With your Raptors on a well-deserved break until next week and just over half the season remaining, it's a good time to take stock of where we are as a team, and where things might be heading.
Your Raptors currently sit in second place in the MASL2 North division. With three wins, a loss, and an overtime loss, we own ten total points, just two below the league-leading Iowa Demon Hawks and well ahead of the third place team, the Rochester Lancers 2. Due to MASL2's widely distributed schedule, the Lancers have only played two games, so the 10-6 points differential isn't as vast as it seems (the Lancers won both of their games). We should have a much better idea of how the two clubs stack up after their February 4th tilt at the Alliant Energy Power House.
Meanwhile, we know how the Raptors fare against the division leaders. We've played the Demon Hawks three times and lost twice, including the shootout loss in overtime. But all games have been extremely close, with the Demon Hawks edging us by a single goal in each of their victories (the Raptors won by two, 8-6, in the teams' second meeting). We face the Demon Hawks once more in a late-season matchup that's sure to have major playoff implications (March 12).
Nor is it too late to entirely count out the division's remaining team, the Muskegon Risers. With five games remaining on their schedule, the Risers sit at 1-6, with 2 total points. However, they've hung tough in most of their matchups, with their lone victory coming in overtime against the division-leading Demon Hawks. The Risers are heading into a three-game homestand, starting with the Raptors on January 28. That trip represents your Raptors' first action away from the friendly confines of the Power House, and it will be an important test. Getting past the Risers won't be easy, and we finish the season with back-to-back games in Rochester vs. the Lancers 2.
Without further ado, then, let's see how your Raptors have performed thus far (all statistics courtesy of MASL2).
OFFENSE: Your Raptors are third in the MASL2 with 38 goals scored, but that's at least partly due to having played more games than any other non-division club. In the West Division, for instance, Club Deportivo de Baja California has put up 36 goals in just four games, and Chihuahua Savage II have scored 35. Both teams also have double-digit margins of victory (+13 and +10, respectively), while the Raptors are merely +4.
The division-leading Demon Hawks, by contrast, have played one more game than your Raptors, but used it to put up 19 more goals. Their 57 total goals leads the league by a large margin (the next closest is Muskegon, with 40) and they're tops in goal differential, too, at +16. Some of the goal disparity comes from a 17-4 shellacking of the Risers, but it's clear that your Raptors are going to need to score more, and more often, if they want to swipe the division from the Demon Hawks.
The Raptors' strength is their balanced attack. No less than fourteen Raptors have recorded a point so far this season, and only three of them (Will Davis, Joel del Toro, and Jez Rodriguez) have failed to notch both a goal and an assist -- Davis has a goal, and del Toro and Rodriguez have two assists apiece. Jonah Dancer is the team's leading individual scorer, with 10 goals (good for third overall in the league) and two assists. A red-hot Pat Kelly trails Dancer by two points, thanks to back-to-back hat trick performances, and both Ricky Orozco and Ronaldo Rojas have seven points each. Kelly is also the most generous Raptor, with four assists; Rojas and Ayo Adebayo have three each.
DEFENSE: Your Raptors are in the middle of the pack defensively. We've surrendered more goals than all but three teams, despite only having played one more game than two of them (the third, Muskegon, has surrendered the most goals in the league, but they've played the most games by far). Orozco, Kelly, and Rojas have been standouts defensively as well, and David Lapan-Islas and Lionel Melecki have been tough along the boards, but lapses at midfield and in the net have forced the defense to make tough plays they shouldn't have to. Many Raptors players are new to the indoor game, so we can expect that a lot of these issues will get ironed out as they get more experience. Still, coaches Curt Lewis and Ed Knupp have their work cut out for them going into the season's second half.
GOALTENDING: Three players have seen time in the net for your Raptors this season. Jesus "Chuy" Ortiz was the starter for the first three games of the year, losing one -- the shootout loss to Des Moines. He's given up an average of 5.68 goals per game on a .538 save percentage. Those are respectable numbers, but nowhere near the dominance shown by Demon Hawks goaltender Rainer Hauss, the league leader in save percentage (.810).
Ortiz was spelled in goal by Luis "Luisito" Perez for most of the second half of the Raptors' 8-6 victory over Muskegon, and he performed competently in his first ever arena action. He's a talented young player who should be able to hold it down in net if called upon.
Brett Petricek, a standout for the MASL1 Cedar Rapids Rampage, took over in goal for the back-to-back tilt versus Des Moines, winning one. He's a very talented keeper, but his performance was hampered by his lack of practice time with the team, and some unfortunate defensive lapses (two of the goals in his loss were deflected into the net by Raptors defenders).
The same ironing-out process that should improve the defense should also help our netminders going forward, but they'll have to be sharp.
POWER PLAY / PENALTY KILL: It's feast or famine for your Raptors when it comes to the man advantage. Power play goals have contributed mightily to our wins, while shortcomings on the penalty kill have been major factors in the losses. Forward / defenseman Pat Kelly is merciless on the power play -- he's tied for second in the league in power play goals. However, the Raptors have so far failed to kill off any penalties so far this season, which has put tremendous pressure on an often overworked defense. That's tough, especially given that we're among the more penalized teams in the league -- we own one of only four red cards given out so far this season, and we've had an assistant coach ejected as well. Our 63% power play conversion rate is pretty good, but we'll need to play tighter in the second half of the season.
OVERALL GRADE: B- / C+. We're a young team with a lot of talent. The club was gelling well going into the break, and should perform well going forward. We face our first big road test next week, before coming home to face off against our heated rivals, the Demon Hawks. The playoffs and even the division championship are well within reach.