The USPHL Premier Division is heading into the second to last weekend of the regular season for most divisions.
There are major positional battles and games with positional implications in every division – indeed, some teams entering the weekend with their playoff lives at stake.
Listed below are 10 big matchups for the weekend ahead in random order.
New York Aviators @ Skipjacks Hockey Club
The New York Aviators have led the Mid-Atlantic Division almost from the start, dropping just three regulation losses on the season.
But the team still hasn’t clinched top spot in the division. Rolling into a three-game weekend, the Pilots own a six-point lead with a game in hand. But two of those games this weekend – Friday and Saturday will be at York City Ice Arena against the second place and host Skipjacks Hockey Club.
The Aviators could clinch the division with a sweep, but a Skipjacks sweep would make the games at the regular season ending South Shore Kings Presidents Day Showcase next weekend just a little more interesting.
The Aviators will also play one game mid-week at Chelsea Piers against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers
South Shore Kings @ Islanders Hockey Club
All seven teams in the New England Division are still engaged in positional battles of some kind including the Islanders Hockey Club and South Shore Kings who head into the weekend still fighting it out for third spot.
The Kings enter the weekend three points behind the Isles and could get within one with a win on the road at Skate 3 Ice Arena, while the Isles could close in on wrapping up the spot with a win.
The Kings also have one game in hand and will make that up on Sunday on home ice against Twin City.
Rum River Mallards @ Minnesota Moose
The Rum River Mallards currently sit in fifth place in the Midwest-West division but have only played 36 games so far – as many as four fewer than the teams around them in the standings.
The Mallards will begin a frantic stretch of eight games in a little over a week when it plays a home and home set with a Moose team that has its own sights set on top spot in the division – entering just two behind the Hudson Havoc.
The Mallards will be at Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine Friday and return home to Isanti Saturday for the rematch before continuing its furious run to end the season at Owatonna on Monday against the Steele County Blades.
Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings @ Hudson Havoc
These two teams will wrap up a stretch of four straight games against each other in Hudson this weekend as the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings took a pair on home ice to start the series last weekend.
As a result, three teams head into the final two weekends with a legit shot and taking the division crown.
The Riverkings need a road sweep to keep its own hopes of top spot alive while the Havoc could strengthen its bid to turn a ninth place finish a year ago to top position this season.
The Riverkings will be in Hudson for games Friday and Saturday.
Atlanta Jr. Kings at Carolina Eagles
It’s down to win or go home for the Atlanta Jr. Kings as they head to the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest, N.C., this weekend needing a sweep against the Eagles to keep their slim hopes of post season play alive.
The Kings trail the Eagles by five with four games to go. A loss in either of these ‘four-pointers would eliminate them, but if they can wrap up a sweep, the Kings will be within a point heading into the final weekend of play. The Hampton Roads Whalers, Charlotte Rush and Richmond Generals have already clinched the top three playoff spots, in that order.
Hartford Jr. Wolfpack at Springfield Pics
This is an interesting contest as both teams are involved in different Northeast Division battles. The Jr. Wolfpack trails the Rochester Monarchs by five for the sixth and final playoff position and, with just six games remaining, the time to make a move is now. The Pics are locked into a battle for second spot and a first round playoff bye with the Syracuse Stars – both with 46 points and five games to go.
Pittsburgh Vengeance @ Niagara Falls Thunder
This is an interesting cross division battle with teams from different regions. The Pittsburgh Vengeance of the Great Lakes Division step into a Saturday/Sunday pair on the road against the Niagara Falls Thunder from the Northeast Division.
The Vengeance slipped by the Lansing Wolves into the division’s runner-up spot last weekend and could make a move toward clinching the position this weekend while the Thunder is locked in a battle for fourth place with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, both teams tied at 34 points and 36 games played.
Boston Bandits at Boston Junior Bruins
Normally, a second place vs. seventh place game wouldn’t rate very high, but in this case both the second place Bandits and seventh place Junior Bruins need this one bad.
The Bandits have led the New England Division for much of the season, but enter this weekend trailing the new leaders, Northern Cyclones by two points. Meanwhile it’s now or never for the Bruins who need to make up a six-point deficit on the sixth place Twin City Thunder in order to get an invitation to the postseason dance.
The Bandits will be at New England Sports Center to play the Bruins Saturday.
Florida Jr. Blades at DME Swamp Rabbits
The DME Swamp Rabbits are two points behind the first place Florida Eels with a couple games in hand and will make up those games this weekend, hosting the fourth place Jr. Blades.
If the Rabbits manage to pull ahead of the Eels and grab top spot in the Florida Division, then this pair will also double as a playoff preview. The Blades defeated the Rabbits in one of their recent meetings and could use these games to build some playoff momentum as well.
Motor City Hockey Club vs. Detroit Fighting Irish
On paper this doesn’t look like much as the Motor City crew enters the weekend two points up on the Cougars but with three extra games played and will be on the road to play the fifth place Detroit Fighting Irish, currently mired in a nine-game losing streak.
But this is a must-win for Motor City if the team wants to keep pace with the Cougars and this is one of those matchups between Motown rivals where it doesn’t matter what position the teams are in.