The competition for the Class 1A, Section 5 title looks to be a slugfest, with the top six teams combining for a 74-40-5 record.
The quest for top seeding should also be a bout, and Saturday will provide an undercard for the postseason.
North Branch, which enters the week second in the section standings, visits fourth-place Chisago Lakes, and a victory is important as both vie for the right to host playoff games — and use home ice to their advantage.
The Vikings are 5-2-2 at home (6-3 on the road) while the Wildcats are 3-1 at home but 6-7 on the road.
North Branch won the first meeting with Chisago Lakes 5-3 on Jan. 5, but the Wildcats defeated two teams ahead of them in the section (5-3 over first-place Monticello on Dec. 6 and 4-3 over third-place Princeton on Jan. 10) and shouldn’t be counted out.
North Branch’s Cody Croal has at least a point in seven of eight games in January, including four multi-point games. The sophomore seems to be peaking as the stretch run begins for the Vikings (13-6-2, 5-5).
Thomas Overgaard leads Chisago Lakes (11-10, 2-6) with 16 goals and 14 assists on the season, and he's been especially good against Class 1A, Section 5 competition. In nine games against section rivals, he's recorded a point and has a total of 15 (10 goals, 5 assists).