By Josh Kaskinen | Image: NM Ice Wolves
The homestand rolls on, and the New Mexico Ice Wolves are still searching for a win in front of their home crowd. Last weekend’s series against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs was met with mixed results for the Ice Wolves. On Friday night, Fairbanks took an early lead in the first period, and New Mexico answered with a goal of their own in the second period. The game remained equalized until 14:05 in the third period, when Ice Dogs forward Luke Ciolli scored a short handed goal that proved to be the game-winner. Despite the loss, Ice Wolves goaltender Josh Graziano made 48 saves on 50 shots faced. Saturday night was a much more lopsided affair. Fairbanks forward Parker Brown exploded for a hat trick in the first period. The Ice Dogs scored four more goals in the second and one in the third, while New Mexico scored a single goal in each period for a final score of 8-3. Penalties and high volume of shots allowed continue to plague an Ice Wolves team that has the talent to compete with tough teams.
The road doesn’t get any easier from here for the Ice Wolves, who will host the South Division leading Topeka Pilots this weekend at Outpost Ice Arena. This series will mark a return to New Mexico for the Topeka franchise. Before they were the Topeka Pilots, they were the Topeka Roadrunners, and before that, they were the Santa Fe Roadrunners. It’s fascinating to see the history of hockey in New Mexico come full circle in this way so early on in the Ice Wolves existence. Topeka is coming to Albuquerque after two weekends in a row in which they split games against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays and the Lone Star Brahmas. At 13-5-1-1, and winning six of their previous ten games, Topeka is playing strong hockey stand a single point ahead of Lone Star for the South Division lead.
In terms of roster strength, Topeka comes to town with a wealth of talented players who will be sure to make New Mexico’s job a difficult one. Here’s a quick look at some Pilot’s players to be aware of, starting with the goaltender:
Players to Watch:
- #40 Jakub Dobes– The Ohio State University commit is off to an excellent start in net this season. Dobes has played in ten games and has faced nearly 300 shots and allowed only 16 goals. This gives him a goals against average of 1.59 and a save percentage of .946, both of which are incredible stat lines. The Czech Republic native has three shutouts so far this season.
- #6 Austin McCarthy– The forward from Ludington, Michigan is in his fourth season in Topeka. His stat line of 7-7-14 leads the Pilots in goals and is tied for the lead in points. Through 20 games, he is already halfway to his career high mark of 13 goals that he set a season ago. His offense and experience are key factors to Topeka’s success thus far this season.
- #4 Luc Salem- The Californian defenseman is in his first season with the Pilots after spending a year with the Maryland Black Bears a season ago and a year in Alberta and British Columbia in 2017-18. He doesn’t score goals often, but his 9 assists are second-most on the team. For a defenseman to have that level of playmaking ability is always a plus for any team. Salem also has a rating of +8, meaning that when he is on the Ice, good things happen for Topeka.
There are seven games remaining in this extended home stand for the Ice Wolves. If there are going to earn a win at home, they will have to find a way to stop opposing offenses from finding so many shots on goal. If the defense can tighten up, and if the power play can find some scoring, the Ice Wolves should be able to find their way to victory. If they can manage those things against a strong team like Topeka, it should inject some confidence into a team that is trying to find their way as their first season continues.