By Josh Kaskinen | Image: NM Ice Wolves
It was hit or miss for the New Mexico Ice Wolves against the Amarillo Bulls this past weekend at Outpost Ice Arenas. Despite giving up 50 shots on goal on Friday night, goaltender Josh Graziano held on for a shutout, and Griffen Sanom buried the lone goal in the shootout to give New Mexico their third win in a row. On Saturday night, after a scoreless first period, it was all Bulls the rest of the way, and the Ice Wolves’ winning streak came to an end with a final score of 4-0.
The Ice Wolves will conclude their extended homestand this weekend as the South Division-leading Lone Star Brahmas head to town. Instead of the usual two games, Lone Star and New Mexico will face each other three times this weekend, starting on Thursday night. Though the Ice Wolves have been playing better hockey of late, this series will certainly prove to be a challenge.
The Brahmas enter the weekend with a record of 16-5-0-1, winning seven of their last ten games. Last year, the Brahmas were a playoff team but exited early after losing to Shreveport in the first round. With a strong start to the season and a roster that features nine NCAA Division 1 commit, Lone Star will be hungry to make a deeper run in the Robertson Cup playoffs this year.
On the offensive side of the puck, Lone Star has no end of contributors. Leading the way is their assist machine, forward Matt Guerra, who has 3 goals and 21 assists. His playmaking is key to setting up his teammates and distributing the goal scoring. The Brahmas have five players with six or more goals so far this season, which is the most of any south division team. Next up are forwards Joey Baez and Michal Stinil. These two players are the team leaders in goals scored with 12 and 11, respectively. Those numbers are strong enough to be tied for 7th and 10th most goals in the entire league.
The Brahmas defensemen fall into two distinct statistical categories: high scoring and strong +/-. As for the playmaking blueliners, look for Sam Brennan and Matthew Rickard to make a difference on offense. Rickard has four goals and 12 assists through 20 games played, while Brennan has 6 goals and 8 assists in the same time frame. Three other Lone Star defenseman jump out with their strong ratings, meaning good things are bound to happen when they are on the ice. Malcolm Palmer (+14), Patrik Ozols (+11), and Josh Martin (+9) should make life difficult for Ice Wolves shooters.
The Brahmas also have a platoon of two capable goaltenders who have split time this season. Swedish netminder Ludvig Persson has a save percentage of .935 and a goals-against-average of 1.46 through 14 games played, while his counterpart, Cayden Bailey of Estero, Florida has a .936 SV% and 1.55 GAA through 10 games. Both goalies should see action in Albuquerque this weekend, and both should give the Brahmas a solid chance to win.
After stumbling a bit last Saturday, the Ice Wolves will look to get back on track against a team that beat them by a combined score of 15-1 over three games in October. If they can do the little things right, like winning faceoffs, eliminating turnovers and limiting shots against, they should have a chance to do just that this weekend against the Brahmas.
Lone Star Brahmas NCAA Commitments:
- #52 Joey Baez- University of Alabama-Huntsville
- #5 Sam Brennan- Air Force Academy
- #7 Thomas Daskas- Air Force Academy
- #53 Matt Guerra- Bentley University
- #8 Skylar Gutierrez- University of Alaska Anchorage
- #11 Eric Huss- Army
- #45 Josh Martin- University of Alaska Anchorage
- #20 Stefan Miklakos- Army
- #21 Michal Stinil- American International College