BELLINGHAM BLAZERS (1-3-1)
The Bellingham Blazers finally got into the win column last weekend in their fifth game of the season with a big 10-5 victory over West Sound.
The Blazers' offense had been solid leading up to the 10-goal outburst, averaging four goals per contest.
Forward Jamahl Eakett led the way with a four-point showing that was capped off with a hat trick in the third period.
Eakett's nine goals are the most on the club by a sizeable margin. Thomas Steven and Ruslan Novruzov have netted four goals apiece.
The Blazers are back in action this weekend with a three-game series in Tahoe against the Icemen.
Bellingham trails Tahoe by five points in the division standings, so a strong series could put a dent in that deficit or even erase it altogether.
The Blazers will follow up this weekend's games with a home-and-home series against West Sound on October 28-29.
IDAHO ICECATS (3-0-0)
After an offseason that lasted all the way into mid-October, the Idaho IceCats finally opened last week with a three-game sweep of visiting Tahoe.
The games throughout the series were fairly close, and the first contest was about as competitive as you'll find. It took a goal from Idaho forward Roman Tintera with just six seconds remaining in regulation for the IceCats to squeak out a 5-4 win.
Still, a win is worth two points no matter how you get them, and Idaho is in a good position early on as it sits just two points out of second place with multiple games in hand on every division opponent.
Forward Lance Herning has scored seven goals over three games. That's a tough pace to maintain, but if Herning can continue to find the back of the net consistently, he will make plenty of noise in the league scoring race.
Idaho is facing off against West Sound this weekend on the road. It will be the first matchup between the IceCats and the Warriors, who joined the WSHL this past offseason.
Looking ahead, the IceCats are slated to take on Casper on the road in a couple weeks. Although the Coyotes are off to a mediocre start, it should be a good series between two of the perennial contenders in the WSHL.
SEATTLE TOTEMS (6-0-1)
It appears as though the Seattle Totems, winners of six straight, have turned a corner. Through their first seven games, the club is undefeated in regulation.
Unlike last season, the Totems are finding ways to win close games. All seven of Seattle's games up to this point have been decided by two goals or fewer.
Last weekend, Seattle played only one game and found a way to win, beating West Sound by a 3-1 margin.
The reward for Seattle's solid play over the past few weeks is a spot all alone at the top of the Northwest Division. The Totems have a five-point cushion over West Sound and Tahoe, which are locked into a second-place tie.
Forward Tom Ignatovich has been red hot this season, lighting the lamp 10 times, which makes him one of the league's top-10 goal-scorers.
With just three more points, Ignatovich (10-5-15) will surpass his scoring line from all of last season (4-14-18). He has already scored more goals than he did last year.
Not to be outdone, forward Michael Shippee, another returnee from last season's edition of the Totems, is leading the club with a scoring line of 5-14-19.
Shippee has collected multiple points in five of seven games and has scored four or more points on three separate occasions.
SOUTHERN OREGON SPARTANS (1-8-0)
The Southern Oregon Spartans were swept by Utah last weekend and find themselves at the bottom of the Northwest Division.
For all the improvement that the division has seen through the first month of play, it seems the Spartans have taken a step back from last season's team that finished in second place. Simply put, the Spartans' defense and goaltending has not been good enough to give the club a chance to win.
Southern Oregon is allowing nearly six goals per contest, and neither of its netminders have a save percentage near .900.
But the blame cannot be solely placed on the team's defensive corps, as the offense has netted just over two goals per game.
The good news is that it's still October. The Spartans have plenty of time to find their way and get back to being a competitive team.
Southern Oregon hosts Ogden this weekend for a what will be a tough series against the Mustangs.
TAHOE ICEMEN (3-4-2)
The Tahoe Icemen dropped under .500 after they were swept by Idaho, but put in a competitive showing in the series.
The Icemen have faced some of the league's best teams over the past couple of weeks with series against Ontario and Idaho. Although they didn't pick up as many points as they would have liked, Tahoe showed it can hang with the best.
At this point, simply believing in yourself could go a long way toward contending in a division that seems to be up for grabs. That's why, despite having a rough stretch as far as wins and losses go, these past two weeks could be important to how the Icemen view themselves as a team for the rest of the season.
Tahoe is currently tied for second in the division standings, five points out of first place.
The Icemen could potentially push themselves toward the top spot in the division this weekend when they take on Bellingham. First-place Seattle does not play this week, giving Tahoe a huge opportunity to take hold of the division.
WEST SOUND WARRIORS (4-3-0)
The West Sound Warriors suffered a pair of setbacks last week in games against Bellingham and Seattle.
The losses come following a strong start that saw the Warriors claim eight of 10 possible points through their first five games.
West Sound is in second place with a 4-3-0 record, but its goal differential is worse than every other second-place team in the league.
On a positive note, the Warriors will play six of their next seven games at home, giving many home fans their first look at Northwest Division rivals.
This weekend, West Sound will match up with one of the best teams the league has to offer in Idaho. The Warriors' performance this week will likely show how close they are to contention in the WSHL.
Luckily, West Sound will have its fans cheering it on at Bremerton Ice Arena. The support will be needed as the club takes on the franchise that has claimed five of the last seven Thorne Cups.
--- Jared Tennan
FRESNO MONSTERS (3-6-0)
A successful series against San Diego last weekend has the Fresno Monsters back on track after the club lost five of its first six contests.
