1. I think that something happened in Quebec City. I don’t know what they are doing, or what exactly is happening, but the Cyclones have won six in a row and have moved up five spots in the standings of late. The Cyclones are not blowing anyone out, they are winning high scoring games, they are winning low scoring nail-biters. No matter how the game goes, the Cyclones are finding a way to get it done.
2. I think that if you go to a Calgary RATH game, you should get your popcorn before the game starts. RATH games are averaging a super-quick 1:10 per game. Don’t blink (or go for popcorn), or you’ll miss the whole thing!
3. I think that Southern Ontario has been producing a bumper crop of new NRL players. Of the top six rookie scorers, five are from the Southern Ontario division. Also interesting on the rookie scoring front: the top two rookie scorers in the West play for the Edmonton WAM!. The WAM!’s reputation as an experienced team with lots of veterans is starting to change. Some of their old guard is still there, but the rookies are starting to become a vital part of the WAM!’s success.
4. I think that the race in the Western Conference is going to be a three team race for the final two spots in the National Championship. I also think that the Manitoba Jets’ goalie, Amy Clarkson, has had a lot to do with ensuring that this stays a three way race with Edmonton and Calgary. For the month of January, Clarkson has an incredible .938 save percentage. Goalkeeping like that will get you pretty far in this league.
5. I think that baseball nerds are coming to the rescue again. Using Bill James’ pythogorean prediction model (caution: link contains a lot of math), the following are the predicted final points for the Western Conference playoff race*:
Prairie Fire: 36.28 points
Edmonton WAM!: 27.72 points
Manitoba Jets: 27.5 points
Calgary RATH: 27.79 points
So, if the model is correct, we should expect a three way tie for the final spot in the west. If you thought that the western race was close, you were absolutely correct!
* – As with all predictions, you can be fairly certain that this one is wrong!
6. I think that the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is also looking awfully close. Based on the same prediction model, the Eastern Conference will come down like this:
Gatineau: 19.4 points
Whitby: 18.3 points
Lac St Louis: 15.6 points
So, if the math turns out to be right, the final spot in the playoffs in the east will come down to three teams separated by three points. That will be a thrilling conclusion to the season.
7. I think that the Gatineau Fusion have done a great job of hosting “La Confrontation” for the past several years. At the event, the Capital Division is matched up against the Southern Ontario Division for a weekend. The games, over the weekend of Feburary 18-20 in Aylmer, QC should be outstanding and feature battles for position at the top of the conference and for the last playoff spots, all at once.
8. I think that if you go to “La Confrontation” you will notice that there is an extra person on the ice. That weekend will be the host for the NRL’s experiment with a three-official system. With the game moving ever faster, this experiment will see if we can improve the game by putting another referee on the ice. Should be interesting.
9. I think the Calgary RATH have made a big import move this year. After the World Ringette Championships, Miia Railio has joined the RATH from the Finnish National team. The defender will likely help solidify a RATH defence that was not too shabby to start with. As of now, three of the RATH’s six defenders played at the World Ringette Championships.
10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts of the month:
a. I think that the Finnish Elite League is also getting down to its playoff races. The league’s scoring leader is Anne Pohjola with a ridiculous 199 points in 20 games played. A team from the nation’s far north (Lapinlahti 89) is leading in the league standings through 20 games.
b. I think that the Canada Winter Games are getting closer and closer. You can look forward to CWG related tweets (@redringette), blogs and score updates on the Ringette Canada website. By all accounts, the CWG teams have shown incredible parity in the tournaments leading up to this event, so anything could happen. Keep watching, and if you are able to get out to Halifax, do yourself a favour and check out the action at Cole Harbour Place.
c. I think we should all tip our sticks to the University of Alberta ringette team for organizing a very successful Ringette Scores on Cancer tournament this past weekend. The second annual event raised $90,000 for the Cross Cancer Institute.