Northwest Division Battle For Second

by Charles Woodall-Pike

Idaho has locked up the top seed in the Northwest, so all the attention in the division now shifts to the second seed. Entering the weekend of Feb. 9, Lake Tahoe and West Sound sit tied for second with 43 points and Bellingham right behind both of them with 39 points. With the regular season winding down, here are some key factors to watch out for as these three teams fight for second place in the Northwest.

Bellingham has already played their season series with Tahoe, which saw the Icemen win all six meetings. However, the Blazers will see West Sound five more times before the playoffs, hosting four of those games. Bellingham and West Sound have already played each other 10 times so far this season, with the Blazers holding an 8-2 edge in wins over the Warriors. If they can continue that success against their in-state rival, that could give Bellingham an edge in this race.

Tahoe has been one of the better teams in the Northwest this season and they have played well in the second half. They started the post-showcase part of the season going 5-1-0, including a pair of wins over Long Beach. Despite following that with three straight losses to Idaho, the Icemen played the IceCats close for a good portion of that series. Tahoe has been the only Northwest team to defeat Idaho this season and three of their eight losses to the IceCats were by one goal. Their ability to play the toughest team in the division better than anyone else has will make getting past them for the second seed a difficult task.

West Sound possibly has the most influence on how this race will go. Eight of their final nine games are against Bellingham and Tahoe, so the Warriors will have a lot to say over which of the three teams gets that second slot in the Northwest. Although West Sound has struggled against Bellingham for most of the year, the Warriors did take two of three games against the Icemen in Tahoe back in mid-November. If West Sound can do the same thing against Tahoe when the Icemen visit in March and reverse their fortunes against the Blazers, the Warriors will find themselves sitting in that second place seat for the playoffs.