by Steven Force

As the second half of the WSHL schedule gets set to start up in 2018, the four divisional correspondents put their heads together in these WSHL Power Rankings.

1. El Paso – El Paso was only 1.4 seconds away from finishing out the 2017 half of their season schedule undefeated. With wins over Long Beach and Ogden at the Western States Shootout, and three wins over Oklahoma City to end the year, El Paso has positioned themselves as the team to beat heading into 2018. – Eric Rodgers

2. Utah – The best season in franchise history only got better in Vegas for Utah. The Outliers picked up impressive victories over Long Beach and Oklahoma City. They’ve got the hottest goalie in the league right now in Dawson Rodin, who registered the rare goalie goal, scoring an empty netter against the Bombers on Wednesday and then became the first goalie to shut out the Blazers since Adam Vay did it three seasons ago on Thursday. – Jon McBride

3. Oklahoma City – Oklahoma City ran into a tough test at the Shootout, ultimately falling to Utah in their final game. Despite being handed the sweep by El Paso in their first matchup, the wins over Idaho and Ogden have to boost their confidence with their rematch against the Rhinos to begin 2018. – Eric Rodgers

4. Idaho – Although the IceCats dropped two of three at the showcase, they are still in the driver’s seat in the Northwest going into 2018. Idaho has only lost once to a Northwest Division opponent all season, falling 4-3 in overtime on Dec. 15 at Tahoe. – Charles Woodall-Pike

5. Colorado – Sweeping the showcase is never an easy task. Colorado did just that, with the Eagles picking up Ws over Long Beach, Valencia and Idaho. They were one of only five teams to sweep at this year’s event and the only top-tier team to do so. Colorado should roll through January, but have a tough matchup in El Paso to start off February. – Jon McBride

6. Ogden – The Mustangs came into Vegas having dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season. Things didn’t get better as Mustang superstar and WSHL leading scorer Matus Spodniak suffered an injury in his first game and would not return for the two others. Ogden did seem to figure things out in their final game, putting together a decisive 6-3 victory over Valencia to head into the break on a high note. – Jon McBride

7. Long Beach – The Bombers lead the Western Division, but sputtered to the holiday break, losing 4 of their last 5, including going 0-2-1 at the Western States Shootout.  They’ll be looking to find their early season form when action starts up again in 2018. – Steven Force

8. Ontario – There is no hotter team in the WSHL than the Ontario Avalanche.  The Avalanche have an 11-game winning streak, which featured wins against both Valencia and Long Beach, going into the second half of the season. – Steven Force

9. Valencia – The Flyers began their showcase week with an impressive 5-4 win over the Utah Outliers, but followed it up with a pair of losses to Colorado and Ogden.  Valencia has just one win in their last six games, and they’ve fallen to third place in the Western Division. – Steven Force

10. West Sound – Thanks to a perfect run at the showcase, West Sound pushed their way into second place in the Northwest Division. After a rocky start to the season, the Warriors have found their rhythm, winning 13 of their last 18 games to close out 2017. – Charles Woodall-Pike

11. Fresno – It’s been an up-and-down season for the Monsters so far, and that was on display at the Western States Shootout.  They started with a one-goal win over Springfield, fell 6-3 to West Sound and then dominated Tahoe to the tune of 12-5 in their final game.  The Monsters will be looking for more consistency in 2018, as they start the second half with nine straight games against the three teams above them in the standings. – Steven Force

12. Tahoe – Despite ending 2017 on a rough note, dropping seven of their last nine games, Tahoe is still in the top half of the Northwest race. The Icemen will have some time to regroup for the second half as they return to action on Jan. 19 in Seattle. – Charles Woodall-Pike

13. Superior – The RoughRiders seem to be firmly entrenched in the No. 4 spot in the Mountain, not to the point of competing with the big three of Ogden, Utah and Colorado, but they’re also a cut above of the bottom two of Casper and Cheyenne. This is a vastly different roster for Superior than we’ve seen in years past. There is a lot of raw talent there. If they can find a way to come together in the second half, they certainly have the potential to surprise a few teams. – Jon McBride

14. Phoenix – In their first 15 games, the Knights went 0-13-2.  In their last 15 games, they’re 11-4-0, including a clean sweep at the Western States Shootout.  Phoenix is hoping that momentum carries over into 2018. – Steven Force

15. Springfield – The Express ran into a disappointing Shootout, but was able to garner two points from the showcase week. Playing in a tough Midwest Division, the Express were hoping to prove they were a high-level team playing in a tougher division, but weren’t able to show that in Vegas. – Eric Rodgers

16. Bellingham – Bellingham finished 2017 on a roll, winning six of their last eight games, including two of three in Vegas. Although they sit fourth in the Northwest Division, Bellingham has six games in hand on third-place Tahoe and three games in hand on second-place West Sound, so there is still plenty of time to make up ground. – Charles Woodall-Pike

17. Southern Oregon – The Spartans have struggled for most of the season but they enter 2018 on a five-game winning streak after sweeping the showcase. Southern Oregon will look to continue their roll on home ice, where they will play 14 of their remaining 19 contests. – Charles Woodall-Pike

18. Casper – The Coyotes went 2-1 in Vegas, including a dominant 6-1 victory over Seattle. While they’ve won eight of their last nine games, all of their wins this season have come against sub-.500 teams. They’re yet to pick up a marquee victory this season. They’ll have their chances to start 2018, travelling to Ogden to start things off, and then hosting Colorado. – Jon McBride

19. Dallas – With a close loss to a rising Phoenix team, and a win against Casper, the Snipers are working to catch up within the Midwest Division, making a run at Springfield. – Eric Rodgers

20. Seattle – The Totems have been in a tailspin, with just two wins since Oct. 27. Seattle did manage to close out the showcase with a victory over the CPJHL Red Team, which could help spark the Totems for a second-half rebound. – Charles Woodall-Pike

21. San Diego – It’s been a difficult first year for the new regime in San Diego, but they were able to end 2017 on a high note, going 2-1-0 at the showcase.  Their 2018 schedule begins with nine straight home games, their longest stretch of the season. – Steven Force

22. Wichita - The defending Thorne Cup champions have had a rough go of things this season, but another win over the Cheyenne Stampede in Vegas will give the young team some confidence heading into 2018. – Eric Rodgers

23. Cheyenne – It’s been a revolving door in Cheyenne this season, now on their third coach and a roster that has featured 47 different players this season. They were close to victories over both San Diego and Wichita at the showcase, but couldn’t pull them out. Things don’t get any easier in 2018 for the Stampede, hosting Ogden and then Utah to start things off. – Jon McBride