Things are heating up in the Central Division standings of the NAHL as the St. Cloud Norsemen have ridden a five-game winning streak to improve their record to 18-16-2-2 and with 40 points are currently sitting in a playoff spot, 4th in the standings. There’s little room for error as Bismarck trails them by just a single point and North Iowa is only behind by four points and has a game in hand. But on the other side of the standings Minot and Aberdeen are tied just two points clear of St. Cloud, so the Norsemen with a good weekend could find themselves sitting as high as second in the Central in a week or as far down as sixth.
One area of the Norsemen’s game that’s been good all season but has caught fire lately is the Rambow power play. St. Cloud is converting on 22.5% of the man advantages on the season with 31 goals in 138 opportunities, 7th of the 29 NAHL teams. They’re even more lethal on the road, converting 19 times on 65 chances, and their 29.2% rate is fourth best among teams on the road. They’ve also scored at least one power play goal in ten straight games.
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz talks about the success the Norsemen have had with the man advantage. “I think they’re starting to get on the same page as each other. They’re going out and they have a plan with what they’re gonna do and where they’re gonna be,” Kautz assesses. “When you have five guys that spend a decent amount of time together, you understand and you can anticipate some plays before they happen. They’re getting rewarded with putting the puck in the net and it’s big momentum in games and it helps out when your special teams can be sharp and score goals.”
Another area of improvement for the Norsemen has been taking advantage of home ice. St. Cloud struggled in their own building early on, going 2-8-0 in their first ten games at the MAC. The team has turned it around as of late however, winning five of their six home games since December 9th, all in regulation.
The Austin Bruins have built a cushion in the Central as they’re 13 points clear of anyone else in the division, but things get much murkier from there. A mere six points separate second place from last place in the division. Also factor in that the last place team North Iowa has a game in hand on everyone, so if they win in that extra contest, they’re really only four points back, which is the number a team can make up in a standard two-game weekend.
It makes the schedule and games coming down the stretch so vital. Having played in 38 of their 60 regular season games St. Cloud will be at the two-thirds mark of the season after this weekend’s home series against Bismarck. They’ve got a lot of hockey left, including 12 regular season home games at the MAC. Tickets for all remaining games, including this Friday and Saturday’s vs. the Bobcats, can be found online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.