In the first article of it’s kind, we are starting our first report on the Texas Tornado. Here on BlackoutDallas, we will start monthly and periodically doing reports on how the Tornado are doing and providing updates when we as a team make it out to games. A big thanks goes out to Corey Hersch and Ben Weber from the Texas Tornado for inviting us out and helping us enjoy our time in Frisco.
For those unfamiliar with the Tornado franchise here are a few quick nuggets. They play in the South Division of the NAHL, and going into Saturday night’s home game they were sitting 2nd in the division behind the Amarillo Bulls with a 28-12-7 record (63 points). While the Tornado didn’t play during the 2008-2009 season, they have since returned with new ownership and to playing hockey while moving up to the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco (the Dallas Stars main practice facility when in town). In their history, the Tornado once claimed three straight league titles from 2004-2006 and have consistently been a competitive team.
After losing to the league leading Bulls on Friday night (5-4 in overtime), the Tornado had another shot at home on Saturday. The crowd was fired up and ready despite the blisteringly cold temperatures in North Texas (it was youth jersey night for the fans 12 and under). The Tornado started the game off with a lot of solid physical play and fore-checking, and they were getting their shots early. Marc Biggs and Mitchell McPherson both delivered some big hits early and were forcing turnovers by the Bulls in their own zone. Biggs even earned the Tornado an early powerplay just six minutes into the game. But Bulls goalie Gregg Gruehl was on-top of things early on, making one highlight reel glove save and another flashy pad stop within the first five minutes to keep the game scoreless. But after the first the score was 0-0 with the Tornado outshooting the Bulls 16-8.
In the 2nd play continued to favor the home team and the Tornado found the first goal of the night with 7:59 to go in the period. McPherson scored his 4th of the season through some traffic in front of Gruehl, and it definitely got the crowd going. Just 9 seconds later, Drew Mayer (Tex) and Karl Beckman (Amarillo) dropped the gloves for a spirited fight and the only one of the night. The Tornado received a couple of powerplays later in the period with a chance to extend the lead, but again the Bulls defense and Gruehl were up to the challenge, including two more massive saves from Gruehl in the final seconds of the period. After two periods, it was 1-0 Texas on the scoreboard and 29-13 in the shots column.
Things in the third went south for Texas though. Greg Gibson scored for Amarillo with a rocket blast with just under 15 minutes to go to tie the game up after being setup by Brooks Behling. The Bulls continued to load up the Tornado powerplay with bad penalties, but when a goal was finally scored it was a short-handed tally for Amarillo. With 7:26 to go in the third, Brandon Lubin scored on a short-handed rush to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead. Just seconds after that powerplay ended, Behling scored on a one-timer after the Tornado turned over the puck in the neutral zone, resulting in another fast-break for the Bulls. Texas was able to get one back when Jake Strzalkowski scored a rebound goal off a fast-break with 6:25 to go to make it 3-2 Bulls. But despite another powerplay chance with over four minutes to go and trying to pull the goalie late, the Tornado were not able to tie up the game.
In the 3-2 loss there were a few things that really stuck out to me. Brooks Behling really impressed me. He either led or was involved in four different 2-on-1 chances that the Bulls had and ended the night with two points, including the game-winning goal. The Tornado were constantly pressuring the Bulls though, and a lot of the win for Amarillo could be placed on Gregg Gruehl. Texas outshot Amarillo 42-24 by the final tally announced in-house and had eight powerplay chances. Gruehl provided the big saves at the right times and was rightfully named the number one star in the contest. Tornado captain Jack Prince was another player I noticed throughout the game, but he was unable to break through. Prince looked like a man among boys at times (he is 6’4″ and weights 205 on the scouting report) and constantly didn’t have any trouble finding pucks in the offensive zone and getting off shots. But despite 12 shots in the game and numerous times were he was able to win one-on-one battles, he didn’t find his way onto the score sheet and wasn’t effective during powerplay chances.
After the game fellow staff member Andrew Monrreal and I were able to chat with coach Tony Curtale (the winningest coach in NAHL history) about the game and some of the things we noticed. The first question we asked was about leading scorer and captain Jack Prince and what Coach Curtale thought about him and his future potential:
“I really think Jack’s the best player in the league, and I don’t say that lightly. Game in and game out against everybody, he’s the best forward out there. I do think he’s going to get a Division 1 scholarship. People have said he’s slow but his speed’s improved greatly and I think people are going to understand once he gets to Division 1 how much of mistake they made.”
“I thought our defense did a much better job. Decisions, you know? Not giving up odd man rushes, better job defending 1 on 1′s, 3 on 2′s, back-checking and that kind of thing. I thought our offense was a lot better, we had a lot of shots, a lot chances, we just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”
“Well the goalie a little bit, but our powerplay didn’t execute well or do what needed to be done and when we did get chances we just didn’t bury them. You got to give their goalie credit, he played well, made some saves from close in.”
- As always you can follow Blackout Dallas On Twitter: Austin Waldron (@BlackoutDallas) & Andrew Monrreal (@ammonrreal).
- You can also follow Texas Tornado hockey with either @Texas_Tornado or team VP Ben Weber @GoTornadoHockey.
- Look for the next Tornado Report when the team returns home in mid-March for two game against the New Mexico Mustangs.
Topics: Amarillo Bulls, Andrew Monrreal, Austin Waldron, Ben Weber, Brooks Behling, Corey Hersch, Dallas Stars, Drew Mayer, Greg Gibson, Gregg Gruehl, Jack Prince, Karl Beckman, Marc Biggs, Mitchell McPherson, NAHL, Texas Tornado, Tony Curtale