The Lone Star Brahmas took to the Nytex Sports Centre ice on Saturday night looking to exact a measure of revenge from the Wichita Falls Wildcats. On Friday at the Kay Yeager Coliseum, Wichita Falls handed the Brahmas a 9 – 1 shellacking. Wildcats forward Stan Sojka who leads the NAHL in major penalties also laid out Brahmas’ veteran defenseman Mitch Mueller with a blindside cheap shot in the second period that sidelined Mueller for the rest of the night. Incidents like Sojka’s have a way of being resolved on the ice and that would be the case Saturday.
At 4:14 of the first Ben Owen playing in his first game with the Brahmas started a play from deep in the Lone Star defensive zone sending a pass to Donovan Gardiner behind the Brahmas’ net. Gardiner skated out the near side and looked up ice to find Kellen Wasell at the offensive blue line. Gardiner’s pass was right onto Wasell’s tape and went streaking in with Alfred Johansson draped on his back and fired it past the blocker of David Zevnik for the early lead.
Unfortunately, the lead was short lived. Evan Okeley took the ensuing faceoff into the zone and fired a shot from the far half wall that Jacob Nehama whiffed on with the glove. Jake Townsend and Andrew Kerr picked up the assists on the goal which came at 4:29.
Just over two minutes later Sojka came into zone with Mueller back on defense when the whistle blew Mueller went straight to Sojka and began to pummel him for the cheap shot that Sojka had given him the night before. Mueller landed multiple rights before the linesman could rescue Sojka. Mueller’s actions cost him a two minute instigator, a five fighting minute major and a 10 minute misconduct sending him to the showers early. It also lit a fire under his teammates, who on this night had his back killing off the extended Wildcats power play. The huge defensive stand gave the Brahmas the momentum that has eluded them all season.
With 14 seconds to go in the period, the Wildcats were on the penalty kill Johansson fired the puck at Nehama well after the whistle inciting a near melee. Nick Blase and Nick Farmer came out of the pile behind Nehama and into the far corner. Farmer game Blasé a face wash and Blase responded with a couple of big rights before being pulled off Farmer. During the scrum Sam Piazza came off the Wichita Falls bench to join the fray, but the referee did not notice so Piazza avoided the gate.
At 14:45 of the second and the teams skating four on four, Gardiner grabbed a loose puck at the Brahmas’ blue line and was off to the races. Gardiner carried down the far to the top of the right wing circle before sending a bomb into the back of the net. The unassisted goal would prove to be the game winner as the Brahmas held the 2 – 1 lead the rest of the way.
With the extended power play in the first period Wichita Falls built a big shots on goal lead and outshot the Brahmas 37 – 17 on the night. The big story of the night was the boost the Brahmas received from their penalty kill which has struggled all season. They held the Wildcats to an 0 – 8 on the power play while the Brahmas were 0 – 7.
Blasé was named third star of the game for his play in the defensive zone while Gardiner with a goal and an assist was named second star. Nehama who stopped 36 of 37 shots faced picked up the win and the number one star. Though he saw very limited ice time, Mueller and the spark he ignited can not be overlooked in the discussion of the stars of the game.
Elsewhere Around the NAHL South
In the only South Division game of the night, the Killer Bees used two, third period goals from Aleksi Luhtalampi and Ben Greiner to defeat the visiting Odessa Jackalopes 2 – 1. Leo Lumm put Odessa on top in the first with an unassisted goal. Eric Hancock made 35 saves on 37 shots face for the hard luck loss while Nick Schmit stopped all but one of the 21 shots he saw for the win.
NAHL South Current Standings