The Lone Star Brahmas took to the ice in front of a raucous crowd at the NyTex Sports Centre on Friday night to open their first ever NAHL regular season against the visiting Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Prior to the start of the game the Brahmas announced their Captains for the season. Forward AJ Duggan will wear the C while Forward Matt Lison and Defenseman Donovan Gardiner will wear the A’s.
The Brahmas sent Forwards Matt Lison, Jan Hudecek, Alex Dagnal, Defensemen Mitch Mueller and Alexey Solovyev out for the opening faceoff while Mattais Soderqvist manned the net.
Unfortunately it was Rio Grande who jumped out to an early lead just 56 seconds into the game as Nathan Flynn pulled the puck behind the net, out the near side and found Anthony Croston all alone in front for a wrister off a defenseman’s stick and over Soderqvist’s left pad. It took the Killer Bees just six minutes to add to their lead with a powerplay goal. Immediately off the faceoff to Soderqvist’s left, Tyler Bruneteau sent the puck along the blueline from the far point to Ben Greiner at center for a one timer through traffic and into the back of the net. The Brahmas looked flat for much of the period and could not get anything going.
With about one minute left in the period the Brahmas were moving the puck down the ice when a pass went off a stick catching AJ Duggan square in the mouth knocking out a tooth. Ever the hockey player, Duggan continued into the corner where he won a puck battle to free the puck. However, despite his sacrifice Rio Grande was able to clear the puck running out the clock. Duggan and rink officials spent a couple of minutes looking for the missing tooth on the ice before the ice was resurfaced.
Head Coach Dan Wildfong had the Brahmas ready for the second period and they came out with a bit more jump and purpose. At 14:39, Dagnal took a pass from Solovyev and carried the puck into zone down near side. Dagnal found Duggan crashing the far post and the Captain went over the sprawled goalie with a backhander to make it a one goal game.
On the ensuing faceoff, Connor Millard and Dylan Abood dropped the mitts. Millard immediately got Abood bent over and started pumping him with numerous uppercuts. Abood finally got a hand free and landed a single overhand right, but Millard was unfazed and began chucking uppercuts again until the linesmen stepped it to keep Abood from suffering further damage. The fireworks were not done though.
As they once again lined up for the faceoff, 6′ 4″ – 194 Bees Forward Austin Hoff singled out the much smaller Cam Brown and started chirping. Defenseman Mitch Mueller stepped in to even things up and squared off with Hoff as the puck dropped. Both started trading rights as they moved to the boards in front of the Killer Bees bench. Even though Mueller went to the room with a cut on the forehead from his visor he landed the better shots of the exchange getting the narrow win.
At 7:24 of the third the Killer Bees reestablished their two goal lead when Aleksi Luhtalampi corralled a bouncing puck and spotted Sami Pokka sneaking down from the point. Pokka put it between the blocker and the body to make it 3 – 2.
Following the media timeout, the Brahmas started their comeback. Matt Lison picked up a loose puck just outside the zone and went steaming in on Bees goaltender Olli Kalkaja. Lison had the top corner picked and Kalkaja never had a chance with the glove. Time of the goal was 13:16. Dagnal and Duggan picked up the assists on the goal. The same line combined to knot the score at three, just under three minutes later. This time it was on a scramble in front as Duggan and Dagnal both had cracks at Kalkaja from in close before Lison blasted a rebound past the blocker.
With the crowd buzzing the Brahmas put the game away at the 1:15 mark of overtime. Solovyev slid the puck down the boards to Hudecek at the far halfwall. Kalkaja turned aside Hudecek’s wrister but left a juicy rebound laying in the crease for Duggan to sweep in and deposit in the back of the net for the first ever Lone Star Brahmas game winning goal and the first two points in team history.
Shots on goal were 24 – 21 in favor of Rio Grande and the Killer Bees converted the only powerplay of the night going 1 – 2 while the Brahmas were 0 – 3. After the way this one ended, I look for Saturday’s game to be a barn burner. So don’t miss a minute of exciting Lone Star Brahmas action. Game time is 7:30 and tickets can be purchased at the NyTex Sports Centre Box Office or by calling the Lone Star Brahmas Sales Office at 817-336-4423.