The NAHL hockey season got underway for the Lone Star Brahmas on Friday night at NyTex Sports Centre. This is the beginning of a new adventure for Brahma fans and the fans of the Texas Tornado franchise which was sold and moved to their original home in North Richland Hills. The NAHL has been absent from Tarrant county since 2004 when the Lone Star Calvary left for Santa Fe.
The Brahmas took the ice with a starting line-up of Matt Lison, Alex Dagnal and Liam Stirtzinger up front. Returning Tornado vets Mitch Mueller and Alexey Solovyev were on the blue-line and Sean Keating was between the pipes.
Keating had to be on his game from the drop of the puck as the visiting Odessa Jackalopes controlled much of the play in the first half of the period recording 11 shots on goal before the Brahmas registered their first on a breakaway by Lison at the 9:07 mark. Moments before Lison’s romp down the ice, Keating stood on his head with a huge save off a rebound and turnover deep in Brahma’s territory to keep the scoreless tie. After getting their first shot on goal things started to settle down for the Brahmas and the scoring chances evened out the rest of the night.
The period ended with the Brahmas on the penalty kill due to a Mueller slashing call with just 1:54 to go. Mueller took exception to Andrew McLean’s presence in his netminder’s crease and tried to get McClean to go, but McLean wanted no part of the big veteran defenseman.
The Brahmas had a chance early in the second period when they went on a 41 second 5 on 3 powerplay. Odessa’s defense clamped down allowing only a single shot on goal and killed off both penalties. Midway through the period Brandon Anderson was hit with a hooking penalty and Head Coach Dan Wildfong took advantage of the stoppage to get Jacob Nehama into net.
With just over seven minutes left in the period Lone Star rookie forward Alex Dagnal made a bid to break the scoreless tie. Dagnal sent a wrister on net that was labeled for the top corner and had Yoshihiro Kuroiwa beat glove side, but it rang off the elbow and Odessa cleared the zone.
The Brahmas went back on the powerplay with three minutes left in the period and this time they made Odessa pay. Defenseman Johan Steen got the play started pulling the puck out of the far corner and sending it around the board to Lison low on the near side. Lison spotted Liam Stirtzinger at the left circle for a seeing eye wrister through traffic and over Kuroiwa’s right pad. Time of the goal was 18:49.
Odessa pulled even at 6:44 of the third when the puck was sent out front from the far corner. Derek Brown grabbed it and tucked it between the far post and the skate of Nehama. Alex Alger and Trace Jablin were credited with the assists. Just under five minutes later Odessa broke out on top when Chad Guderian knocked down a bouncing puck just outside the crease and sent it over Nehama’s right shoulder. Matt Beranek and Drew Gannon picked up the assists on the Guderian goal.
However, the Jackalope’s lead was short lived. On a faceoff to Kuroiwa’s right, veteran forward Mitch McPherson pushed the draw forward where it was controlled by RJ Salvato who skated it behind the net and out the other side before sending it to Will White parked at the near hash mark. White got off a quick one timer that sailed past the netminder’s glove.
When neither team was able to solve the opposing goalie in overtime, the game went to a shootout. The shootout went to the third round before Alex Alger got one past Nehama glove side. Alger cruised back to the bench with a finger to his lips to quiet the rowdy crowd. Unfortunately for Alger and his teammates his celebratory swagger was a bit premature. In the fourth round defenseman Solovyev stepped onto the ice and totally undressed Kuroiwa as he went backhand – forehand – backhand and wrapped it around the sprawled goaltender. Things stayed at one goal apiece until the seventh round when Gordie Helmuth carried the puck right down the gut and powered it through the five hole to send the Brahmas spilling over the boards.
Final shots on goal were 35 – 25 in favor of Odessa. The Brahmas scored the only powerplay goal on the night going 1-3 while holding Odessa scoreless on three opportunities.