Cover photo provided by: Tony Gregory
Over the weekend the Ice Wolves hosted the Odessa Jackalopes for the very first home opening weekend in Ice Wolves history. Odessa came into the weekend only having two games under their belt but picked up at least a point in each one. As for the Ice Wolves, they were still searching for their first point in their inaugural season. The very first home game for the Ice Wolves will certainly be one for the books. As New Mexico native, Chevel Shepard, performed God Bless America and hockey legend John Mayasich dropped the ceremonial puck. The commissioner of the NAHL was also in attendance.
On Friday, both teams took the ice in front of a sellout crowd of over 800. With this being the first time the Ice Wolves got to play in front of their fans, they used the crowd’s electric energy to score the first goal of the game. Just over seven minutes into the opening period, Spencer Rudrud picked the pocket of a Jackalope then turned and fired the puck over the shoulder of netminder, Aaron Randazzo, for his first career NAHL goal. The Ice Wolves would end the first period up 1-0. In the middle frame though the Jackalopes mounted a comeback by scoring three unanswered. With their final goal coming via powerplay. Now down by a pair and with time winding down in the period, the Ice Wolves were heading on the powerplay for the second time in the game. This time though they would make it count as assistant captain, Jackson Wille, sent a one-timer past Randazzo. The Jackalopes would start the final period of regulation up 3-2. Just over six minutes into the third period the Ice Wolves were able to tie the game. After an offensive zone draw win, Keegan Langefels made a spectacular toe drag move around a Jackalope to then send a cross-crease pass to Shamil Khadizhalov, who was able to tuck home the puck. With a tie game after 60 minutes of action we saw the first overtime in Ice Wolves history. The five minutes of 3-on-3 hockey did not disappoint the raucous crowd at the Outpost as there were a plethora of scoring chances and saves from both ends of the ice. Since neither team was able to score in overtime the only thing left to do was go to a shootout. Both teams missed on their opening shots but Odessa’s, Michael Sacco, did convert after slipping the frozen rubber underneath Josh Graziano’s pad. Unfortunately, that would be the only goal during the shootout, giving Odessa their second win of the season. It did however give the Ice Wolves their first point of the season.
The following night both teams swapped goalies. Starting for the Ice Wolves was Henrik Laursen and for the Jackalopes it was Max Miller, making his NAHL debut. Saturday’s game was a complete 180 from the previous night. There was a total of five goals scored in the opening period. Sadly, four would come from the sticks of Jackalopes players. The lone scorer for New Mexico was Keegan Langefels, who let one go from the top of the left point that eventually made its way to the back of the net. Three goals were scored within the span of a minute leading to Laursen being pulled and Graziano replacing him. After a scoreless second period the Ice Wolves found themselves down 4-1 to start the final 20 minutes of regulation. They would however cut the lead in half thanks to a Drew Lorinchak’s power-play goal. The Ice Wolves pulled Graziano with under two minutes left in the period in hopes to tie the game up. It would be to no avail as the Jackalopes ended up winning by a final of 4-2. While Odessa did play spoiler by winning both games, it was once again in front of a sellout crowd.
The Ice Wolves are now preparing to play three-straight games against the undefeated Lone Star Brahmas (6-0). Two of those games will be played this weekend at Lone Star. You can catch all the action on HockeyTV as well as on our social media @NMIceWolves. The third will take place on home ice at the Outpost Ice Arenas. Tickets can be purchased here and On Ice Game Tickets can be purchased through the Outpost Ice Arenas.