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How the Ice Wolves will etch their identity into center ice in the NAHL

By Chris Walker | Photo: SSHL

Belief is still a concept idea amongst the New Mexico Ice Wolves and it showed last Saturday evening as the Amarillo Bulls single-handedly dismantled the Ice Wolves in one period of a hockey game.

There’s a belief in the locker room to play as a team. When they did, they won hockey games. When they didn’t, they sat in the box eight times and the team suffered.

We have seen the demeanor of the team change when their actions changed on the ice. Don’t read me wrong here, play fast and hit hard, but when you do keep the goal in mind.

Assistant Coach Kyle Follmer has told Seek & Strike Hockey Legion that the coaching staff has never discouraged being physical. It’s hockey and it’s a part of the game. The players have been coached to be smart about when they draw contact.

Of course, usually, what leaders do in moderation, the followers do in excess. It was much different in this case as Captain Keenan Johnson saw the box three times that night. “I didn’t necessarily agree with all of the calls,” Johnson said. “But I gotta keep my head. I can’t be in there like that.”

Perhaps, the calls were soft that night. Amarillo’s Nick Dineen connected a right hook to the nose of Ice Wolves’ Philip Ekberg and Dineen was only assessed with a two-minute minor for roughing.

Johnson’s teammates rounded out the other five visits. Three scores came from eight power play opportunities. The Ice Wolves stopped the Bulls on their first chance and their last four on the evening.

The Ice Wolves managed to shut down Amarillo through much of the first period. The Bulls resorted to instigating physical altercations to get in the Ice Wolves’ heads. You saw it in their approach and by the middle of the second period, it was full-blown chaos.

Amarillo Bulls went on to defeat the Ice Wolves 4-0 to avenge their 1-0 loss the night before in a best of one shoot out that sent the South Division’s newest regime on a 3-game win streak.

The Bulls’ fourth goal should leave a bad taste in the Ice Wolves’ mouths. If it had not been for the power play goals, I believe the Ice Wolves would have stood Amarillo up a second night in the same fashion as the night before.

It’s been said that the South Division is a tough place to play for an expansion team. New Mexico has convincingly had the numbers of Topeka and Odessa as well.

The Ice Wolves have the belief, but they do not have the conviction.

I don’t believe the setbacks from one night make the team from here on out. Though it is an indicator of what could happen if the team fails to commit to the things that bring about success.

Conviction comes from long-standing commitment. In this case, the Ice Wolves players must stay consistent on and off the ice. It took 17 games for the team to turn from selfish plays and turn towards selfless ways.

One period in one night of hockey doesn’t diminish the goal. “We can’t hang our heads on one night. We have to come back ready to work next week,” Johnson said.

The more the Ice Wolves commit to their tactical strategy, the more their belief about team play will become a conviction. Then their actions on the ice will match and their reputation of being a penalty-prone team will change as well.

This week, they get another chance to stay the course as they face Lone Star Brahmas in The Ice Den. It’s a 3-game series starting Thursday, November 21 at Outpost Ice Arenas.

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