New Mexico’s junior hockey team is lacking the pack mentality as they drop their twelfth straight game.
By Chris Walker | Image: NM Ice Wolves
It has been a little under a week since the New Mexico Ice Wolves were last in town. It was NMIce Day at Outpost Arena, which also marked the third home game of the 2019-20 season for the New Mexico Ice Wolves. North American Hockey League’s newest club had quickly become the outlier in the South Division losing their eleventh game to the Lone Star Brahmas with a score of 3-1 on Sunday afternoon. The Ice Wolves, now 0-11-0-1 (win, losses, overtime losses, shootout losses) dropped another game today by the score of 2-0 to the Odessa Jackalopes out on the road.
New Mexico hockey teams have always found a way to win. The Ice Wolves are made up of players who are from other parts of the United States and abroad. Some of the pressure that mounts on the shoulders of these young men is having to live up to brands of hockey that have existed long before them. The Ice Wolves have financial backing, season ticket holder support, merchandise and full-scale marketing and communications team. The den off the ice has been built up for this team to have a good shot for success. However, between the blue lines, the Ice Wolves struggle to find success because they still play like standouts from other parts of the United States and abroad.
New Mexico has embraced the Ice Wolves, but have the Ice Wolves fully embraced New Mexico as their home? When teams play for their home, they protect their home and go on the hunt when they are away. This newfound junior hockey team has not had the opportunity to build their den on the ice at Outpost Arenas because they opened their season on the road. The closest the Ice Wolves have come to tasting victory was when they hosted Odessa Jackalopes on September 27 and lost 4-3 in a shootout. Since then, the Ice Wolves have conceded 19 goals and scored 6 of their own. They were shutout twice by Lone Star Brahmas, who have outscored the Ice Wolves 15-1 in their 3-game series that was closed out Sunday at the end of regulation.
Tonight, the Jackalopes put a few past the Ice Wolves, which brings the goals allowed toll up to 21 goals.
The Brahmas played according to their namesake as they stampeded down the ice in high numbers creating chance after chance for their line. The Ice Wolves matched physicality at times, but when they caused turnovers, they couldn’t finish the chances they created from them. This is partly due to the slow pace of transition out of defense into the attack. The team must regroup behind the blue line and travel together. The Ice Wolves are eager to score and that much is evident throughout the periods. The Brahmas outshot the Ice Wolves early in the first period 14 to 8, which is where the first 2 goals rung in the net. From there on, it was even between the teams with the Brahmas registering 34 shots to the Ice Wolves 30.
Since this game, the Ice Wolves played Odessa Jackalopes this evening. The Ice Wolves conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes of play. The number of shots reduced significantly from the last outing with the Jackalopes shooting 21 shots to the Ice Wolves 18. The second and third periods remained scoreless and few shots were taken. The Ice Wolves averaged 4 shots these last two periods, which is half of what they shot in the first period.
Along with the physicality this team brings to the ice, comes time in the penalty box. In this match, Captain Keenan Johnson served 14 minutes in penalties, 10 of which is for fighting misconduct. It wasn’t matched on the team sheet and so the Ice Wolves started the 3rd period down 1 player for 10 minutes. By this point in the game, the Ice Wolves had dialed in defensively and killed the penalty. Against a solid Brahmas team this was a high note, which the exclamation was a goal scored by Alex Dominique with 5 minutes left to go in the match.
In tonight’s match against, Defenseman Sean Henry was tagged with 35 minutes, which included an ejection for the entire third period. The Ice Wolves played down one man an entire period this time and kept the Jackalopes off the board. Nine Ice Wolves players have double digits in Penalty in Minutes. Until the Ice Wolves start converting chances into scores, they should play straight hockey.
In the last two matches alone, the Ice Wolves have killed 2 major power plays amounting to 30 minutes total as a result of fighting misconduct penalties.
These players who put the team in these situations are the lone wolf that will keep this team down with every stride made towards momentum. It’s an accomplishment to kill two-minute minors and even score while you’re down one man. The Ice Wolves have to turn this around to win.
The Ice Wolves close out the weekend series with the Jackalopes at 6:15 pm Mountain Time on Saturday evening. You can stream the game on the HockeyTV app if you have a subscription otherwise if you’re an Albuquerque local, you can join the Watch Party at Outpost Arena.