Since our last Tornado Report, where the NAHL’s Texas Tornado were swept by the league-leading Amarillo Bulls, the team faced a bit of adversity, once again being swept in a rematch with Amarillo two weeks later, but were able to bounce back from the four straight losses with a split series verus Topeka. They exacted revenge with a hard fought sweep of their own against Amarillo the next week, securing the Tornado a spot in the Robertson Cup Playoffs. They entered this weekend with a 4-3 record since our last visit, looking to improve against the NAHL’s second to last place team, the New Mexico Mustangs. The Tornado held a 6-2 record over their division rival, and continued their dominance this weekend beginning with Friday night’s come from behind 4-2 win.
Blackout Dallas was in attendance at the Dr. Pepper Stars Arena on Saturday to see the Texas Tornado’s second game versus the Mustangs. St. Patrick’s Day festivities were in full swing around the country, and the Tornado did their share, wearing gorgeous St. Patrick’s Day sweaters (see above). The puck dropped and while New Mexico held their own against Texas to begin the game, the overwhelming offensive punch could not be stopped for long. 5:31 into the first period, Drew Allen took a pass deep in the slot from newcomer Drew Mayer and put it past New Mexico goaltender Jacob Stafford. Stafford, who started the season with the Texas Tornado, was pounded with 14 shots in the first period alone, a pace that would not slow down for the rest of the contest. Tempers flared and New Mexico and Texas took matching minors just over halfway into the period, but New Mexico took another minor just over a minute later, giving Texas the first of two power plays that they would earn in the first period. They were unable to convert on either, but took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Tornado wasted no time in extending their lead in the middle frame, when Drew Allen buried his second of the night on a one-timer from the face off circle. Adam Chapie, New Mexico’s leading scorer, cut the gap to 2-1 two and a half minutes later. The pace of the game picked up heavily during this stretch, with New Mexico looking to find the equalizer, but they were caught too deep and the Tornado rushed the net on a fast break that resulted in Jackson Leef forcing the puck past a sprawling Stafford. All the second period action was bundled in that first seven minute stretch, and despite a New Mexico power play, Texas would take the 3-1 lead into the final period, looking to shut the door and complete the series sweep.
The third period was almost a direct reversal of the second, with the teams starting slowly and fighting back and forth. New Mexico once again failed to convert on a power play halfway through the period, even giving the Tornado a short handed breakaway chance that was denied by goaltender Stafford. New Mexico bounced back, though, shortening the lead to 3-2 11:14 into the third with a goal from Avik Bordak. But history repeated itself, and the Tornado responded quickly. This time Drew Allen would score the hat trick goal just nine seconds later, another goal in close that took advantage of a sprawling Stafford. The goal seemed to kill off any desire the Mustangs had left in them and the dagger was delivered just over four minutes later, with a gorgeous rocket off the face off from Taylor Herndon finding it’s way over Stafford’s glove. The goal gave the Tornado a commanding 5-2 lead that would insure the St. Patrick’s Day victory and a series sweep over the New Mexico Mustangs.
The most impressive facet of tonight’s contest was the spectacular play of the line that featured Drew Allen, Drew Mayer, and Mitchell McPherson. Mayer, who was playing in just his sixth game with the team, was signed straight from the USHL’s Indiana Ice and has made an immediate impact. His pairing with Allen has created a dynamic duo that produced a combined eight points in the last two games alone. Mayer is an imposing physical presence, and while the group had the looks of a checking line, they’ve combined to produce a potent offensive punch, outshining leading scorer Jack Prince, who was held pointless in this series. Mayer was extremely impressive to my amateur eyes, and he’s the type of player I’d like to keep track of throughout his development in the Tornado system.
The least impressive facet goes to the New Mexico defense, which left much to be desired, as they crumpled to allow 79 shots on goaltender Jacob Stafford in two games. The team doesn’t seem to adhere to a set system, and it shows. The Tornado unequivocally dominated the game, and it hardly looked like New Mexico stood a chance. Each time they cut the lead to one, the Tornado would overwhelm the Mustangs and bury a puck in the net, extending the lead. New Mexico sits at the bottom of the South Division, and reside in the cellar of the NAHL, and that explains why the Tornado can so thoroughly dominate the game, extending their record over their rival to 8-2 on the season.
The Texas Tornado now improve to 33-16-7 on the season, and with a playoff spot already secured, the team looks forward to finishing out the regular season in two back-to-back series against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays. The team is craving a return to the glory years of three straight Robertson Cup Championships in the early 00′s and looks primed to make a strong run once again. Look for Blackout Dallas’ next Tornado Report next month, where we will cover the Tornado’s playoff performance during their run for the Robertson Cup Championship.