least, not collectively. Whereas 11 players out of 18 have been on a Hughes-run Austin team two years or more.
This series isn't getting a lot of attention, but I love it for its history. In '96-'97, these were the biggest rivals and top two teams in the WPHL, and they both lost in the first round. In '97-'98, Bill McDonald's Brahmas dashed the Ice Bats' playoff hopes. In '98-'99, current Scorps assistant Travis Van Tighem was part of a salary cap violation that cost the otherwise clueless and undeserving Austin franchise eight standings points. And in '99-'00, New Mexico beat Hughes' first squad in the "Wiffle" semi-finals -- a series that, coincidentally, began with two games in a New Mexico practice rink.
And did I mention I'm biased?
Indy in five over Amarillo
The series record means nothing -- neither team had rounded into form back when the three games were played. Look for one of the Gorillas goalies to outplay Shawn Silver at least part of the time -- but which one? Bottom line, both teams are built on "D," and Indy's will be better -- including two-way forward play.
OFFSEASON WISHES FOR EIGHT COACHES
A sleeping bag for next year's Albuquerque road trip and a portable MRI machine. Also, the unretirement of Frank Bialowas and Doug Smith, since being a good coach won't be enough for some portions of the Thunder fan base.
12 playoff teams. Which I do think will happen with 18 clubs. Call him a whiner if you want, but the schedule is wildly unbalanced. I like the purity of the CHL format, but there's precedent for crossovers, where the fifth team from one side replaces the fourth team from the other if it has more points.
(One further note on that article: I know the main point is conference games should have the most influence on conference playoff berths, but you still have to give Amarillo credit for playing 14 Southern playoff teams to Tulsa's 7. That makes the schedule-strength disparity somewhat less dramatic (30 to 24).
An honest chance at a winning season, with a good owner, a sold-out building, a full roster of players and a year's worth of O'Douls.
A time machine, to take his players back to 6:30pm on March 15. Otherwise, he's got Doug Frank in his corner and Dean Lombardi's unemployed -- what more could the guy want?
A new job in the American Hockey League -- as a referee.
Contract renewal or quiet evenings with his family, whichever he prefers.
Nothing for him -- he already has the satisfaction of three rings and the knowledge that he still owns Austin's ass (oops, there's that bias thing again).
A Spanish-English dictionary and a free plate of cabrito from the best joint in Reynosa.
(And speaking of this issue -- which, btw, I don't believe reflects badly on Egeland and I'll say as much when rumor becomes fact -- did anyone else think this post from former Waco/Amarillo coach Kevin Abrams translated to, "I may have a job interview in Texas?"
Friday, March 14, 2003
I've given Corpus Christi props before, wondering what their record might look like if they had fewer games against Austin and Laredo. But let's puncture the myth that the Rayz are far superior to Lubbock when it comes to facing Austin.
There's no question the Rayz have had relatively great success against the Bats, with four wins and a handful of close losses. There's also the issue of insufficient sample size. But the fact is, Lubbock has a better winning percentage (1-1-2, .500) against Austin than Corpus (4-7, .364) does, though the Rayz still get the nod for average goal differential.
Point being, from my Batscentric perspective, without taking anything away from Sims' squad, I don't consider the C-Kings to be a significantly less dangerous opponent. Plus -- it should almost go without saying -- this is hockey, the minute you discount a playoff rival is the minute they bite you in the ass.
Also, while the Southwest may or may not be weak, Lubbock played Laredo and Amarillo nearly as often as its division rivals.
But let's also add, to CKF's response -- that if you're gonna spin "what-might-have-beens" about breaking even on the road, the same goes for the Rayz. Shoot, every coach in the world will tell you that .500 on the road is how you make the playoffs. Bill McDonald's probably saying it in church.
Good day for bizarre transactions. Chicago traded Bob Clarke's son-in-law Peter White to the Flyers so the Phantoms could return him to the Blackhawks AHL affiliate in Norfolk. Meanwhile, it appears Dean McAmmond will not play again this season, as Calgary, Colorado and the NHL failed to realize they were not allowed to do a deal.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Ok, congratulations to Matt Barnes, winner of the Scott Brower Memorial Trophy for Most Outstanding Goaltender.
If he plays this weekend, the Austin netminder can still set new CHL records for save percentage (Barnes currently trails Ken Carroll's '00-'01 mark of .935 by one-hundredth of a point) and possibly shutouts (currently eight, shared by Barnes and Rod Branch -- remember when he was a serious candidate for the award? -- this season and Grant Sjerven from '00-'01). Carroll's all-time GAA supremacy (1.89) appears safe, unless Barnes plays two and puts up goose eggs on both nights.
Y'know, I just realized there's one thing wrong with the whole Burton Trophy thing -- Joe never would have won it. Why not rename MVP (he's got two of those) instead?
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
It seems pretty certain Don Parsons will take the league scoring title. When he does, he'll win the first-ever Burton Trophy. Congratulations to "Smokin,'" and kudos to the league for a very appropriate decision.
Then again, the big one's proper monicker is "Ray Miron President's Cup" -- but most of us, including the league itself, are more interested in typing fewer words than preserving that all-important old-CHL flavor.
