Unrelenting injuries, bus trips through blizzards, youth on the roster -- the Bismarck Bobcats have faced plenty of adversity this season.
Yet, as the NAHL regular season winds down, the Bobcats are running hot.
The Bobcats (28-18-3-2) have gotten at least one point in 12 straight games and have not lost in regulation since Feb. 1.
The extended run of strong play has vaulted the Bobcats from tenuous playoff position in January to having the ninth-most points in the 24-team NAHL.
Bismarck currently sits fourth in the Central Division -- easily the best division in the league -- with a 10-point edge over the Minnesota Wilderness for the final playoff position with nine games to go. The Bobcats play the Wilderness this weekend, some 450 miles away in Cloquet, Minn.
Layne Sedevie, head coach and general manager of the Bobcats, said work remains.
"It's been a really good stretch for us, for sure. I really like how our guys have competed," Sedevie said. "As well as we've played of late, we still need to make a really good push over these last nine games. With the quality of teams in our division, anything can still happen."
The healthy return of top forwards Adam Stacho and Jake Marti have coincided with the Bobcats' rise up the standings. Stacho leads the team with 15 goals, but also missed 11 games due to injury. Marti, meanwhile, has missed 16 games but still has 20 points, including eight goals.
Injures to forwards have been a theme all season. Eight of their top 11 have missed chunks of time.
"It's not an excuse, but obviously when you don't have players of that caliber, it's going to make it more difficult," Sedevie said. "Injuries certainly are a part of it, for sure. We're starting to get healthy and that's made a difference. It just lengthens everything out and gives us more depth.
"We haven't relied on just one or two guys. It's been a community effort and I'm really proud of how our young guys have responded during the season, especially here during the dog days."
The Bobcats have eight players with 20 points or more. Stacho's 42 in 39 games jump off the page. Ace defenseman Sam Malinski has been excellent from start to finish with 14 goals and 22 assists.
Forwards Austin Jouppi and Alex Pollock have matching 35-point totals with identical 12-goal, 23-assist distributions. Ryan Taylor, one of 17 first-year players the Bobcats have used, has impressed with 28 points, including 10 goals.
Having one of the premier goalies in junior hockey also helps. Northern Michigan commit John Roberts owns a 94.2 save percentage and 2.5 goals-against mark.
"Johnny's been a stalwart for us. We've definitely leaned on him, but Atticus (Kelly) has done a good job when he's gotten the opportunity," Sedevie said.
The Bobcats' sustained strong play has brought home-ice advantage into the mix. While currently fourth in the Central with 61 points, they're just four points behind second-place Minot and one in back of Austin.
"We have good character in that room. Our guys care and it means a lot to them," Sedevie said. "It's been fun to watch here over the last few weeks, but I still think there's another level we can get to."
With at least three more road trips remaining, some better weather also would be appreciated, although nobody's holding their breath.
"I'm not ready for hockey to be done yet, but boy, this winter has been tough," Sedevie said. "I feel for anybody that's had to take bus trips. We've definitely been there."