With just a few weeks left before the end of yet another exciting CHL hockey season, the postseason is starting to take shape...but even before that, we have one hell of a showdown coming down the stretch for a certain regular-season award.
While the Mississippi RiverKings continue to defy the odds and march to the Playoffs, the Colorado Eagles and Texas Brahmas are poised for a shootout for possession of the 2008-09 Governors' Cup (most points in the regular season).
Here's an in-depth look at the three teams that stand atop the "CHL mountain."
Texas Brahmas, Southeast Division (37-13-5, 79 Pts, clinched Playoff berth)
The Brahmas have had Colorado's number all season. Whether in their backyard or in the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Texas has stayed right with the Bad Boys of the Northwest Division.
Experts have already pegged both the Eagles and Brahmas to lock horns in the President's Cup Finals. But there's plenty of excitement before then, as the Brahmas continue to put pressure on Colorado for the Governors' Cup. In their last nine games, Texas has gone 6-3, with two of their losses coming against Playoff teams Odessa and Oklahoma City.
The Brahmas begin the final stretch with a trio of home games (Corpus Christi, Odessa, Bossier-Shreveport) starting Friday night. But they finish off the season on the road with a trio of road games (two at Laredo and the season finale at Rio Grande Valley) starting March 18.
Between the two sets is Laredo (who is trying to punch their ticket to the postseason) and Wichita (who may not be smelling extra play, but love to smell upsets and stunners).
The equalizer of this whole thing: Texas is 23-3-1 at home, but they are 14-10-4 on the road.
Mississippi RiverKings, Northeast Division (38-14-3, 79 Pts, clinched Playoff berth)
There is no team that has stepped up to the plate in a bigger way than the Mississippi RiverKings. They're currently riding a nine-game winning streak that includes three huge wins over Colorado.
They've already got a postseason berth, naturally, but they want more. They have seen the top of the mountain, and for them, it was good; now, they're thirsty for more.
The Kings have been dominant as of late; they boast a "Rocky Mountain Shutout" (victories over both Colorado and Rocky Mountain) and victories over Odessa, Oklahoma City, and Bossier-Shreveport (who are all Playoff teams this season). Now they look to continue their winning ways with their last few games of the regular season.
Mississippi won't be seeing either Rocky Mountain or Colorado any more this season, but they will most likely meet one or the other in the postseason. The RiverKings will see division rival Bossier-Shreveport a lot in the final games, as the two will lock horns five times. Also on the docket for the "Ultimate Underdogs" is upset-minded Tulsa (three times).
But here's the wild card: Mississippi has an exactly five-point lead over Bossier-Shreveport...and as has been proven in the past, anything can happen with the Playoffs on the line.
Colorado Eagles, Northwest Division (39-12-4, 82 Pts, clinched division title)
What can be said about these Colorado Eagles that hasn't been said in every single one of their six seasons? Under new head coach Kevin McClelland, the Eagles are flying high as the sun sets on the regular season.
They even made history on the way, as Greg Pankewicz scored his 200th career goal over the weekend, and the Eagles snagged their record-setting sixth straight Northwest Division Championship...in their sixth season in the CHL.
But as always, the Eagles want more.
Colorado hasn't been able to soar their highest in their last nine games, though. The Eagles won only three of them, suffering a pair of home stunners to Mississippi.
They started the nine-game stretch on a four-game losing streak, but picked up some much needed momentum with a victory over Rocky Mountain.
But since then, the Eagles have been back and forth.
Despite the skid, Colorado won the division title and are three points ahead of the Brahmas for the Governors' Cup. Even though they don't have another game against Texas this season, they still have some stiff competition in their final nine games of the season.
The Eagles start their last run with four huge games in their annual "Battle of I-25" series against Rocky Mountain, starting with a home-and-home showdown on Thursday and Friday night.
Then, seemingly in the middle of the "I-25" set, they have a trio of familiar foes in Rapid City (who has stepped up in their inaugural season), Amarillo (who has had Colorado's number all season), and Oklahoma City (who were in a slugfest with the Eagles for the best record before the All Star Break).
Following the final installment of the "Highway to Hell" (another name for the Colorado-Rocky Mountain matchup) in Broomfield, Colorado finishes the season with a double header against Rapid City.
In all honesty, the best the Eagles will need to do to finish the season with the Governors' Cup is with a record of 6-3. Of course, 9-0 will do just as good.
The Final Stretch
Despite having a three-point lead and the chance to increase that lead before Texas takes the ice the night after, the Eagles are not content with just clinching the division. As for Texas, the Brahmas know that the only way that they and the Eagles will meet again this year is if both teams make it to the President's Cup Finals.
The Eagles have 12 losses this season (six at home and six on the road), but after sluggish starts in the first period of almost every game this season, they have come back and unleashed a fury only matched by...Mississippi.
Did you think I was going to say Texas?
Right now, there is a three-way tie for the Governors Cup, thanks to the Kings' nine-game winning streak.
But with all three of these teams facing rivals that will do anything to shatter their dreams in the season's waning days, who will be left standing to raise the glorified Governors' Cup Trophy and Banner when the season comes to an end in two weeks?
Personally, I hope that when it's over, I get to scream: