No. 7 New Mexico Ice Wolves (0-7-0-1, 1pt) vs. No. 2 Lone Star Brahmas (6-0, 12pts)
at NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills, TX
Time: 7:30 p.m.
What You Need to Know:
Season Series: 0-0
NMO: 4pts, Dominique (1g-3a)
LOS: 7pts, Rickard (2g-5a)
This weekend, the Ice Wolves are on the road to face the only undefeated team left in the NAHL. Lone Star is currently 6-0 and outscoring their opponents 20-to-9. Their +11 goal-differential is tied with Bismark for the best in the league. Back in 2016-17 the Brahmas went on to win the Robertson Cup and are hungry this season to get back there. The South Division is the only one to have two teams in double-digits for points (Topeka). Scoring will be hard to come by but if the Ice Wolves strike early, look for them to carry that momentum throughout the rest of the game.
Special teams are a key ingredient to having a successful team. While the Ice Wolves struggled on the man-advantage early on this season, during their home opening weekend they scored two power-play goals. Improving their percentage to 12.5%. Their penalty kill has been solid all season with a 79.3% success rate. Although, for Lone Star they are 53.85% while on the power play (best in the league). Their penalty kill is one of the best as well at 90.5%. The Brahmas have six power-play goals spread across four players (Rickard, Stinil, Walker, Daskas). The Ice Wolves have three goals while on the man-advantage. All three coming from different sticks (Wille, Johnson, Lorinchak). As the saying goes, cooler heads will prevail.
BETWEEN THE PIPES:
A main reason for the Brahmas success comes from their two NAHL rookie net-minders. Both Cayden Bailey and Ludvig Persson have shutouts already this season. Bailey has only played in two games (1GA, .50GAA, .972SV%) whereas his counterpart has played four games (8GA, 1.96GAA, .905SV%). On the flip side, with New Mexico being brand new to the NAHL this season there are growing pains to be expected. They have been improving with every game. As last weekend they took Odessa all the way to a shootout and the following night only lost 4-2. There is still a lot of hockey to be played and teams will be constantly switching positions in the standings until the regular season ends in April. There is no doubt that Josh Graziano is the go-to man for the Ice Wolves as he has played the most minutes out of any goalie in the league (404mins). He has also seen the most shots by any goaltender (250). He will most certainly be called upon this weekend as he tries to lead his team to their first ever NAHL win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ice Wolves (F: #20 – “A” Drew Lorinchak)
The #106 pick this off-season has been an integral part of this Ice Wolves roster. Lorinchak came into this season with one game of NAHL experience under his belt after playing for Johnstown in 2017-18. Prior to that he played 13 games for the Skipjacks HC 18U (USPHL) averaging a point-per-game. Last season he played 40 games for the South Shore Kings (NCDC) recording 17pts (4g). He has played all eight games for the Ice Wolves this season, but it was not until last weekend when he finally got on the board picking up his first goal and assist in the NAHL. The Hamilton, VA native is looking to extend his point streak against the undefeated Brahmas.
Brahmas (F: #12 – CJ Walker)
The Boise, ID native has returned to the NAHL. The last time Walker played for an NAHL team was in 16-17 with the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Since then he has played for three USHL teams (Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha) totaling 52 games played (4g-7a). He spent the majority of last season playing for the Langley Rivermen (BCHL) scoring 14 points in 38 games played. The 20-year-old has scored three goals already this season. All of which came while on the man advantage. Walker was also a member of the Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA (SMHL) team that won the championship in 15-16. If the Brahmas go on the power play look for them to get CJ the puck.