Fresno took the first two games in the three-game set before falling in the finale by a 3-1 margin.
The Monsters, who are in fourth place in the Western Division, have now won three of their last four games.
Over the next month or so, Fresno needs to establish itself as a contender in the division. The Monsters have an upcoming schedule that features six matchups against winless Phoenix and a series against Bellingham, another club that is near the bottom of the Northwest Division.
Everything is set up for the Monsters to make a huge run, but thinking it and actually doing it are two very different things.
Following that stretch, Fresno will play its next three games against Long Beach and Valencia in mid-November.
For now, the Monsters are back at home for a three-game series against Phoenix, followed by a two-week hiatus.
LONG BEACH BOMBERS (8-0-0)
The Long Beach Bombers have seized control of the division with a three-game sweep of Phoenix.
Technically, the club is tied with Valencia at 16 points apiece, but the Bombers have a game in hand on the Flyers, who lost to Fresno earlier in the month.
Long Beach is riding an eight-game winning streak to open its season. It outscored Phoenix 23-3 last weekend in a dominant showing.
Backup netminder Rhett Arnold has played sparingly behind workhorse starter Domenic Bosetti. Arnold made his first start of the year against Phoenix and stopped 36 of 38 shots (.950 save percentage).
Arnold could be the starting goaltender on many WSHL teams but the continued excellence of Bosetti, who is first in the league in save percentage (.949) and second in goals-against average (1.67) among qualified starters, has kept Arnold on the bench.
The Bombers already have eight players with double-digit points through their first eight games, including leading scorer Miroslav Rohlik (11-7-18).
The Czech Republic native is playing in his first season in North America and is making a massive impact early on.
Long Beach will play four games against San Diego this weekend. The series begins Thursday night at Glacial Garden Arena.
ONTARIO AVALANCHE (5-4-0)
Despite playing three hard-fought games, the Ontario Avalanche were swept by El Paso last weekend.
The Avalanche dropped the opening match 5-1 before falling in back-to-back 4-3 games. Ontario seemed to be headed to overtime in Sunday's game, but El Paso netted a goal with just nine seconds remaining in regulation to deny the Avs a valuable point in the standings.
Ontario is alone in third place in the Western Division. The club is six points behind division leaders Long Beach and Valencia.
The Avs' power play is once again one of the league's best, converting on 25.6% of its opportunities. Ontario already has 10 power-play goals this season.
Canadian winger Jesse Zaharichuk has been one of the Avs' go-to options on offense, with a scoring line of 5-9-14.
The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native played 25 games with his hometown Sherwood Park Crusaders last season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, collecting 21 points (6-15-21).
The 20-year-old Zaharichuk has also spent parts of the last three seasons in the Western Hockey League with three different clubs. He has scored 73 points (23-50-73) over 125 games in his career.
Ontario will be tested this weekend with a home-and-home series against Valencia, starting Friday night on the road.
PHOENIX KNIGHTS (0-9-0)
The Phoenix Knights are struggling through the first month of the season and have yet to pick up a point through nine games.
The Knights have been hurt by a brutal opening schedule with three series in a row against Valencia, Ontario, and Long Beach.
Phoenix was swept by Long Beach last weekend and, despite the lopsided results, the team managed to keep things close in almost every game before the Bombers pulled away in the final period.
Scoring has been a huge issue for the Knights. Forwards Colton Schneiderman and Kohl Hedquist share the team lead with three goals each.
Phoenix has found the back of the net just 11 times through nine games. It will need some new players to step up if it wants to have a chance this weekend against a Fresno squad that has won three of its last four.
The Knights are planning on releasing a series of video documentaries about the team throughout the season. You can watch episode two of Hard Day's Knight at the link below.
SAN DIEGO SABERS (1-4-0)
The San Diego Sabers lost their first two games to Fresno last weekend but pulled off a 3-1 victory in the third game for the team's first win of the season.
San Diego is another club that is still finding its way offensively, lighting the lamp just seven times through their first five games.
Take away the win over Fresno and the Sabers have only four goals over four games.
Forward David Grindstaff is off to a nice start with four points (2-2-4), but he hasn't had much help. Karel Kankovsky has also netted a pair of goals, but no other Saber has registered multiple goals.
The Sabers will need to quickly figure out their goal-scoring issue or they could risk digging themselves into a sizeable hole. The club is tasked with four games in four days against undefeated Long Beach this weekend.
After the Long Beach series, things won't get much easier as the Sabers play a three-game set against El Paso – another unbeaten team – at home.
VALENCIA FLYERS (8-1-0)
The Valencia Flyers return from their bye week this Friday night to take on Ontario at Ice Station in game one of a brief home-and-home series.
The series against the Avalanche should be a good prelude to what is becoming one of the most anticipated matchups of the first half of the season when the Flyers take on Long Beach in a four-game set.
Valencia will play three of the four contests at home, which could give it a slight edge in a series in which every advantage will be magnified.
The Flyers' special teams have been a strength early on. Their power play, which seems to dominate every year, is scoring on 28.9% of its opportunities.
The penalty kill has not been as great, but it is still holding opponents off the board a respectable 84.2% of the time.
Valencia holds a share of first place in the Western Division despite being idle last week. It is locked into a 16-point tie atop the division standings.
--- Jared Tennant for Harrington Sports Media