No. 6 New Mexico Ice Wolves (8-28-2-2, 20pts) vs. No. 3 Topeka Pilots (26-11-1-2, 55pts)
at Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka, KS
Time: 7:05 p.m. CST (Friday) | 7:05 p.m. CST (Saturday)
What You Need to Know:
Season Series: 2-0
NMO: 19pts, Dominique (8g-11a)
KNR: 37pts, McCarthy (13g-24a)
The Ice Wolves are still in search of their first win during their four-week road trip (0-3-1). Their past four games were in Alaska, as they concluded their season series with Fairbanks and Kenai. While they did not have the results they wanted, they did have two one-goal games. With the Alaska trip behind them, the Ice Wolves have a lot to look forward to when it comes to their next two opponents. The Ice Wolves face Topeka this weekend and Corpus next weekend. They are the only two teams that the Ice Wolves have not lost to in regulation.
This weekend there is a player from each team that has ties with the opposition. For the Pilots, their net-minder Josh Langford used to play for the Ice Wolves. Langford played three games for New Mexico (all in Oct.) and recorded a record of 0-3 with a goals-against-average of 4.00 and a save percentage of .852%. However, since joining the Pilots, the University of Maine commit is 7-0-0-1 with a 2.11GAA and a .912SV%. The captain for New Mexico started his NAHL career with Topeka (2016-17). Keenan Johnson is in his fourth season in the NAHL and his first not being on the Pilots roster. During his three seasons spent with Topeka, Johnson has totaled 81 games played (1g, 7a). The 20-year-old also spent part of last season with the IceRays (11gp, 1g).
BOTTOM OF THE THIRD:
The Ice Wolves officially have 20 games left in their inaugural season. With playoffs rapidly approaching, the max points that New Mexico can finish with are 60. The final playoff spot is being held by the Shreveport Mudbugs with 54 points. While the Ice Wolves are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they would need to win their remaining 20 games and have Shreveport gain no more than five points in their next 20 games. While that would be a Cinderella story if it happens, the Ice Wolves by no means throwing in the towel. They are 12 points behind the IceRays, who are currently on a 13-game losing streak (0-12-1). Even if playoffs are not in the cards for the Ice Wolves, they can still finish their inaugural season in fifth place.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ice Wolves (F: #23 – Jackson Wille)
The assistant captain for the Ice Wolves is in his second year in the NAHL. Last season he played 23 games for the Jamestown Rebels (1g, 4a). Prior to entering the NAHL, the Forest Lake, MN native played for the Omaha AAA Lancers 16U (NAPHL) and 18U (HPHL) teams. The 19-year-old also played one season at Forest Lake High (USHS-MN) scoring 15 points (6g, 9a) in 23 games. The 5’10”, 190-pound forward has played 36 games for the Ice Wolves this season and has tallied seven points (5g, 2a). Wille scored a goal in the only weekend series between Topeka and New Mexico this season.
Pilots (F: #6 – Austin McCarthy)
The captain for the Pilots is in his fourth and final season of junior hockey (all with Topeka). This season, the Ferris State University commit has already reached his point total from last season (37) and there is still 20 games left to go. The native of Ludington, MI not only leads his team in points but also assists (24). Nine of those assists have come while his team was on the powerplay, which is also a team high. From 2013-16, McCarthy played for Manistee High (USHS-MI) where he was selected as the captain in his final season. During his three seasons of high-school hockey, he recorded 73 games played and 137 points (64g, 73a). In 2009, Austin was named the Sports Illustrated Kid of the Year.