Just over two weeks ago, TJ Black was minding the net for the Philadelphia Little Flyers of the Eastern Hockey League. With Jacob Nehama being called up from Lone Star to the USHL, the Brahmas needed a starting goalie and Black’s outstanding play caught the eye of the Lone Star coaching staff. So, on November 20th the Brahmas made a deal bringing Black to North Richland Hills in exchange for forward Drew Gannon.
TJ is a 5’ 8”, 165 pound native of Wheaton, IL born in October 1995. He spent three seasons in the Chicago Mission program playing with the U16 and U18 teams before moving to the EHL to begin this season. Black had put up impressive enough numbers that he was selected by the Fargo Force in the third round of the 2010 USHL Futures Draft. With Philadelphia this season Black recorded a 4 – 3 – 0 record with a miniscule 1.61 GAA and a .938 SV%. All four of his wins were via shutout.
Since joining the Brahmas Black has played very well despite his 2 – 3 – 1 record. His first action came on the road against the Corpus Christi Icerays just two days after the trade was completed. In his first three games Black suffered 3 – 1 losses to Corpus Christi and Wichita Falls. It was his fourth game in Rio Grande that he garnered the first point in the standing going to a shootout against the Killer Bees.
It was this past weekend where Black really shined. The Brahmas welcomed the NAHL league leading and defending Robertson Cup National Champion Amarillo Bulls into the NyTex Sports Centre for a two game series. The Bulls had not lost back to back games in regulation since game two and three of the season and had rolled to a 20 – 5 – 1 record.
Those numbers did not seem to intimidate Black as he built a wall in net and repeatedly denied the powerful Amarillo offense, leading the Brahmas to a stunning two game sweep. Friday night Black allowed a single power play goal in the second period on his way to 26 save win, his first in the NAHL. As difficult as it would seem to improve on Friday’s game that is exactly what Black did on Saturday. He faced a total of 23 shots in the game turning aside everything thrown his way including several huge saves down the stretch to notch is first NAHL shutout. In all Black faced 49 shots in the series from the top scoring offense in the league and allowed only the one power play goal.
Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong had high praise for Black. “We are really happy with the way TJ has played thus far,” Wildfong told NAHL.com. “He is calm and composed and the guys play with a lot of confidence in front of him.”
One of those guys playing in front of Black is Matt Lison a 20 year old Forward from Pittsburgh, PA who stands 5’ 11” and weighs in at 190 pounds. Lison is a gritty player who gets his goals the old fashioned way, he earns them.
Matt came to the Brahmas at the start of this campaign after spending two full seasons with the Bay State Breakers in the EJHL. In 88 games with the Breakers he scored 73 points on 34G – 39A to go along with 36 PIMs. When the Brahmas broke training camp, Lison was singled out as an Alternative Captain because of his knack for leading by example. Once Captain AJ Duggan left the team due to injury, it was clear who would step up to wear the C, and on November 21, Lison was named as Captain to replace Duggan.
Lison got off to a quick start with the Brahmas scoring two goals as Lone Star won the first regular season game in team history. Unfortunately, the fast start did not carry over for Lison nor the rest of the Brahmas for that matter. The team hit the skids and struggled to score points prompting multiple roster moves. Through it all Lison’s work ethic persevered and while he was not finding the back of the net, the opportunities kept building. In late October setting on five points with 4G – 1A Lison suffered a mild concussion that kept him out of a couple of games. After returning to the lineup, Lison’s offense started to click. He had put up 5G – 2A in an eight game stretch leading up to last weekend’s series with Amarillo.
On Friday night against the Bulls, Lison poured in three power play goals for the natural hat trick. All three goals came from Lison doing the dirty work in the trenches and putting rebounds into the net from just outside the paint. On Saturday, Lison had an assist on the Brahmas third goal of the night on way to a 4 – 0 shutout and the sweep. With his performance against Amarillo, Lison has racked up 7G – 3A in his last eight games.
Black and Lison will lead the Brahmas into Wichita Falls on Wednesday for a match up against the Wildcats. Both will be looking to build on the momentum coming out of the weekend.