And now the "President's Cup" is also something the ACHL champion wins. Hey, why not Kelly? Or Stanley?
Moving on, I feel completely unenlightened by this description:
A train wreck of players in the crease ensued and amidst all of the bodies, the officials awarded Roberts a penalty shot.How 'bout a little more information? (Shady? Hockeycrazy? Smilin Shark?) I suspect Rule 55c, 'cause if it was a Rule 51c situation, the Saints would have been awarded a goal outright.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Now that's the Grant Sjerven WPHL fans remember. Muscutt should send him flowers. If Bossier beats Amarillo they control their own destiny with the Gorillas, though they still need Tulsa or Memphis to lose two out of three.
Sorry I didn't get the chance to give Lubbock props for going 3-0, 'cause all I can say now is, playoff teams don't give up six unanswered goals -- or win road games about as often as El Paso.
But the C-Kings finish with the Buzzards, then the Brahmas, then the Saints, so the fourth seed remains theirs for the taking.
Corpus has a tougher path, with Laredo, San Angelo and Bossier-Shreveport. I'm thinking the Rayz either have to find a way to beat Laredo for a change, or hope the Bugs have nothing left to play for.
If the Scorps pick up the berth, they'll certainly have earned it -- Macker's squad finishes with Memphis, Indy and Wichita, all away, and can actually finish over .500 on the road.
Then again, they deserve a challenge after getting three of their last four against the the team with 10 players. Yeah yeah yeah, I know El Paso is plucky and inspiring, and they knocked off Amarillo, but you can't deny that the whole unfortunate mess has affected the schedule's integrity, almost as surely as if the team had gone under and games went unplayed or reapportioned.
For the record, Corpus holds the wins tiebreaker, while head-to-head is Lubbock over Corpus, New Mexico over Lubbock, New Mexico over Corpus. (Btw, I screwed up in an earlier entry, saying head-to-head came before wins, sorry 'bout that).
1. What's wrong with this caption (second picture)?
2. How smart does Colorado Eagles owner Ralph Backstrom look for passing on Tucson?
3. Are there any athletes named "Campbell" who teammates don't call Soupy?
4. And really, what the heck happened in Odessa seven minutes into the second period? Did somebody behind the Lubbock bench ask the same question as Hockeycrazy?
Love this "Bob" Clarke quote about the Flyers' Amonte deal.
Tony has been among the top five or six goal-scorers in the last five years combined," Clarke said last night from his office, where he orchestrated the trade. "He's a real proven goal-scorer in the league, and we've been able to make good checkers out of those guys."
Saturday, March 01, 2003
Along with spotty online access, the reason I've been so quiet (thanks for asking) is El Paso's all I wanna talk about. And yet, there's nothing I can say.
Meaning, no commentary, analysis or satire can compete with the reality, as laid out in the El Paso Times (for specific links, read the last several Farm Reports).
So. Moving on. Are they suddenly wearing Rattlers sweaters in Amarillo or what? Guess the Buzzards really like their skates.
Two weeks ago the Apes were poised to take over the Northwest. Since then they've earned two points out of a possible 12 and let Memphis zip right past them. Bossier too.
The only saving grace for Joe Ferras' squad is two precious games in hand on Tulsa, which hasn't been much better -- four points (albeit over the CHL's top two teams) in its last half-dozen contests.
Oklahoma City has been brilliant by comparison -- yeah, the Blazers lost to Fort Worth one-and-a-half times and dropped another shootout to the Bats, but they've added to their total in five out of six games, earning eight in all. (For the record, Bossier earned six points out of 12, Memphis eight.)
The momentum could swing again next weekend, but right now I'd say whoever wins that division is fodder for the defending champs. And given the yearlong, back-and-forth intensity of the Indy-Memphis rivalry, that's a seven-game series I would like to see.
The Bugs can tie the Oilers Sunday with a win over Fort Worth, while Amarillo is not likely to go down at El Paso two games in a row.
More intriguingly, Tulsa still has to face the Gorillas and the Mudbugs one time each, with tiebreakers at stake in both. Beat Amarillo and the Oilers hold the head-to-head advantage; beat Bossier and the head-to-head is even, with the next tiebreaker (overall wins) in Tulsa's favor.
I know the standings say the fourth-place Southern Conference team is the weak sister of the playoffs, but I'm gonna suggest that Corpus Christi is a somewhat underrated team.
Why? Well, if the Rayz could replace 50% of their games against Austin and Laredo with games against the North, they might very well have 67 points. Conversely, if Oklahoma City or Memphis had to play Austin and Laredo 23 times, they might be in the 50s.
Just a theory.
On the other hand, Corpus' road record is atrocious. Lubbock's too. In fact, the C-Kings have been awful, going 5-10-1 from Jan 28-Feb 28 before Saturday's win over the Oil.
Which is why New Mexico holds the final spot for now. Macker finally got his club to gel, with five wins in a row before tonight (so much for the Southwest title talk).
In other news...
The Killer Bees have found their coach, and he's currently associated with one of the 16 CHL teams. Does that mean if Lubbock keeps playing like it has been, the announcement will come sooner than "late April?"